Collab Chapter One: Rose And Damien.
(This is the first chapter of a collab between myself and Queenie. Rose is Queenie's character and therefore her parts are authored by Queenie; Damien is my character and I author his parts. The character of Okeam belongs to Wolfie who has kindly allowed us to use her character. Chapters will be posted in separate topics due to length.)
Omarosa Lefoux, better known as Rose, felt rather lost at the large O’Hare airport in Chicago, Illinois. She’d only ever been to the U.S. once, and it had been New York at that, so she couldn’t rely on any prior experience. She wandered hither and thither, her black sneakers squeaking on the large black and white tiled flooring. Which section was she to meet them in again? She couldn’t quite remember, and it didn’t help that she’d let her English get rusty, making the signs about her that much harder to read. The people rushing around the airport ignored her for the most part, brushing by the tall African girl with little thought.
And Rose was tall; in fact, she was almost a foot above all the average people in the terminal. Her wild, dark hair had been restrained in a thick, black braid. It was the only easy, comfortable style Rose could do that kept her dark curls out of her face. Her dark eyes scanned the area around her a bit hopelessly, her thick, bubble-like lips pressed together in a firm line. She was what some would call “large”, with big hips, huge thighs, a large rear, and a bit of a belly, though she made sure to wear clothes that hid that fact. Rose huffed and folded her arms across her ample bosom. Her arms were at odds with the rest of her body, as they were stick-like and skinny, with small hands. Her calves were also smaller, but more average than skinny, with average feet. Overall, Rose could be a bit imposing with her height and size, but she could also be thought of as pretty, in her own odd and curvy way.
Finally, Rose gave up and simply found a bench to plant herself on, thinking to herself, in French, that things were not going at all like planned. She had come to the U.S. to meet Okeam and her family. Okeam’s twin sister Maeko had married Rose’s older brother Djimon many years ago. But, despite having Oka as a sort of distant family, Rose hadn’t seen them in about, oh, say, a whole decade. Rose doubted Okeam had meant for things to go like that, but, well, things just happen like that, sometimes; Rose hadn’t heard from Oka since Rose had moved back in with her father. Now, out of the blue, Okeam had invited Rose to stay over for a while.
Of course, thinking along these lines just made Rose feel even more glum. You really made a mess of things this time, didn’t you? Well, at least when they find you late, Draco, or Damien, or both, will simply track you down.
Damien hadn't been thinking about Rose at all that day. Of course, he knew about her impending visit, but it was difficult for him to think of Rose any way than of how she'd been as a six year old. Damien was six years younger than Rose; he hadn't seen her in about ten years and even the memory he had of her as a kid was faded. Damien was tall and thin, with longish black hair and very pale skin. His eyes were opaque black, like the eyes of a snake and to forstall stares from the people around, Damien always wore a pair of designer sunglasses, a habit gleaned from his father.
What Damien was thinking of, as he walked by the airport, was the assignment that the American President had sent to him. Technically speaking, the assignment had been given to Damien's father, Azhdeha, but since Azhdeha had little or no interest in such a mission, he had passed it on to his son. Since Damien fitted the profile needed for the task, the President had made no objection. Azhdeha generally did jobs here and there for the government, as there were jobs that would be difficult or even impossible for the normal human to do... and neither Azhdeha or Damien were that.
Azhdeha had been an experiment, created by the maverick scientist Dark Star from seven types of reptilian DNA and one part human DNA. He was immortal, invulnerable, and also emotionless and completely lacking in imagination and creativity. Damien resembled his father a great deal, in looks and also in inherited powers, but he had also inherited from his mother more human feelings so that a lot of people felt more comfortable dealing with him rather than Azhdeha. Damien had thought that the President had been relieved when he had told him that he would be carrying out the assignment rather than Azhdeha.
The assignment was thus; the former nuclear power station in the Ukraine, otherwise known as the Chernobyl power station, had recently been fitted with a new sarcophagus to replace the old one which had been leaking deadly radiation. The reactor core had suffered an explosion in 1986, and the towns of Chernobyl and Pripyat had been eventually evacuated permanently. At first, the whole area was far too radioactive for anything to live, but now, nature had made a comeback though humans could not live there. The interest in Chernobyl by the US government was that they wished to find out whether the new sarcophagus was as secure as the Ukrainian government claimed. Should it not be, then the results could be devastating.
