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18+ Cicero Fan Fiction

Discussion in 'Skyrim Fan Fiction' started by Holiday Feartree, Jun 29, 2017.

?

Do you want to read more of "The Chronicles of Madness?"

  1. I read a little, and I want to finish reading what has been written so far.

  2. I read a little, but it is not my cup of tea.

  3. I read everything on ArchiveOfOurOwn, and I want the author to write more of this.

  4. I read everything on ArchiveOfOurOwn, and I'd like the author to write side stories about Cicero.

  5. Cicero is awesome. Gimme it all and more.

Results are only viewable after voting.
  1. Holiday Feartree

    Holiday Feartree Holiday Feartree

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    Here's the link: http://archiveofourown.org/users/HolidayFeartree/works

    It's easier to read on ArchiveofOurOwn's website. You can even download the stories in a variety of formats (.mobi, .pdf, etc.).

    I will slowly post the chapters in this thread, but if you want to read ahead - go to ArchiveOfOurOwn. Bear in mind this thread censors all the explicit language in my fanfic. My work will be censored here because I'm just copying and pasting in this thread. So if you don't mind seeing the word "fluff" when I really typed an F-bomb... that's what you'll get reading the story on this thread. ;)

    (Also this thread doesn't include the line breaks between story scenes. Sorry. I'm copying and pasting here when I can. I don't have time to reformat every chapter.)

    The genre is fantasy/adventure with lemon elements (it is not 100% lemon all the time - it has a plot).

    Depending on which volume you read, the stories contain strong language, sexual themes (hetero, lesbian, homosexual), and violence. I try not to make things graphic just to be *shocking* - I aim for depth as much as I can. I write based on how I feel toward a certain character, which does vary from situation to situation.

    This series is an alternate timeline and a Skyrim/Fallout 4 crossover. Yeah, it's out there, but it's a fun hobby. Trust me, I'm well aware of how nerdy this makes me. ;)

    I don't do this for writing critiques/notes - just for enjoyment. The series isn't complete. I'm working on Volume 2 right now. Hopefully it should be done by the end of the month.

    http://archiveofourown.org/users/HolidayFeartree/works
     
    #1 Holiday Feartree, Jun 29, 2017
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2017
  2. Holiday Feartree

    Holiday Feartree Holiday Feartree

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  3. Holiday Feartree

    Holiday Feartree Holiday Feartree

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  4. Holiday Feartree

    Holiday Feartree Holiday Feartree

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    [​IMG]

    C.A.T. - Chp. 1

    The pointy eared bandit snatches up a hefty log of firewood, howling with amusement. Lifting the firewood high above his shoulder, he smashes the Night Mother's head clean from her rotted neck. His buddies throughout the camp erupt with laughter, whooping and shouting as they guzzle more ale. The spectacle appears to be done in some kind of choreographed, albeit drunken, unison.

    “Wouldya look at that!” he exclaims, pointing at the ground. “Come here you old hag and gimme some head, eh?” He retrieves the Night Mother's head as it rolls across the frozen dirt. Holding the head in one hand, he wrestles with his pants using the opposite hand. Withdrawing his flaccid cock, the stumbling, chuckling bandit pisses right in her petrified mouth. He bursts into outrageous laughter as drool shoots from his cracked lips.

    Cat winces. She knows it's just a corpse, but something about the whole ...thing... is unnerving. And these guys are obviously way too drunk. When they're done with the Night Mother – what do they plan to do to Cat? Shaking her head, she tries to wriggle free from the restraints around her wrists and ankles. Her black Converse shoes kick along the gray mud as her body awkwardly rolls backward. “fluff,” Cat grumbles under her breath. The bandits don't hear her.

    If that freaky dude carting around the dead lady finds out what they're up to... Cat sits back up, peering through the crowd of inebriated criminals, inspecting the trees just in the distance. Is he out there? Freaky or not, she's hoping to see him. But who knows.

    Those bandits really got the jump on her earlier in the evening. The wagon wheel had broken, so she and Cicero had no choice but to search for help. Unfortunately, this guy Loreius caused a big problem, prompting both Cat and Cicero to abandon the wagon. With a shake of her head, Cat frowns at the memory.

    It wasn't long ago when she met Cicero. It had maybe been a day or three. She lost count. That's likely not accurate. Cat struggles to keep track of the days because they all had such weird ass names. Turdas? Really? Come on, now. Cicero was traveling with this corpse – the same one that the bandits stole. The same one that the bandits are now pissing on and dry humping. Cat shakes her head and rolls her eyes at the god awful sight she's seeing. Holy plops. Delightful. This cannot end well.

    Cat doesn't understand much about what the hell is going on around her, and that is an understatement. But one thing is for certain – she knows the jester is obsessed with the dead woman. On the road, he would wave his daggers, screaming and manically laughing, at the passing children who reached out to inspect the obscure, large object hanging from the back of his cart.

    Cat was shocked Cicero abandoned the cart to go toe-to-toe with Loreius. But that farmer was in no mood to help either of them, and Cicero must have been desperate to get his wheel fixed. One thing is for sure – Cat wouldn't forget the terrified look on Curwe's face when Cicero threateningly held a blade to her throat. Poor woman. After the jester had “convinced” the farmer to fix the wheel, they went outside only to discover a missing horse and a missing sarcophagus. Cicero erupted into a frenzied rage, slashing at Loreius who, Cicero screamed, was at fault for the theft and of no further use to him.

    He failed to kill the farmer, but Cicero sliced him deep across the chest. Curwe screamed in the farmhouse doorway, watching the spectacle. Cat bolted. She had to get the fluff out of there, away from those people. Cicero screamed after her, and she wasn't entirely sure by his crazed tone if he was angrily chasing after her or what. Regardless, Cat ran and ran, wondering if the jester was following close behind. Each time Cat checked over her shoulder, there was nothing around but the empty dirt path, eerily still with the spread of late evening shadows.

    Then the bandits found her.

    As it turns out, it's the same crew that stole the horse and the corpse. With a front row seat, Cat's watching their late night antics as she pulls the hood of her red sweatshirt over her black, half-shaved, half-outgrown hair. The piercings along her ears snag a bit on the red cotton and so she adjusts the material around her head. Her hands move awkwardly, given the restraints, but she manages.

    “...the fluff am I gonna do...” she mumbles.

