[fic] Digital Devil Saga, "The History of Mankind"
So bunnied on the way home. Consider this part of the same continuity as Those who Learn from the Past, since I wanted to deal with some of the ...others l-lol.
The History of Mankind Various pairings DDS future fic o/ SPOILERS FOR END OF DDS2 obviously XD Safe for work
In the kitchen, Jenna slices bread. Most of the others aren't down for lunch yet, though Argilla is sprawled out on the other side of the kitchenette, arms cradling her head against the table as she listens to the radio. It isn't Jenna's sort of music; she's heard Heat complain about it as 'Girl music' -- the only genre requirement to him, apparently, being that it's incredibly female-centric. She doesn't know if she'd agree; she can't seem to like it. It's alternates too heavily between romantic and focused on suicide and betrayal. Still, she's not exactly going to ask Argilla to turn it off; lately Argilla's become terribly fixated on this artist, to the point that Fred joked that maybe Argilla should make it to one of the concerts. Instead, Jenna tries to tune it out; her hands are shaking on the bread.
She doesn't feel well; she was throwing up that morning. She hasn't told anyone, because they'll just worry, and she'd rather take care of them than be taken care of. "Argilla?"
"What is it, Jenna?" Argilla lifts her head from where she'd been cradling it; there's a faint flush on her face.
"Lunch will be ready in just a minute," Jenna says, and smiles carefully. "Will you get everyone?"
"Oh -- sure," Argilla says. She gets up, heads for the door, then hesitates. "Jenna?"
Jenna is laying the meat out on the bread. She doesn't look up. "Yes?"
"Her tour's coming to Portland in a month. I -- I'm going to go."
It seems a bit irrelevant, but Jenna smiles anyway, wryly; sometimes, she feels much older than the others. "That's a good idea," she says. "And now, lunch?"
"Oh -- of course."
Jenna finds herself wandering down to the park later; she's finished the shopping and dropped off the bags, but it's a beautiful day -- bright and sunny and she's feeling anxious for no good reason, so she wants to stay out in the fresh air, and the park's always a place that helps calm her down.
But the bench she usually relaxes on, feeding the birds, is already taken by a girl around her age. Her blond curls are held back in a clip and she wears a dress that comes to her knees. She is leaning forward, one held out towards a cat sitting on the ground.
Jenna approaches and hesitates. There's still room on the bench for another, but she's not sure she wants company; besides, the girl hasn't acknowledged her at all. The cat looks at her, tail flicking, then ducks off under a bush.
"Ah, kitty--" the girl murmurs, fingers twitching in the air. Behind her dark glasses, her eyes track back and forth as though she'd missed the cat leaving.
"Sorry," Jenna says.
The girl starts, then turns towards her. "Oh, no, it's all right. Sorry, I didn't hear you coming. Would you like to sit down?"
"--You're blind," Jenna says, then covers her mouth, embarrassed the realization had found words.
A tilt of her head, then an awkward smile. "Yes," she says. "Mama says I was this way when they found me. Does it bother you?"
"No," Jenna says. "I just ... was surprised."
The girl nods and shifts over slightly. "Would you like to sit?"
"Yes, thank you. I -- usually come to feed the birds. Well," Jenna adds, embarrassed, "not that there would be any if there's a cat around."
The girl laughs, low, and says, "I know I shouldn't encourage him, but he's sweet, and the birds are smart enough to run away."
"I suppose they must be," Jenna says. She takes a seat and knits her hands together.
"--Are you all right?"
"Sorry," Jenna says again. "Do I sound that bad?"
"Just a little upset," the girl says. She reaches over, hand groping in the air; Jenna takes it without really knowing what the girl's looking for, and only knows it's her when the girl squeezes slightly. "What's bothering you?'
Jenna lowers her eyes. "Oh," she says. "I ... wouldn't want to bother a stranger with it. It's... nothing much."
"Isn't a stranger easier?" the girl asks. "Not that I want to pressure you. But if you want to get it out, I don't mind, and it's not like you're likely to see me, or worry what I think."
