Interlude (Belle and Charlotte)

Belle woke up. All things considered, it was mildly surprising. Even more so was that she didn't feel terribly bad. Leaden and tired and hungry as hell, she really had to piss but nowhere near death's door. There was an odd pressure in her gut at the base of stomach. Looking around she saw she was no longer in the hospital but in dimly lit bedroom, arranged a bed ample enough for her huge frame. Sunlight was filtering through white curtains, falling across the foot of the bed.

The change in surroundings, combined with the fact that she was still alive, told her what had happened and who was responsible. Sorting out Charlotte could wait, though. What mattered right now was taking stock of herself and her situation. Tossing the bed coverings aside, Belle raised herself up so she could see her abdomen, as well as the rest of her body. At the same time, she started the wheels turning in her mind, going over recent events, looking for patterns and things that didn't fit, just as she checked herself for injuries.

She was bandaged professionally, perhaps paler than usual. But all those details were quite secondary to one change, the penis laying against her thigh, partially tumescent. It wasn't quite a human phallus, no glans and tapered slowly to a rounded tip giving it almost a missile like profile. There was sense of unreality where she almost felt like giggling… she was certainly hung…

The wheels in her head came to a screeching halt. Belle gazed at her chest, lifted the globes present there into her hands, hefted them. Then she shifted her gaze back down to her crotch, following it with a hand. When that touch confirmed what the rest of her senses told her, she reached around, half-hoping that the plumbing she had lived with all her life was still there, but more afraid that it wasn't.

She felt her labia, the slightly moist folds a bit swollen and distorted by the new presence. Her body felt in general raw and tingly, not painfully so, just odd.

Belle felt a touch of relief, and even greater confusion than before. She couldn't even imagine what her anatomy must be like. She'd had her fair share of physicals before; why hadn't anyone ever noticed?

She rose from the bed, the wheels turning again, faster than before. Her eyes became heavily clouded. Her lips pulled back in a snarl, and she began to growl menacingly. Charlotte had as good as told her that the man her mother ("mother"?) had married had beaten her because he somehow found out that Belle wasn't his child. The story she'd been told about her being a stripper was just that: a story, a convenient lie, because the mother feared the child ever finding out the truth about herself, and her heritage. She'd already figured that much out, but had thought it was the brute physical force she could bring to bear, or the shadow of Charlotte that her mother saw in Belle. Now she knew beyond a shadow of a doubt how the poor man found out. The missing piece of the puzzle had finally turned up. Her mother's fear and self-loathing had been the ruin of them all.

Suddenly, sorting out Charlotte/Charlie became more important than anything. "You… have… to… DIE," Belle uttered in a voice which nothing human could have approximated. Hands balled into fists, she stalked out of the room. "CHARLOTTE!" she bellowed. Brando would have been proud.

The door opened onto a sitting room. One wall was glass and looked out over a sprawling garden and fountain. Charlotte stood there, looking out through the glass sunlight sillouhetting her body through the thin gown she wore. She turned slowly, almost resignedly. Despite the early hour she looks tired, haggard.

The sight was like a red flag being waved in front of a bull, a simile which was apt in more ways than one. For Belle was seething, liable to snort, paw the ground, and charge without warning to gore her opponent. As it was, she strode straight over, backing Charlotte up against the glass. Belle's large hands pinned her shoulders back.

As far as Belle was concerned, this was just one more grievance: insult added to injury. But she finally had the tables turned on her tormentor. "You seem to like high places and glass." Her voice was low, and if anything even more menacing than her shout of a moment ago.

Under other circumstances, the scene might have gotten a rueful laugh in some European screwball comedy or other. But Charlotte knew there was nothing remotely humorous about the situation which now confronted her. She was literally face-to-face with destruction, a destruction of her own making.

"And there's nothing I'd like more than to see if I could bust you through it," Belle continued. "You've got ten seconds to tell me how to make this," and here she pointed at the still highly unfamiliar penis between her legs, "go away."