This was where Damien came in. He was, like his father, immune to radiation and, unlike any normal human, could walk unprotected into the reactor. Therefore, it made sense to ask Damien to make the inspection, so that minds could be laid to rest. If there was any weakness in the sarcophagus, Damien could then return at a later date to make repairs. His immunity to radiation was a huge bonus, and it meant that the US didn't have to risk the lives and health of their scientists and engineers. Of course, any humans who entered the abandoned towns wouldn't suffer any ill effects provided they didn't stay too long. But it would be at least a century before any humans could ever live in that area again.
Damien was due to carry out the assignment fairly shortly; this was why he was at the airport. He wanted to inquire about flights to the Ukraine, along with prices and times. It was important that he got this particular task completed as soon as was possible; the President did not wish for any delays to take place, in such a case. He entered the airport and wondered where he should go to inquire about flights.
Randomly and out of the blue, Rose got a distinctly uneasy and tingly feeling, a feeling she used to be used to as a child but now bothered her rather deeply. She squirmed a stood, for only one thing could make her feel that way; someone either lacking a soul entirely or having just about half of one. Angel Tears, Dark Star’s cousin and stepmama to Rose’s very best friend, had been able to determine that Rose and Djimon’s strange powers were actually a result of having excess soul-power, which was also why the brother and sister pair got an instinctively uneasy feeling around Draco and his son, though Damien did, in fact, have a soul, just less of one than in an average person.
Instead of running from the source of the unpleasant tingling, Rose followed it. The closer she got to the source, the more the tingling in her bones began to get stronger and feel more p'rickly, like there were large beetles crawling all over her. She shivered once, then looked around until she found what she was looking for; a tall, skinny teen boy with obsidian hair and a pair of sunglasses. Rose hardly recognized the boy, but the p'rickling and sense of- of utter wrongness emanating from him in waves was unmistakable.
Boldly, Rose approached the tall boy and tapped him on the shoulder. “Hello, Damien. Long time no see.” Her voice was thick with her French-African accent, but it was also melodic and musical. She used to hate how she sounded when she spoke English, for she’d been picked on for it as a child. Now, though, she was self-secure enough not to care a jot what others thought of how she looked or spoke.
Damien turned at the light touch on his shoulder. He looked closely at the girl; then did a quick mental scan of her mind. This was a lot more effective in discovering who she was, and he smiled in recognition. "Rose," Damien said. "Haven't seen you in a good while. What are you doing here? Sorry I didn't see you just now; I was thinking about something." He looked about the airport and saw just what he needed; a sign which stated "Inquiries". That was where he needed to go to find out about flights to the Ukraine.
Damien figured that if he found a suitable flight, it would make sense to book it on the spot, for the job he had to do was urgent. He had, in fact, the letter from the President with him to remind him of where he had to go. Obviously, a person could not fly directly to Chernobyl; that was impossible. He'd have to fly to Kiev first, then arrange clearence and transport to the dead zone whilst there. But all those arrangements could be made when he arrived in Kiev.
He wondered just what Rose was doing here; Damien hadn't been around when his mother had arranged the date for Rose to visit, he'd been with his father talking over the President's job. Damien knew that his father didn't think much of the US government at all, even tho he had done several jobs for them over the years. He felt that they took their self appointed title as world peacekeepers far too seriously and spent far too much time poking their noses in. Still, this particular job gave Damien the chance to poke around Chernobyl, and for that he was grateful.
He looked at Rose again, this time properly, and was struck at how she looked. Damien liked what he saw; he'd never had thought anything of the sort about Rose when growing up, though he'd certainly had girlfriends. They'd all been the skinny type, and he'd always felt that something was lacking. Now he knew. He loved Rose's curves, and the beauty in her face; though he was hardly going to say this to her when he hadn't seen her in years.
Rose grinned at him, her white teeth striking against her coffee-colored skin. “You may have changed on the outside, mon ami, but you’re still the kid I remember, and just as off in his own world; your mom invited me to stay a while.” She paused. “So, if you had no idea I was coming, then what are you doing here, maitenant?"
Rose noticed that Damien was quite the looker, if you went for the tall, dark, and mysterious type. But she noted this almost dispassionately, for she kept seeing her good ol’ playmate from her youth. Since Rose had been quite a bit older when they’d played together, she still retained quite a few of her memories of him, and thus her current impression of him was effected by those memories.