    This whole plops show started with Cat asking Cicero for a ride. At the time, she was exhausted and out of breath, not thinking clearly. Cat had been running for so long. She needed to get to safety. Running is pretty much the only thing she knows how to do.

    Cicero eagerly obliged, calling her “Wanderer” within seconds of their introduction. He called her Wanderer over and over again, no matter how many times Cat reminded the guy of her real name. But it didn't matter. Wanderer, Wanderer, Wanderer. Wanderer. Christ. That was her new name forever and always. Tattoo it across her head.

    As they rode along the dirt path, headed toward a city called Whiterun, the jester talked Cat's ear off about the Night Mother. That was the thing in the back of his cart. It was a dead body. An old dead woman who apparently killed her kids to sacrifice them to the dark lord Satan or something like that. Cat had no idea. It... it wasn't Satan. It was some other dark lord. But yeah... wow. At that moment, she realized she was hitchhiking in one royally fluffed up place.

    Everything, up to this point, had been surreal. A dream? A nightmare? One minute, Cat was half-watching her younger sister play a video game, half-thumbing through her quasi-burnt copy of Tales of a Junktown Jerky Vendor. Then – whoosh! She found herself here! It was all such a shock to her system that Cat could barely remember much before that. Soon, she found herself running, screaming, trying to dodge crazy plops as it flew overhead. She thought the bombs were falling. But no. That sound. She heard that awful sound. It was the sound of a massive, horrifying animal – like a Deathclaw zooming overhead. It sliced through the trees overhead, crying out with rage, shaking the very ground. When Cat looked up, she saw it – a fluffing giant flying lizard, spitting out horrible noises coupled with fiery blasts, burning the trees outlining Cat's path to escape.

    She got away. She ran until her sides split. Huffing and puffing, her legs carried her for what felt like an hour. Maybe two hours. She couldn't keep going, and that was when she spotted the cart, navigated by the strange man dressed like a mime or something. A really loud, crazy, boisterous, out-of-his-fluffing-mind mime. Yeah. One of, uh, those kinds of mimes.

    And now, Cat sits captive, watching these assholes amuse themselves with a dead woman. At least they're amused with the corpse and not with Cat, she thinks, but Cat reassures herself too soon. Sure enough, she spies one of the drunkards approaching her, stumbling along with an intoxicated gait. He smiles, revealing a partially toothless grin. Cat swallows a shudder, grimacing at the notion of whatever sick thoughts might be entering this guy's mind.

    “I've gotsh shomething for you, lovely,” he slurs. The bandit holds up a small, pointy object. Cat tilts her head, squinting to get a look at it. It looks like a finger. An old, rotten finger. “Took it from that long-dead elf. One last thing to remember the ol' bitch by!” His eyes squeeze shut as his toothless grin widens to a laugh.

    “What do you mean, one last thing–” Cat's words fall short as she watches three bandits lift the headless Night Mother above them and toss her entire body onto the campfire. The flames engulf the embalmed remains, violently wrapping around the Night Mother like arms, hugging and tearing away at what was left of her preserved flesh and bone. The Night Mother's body glows orange, then crumbles to dust within minutes.

    “Oh god, what the hell are you doing?!” Cat shouts.

    “Brilliant!” hollers the bandit holding the Night Mother's finger. “Burn the bitch!” He turns his loopy gaze back to Cat. “Eat this!” he yells, pushing her flat to the ground. “It'll be good for a laugh!” he chuckles.

    “Wait, what the hell are you doing?!” Cat shouts the same question again, which ends up being an unfortunate choice. Her open mouth gives the bandit a prime opportunity to shove the dead finger straight down her throat.

    “Eat up!” he laughs. “Does a body good!” He covers her mouth with a grimy hand, refusing to let Cat spit it out.

    She gags as she feels the finger's bone scrape its way past her soft palate. Her throat muscles involuntarily flex, pushing the thing further downward. Cat hopes for another gag reflex to vomit it up, but to no avail. The Night Mother's finger is now swirling in her belly.

    “You look a little pale, lovely!” the bandit stands and rejoins his comrades, laughing and kicking up the dusty remains of the Night Mother.



    [​IMG] music: Bad Things - Jace Everett
     
  5. Holiday Feartree

    Holiday Feartree Holiday Feartree

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    C.A.T. - Chp. 2

    Cicero speeds across the frozen grass, his mind racing with thoughts of the Night Mother. “Who dares – DARES – to abduct you, Mother? Cicero is on his way!” His heart is leaping from his chest as he jumps, nearly flies, over patches of shrubbery, weaving through snow fallen fir trees. Daggers drawn, the jester's movement is swift and soundless, except for the occasional sleepy ground fowl that inelegantly bursts into flight to clear his path.

    “Who who who who who!” Cicero madly repeats under his breath, not too unlike a deranged owl. His eyes narrow on a flickering campfire in the distance. Slowing his pace, he crouches like a predator, peering through the foliage. Cicero's red hair falls across his prominent cheekbones and he pays it no mind, taking no action to sweep it behind his ears beneath his tipped jester hat. Mother is his only focus. His copper eyes glint in the moonlight as he stares, unblinking, at the camp just ahead.

    “Found you,” he growls. With a sudden flick and flip, Cicero nimbly spins his daggers in his hands, prepping himself for the inevitable.

    “Cicero couldn't protect her,” he whispers to himself. “Stolen – lost!” His rage and utter madness drives Cicero to believe this is all Loreius' fault. Had the farmer not given the Wanderer such trouble when she asked for help! Help was all poor Cicero needed! Cicero wouldn't have had to leave Mother by the roadside to further persuade that infuriating man. Damn that Loreius! Damn him to the Void! Cicero has half a mind to pay him a second visit once Mother is retrieved. The jester's broken thoughts shift sporadically through graphic images of Loreius and his wife strung up from their windmill with burned feet, their innards spilling to the soil like bouncy pieces of raw meat. Burn their feet – gut their meat!

    And why, oh why, did the Wanderer run? She is a Wanderer, after all. Wanderers must wander, of course – of course! But Cicero wonders if the wonderful Wanderer had to wander away so very, very quickly! He giggles at his little tongue twister, then scowls. Cicero would like to twist some tongues, indeed.