"I enjoy looking out over open spaces. It gives one perspective." Charlotte replied, seemingly unfazed but her daughter's looming figure. Her voice was quiet, nearly serene. "You're weakened Belle…its mainly emotion that carried you this far and in slightly less than 10 seconds you are going to collapse, as I said before you recuperative powers are amazing but still need time…" With that she took Belle's hands in own deceptively slim ones, stepping forward. She was strong.

As she spoke, Charlotte guided Belle to the one of the chairs set around the small glass table in the center of the room. "At least let yourself get up to your full abilities before you attempt to throw me threw a plate glass window. I'll still be here." She stepped back once Belle was down. "Why do you hate me so much? For when I interfere and for when I try to leave you alone…", the question was rhetorical, Charlotte didn't truly expect an answer. Belle was in her state, the one seemingly almost beyond reason. Feral, she only thought of violence at these times. "But to answer your question, its typically withdrawn into a sheathe just at mons, hard to see… though as endowed as you seem to be…" She sensed Belle's unasked question. "Your mother likely sculpted you at birth, altering our kind's more inhuman features… a through physical might have revealed an anomaly." She sat down across from her daughter, sighing quietly," I would think the majority of your exams were given you by your former employers? They'd be more than willing to over look something like that for someone as useful to them as you Belle. The regenerative state you were in undid your mother's work. If you like when you are stronger, you can be altered by surgical means. I am no where near the Biokinetic your mother was and would

likely botch the job if I attempted it."

Charlotte glanced at the door out for a moment then turned back to Belle. "I'm glad she didn't change your eyes….but I doubt you want to hear my musing. you're lifes been turned upside down, I can appreciate what that must be like if only from the pain its caused you." Charlotte sat back, deflating just a bit and ran her fingers through her hair calming its wild disarray slightly. "Your mother…she didn't want you grow up in my world and instead it just lead you down a similar path…Sweet Goddess… she loved you Belle wanted better for you. She was a dancer…very skilled, in all types, not just erotic but I that was her favorite. When she left with that…that bastard, I know she thought she could help him, reform him. Belle, even the weakest of us is a match for most humans, but she let him hit her, beat her… in the end I imagine let him kill her and I couldn't do anything… she forbade me to… on the vows we have exchanged at your conception." Her eyes were shining but Charlotte blinked back the tears. They served no purpose. Belle would likely think them some new ploy in any event. "For honor I lost her…and I've lost you…the last of her left in this world. Hate me if you wish but do not hate her…"

"Honor?" Belle repeated dumbly. "What 'honor' is there in leaving a sixteen-year-old girl to fend for herself after she loses the only parents she's known? Where's the 'honor' in watching that girl become a killer just to stay alive, when you could have prevented it?" She rose to her feet again, bracing herself with her palms on the table. "Stop it with the hearts-and-flowers. Even if youhadn'tsaid so to my face, it wasn't hard to guess that you abandoned me because Iwas inconvenient to you. You want to know why I hate you?" she hissed. "Because this is all too little, too late. Because you're just stringing me along until you no longer have any use for me. You had all these fucking years to tell me this. But you couldn't be bothered to lift a finger. You sold out my life soyou wouldn't be inconvenienced. You made sure to keep me under surveillance, though, and now all of a sudden here you are, with goddamn violins in thebackground, only after I've finally managed to put together something I cancall my own, even if it is shit by your ivory-tower standards. Suddenly you can't get in my face enough, because your convenience has changed; it's now inconvenient for you not to put me on a short leash. And since you've rubbed my nose in the fact that there's nothing I can do that you can't do better if you feel like it, the only use you could have for me is as a sacrifice. You need somebody to take a very hard fall for you. Which explains all the emotional plays: you're playing me for a sucker, so I won't see the bullet.