"I ... suppose so," Jenna says. Still, the words choke in her throat before she can get them out. The blind girl strokes her hand. "--I think I might be pregnant."
The girl's mouth opens in an 'O', and then closes again. After a moment, she says, "Is that a good thing or a bad one?"
Jenna is shaking; she fights it with the full force of her will but she's shaking nevertheless. "I don't know," she says, and tries hard not to cry.
"Do you love the man?"
"Yes, of course," she says, and presses the heel of her free hand against her forehead. "We're... very close. We were... raised together, as siblings, and--"
"You do not feel like siblings?"
"Then that's all right, isn't it?" the girl murmurs. "Do you think you cannot keep the child?"
"I'm afraid I'll hurt her," Jenna says, and starts to cry despite herself.
The blind girl reaches up and touches her face, wiping her tears ineffectually. "Her?"
"I don't know!"
"Why would you fear that--"
"I don't know--"
"Oh," the girl says, helplessly, and then pulls her into a loose embrace. She smells like clean linen as Jenna sobs into her shoulder.
Eventually, she starts to feel more embarrassed than afraid and forces herself to sit back, wiping her face. "I'm ... sorry."
"Do you feel better?" the girl asks.
"Yes," Jenna lies. "Sorry about that."
The girl bites her lower lip, then reaches out and pats Jenna's leg lightly. "Human life is precious," she says. "Keep that in mind and you'll be fine."
Jenna tries to find something to answer; she can't find the words, and before she finds a chance to insert something in their place, a woman calls out in the distance, Margie, Margie!
"That's Mama," the girl says. "Will you be all right?"
"Yes," Jenna says. "Yes, I'll be fine. Thank you."
The girl smiles. "Good luck," she says. "I'll be rooting for you," and then she bends, scoops a cane she must have left under the bench, and begins to track her slow way towards the voice.
Jenna watches her go, wondering how she didn't stumble, even moving that slowly. She feels cold and tired now, and wants to go home.
Well, the rest of her questions are answered now, she thinks, numb with terror, and rests a hand on her stomach. She's worrying everyone, despite trying not to, and Gale seems endlessly confused at why she's pushing him away, why she's never in the mood anymore.
She needs to talk to someone, doesn't want it to be one of the boys (Serph is strange; Heat is too aggressive; Cielo too wild; Gale too relevant). She wanders downstairs, finds Fred. "Have you seen Argilla?"
Fred blinks at her, then smiles. "Have you somehow managed to forget? I didn't think she'd let any of us forget it--"
"Tonight's the concert night. For that band -- what's it called again--"
Sera looks over from where she's doing the crossword; Jenna sees she has almost the entire thing filled out. "Dawn Breaks," she provides.
"Thank you, Sera, yes--"
"Oh," Jenna says.
Fred hesitates, then looks at her. "Jenna, is there something you want to talk about?"
She's losing control, can feel the trembling of her lips and eyebrows. "No," she says flatly. "Nothing," and she walks quickly away before she can change her mind.
"Wait, Jenna," Sera calls, and Jenna thinks No, please and speeds up; still, she doesn't make it back to her room before Sera has caught up to her. "Jenna!"
She stops, refuses to look back. "What?"
"Please," Sera says, and reaches out, touches Jenna's arm. "What's wrong? You're worrying everyone. I -- you're worrying me, Jenna. What's--"
"I'm having a child," Jenna says.
There is a silence, and then Sera says, "That's wonderful!"
Jenna spins on her; she can feel her control shattering and a terrible rage rising up. "Wonderful? How can you say that!"
Sera's eyes widen. "You don't think it is--?"
"I can't take care of a child," Jenna says. "I'll -- I'll hurt it!" She grabs Sera by the shoulders and shakes. "I can't do this! Can't you understand? I'll be a terrible mother!"