    Cicero liked the Wanderer when he first met her. She dressed funny. Blue pants! Blue pants with holes torn across her knees. And a red hood, as red as blood dripping from the rosy petals of a red mountain flower. And that crazy black hairdo, snipped all the way to her scalp on one side, and sprouting in long, jagged layers on the other! Madness! She even wore black and white clown shoes. Cicero truly thought she was a clown! The girl didn't know anything about, well, anything! He had to explain everything. The weather, the trees, the dragons, the Night Mother. She didn't even know who Sithis was!

    At one point, during their trek, he speculated that the Wanderer was a child. She knew next to nothing, and she wasn't very tall, in fact she was shorter than Cicero. And she had a slender look about her, as if her diet wasn't all that substantial. She looked nothing like those buxom Nord ladies with their solid thighs and curvaceous upper frames. Cicero wanted to feed her a sweet roll or three! But, to his delight, the Wanderer wasn't a child. He despised children. Always pointing and whining and he wanted to SHUT THEM UP FOREVER. No, the Wanderer was a young woman, more wiry than delicate. There was a slight curve to her hips and a slight rise and fall to the slope of her bosom. And to top it all off, Cicero noticed the Wanderer had the most beautiful face, with those sea green eyes and a, daresay, handsome smile. She was handsome. It wasn't often Cicero would call a woman such a word, but it fit the Wanderer perfectly. In the end, his heart filled with glee to have had such a strange, terribly dressed beauty accompany him on his lonely trip.

    Cicero sighs at losing focus from Mother. With haste, he makes his way toward the campfire.

    [​IMG]music: That Certain Female - Charlie Feathers
     
  6. Holiday Feartree

    Holiday Feartree Holiday Feartree

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    C.A.T. - Chp. 3

    “You grab her arms, I'll grab her legs. Then we'll have some fun with her!” says one of the bandits, slapping his buddy on the back. The two approach Cat with a look in their eyes that can only spell trouble.

    fluff, this party's going downhill real fast. Cat scoots herself backward, feebly trying to escape the two perverts lumbering toward her. One of them grabs her by her bound wrists, keeping her arms from flailing. The other grabs at her ankles and unties the restraints, so as to spread her legs. Cat doesn't make a sound, but she hauls back and kicks the bandit right in his face, knocking a tooth from its gum.

    As the bloody tooth slides down the bandit's chin, he scowls. “You little spriggan-faced bitch!” He reaches forward to control her legs. Cat kicks wildly, nailing him in the face once more. The idiot holding her wrists does nothing to assist, he just stares at the commotion as if in a drunken trance. The other idiot, holding her ankles, shakes off the pain from being kicked again. He manages to control her legs, and yanks his trousers down, revealing his sorry excuse for a manhood which can only be described as the world's saddest mushroom, trying to erect itself halfway between the stages of being drunk and really drunk.

    Before the two can continue, the laughter and celebrating in the background dissolves into screams.

    “Never should have come here!” cries one of the bandits near the campfire. His wailing is cut short as an ebony dagger swipes across his face, slashing one of his eyes amid the rest of his cheek and mouth.

    Cat strains to see nothing short of a crowded upheaval. Everyone's scrambling in a circular pattern, slamming into each other as some fall to the ground, motionless and bleeding. Someone is cutting right through the bandits' nighttime soiree, quite literally and quite fast. As each body plummets to the soil, the bedlam of their shouting falls silent one by one.

    The grip on Cat's wrists suddenly goes limp. She looks behind her to see the bandit's head bobbing backward from the force of a throwing knife lodged in his skull. A trickle of blood runs down his forehead as he collapses on his back.

    The other bandit stares at his fallen comrade, his pants still down, his cock still exposed for Cat's viewing displeasure. A gloved hand reaches from behind, covering his mouth, yanking him backward. Without a choice, he lets go of Cat as Cicero drags him across the dirt by his head, exhibiting a level of strength that warns not to underestimate the little jester.

    “Where is she?” demands Cicero, perching over the terrified pervert. He points a blade inches from the bandit's naked crotch.

    “She's right there!” he cries, gesturing to Cat. “She's fine – I didn't hurt her!”

    Scowling, Cicero jabs the blade into the bandit's genitalia. His voice falls low. “...Where,” he asks, twisting the blade ever so slightly, “...is,” twisting it some more, “...my,” another hard twist, “...Mother?” His eyes lock onto the wide, frenzied stare of the bandit as he shrieks in pain. The noise is bothersome and it's clear the squealing thief has no answer for Cicero. In one swift motion, Cicero releases the blade's twisting hold on the bandit's damaged goods and slices it across the his throat, releasing a cascade of blood down the front of his leathers.

    The jester breathes in deep, releasing with a soft exhale. He looks around for the Night Mother's body. Her sarcophagus is empty, so she must be somewhere else.

    “She was burned,” says Cat.

    Cicero's eyes reflect the flicker of fire light, widening at the very sound of her words.

    “I'm sorry,” she adds. Cat knows little of Cicero, but she knows he's all about that dead woman. She sees that his face is gripped with what can only be described as tragedy.

    “Burned!” he screams, kicking over the campfire. The flames die down by a little, but continue to flicker. The jester continues to scream into the night sky, stomping his feet and waving his blades. Furious and violent with rage, he lifts one of the dead bodies and stabs it repeatedly in the face until it is no longer recognizable. His dagger, now sopping with blood, slips from his hand, landing not far from Cat.

    “Please,” she says. “Please, can you untie me?”

    Cicero rushes toward Cat, dropping to his knees. She's hopeful for a moment – hopeful that he will unbind her hands. Instead, Cicero grabs her shoulders, shaking her. “Burned! Burned! Burned!”

    Sympathetic, she nods. “You don't want to know what else they did...”

    “ELSE!” cries Cicero. He buries his face in his hands, sobbing uncontrollably. “Mother! Mother! I've failed you! Humble Cicero has failed you!” The jester's breathing accelerates as his chest heaves in and out, again and again. “Failure! Failure!” he wails.

    Cat spies his dagger on the ground beside her. As Cicero sobs and laments into the muffle of his gloves, she reaches for the dagger and manages to slip it between her wrists. Moving the curve of its sharpest edge almost in unison to his crying, her bindings snap loose. Cat drops the dagger and grips at her wrists to rub away the soreness of captivity.

    Meanwhile Cicero's weeping continues, growing louder and louder.