"Too bad you didn't think of this even a decade ago. I might actually have fallen for it. But I've been through too much since then. I learned the most important lesson of all starting that night, when I needed somebody, anybody, worse than at any other time, and no one came. I learned the lesson that I'm the only one I can rely on, that there'll never be anyone there when I need someone, except me. I learned not to need anybody ever again. That's the only truth I know. And I guess I have you to thank for it. It's made the difference between life and death more than once. You should be proud."

She took a deep breath. "As for her, if she loved me, she had a strange way of showing it. I can't remember her ever putting her arms around me, let alone telling me she loved me. All I ever saw in her eyes when she looked at me was a coldness, and the fear beneath it. By the time I learned that that wasn't how it was supposed to be, we were all beyond caring. But you know about that too, just like you know about everything." Another pause. "The only thing I could do was put up the club partly in the memory of who I thought she was. Stupid me. Even if she really was a dancer, that wasn't what she died for. I was just supposed to think so. She even screwed with my memories of her. But no, I don't hate her. I'm too disgusted with her cowardice for that."

With that, she pushed up to her full height. "Enough of this. I've got responsibilities to meet. People who're depending on me. I've got to make sure they're all right despite my fucking up… and do what's necessary if they're not." And she headed for the door, stopping halfway. Pointing again at the extra appendage between her legs, Belle said, "Is this thing at least retractable? It's getting in my way."

"How dare you!?" Charlotte surged to her feet. " You impertinent fool. People have sacrificed, struggled and died to preserve your life and you complain of how you've been treated… Gods, is there no end to your self-delusion. Convenient to have you here? Convient to step into a crossfire of your own devising to try and save your life? A life you seem so very eager to throw away…Lauren nearly died twice in these dealings with you. The only ones…"taking the fall" are those around you. " Charlotte shook her head. "You're about as convient as a natural disaster."

She strode across to the window, leaned aginst the fatigue and sadness on her face washed away in a tide of anger. "I know this will make little difference to you. But I have no gift of prophecy, no scrying ball to watch every detail of your life played out and laughed at you behind the scenes. I lost track of you from time to time, had some slight knowledge of your involvement in the intelligence feilds. Only this incredible mess lead me to you again. I saw what you getting into and I wanted to try and help you…so please explain to me again how this is to my benefit? Almost losing a dear friend? Becoming more of a target or being the target of your seemingly endless rants?"

With a wave, Charlotte seemed to dismiss it all. "Why am I wasting my breath? Once this is filtered threw what ever logic guides your assumptions it'll be another ploy to entrap you or whatever seem to think." She walked past Belle. "Some clothing thatr should fit you is in the closet in the bedroom and as I told you before our penis is usually withdrawn, yours is healing currently and you likly have to piss." Used to vulgarity as she was Belle was a little taken aback hearing it from Charlotte. "It will retract given time… as for being in the way a little under half the planet's population deals with it… so I'm sure someone as tough and independent as you can."

"Shouting at me and then turning your back on me isn't going to work a second time," Belle shot back. "Those half the animals on the planet you're referring to also have a lifetime to get used to it. I probably could deal with it if I had the time, which I don't. But yes, that's irrelevant. I feel bad about Lauren and the others, like I would anybody who gets in the line of fire. Getting mixed up in things that don't concern you is a losing proposition. I learned that from leaving pieces of myself, and a lot of other people, around the world during the last dozen years or so. It's the second-most important lesson."

"Population, Belle. I said population", Charlotte said quietly.

"Six of one, half a dozen of another," Belle muttered. "We're all animals, every one of us."

"I didn't want you throwing it up later as evidence of my supremist agenda," Charlotte said.

A sigh. "You're right. I've been a fool, though not the way you mean. The life I've tried to build since I became semi-retired is gone. Maybe I was just deluding myself into thinking it was ever there." She sounded like she was talking to herself as much as to anyone else.