She did suspect, however, that Damien was quite a little lady-killer, and wondered what kind of girl he went for. She fervently hoped he wouldn’t go for a bubbly cheerleader-type; she couldn’t stand them, and they didn’t much like her since they always tried to apply black stereotypes to her. But, whatever, she was really more curious why Damien would have anything to do with an airport if he wasn’t sent to pick her up.
As it happened, Damien didn't have a girlfriend at this precise moment. He'd ditched his last girlfriend, a skinny blonde, cuz she was too boring and clingy and now he had decided not to date any more for the while until he worked out what he really wanted from a woman. He looked at Rose and replied, "I did know that you were coming, just that I wasn't around when Mom decided on the date."
Damien wondered briefly what to tell Rose about his upcoming mission, then decided that it couldn't hurt to tell her everything. He took the President's letter out of his pocket and handed it to Rose. "I've got this assignment from the President coming up," Damien said. "I have to fly to the Ukraine in order to visit the Chernobyl power station and inspect the new sarcophagus that the Ukraine government put on the reactor to replace the old one. I've always been interested in the site so I told Dad I'd do it.
"The government wanted me or Dad to do this mission cuz of the fact that we're both immune to radiation so we can walk right into the reactor core without having to wear a ton of protective equipment or worrying about getting ill or anything. I'm here to see about a flight to Kiev as soon as possible."
After saying all this, Damien shuffled his feet a little. Travelling to visit a radioactive power station was hardly something that most girls would want to do, but he still felt that he had to ask. "You could come with me if you like," Damien said. "Not into the reactor core; it wouldn't kill you, cuz of your powers, but you'd get very ill. But you could hang around the farmhouses outside Pripyat while I'm going to the power station. Lots of animals come there and you could talk to them. The radiation won't affect you, cuz we won't be there long enough. As soon as I've looked at the sarcophagus and checked that it's OK, we can leave."
Rose blinked and considered, then said, “Sure, I’ll come. I mean, I got to travel a lot when we were with the League, but one does not get to comprehend much of what one sees when one is a child; this could prove interesting. But, really, since I’m under your mom’s care, it’s up to her.”
Rose wondered at why he’d seemed almost awkward in asking her to join him; it seemed most unlike him. Surely he couldn’t be this awkward around her? True, it had been a long, long time since they’d last seen each other, but she’d thought of Damien as a confident sort of guy who was like her in that he did what he wanted without caring what others thought. So why on earth had he shuffled his feet and almost averted her gaze, as if he’d been nervous of her passing judgement? Poor Rose had no idea that he’d liked what he saw, or that he’d been nervous that she’d consider Pripyat uninteresting and an entirely unsuitable place for the two of them to, well, hang, or even date.
She decided that she would pretend she hadn’t noticed how Damien had gotten all awkward, and said, “Well, you lead the way, then. I mean, Mon Dieu, this place is so confusing. I bet you know your way around here better than I do, at least,” She offered him a smile that was both reassuring and wry.
Damien was grateful for this; he didn't want Rose to think that he was a complete idiot. "I just need to go over to 'Inquiries' first," he said. "If there is a flight, I'll book you a seat, too; I expect Mom will say yes. She'll know that you won't come to any harm as long as you're with me, and you'll be safe on your own in the farmhouses anyway; there's nothing nearby cept for animals."
Damien took Rose over to the inquiries desk and asked the woman sitting there about flights to Kiev. She said that there was a flight there in just a few days, and that there were seats available in Club and First Class, but that Economy Class was completely full. Damien shrugged and said that he'd take Club. The woman told him he could book it straight away or later on over the phone if he prefered. Damien just wanted to get this over with, so he booked two seats on Club and paid with a credit card.
Once it was all over and done with, he carefully tucked the tickets away in his wallet and indicated to Rose that she should follow him. "Thank goodness that's over," he said. "Dad gave me some money for flights; I'm glad that I was able to get Club rather than First, just cuz First is so expensive. I'm far too tall to sit in Goat Class, I'd be in agony by the time we got there."