Sera squeaks, more taken aback than hurt, and reaches out, grabbing Jenna's own shoulders as if to steady both of them. "But, Jenna," she says. "Even though we're all the same age, you already take care of us so much --"
"You're so scared," Sera says, and hugs her. "Oh, Jenna. I think it's going to be fine. Any child of yours will be incredibly lucky, and incredibly loved. You've got so much love in you, Jenna -- you'll do fine, just... just don't worry."
The tears won't stop. Jenna squeezes Sera against her, presses her face to Sera's hair, holds her tight and says, "Oh God," helplessly.
Argilla comes back in tears. Jenna, who at that point is more drained than anything else, sitting back on the couch and drinking tea, looks up at her and says, tiredly, "What's wrong?"
Before she can protest, Argilla's throwing herself against Jenna, and Jenna's tea goes everywhere. She tries to salvage what she can, puts the cup down, pets Argilla's back.
"Bad night?" Jenna asks, softly.
Argilla shakes her head.
"I'm in love," Argilla chokes out.
Jenna strokes Argilla's hair, feels more tired, says, "That's not something you usually cry about, is it?"
"I know, I know, I'm just -- so scared, Jenna!"
"Ahh," Jenna says, quietly. "I know how you feel." And perhaps she does; perhaps it's not so different between them -- this heavy nameless potential wound up in greatness, this terror of the unknown and desperate need for such an impossible thing to impossibly succeed. "Did you go backstage?"
Jenna kisses the top of Argilla's head, holds her like the sister she's named her before, and says, "You can never succeed at what you don't try."
Gale is sitting outside on a bench with his face pale when Argilla gets back from the temple. "Sorry," she says, flushed and breathless. "Did I miss it?"
His terse gaze answers before he does -- "Not yet," he says.
"I got a charm," she says, and presses the little cloth bag into his hand. "I wanted to get something like that before coming over. Roland helped me pick it out--"
"Is he enjoying the work there, still?" Gale asks.
Roland has been such a distant brother to them, since Fred couldn't raise him, but a fond one. Argilla flushes slightly, shrugs. "He seems happy," she says.
"Good, then." And Gale folds his hand around the charm and waits.
Not too long from then and a young woman in a white coat comes out and murmurs to Fred. He rises, smiles, and says, "Go in, Gale."
Gale's eyes widen like the world might be stopping, and then he beams and is up and running. "Just Gale, for now," he hears behind him.
Fred slides in to sit next to Argilla. "You're happy," he notes.
"Jenna's having a child!" she says. "Of course I'm happy. Anyone would be."
He laughs, because it's true; he's had to send the others down to the cafeteria because they were getting too loud and excited. "That's true," he says. "But you're especially happy."
"I don't know why," Argilla says. "It's just a letter, but..."
"But the things you receive are precious anyway, aren't they?" Fred asks, and puts a hand on her head. "Oh, Argilla. You're all growing up so fast."
"Roland said that too," Argilla said. "He seemed a bit weird about this whole thing. Is he really not coming to see Gale and Jenna's baby?"
Fred says, "It's Roland. He'll... be by later, I bet. Once he's stopped arguing with himself about what he wants to do."
"I hope so," Argilla says, and Fred shakes his head, squeezes Argilla's shoulder.
And then Gale marches past them, goes straight outside, ignoring the way they call his name. He steps out into the sunlight and breathes the air in front of the hospital, out by the sidewalk and the tree-lined road.
"I'm a father!" he bellows a moment later; throwing his arms wide.
A young man walking nearby nearly loses control of the dogs he's leading; they bark and their leashes tangle, and it takes him a moment to get them sorted out. Still, he's smiling as he straightens again, nods to Gale. "Congratulations," he says, as though hearing that was enough to make him happy as well.
Gale beams at him, nods to him in a way that would be standard good-afternoon-to-you-sir if he could keep the smile off his face, and then goes back inside to where they're all waiting.
"She's beautiful," Sera says, peering into the tiny face.
Jenna feels exhausted, drained. She stares down into it: red and scrunched up and she thinks, this, here, right now, is another new beginning to the history of man.