"I didn't go looking for trouble, but it's caught up to me again. I've heard it said more than once that this isn't something you ever get away from, once you're in it. At least, not while you're alive. I was a fool for thinking I could succeed where so many others have failed. It's funny: someone claiming to represent my 'former employers', as you put it, was waiting for me last night, in a place I got a lead on. It didn't pan out, obviously, but he said they wanted me back. I told him I don't work for anyone but myself anymore and left, but looking back, it seems symbolic: deep down, I'm still Bomber. Maybe they guessed. Well, I'm going to stop denying it. The monster never went away. It just went to sleep for a while. "

"I don't think you're a monster. I doubt the sentiment is shared." Charlotte turned to face her, half smiled. "This would almost be funny…if it weren't so pathetic at the core. I want you to have the best of luck. Belle. Perhaps in two or three hundred years we'll understand one another… perhaps not…" she started to step out, then paused. "Your friend, Blaze, she calls herself, was quite concerned about you. She should be at breakfast with the rest of you'd like to speak with her." With that she stepped out of the room.

"I don't know WHAT to think of you," Belle called after her. "WE DON'T EVEN SPEAK THE SAME LANGUAGE!"

Alone again, she sat down very heavily. A sudden wave of fatigue, felt less in body than in spirit, washed over her. "If we're not monsters, then what are we…?" she thought out loud as her head sagged between her broad shoulders.

Ironically, it was the sight of the unfamiliar protrusion between her legs which snapped her out of her reverie.

Her eyes widened slightly as her bodily needs once again overcame her fading excitement. "So this is a piss hard-on," she mumbled abstractly. "Well, might as well get it over with. I think even my constitution is nearing its limits." Finding the nearest bathroom, she stood over the toilet bowl and relieved herself. Pissing standing up was nothing unusual for Belle: with her muscles, she could do it even without a phallus. had done it numerous times in fact. No, it was the thing itself which felt out of place. She thought she understood the descriptions she had heard some men apply to their cocks, to the effect that they seemed almost like a separate creature at times… "Listen to yourself," she muttered, shaking her head in annoyance. "You really are fucked up." Once she was done, she held the thing, with a sense of the surreal about it, and waited to see if it really would retract. Having settled that issue, she went to see just what sort of sartorial strangeness Charlotte had in store for her. She did feel relieved and it did lose some tumesence, withdrawing partially beneath her pubes. After a few moments it was almost unnoticeable.

"Well, it's nice to see something I have at least a little control over," Belle sighed. Then she smirked. "But if I could figure out how to market this gimmick, I'd be richer than God." Taking another long stretch, she debated whether just to get dressed, or clean up first. Considering it had been who knew how long since she'd gotten herself shot up in her club, she figured a quick shower was reasonable. And while she'd come clean the last time she'd been in a shower, the results were still somewhat less than hygenic, though far more essential to her well-being.

As she toweled off, Belle remembered the woman who'd shared that encounter with her. She could also vaguely recall seeing a flash of hair that same flaming-red color in the midst of the sudden chaos at the hospital. Then the "others" Charlotte referred to must mean…"Roll out the barrel, for the gang's all here," she quoted dryly. Then she stopped drying herself as she realized that she'd forgotten to grill Charlotte about Willow. Well, she could just as easily get the girl's side of the story first, as far as how she went from being kidnapped to being at the hospital was concerned.

Next stop, the closets Charlotte mentioned. As she opened the door, she told herself that the woman had taste, as far as straights went. Whether there would be anything which she would personally be caught dead in was another question entirely.

The clothing was basically sweatsuits. Likely the only that could be gotten in short order to fit. Belle wasn't the type of person you could shop for off the rack.

Belle nodded at the practicality of the gesture. Reaching out to grab an outfit at random, she shrugged into it, figuring that she could always revert to her default condition of skin, if the suit became uncomfortable or she otherwise felt like it. The one she grabbed was white.

She ran fingers through hair as she left the room, looking for the kitchen or dining room. Looking out through the windows, it finally dawned on Belle that she was in fact on ground level. "Maybe her head for heights isn't what I thought it was after all," she wondered. "Or maybe it's just that my feet aren't all that well-planted on the ground anymore. Well, let's go find the rest of the walking wounded, see what the current body count is."