Damien directed Rose towards the exit; the airport was fairly confusing to the unwary, but Damien had often gone there to book flights due to the missions that he'd done, some alone and some with his father. "You'll have to bring some food and water with you into Pripyat," Damien commented. "Nothing there is safe to eat or drink, it's all radioactive. So are the animals, but that won't affect me if I eat one. It would affect a human, though. The animals seem to be happy enough, living there. I guess nature wins over humans in that respect."
Soon they had left the airport and were out in the town. Damien turned to Rose. "Do you want to get a taxi back to the house?" he asked. "You've got a lot of luggage and though it's not really very far, it would be a bit of a pain lugging all those bags back on foot. Don't worry about money; I have plenty."
Rose followed Damien and waited patiently for him to book the flights, and was actually surprised when he continued to talk to her so openly; he was being very chatty. Not that she minded. Oh, not at all; she just sort of pegged him to be a man of few words. “Of course nature wins; I mean, the human race has spent ages pampering itself; I’m not even sure we can adapt anymore. You know, the process of evolution is more or less null and void with people, because we work so hard to prevent people dying unnecessarily, so we can’t really advance much as a species.”
When Damien offered to pay for a cab, she said, “Well, sure but only if you don’t mind paying for one.” Despite that fact that he’d just said that he didn’t mind paying, she simply had to add that last part; Rose could be nosey and even occasionally bossy, but she hated being imposing. The bags weren’t really that much of a bother, anyways; Rose was stronger than she looked, for, back home, doing things like hauling water and other large supplies around was quite common, and she had taken up helping her father with such chores since Dji was no longer around.
She looked forward to seeing Okeam again, and even, yes, Draco; he was odd, but definitely not bad. The feeling she got around him was unpleasant but not unbearable. She wondered just where they lived; inside city limits or suburb, big place to live, or small? Did Damien go to school? Was he advanced several grades to go with how he looked? He may look seventeen, but Rose knew that, technically, Damien was more along the lines of being about eleven years old. Oh, and had his preternatural growth begun to slow yet? So many unanswered questions. She didn’t ask Damien any of them yet; she figured it was a bit too soon. Besides, she didn’t want to give the impression that she was completely nosey, as opposed to just very nosey. And, yes, there was a difference, so far as she was concerned.
"It's fine; Dad gave me a lot of money for this, and part of it included taxi money," Damien said in answer to Rose's question. "Since we're going back to the same place, you might as well share my taxi." He walked to the road and flagged down a taxi, which stopped right away. The taxi driver helped Rose with her luggage, then Damien got in and held the door open for Rose to get inside, too.
Damien's unusual maturity did indeed stem from his unnatural growth. It had only stopped when he reached the age of ten, though he'd looked about sixteen then; his father figured that it was due to the fact that he himself looked sixteen and that it was entirely possible that Damien might not mature any more than that. Damien was thankful that didn't turn out to be true; he was maturing now, though at a slower, more normal rate. He knew that he'd probably stop at looking around twenty, which suited him fine.
Technically, Damien was twelve years old, but had matured physically enough that he would be considered to be seventeen. He had been homeschooled up to a point, as his accelerated growth made it impossible for him to be taught with other kids of the same age. When his growth had slowed to normal levels, Damien had attended high school with teens that were the same age as he looked. He lived with his parents in a big house in the suburbs; just close enough to the city for comfort, but without all the noise of the city traffic. He wondered what Rose would make of it all.
“Merci beaucoup- ah, that is to say, thank you very much,” Rose said, embarrassed about her slip-up. She slid in beside Damien. She stayed to one side, though, figuring he’d like a bit of space. “Where exactly do you live in these parts?” she asked, attempting small-talk.
Rose’s own growth rate would slow down severely when she hit twenty, and she would age three times slower than the average human at that point. It wasn’t actually something she thought over much, though. She preferred to further work on her healing powers and such. Since she was used to the small but comfortable home she lived in with her father, she might find a large house a little too open and almost naked for her tastes, but she’d no doubt find ways to enjoy herself.
Rose wondered what Damien did for fun. He didn’t look like the skater-type, nor the player type, though she had no doubt he’d had some girlfriends. In fact, she had a very hard time imagining doing almost anything stereotypically American as a pass-time. But, well, she supposed she could always ask later under the pretense that she was bored herself and adapt.