    Feeling obliged to comfort him, Cat reaches for Cicero, as she is the only other friend around. Though friend might be a strong word. She barely knows him. Regardless, he had helped her twice. Cat's fingertips awkwardly stroke along Cicero's back, gently following the contours of his muscles beneath the fabric. Having no idea what to say, she simply says nothing as he weeps into the hours of the night.

    [​IMG]music: I've Been So Mad Lately - Retching Red
     
  7. Holiday Feartree

    Holiday Feartree Holiday Feartree

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    C.A.T. - Chp 4

    Cicero opens his eyes, waking from a terrible night's sleep. The rays of light overhead shine down on his sharp facial features as he squints up at the wintry sky. A sadness creeps over him as he recalls the previous night. Cicero turns onto his side, spying the face of the pretty Wanderer as she sleeps next to him.

    He remembers now. She... comforted poor Cicero throughout the night.

    At the sound of his stirring, Cat's green eyes flutter open. The Wanderer looks at him, quizzically. Cicero stares back at her, raising a gloved finger to her slender jawline, touching her skin ever so slightly in an adoring, albeit hesitant, way.

    “Wanderer,” mutters Cicero, “Cicero knows what he needs to do.”

    Cat sits up and clears her throat. “Uh... what do you need ...to do?”

    Cicero sits up alongside her. He takes her hand, dramatically holding it to his chest. “My sweet, poorly dressed Wanderer...”

    “Hey!” Cat says, feeling a little insulted.

    “Cicero will miss you,” he continues. “You have been a good friend. But now I must do what is expected of any fool who fails at his duties.”

    The two stare at each other for a minute. Cat opens her mouth to ask what the hell he was talking about, but Cicero cuts her off.

    “Cicero must kill himself.” The jester promptly stands, withdrawing one of his blades. He looks down at it, shaking his head. “No, no, no! This can't work. Too easy. Too fast! Something else... something worse!” He spies rope nearby, admittedly the same rope used for binding Cat's hands and feet. “Ah yes,” he grins. “That will be the way.”

    “Hey wait a minute,” says Cat, standing up, following after him. “Hey, dude – stop! Eh... come on man – wait!”

    Cicero prances toward the nearest tree, elated with the idea of killing himself. “Lots of rope around the tree,” he sings, “swinging from it I shall be!” He flings the rope to a high branch, knotting and tying it off. Then Cicero begins to measure and adjust the rope around his neck, right as Cat approaches, protesting his decision.

    “I need something upon which to stand...” Cicero grumbles, looking around.

    “No you don't,” argues Cat, hurrying to him. “Stop this!”

    Smiling, Cicero gasps. “Perfect!” He points at a tall stump, ignoring Cat. Climbing to the stump's flat surface, the jester balances himself on one leg, pointing to the rope around his neck. “This will be a trick Cicero can only perform once!”

    “Dude, seriously, what are you doing?” Cat puts her hands in her jeans' pockets, shaking her head at him.

    “Cicero failed Mother. She has been absconded and destroyed. The only solution is to destroy the failure of a Keeper who could not protect our Holy Matron!” Cicero hops onto his other leg, demonstrating his perfect balance.

    “That isn't a reason to kill yourself.”

    “It is most certainly a reason to kill anyone's self!”

    Cat throws her hands into the air. “Ok, but did it ever occur to you that plops – you know – just happens?”

    Cicero lifts a finely arched eyebrow, “plops happens? Of course, of course! But this plops cannot happen!”

    Cat moves closer to the stump, holding out her arms as if she could somehow catch the jester upon his descent. “But it does!” she argues. “plops happens. Look at me. I'm stuck here in this hellhole. I have no idea where I am! I was nearly raped last night, and they made me eat the world's most disgusting ladyfinger! To make matters more plopsty for me, my only saving grace has been a – a suicidal mime! I mean, no offense, but... seriously...”

    Cicero's eyes went wide. “They made you do what!?”

    “They almost raped–”

    “Yes, yes I know that – they made you eat a what?”

    “A finger!”

    Cicero hops to his other foot. His eyes narrow. “Whose finger?”

    Cat points a thumb over her shoulder, into the direction of the camp. “The – the dead lady's. Your... your Mother's finger!” Her stomach does a small flip, remembering how the knobby, twisted thing went right down the hatch.

    “By Sithis!” Cicero exclaims in a tone that sounds maniacally overjoyed, but also just downright insane. “You!” he points to Cat, suddenly losing his balance, bringing his arrogant, acrobatic finesse down a notch. With a yelp, Cicero falls from the stump, rope and all.

    “Oh my god, watch out!” yells Cat. She frantically runs to Cicero but he's already dangling in midair, grabbing at the rope around his neck, his legs kicking wildly. It isn't before long that the tree branch above, weakened from years of ice and wind, snaps and breaks, crashing Cicero down upon his now beloved Wanderer.

    Sprawling over the top of her, Cicero looks down at Cat with a devilish grin. He sings, “You have Mother inside of you!”

    “Dude,” Cat groans with a strained voice, “you weigh ...like... eight thousand pounds...” She reaches a hand to his chest to push him off of her, but he doesn't budge. The guy may be small in stature, but he's wrapped in pure, lean muscle. “God dammit, dude...” Cat grunts. “Get off...”

    Cicero slips his arms around Cat's torso and sits upright, lifting her forward to his lap. Holding her close, he beams happily. “You have absorbed the last bit of Mother inside of you!” Pausing, Cicero places a hand on Cat's abdomen. “She is here. Cicero can feel her.” His smile broadens. “We must get you to the Sanctuary! I swear – CICERO VOWS – to protect you, Wanderer!” He leans forward, tightly hugging Cat, delighted that his task as Keeper has not yet come to an end.

    Cat scrunches her face in confusion and shyly hugs him back. “You are fluffing bananas,” she mutters. “But... whatever stops you from killing yourself, man.”

    [​IMG]music: Jester Theme Song
     
  8. Holiday Feartree

    Holiday Feartree Holiday Feartree

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    C.A.T. - Chp. 5

    The Wanderer was lovely. Lovely! Cicero watches her intently as the horse drawn cart rounds a bend in the path. The cart didn't belong to Cicero, no. It was property of those filthy thieves, the ones that destroyed Mother. But the horse was Cicero's and the Wanderer was Cicero's, and now the cart was Cicero's, especially since his cart was still broken down in front of Loreius' farm. –Damn that Loreius! Cicero's face twists for a moment, then relaxes on his initial thought – yes, the Wanderer was indeed lovely, lovely, lovely.

    Just about to pick her nose, Cat stops. “Why are you staring at me?” Her nose is so fluffing dry in this cold weather. Cicero keeps looking at her, so she can't dig out those obnoxious dry bits. Or maybe she can – maybe he wouldn't care.

    Cicero smiles. “Cicero enjoys looking at beautiful, sweet, wonderful things!”

    Yeah, he definitely wouldn't care. “Where are we headed?” asks Cat, slouching forward, resting her chin in her hand.

    “Whiterun, dear Wanderer,” replies Cicero. “It's just ahead!” he announces, pointing to the stone walls surrounding the small city. “We are short on supplies – no food in fact!” He chuckles, gently elbowing Cat. “I don't suppose Mother's finger has tided you over until lunch?”

    Cat cracks a smile, perhaps more of a smirk. Admittedly, he could be funny. There were times Cicero was pretty amusing. He already told a few entertaining, however morbid, jokes during their morning commute. Cat appreciated a good sick joke. She even had a few of her own. Cicero's sense of humor wasn't too unlike hers.

    Having grown to know him slightly better, Cat has the sneaking suspicion that Cicero is more charming than one would presume. Yeah. This guy was a smoothy. Perhaps more charming than he typically lets on, what with the shrill voice and never ending supply of energy. The guy comes across like he's high on Jet, or like a kid skazzed out on Sugar Bombs – same difference, really. But now Cat realizes Cicero is as sober as they come, and dedicated as hell to his... vocation.

    When they had first met, she remembers how he explained the Dark Brotherhood. The term Brotherhood caught her attention, but upon explanation it sounds nothing like the Brotherhood back home. Quite the opposite, in fact. Cicero said he was on his way to their Sanctuary outside of a city called Falkreath. Cat still isn't sure how she feels about heading out to meet a group of killers. But these guys didn't exactly sound like raiders. Well, at least not the chaotic type. Perhaps they ran like the Operators. But, nevertheless, Cat hopes this Brotherhood doesn't put a collar around her neck and turn her into a slave. Too many good people went down that route. If that ever happens to Cat, she wouldn't go down without a good fist fight.

    The cart pulls up to the Whiterun stables. Cicero jumps down, reaching his hand to Cat in a chivalrous gesture of assistance. Smiling, she reaches back, knowing full well she could just jump down without any help. But he was too endearing – she had to oblige. Landing on her feet, Cat stands at chin height of Cicero. He's taller, but as she looks around, so is everyone else. Everyone is much, much taller than her.

    Cat doesn't recall being this short back home. Then again, everyone in this place is strange. There are people who look like people, and then there are people who look like animals. Strange beasts. Large walking and talking lizards and cats. The first time Cat saw these folks she assumed they were in costumes. But there are so many of them. Those definitely are not costumes. Then there are the people who look like aliens – the kinds of aliens Cat reads about in her Tesla Science magazines. These people have greenish skin, some are darker than others. They even have pointed ears like aliens. Michelle, Cat's younger sister, would plops if she saw them. Michelle loves aliens. She'd probably fluff one of them, or so Cat would tease her of such.

    Time passes, and after what feels like an eternity of gathering supplies from Belethor, the local trader, Cicero's stomach gurgles and growls. “Wanderer,” he says to Cat, “Cicero is hungry. I haven't eaten, at least, not since I murdered all those rotten bandits and then tried to hang myself. Murder and suicide takes a lot out of you!”

    Cat grins. “It sure does.” Puzzled, she picks up a soul gem from a nearby table. “The fluff is this thing?” she mumbles under her breath. Clearing her throat, Cat sets down the gem and turns back toward Cicero. “So, where do we eat? I thought you already bought food from the, uh, the one dude.”

    “Well, yes...” Cicero nods. “But perhaps let us sit down a spell! Talk! Eat!” Cicero pauses, leaning in close to Cat's face, his breath tickling the bridge of her nose. He says in a low, almost sultry, voice, “Let us stare deeply into one another's eyes from across a table.”

    “Are you – you joking?” she asks, taken aback.

    Cicero bursts into laughter, bowing ever so slightly with a wink. “A little bit of a joke, and a little bit of truth!”

    “Here's the ebony ingot you wanted,” barks Belethor, emerging from the back room behind the counter. The trader chucks the ingot into Cicero's direction.

    Still staring at Cat with adoring eyes, Cicero catches the ingot in one hand without fumble or hesitation, as if he had a magnet beneath his glove.

    “Show off,” snorts Belethor. “I'll be in the back if you need anything else.”

    “Wait, my good man!” bellows Cicero, raising an index finger. “Where may the lady and I eat a scrumptious meal around here?”

    Belethor points to the building outside the window, just east of his shop. “Hulda's got some nice grub. Head to the Bannered Mare.”
     
  9. Holiday Feartree

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    C.A.T. - Chp. 6

    [​IMG]



    Cicero leads Cat through the entrance of the Bannered Mare. Saadia, a kitchen servant, approaches, asking the two if there's anything they would like to drink.

    Cat nervously tugs on Cicero's sleeve and whispers, “Come on, man, I don't have any money. To be honest, I don't even know what kind of money you people use.”

    “Oh – oh – oh!” Cicero waggles his finger. “My naive little Wanderer. You aren't paying for our meal – Cicero is!”

    Saadia's patience wears thin. “Are you ordering something or not?”

    “Show us to a quiet table with candles and – and flowers! Bring us the best wine in the house!” Cicero eagerly links his arm through Cat's arm, ready for Saadia to show them to their seats.

    Saadia puts one hand on her hip and grunts with a laugh. “There's an open table right there across from the hearth. We don't have any flowers or candles. And it's not all that quiet once the bard starts singing and the Nords start drinking.” She pauses, raising her eyebrows with a nod. “But we do serve wine. I'll have it out in a moment.”

    As Saadia disappears back into the kitchen, Cicero escorts Cat to the open table. They both sit down. The jester folds his hands across the table's surface, leaning toward Cat, speaking in a quiet, concerned voice. “Are you hungry?” Cicero asks. “You look very – VERY – hungry all of the time. You look as if you haven't eaten, well, ever!”