All this passed through her mind in only a few seconds, and the driver had only just gotten back in and buckled himself in before driving off. Since Rose didn’t want to be rude and turn away from Damien while conversing with him, but yet wishing to get at least a glimpse of the immense city through which they traveled, she looked out of the window on Damien’s side, her black eyes wide with fascination.
"Just outside the city," Damien replied to Rose. "Living right in the city centre would drive my parents mad, though Dad goes there regularly to hunt. I like to go into town too, either to do stuff or cuz I have to go book plane tickets or collect a package; something to do with the government missions. Dad gets annoyed with the President; he thinks that the President is way too keen on butting in on foreign affairs, but then, that's the way all American Presidents are. Goes with the territory, I guess."
Soon, the taxi pulled up outside a large house. This was where Damien lived with his mother and father. The letterbox was skewed slightly, as tho hit by something, but there were no marks on it. While the taxi driver helped with Rose's bags, Damien paid the driver. He then led Rose to the front door and fumbled with his key. The house wasn't enormous, but it had to be comfortably large due to the fact that neither Damien or Azhdeha liked being cooped up overmuch. They both prefered to have lots of space. While Azhdeha could not physically digest anything other than raw meat, Damien could eat human food to some extent, though he still possessed an urge to eat freshly killed raw meat which he did indulge in every now and again. Damien much prefered to eat animal flesh though, as opposed to his father's preference for human flesh. He put that down to having human friends, which would make feeding on their fellow humans uncomfortable; and also to the fact that he had more human DNA in him than Azhdeha did.
Damien generally passed the time going to see live music, from unknown bands who played in clubs to big name bands playing at arenas. He had no interest in sports, although his superhuman strength could have gotten him on every sports team going, and he was bored to tears by the interests that his ex girlfriends had been into; shopping, clothes, makeup, cheerleading. Damien also played guitar, and had a soundproof room in the basement in which to practice, so that he wouldn't disturb his parents. He listened to music up in his room, the walls of which was plastered in posters. The guest room, in which Rose would be staying, was done in primrose yellow paint and was fairly neutral in colour so that guests could feel comfortable.
When they arrived, Rose whistled, impressed in spite of herself. The house was no mansion by American standards, but, compared to Rose’s fairly humble abode, it might as well have been. “Nice place,” She said, nodding. “So, where exactly am I staying?” She briefly wondered about the mailbox, then decided to add it to the long and growing list of Things To Ask About Later.
Rose did a little singing herself, but she preferred to spend her time studying animals. Working with Star in the lab as a child had actually left a profound effect on her, and she wanted to major in some sort of biological science. But, as of yet, she had no idea what she wanted to be specifically; not a vet, for she liked exploring far too much to be cooped up in an animal hospital. As for the rest, it was hard to choose, and she simple didn’t have the sort of money required to study all of the above. Since she was already eighteen, Rose had to choose one, and choose one fast. But how could she?
For the moment, at least, she was spared such painful thoughts. She picked up her luggage, turned around and grinned at Damien, then said, “You know, I must insist upon a tour.” And she meant every word.
Damien replied to Rose straight away, "You're staying in the guest room. I'll show you there first, so you've got someplace to dump your bags. Then if you want, I guess I'll take you round the rest of the house. I think Dad's out hunting right now, but Mom's around someplace, maybe in the utility room." Damien took Rose up the stairs to the guest room. It was very tidy and the bed was newly made. Damien waited for Rose to dump her bags on the floor before he took her to his room. Opening the door, he said, "This is my room. It's painted indigo, but you can't see the paint cuz of all the posters. I want to be a rock star, but right now, I guess I'll be sticking with the occasional government assignments. It pays well anyway."
The room was, to put it bluntly, a complete tip. The duvet was half off the bed, there were dirty clothes and music magazines on the floor, and a red electric guitar leaned against the back wall. The walls were covered with various posters of heavy metal bands, with some of girls posing with motorbikes amongst them. It was, in short, a typical teenage boy's room.
"Mom hates the way I'm so untidy," Damien explained. "She refuses on principle to tidy up, though. I have to give the room a blitz at least once a week, or else." He shoved a pile of magazines off the bed so that he could sit down. "Where else do you want to see in the house? I could take you down to the basement; that's where I practice my guitar."