    Crossing her arms, Cat smirks, nodding at his somewhat insensitive observation. With the lift of her chin, she says, “Good food is hard to come by where I live.”

    Saadia brings out the wine. Setting down the bottle, accompanied by two empty tankards, she tells the two to holler if there's anything else they need, then she promptly hurries off.

    Eyeballing the bottle, Cat adds, “Good drinks, too.”

    “Why?” asks Cicero, opening the bottle, pouring its contents into each cup.

    Cat shrugs. “Looking around, I don't see any signs of radioactive waste. Everyone has their skin and hair. I'm guessing your food, unlike the food where I live, isn't contaminated.” She shifts in her seat, reaching for a cup of wine. With the cup in hand, she gestures toward the tavern's entrance. “I mean, what's with all the vegetation out there? I haven't seen so much green in all my life!”

    “Radio... whative?” Cicero tilts his head, the tips of his hat shift sideways.

    Cat dismissively waves her hand. “Nevermind.” She takes a sip of wine. “Hot damn,” she nods. “Not bad.”

    Hulda approaches the table. “Do either of you want food? We have seared mudcrab, grilled leaks, and roasted potatoes. For dessert, Saadia makes a delicious boiled crème tart.”

    “Two – No! THREE! Three sweet rolls! And some carrots!” Cicero smiles at Hulda. She glances back at him with irritation. And it's not just irritation with the obscure food request, but the fact that his voice escalates so many octaves higher than necessary.

    “I'll try your crab,” replies Cat. “Wait,” she says, furrowing her brow. “It doesn't actually have mud on it does it?”

    Hulda's face drops in confusion. “No,” she replies in a flat tone. At this point, Hulda thinks the two of them are a couple of crackpots.

    Cat chugs the rest of her wine and quickly pours more. She takes a sip of the fresh stuff and says, “Awesome. Cool. Yeah, uh ok, well then give me the crab and all that other stuff you listed.”

    Nodding, Hulda hurries off to deliver the order to Saadia.

    Cat drinks more wine, finishing the cup. “So, what is this?”

    Cicero grins and gestures to Cat's tankard. “That would be wine, Wanderer!” His voice drops, “Your second serving.”

    “No, man,” Cat cracks a half smile. “No, I mean what are you doing? What's all this?” She spreads her arms, gesturing to the tavern around them.

    Cicero lifts his tankard to his lips, drinking some wine as well. “What ever do you mean?”

    Cat pours another cup of wine and begins to quickly drink it. Cicero glances at the bottle, noticing it's getting pretty low, pretty fast. He lifts a quizzical eyebrow, glancing between the bottle and Cat. Then he looks down at his own tankard – his first serving – which has been tastefully nursed at a much slower pace.

    Finishing her drink, Cat reaches for the bottle. Snatching it away, Cicero swiftly beats her to it.

    Cat laughs awkwardly, then shrugs. “What? What's wrong?”

    “You...” Cicero raises a fist to his mouth and coughs, readjusting his position in his chair, then crosses his leg in a relaxed sort of pose, “...you are drinking too much wine.”

    “I'm good, man,” Cat assures him. Truthfully, she was feeling a bit swimmy in the head.

    Cicero narrows his eyes in a skeptical sort of way. With a nod, he yanks out the cork, pouring more wine into Cat's tankard.

    Chugging most of her refill, Cat's lips and tongue feel tingly and numb. “Are you – are we... on a date?” She hiccups, nearly upchucking her drink.

    “I knew it!” Cicero laughs, pointing at Cat. “You're already drunk! Oh Wanderer! Really!”

    Cat leans an elbow on the table. “I'm fine! I feel good.” Chugging the rest of her wine, she continues, pointing her finger in tempo with each syllable as she says, “You haven't answered my question.”

    “Cicero likes you.” He smiles and shrugs, glancing down at his lap. “I wanted to show you a nice meal.”

    “Do you mean you like me, like me? Do you – want me to... well – what do you want from me?” Before Cicero can answer, Cat stretches her arms, looking back over her shoulder. She notices a tomato that happens to be sitting on a nearby table. Reaching back, she swipes it.

    “Wanderer?” Cicero's face is wrought with confusion.

    Sighing, Cat inspects the tomato. “Do you think tomatoes know they have seeds?”

    “You are done with the wine!” announces Cicero. He's amused by his ridiculous, drunken Wanderer, but regardless he sends away the booze as Saadia strolls by.

    Dropping the tomato to the floor, Cat starts to giggle. She attempts to stifle it with tight-lipped sputtering, coupled with raising her knuckle to her mouth.

    Cicero begins to laugh. “You are an absolute mess!”

    “Aw dude...” says Cat, sadly pointing to the floor. “I dropped my tomato.” She laughs, standing up to find it. Her chair loudly squeaks against the wood flooring.

    “No, Wanderer it's ok–” Cicero lifts and lowers his hands, gesturing that she sits back down.

    “Whoooo!” yells Cat. Patrons are irritably glancing over their shoulders. “The floor is spinning!”

    Standing, Cicero says, “Hm, yes Wanderer.” He reaches out to her. “Let's get you back in your seat.”

    Ignoring him, Cat bends down, reaching out her hands. “I'm gonna try n' stop it!”

    Cicero grips Cat by her armpits and firmly plants her back in her chair.

    Hulda delivers the food, along with the price of the meal, scribbled on a slip of parchment. Cicero reaches for it, but Cat playfully snatches it from him, inspecting the numbers.

    She cries with laughter. “I don't even know what this plops means! –Is this a lot? Are you buying me the steak n' lobster?” She laughs again. “C'mon Cicero, spit it out. You some kinda rich boy?” Cat shoots him a covert wink.

    Cicero plucks the slip from her fingers and leans back in his seat, crossing his legs. “Do you realize how much coin bandits carry in their filthy pockets?” He grins. “A dead bandit isn't going to need it.”

    “Wait, you guys use coins? Like... real coins? Real money?”

    Cicero nods. “Gold.” His grin widens. “Shiny, clinky gold,” he whispers as he inspects the bill scribbled on the parchment.

    “Wow. We used to do that, but nah... we don't anymore. Not in my lifetime. It's all bottlecaps and bullets now.”

    Frowning, Cicero replies, “Cicero has no idea what you've just said to him. Perhaps the Wanderer is still talking like a drunk?”

    Cat sighs. “Alright, alright. I'll finish my food and that'll sober me up.”

    “Splendid!” says Cicero with the clap of his hands. “Allow me to excuse myself. Cicero will pay our charge!” With the slip in hand, he heads over to Hulda's counter. She isn't there. Waiting, he leans against its wooden base, humming a tune that he has recently concocted in his head.

    After some moments pass, Cicero's ears detect the sound of another man humming. His tune matches Cicero's in pitch, melody, and rhythm. The jester cocks his head to his right, spying a radiantly dressed gentleman with a short white beard. The gentleman appears to carry an ornate walking stick, upon which he bears only the slightest bit of weight. He notices Cicero peering at him and flashes a personable grin.

    “I trust you're having a fine day my good clown,” says the gentleman in a honeyed voice.

    Cicero's eyes narrow. “Cicero is not a clown.”

    “But you are a fool!” The gentleman's smile broadens, revealing his perfectly white teeth. They almost look sharp, like the teeth of a slaughterfish. “And I have nothing but respect for fools,” he adds. Then the man mutters, almost to himself, “Or was it revulsion?”

    “Who are you?” asks Cicero, his usually strident voice adopting a calmer, deeper tone.

    The gentleman extends an exquisitely gloved hand. A white glove with red and lavender stitching to be precise. “You may call me Mr. Theo.” He reaches for the slip of parchment, gently tugging it from Cicero's fingers. “Allow me,” says Mr. Theo.

    “That's really not necessary!” replies Cicero, his falsetto voice returning – and littered with indignation!

    “Cicero, dear Cicero,” chuckles Mr. Theo, shaking his head. “You keep your coin.” Shooing Cicero away with the wave of his gloved hand, Mr. Theo adds, “Go on. Go back to that lovely thing at your table.”

    “How can you know my name–”

    “Ready to pay?” Hulda interrupts as she hastily returns to her counter.

    Mr. Theo hands her a handful of septims, along with the parchment. She thanks him, pocketing the money and dropping the slip below the counter to be tossed away with the rubbish.

    Cicero stares at Mr. Theo in shock and bewilderment, clasping his hands atop his jester cap, which nearly falls from his crimson-haired head. The gentleman bids Cicero farewell, calling him a beautiful fool just before he promptly exits the Bannered Mare.
     
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  10. Holiday Feartree

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    C.A.T. - Chp. 7

    Cat's head hurts. As the cart rolls over each bump and dip in the path, the jostling makes the pain in her temples worse. She and Cicero have been traveling for awhile. Her head was fine back in Whiterun, but as the trip progresses, so does the tension writhing its way through her skull.

    “Don't suppose you have anything for a headache?” she asks Cicero.

    Cicero stares blankly at the road as if he's in another world.

    “Hey!” Cat slugs him in the arm.

    “Ow!” he yells.

    “Where were you just now? You've been weirdly quiet this whole time.”

    “Cicero is thinking,” he replies. “I apologize. What was it you wanted?”

    “Thinking is bad for your health, man...” Cat chuckles, shaking her head. Rubbing her eyes with both hands, she says, “My fluffing head hurts!”

    “Ah,” Cicero nods. “I may have something.” His voice is quieter than usual.

    Cat suspects there's something weighing on his mind, but he may also be putting the boisterousness on hold for the sake of her head.

    Cicero pulls out a satchel from his gear in the back of the cart. “Here,” he says, handing Cat a small potion bottle filled with a strange alchemical concoction. “For pain.”

    She opens the bottle – it smells like seaweed. Shrugging, Cat knocks it back with one gulp. Oh boy. Tastes like seaweed too. “Ugh wow. Frog puke in a bottle! Hope it works.” She notices Cicero has no response. “Are you... okay?” she asks.

    “Yes,” he nods. With the shake of his head, as if he tries to shake the questions right from his brain, Cicero straightens his posture, glances at Cat, and smiles his trademark devilish grin.

    Cat smiles back. “So, uh, why did the little girl fall off the swing?”

    Cicero's face brightens at the prospect of a joke. He hasn't heard this one before. Already snickering, his eyes grow wide as he eagerly asks, “Pray tell, why did the little brat fall off the swing?”

    “Because she had no arms!”

    Cicero throws back his head, crowing with laughter. When he's nearly out of breath, he leans forward, pounding a gloved fist against the wooden bench beneath him. “AH HA HA!” he cries. “NO,” he gasps, “ARMS!” He wipes a tear from his eye.

    Cat doesn't remember anyone laughing quite so hard at her tasteless and offensive joke before, but Cicero seems to enjoy the hell out of it. “Plenty more where that came from,” she reassures him, laughing at the very fact that he is laughing so fluffing hard at such a bad joke. It definitely wasn't an appropriate joke to tell around the ghouls.

    “So,” says Cat, changing the subject, “how long until we get there? For the record, I'm asking the proverbial are-we-there-yet question.”

    “Not long now until we reach the Sanctuary – we've just passed Falkreath.”

    Cat leans back, feeling a little sleepy from their long journey, and perhaps from her headache, and quite possibly from the medicine intended to abort it. “Ok,” she nods. Her eyes droop a little. “Wake me when we arrive.”

    Cicero scoots closer to Cat, tilting his head to lean it against hers. She snuggles up next to him, pushing his elbow upward and behind her. He holds her tight, listening to her breathing as it slows with the gradual onset of sleep.

    Feeling an unfamiliar wave of contentment wash over him, Cicero turns his head and ever so lightly kisses Cat on the forehead.
     
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  11. Holiday Feartree

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    C.A.T. - Chp. 8

    [​IMG]

    The Sanctuary is a dusty, musty cavern. Cat isn't so sure she wants to sleep here, but she keeps that to herself knowing just how much bullplops Cicero had to go through to find the place. It's been how many days they spent on the road? Too many to keep track. Cat's mind was too scattered to count.

    Astrid, the leader of the group, meets Cat and Cicero in the main room. The woman doesn't appear to be too happy to welcome either of them to the Sanctuary, but she doesn't outright tell them to leave, either. The rest of the members gather around Cat and Cicero, including a little girl named Babette, a walking, talking lizard named Veezara, and one of those pointy eared aliens named Gabriella.