While they’d been in the guest room, Rose had said, “Nice. Very cute but neutral,” she followed Damien to his room and couldn’t help but grin at the mess. She kicked aside a pile of dirty clothes and sat beside him on the bed companionably. “Rock Star? I can see that, and a little bit of secret-agent work on the side,” She grinned playfully at him. She politely ignored the posters of girls, deciding that would be the best course of action – for now. Later, when he’d warmed up to her, she might decide to pick on him. But, as it was, he was totally exposing himself to her, and she decided to play it nice.
“Well, you know, when parents just do everything for their kids, said kids won’t do anything to help themselves,” Rose said. “Wait, what sorts of consequences are there for not cleaning once a week?” She paused. “I want a quick tour of where the bathrooms are, a tour of the kitchen and where all the things like the utensils and plates and cups are kept, then I’d like to hear you play guitar.”
Rose was excited to hear Damien play, actually; she loved music. She was eager to discover how good Damien was, and whether he had a singing voice to speak of. Rose herself had a few friends back home she liked to get together and sing with while they did chores. She wanted to ask if Damien had any friends he could play guitar with, but was too nervous; would she be prying if she did ask?
"Well," Damien replied to Rose, "What Mom usually does is lock my guitar up until I clear up. I can't stand it when she does that, so I always have to buckle down and clean up the room. I'll have to do that before we leave on the flight, or there'll be hell to pay when we get back." Damien paused then said, "There's two bathrooms; one up and one down. I'll show you both of them. There's also a utility room attached to the kitchen, and a couple of garages round the back. The stuff there is mostly Dad's; like his motorbike. He's said he'll get me a bike when I'm old enough."
Damien was actually very good at playing guitar; and he had an average singing voice. He was lucky in that he'd inherited the ability to sing and know music from Okeam; Azhdeha had zero ability to sing, due to having a completely flat voice without inflections. He was also completely tone deaf and had little or no interest in playing an instrument. Damien's musical ability was down to the human genes inherited from his mother, which balanced out the reptilian ones inherited from his father. It was ironic that Azhdeha's son would be more what Dark Star had invisioned when she had created Azhdeha, than her original experiment was.
"I'll play you a couple of songs down in the basement," Damien said. "Then we can go upstairs and find Mom. She'll be in the kitchen or utility room at this time of day; probably fixing something. She likes to lay out the parts on the kitchen table." This was of course far from the norm of what most people would expect their Moms to be doing in the kitchen. But then, Damien's family was hardly normal.
“You’re gonna get a bike?” Rose said, quirking one dark brow. She then grinned, her black eyes sparkling with mischief. Playfully, she said, “Tré sexy.” She was finding herself wondering why she and Damien didn’t hang out more, for they seemed to suit each other well. “I’m not yet sure if my mom is going to get me one; I plan on going to university in London, and she lives there. I suspect my dad and mom are trying to surprise me with something, for both of them lock up tight whenever I broach the subject to cars,” her grin widened and she said, “So, if you become some super famous star, and you came on tour to the U.K., I’ll be very disappointed if I don’t get a backstage pass from you.” She emphasized ‘very disappointed’ by poking him squarely in the chest with her right hand index finger.
Rose still remembered the days when she and Ku, her very best friend to this day, were deathly afraid of Damien. Star had taken Rose aside and pointed out that, though Damien was odd, he was still a person, and needed friends. Thus, it had been Rose who had first bridged that gap and tried to play with Damien, and she was glad she did; now that she was older, she could only imagine how bad he’d be now if he’d been completely alienated then.
“So, what are we waiting for? Let’s get on with this tour, boyo,” she stood abruptly, that grin still on her face; Rose figured her cheeks would be hurting something fierce at the end of the day, but she couldn’t seem to stop smiling and settle down, she was too excited. She didn’t find it at all odd that Okeam might be doing abnormal things in a kitchen; that was just how Okeam was.
Thus it was that Rose followed Damien, finishing a tour of the house, meeting a very enthusiastic Okeam who had paused in the middle of some odd project or other to greet her, and listening to Damien play. Rose was very pleased to find that Damien was skillful with the guitar. His voice was okay; he hit all the notes perfectly in tune, but he lacked a bit of finesse. Rose thought she could maybe work with him on that, but not this time around. For now, she was fine with just listening to him play and talking with him. Boy, was she gonna have a lot to tell Ku tonight!
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