    An old man, who calls himself Krex, extends a friendly hand to Cicero. “Pleasure to meet you. You're welcome here in our Sanctuary – anytime.” As they shake on it, Krex eyes Cat up and down, almost as if he doesn't know what to make of her.

    Two other men stroll into the main room. One is a tall, bearded guy walking around in his bare feet, and the other is hooded man with a curved blade.

    “I'm Nazir,” says the hooded man. “This is Arnbjorn,” he adds, gesturing to the tall, shoe-less guy.

    Arnbjorn says nothing to Cat or Cicero. Like Krex, he scrutinizes Cat with confusion. She detects a hint of aggravation behind his eyes. He turns toward Astrid and grumbles, “Who the hell is this?”

    “Good question,” replies Astrid. Moving closer to Cat and Cicero, she crosses her arms, glaring at the jester. “I thought you were coming alone.” Raising an eyebrow, she clears her throat and adds, “Or rather, I thought you were bringing the Night Mother.”

    Cicero sports one of the best poker faces Cat has seen in some time, but she can tell he's burying his irritation with Astrid deep down inside, where only the really, really offensive songs and rhymes hang out. The jester smiles his usual smile and proceeds to explain how Cat came to be in his keep, under his protection. To Cat, his story sounds plausible, but as she glances around at the others, each of them appear to be slowly rolling their eyes – Astrid included.

    Once Cicero is finished with his tale, an awkward silence ensues. Cat isn't sure if she should say something or what. Just as she was about to make the awkwardness worse with an anecdote detailing the first time she learned to skateboard – this told utterly with the intent of praising the cavern walls as ideal for doing a wallride-kickflip combo – Astrid uncrosses her arms with an exhausted sigh.

    “Fine!” Astrid frowns. “According to your story, you're still Keeper. I'm not sure what to make of that. At least, not yet. For now, the family will afford you the respect that position deserves, until I say otherwise.”

    Cat's eyes nervously bounce back and forth between Cicero and Astrid. The two stare one another down until things become uncomfortable again.

    Cat whistles. “Whoo boy – you guys could cut the tension in here with a knife!” She laughs nervously. “I mean, you know, tense situations being what they are. Like this one time – a very tense situation – I tricked out my bike and took it for a spin in an empty swimming pool. Wouldn't you know it? Mirelurks!” Cat shakes her head, crossing her arms. “Ate my fluffing kickstand!”

    The crowd of initiates waver stiffly in the background. Someone coughs uncomfortably. It echoes against the Sanctuary ceiling like an embarrassing critique, punctuating Cat's bizarre attempt to be personable. Meanwhile, Cicero maintains his poker face, fixating on Astrid. Though he almost lost it when Cat told her strange little side story.

    “And as for you,” barks Astrid, locking eyes with Cat, “– stay out of our way.”

    Cat raises an eyebrow and laughs. “The hell did I do?” Then she narrows her scope on Astrid. “What's with the attitude?” Glancing over, she sees Cicero wide-eyed, shaking his head back at her.

    “Excuse me?” Astrid gets right up in Cat's face, almost nose-to-nose. She's much taller and, by the looks of her upper arms, much stronger. “Keeper!” Astrid hollers to Cicero without shifting her glare from Cat, “do be a darling and keep your scrawny pet on a leash. A muzzled leash. You wouldn't want her to get lost.” She turns and walks back toward the antechamber, which leads to her bedroom. As Astrid ascends the stairs, her voice mutters, “Babette will show the two of you to your room.”
     
  12. Holiday Feartree

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    C.A.T. - Chp. 9

    “I don't like that lady.” Cat sits on the nearest bed and begins to take off her shoes. “Talk about the crabbiest fluffing person on the planet.”

    “Trust me,” replies Cicero, “Cicero is not crazy about the Pretender, either. She is not in charge of the contracts – only the Night Mother dictates our next kill. But without a Listener, there is no hope of overruling the Pretender's whims!” He closes his copper eyes and sighs, pulling his cap off his head. “But the Wanderer must hold her tongue for now, or else the Pretender may cut it out.” Cicero sits beside Cat on the bed, reaching his hand to her chin. His voice softens. “I did not enjoy the way she spoke to you.” His volume grows. “If Cicero could gut her organs and hang them in our room like decorations – he would!”

    Cat laughs, playfully leaning against him. Delighted, he wraps his arms around her, drawing her closer, nearly onto his lap.

    “So,” says Cat, “If there's no Listener and there's no Night Mother...”

    “Ahh,” Cicero says, “Mother is inside of you, remember?”

    Cat sighs. “I hate to break this to you but I'm pretty sure I pooped that thing out a while ago.”

    Nodding, Cicero shrugs. “I'm sure some of it broke down and absorbed deep, deep inside.” He grins at Cat. “My hope at this point is that the Night Mother's corpse is not needed for her to still speak to the Listener. And Cicero's other hope... well...” he trails off.

    “Well?” Cat nudges Cicero.

    “I – I want to be Listener,” he admits, sheepishly.

    “Well, that makes sense, given what you've explained to me.” Grinning, she adds, “Oh well, man. Let's hope ol' Ass Turd doesn't become Listener. Am I right?”

    Cicero throws his head back and cackles. “Wanderer!” he exclaims. Nearly crying with laughter, the jester grabs Cat by her shoulder, trying to catch his breath.

    She smirks. “Jaded humor is my best asset, you know.” Again, she doesn't think her quip is all that funny, but it is hilarious that Cicero is so amused. Maybe he's a little too amused. Cat watches him fall backward onto the bed, cradling his stomach, trying to stifle the kind of giggles one would hear at a preteen sleepover.

    Nazir angles his head in through the bedroom doorway. “Will you two shut up?” he barks. His face is wrenched with annoyance.

    Cicero sits up, quieting his manic episode to the best of his ability. It's so difficult for him that he tightly clasps both hands over his own mouth.

    Crossing her arms, Cat immediately shifts her gaze downward, pressing her lips together as hard as she can. Shaking with suppressed laughter, she fails to hold it in and spits on the floor.

    Cicero presses his hands harder against his face, trying to muffle an explosion of mouth sounds that may very well cause Nazir to have an aneurysm.

    “You know, some people need to get some damn sleep around here!” yells Nazir. Shaking his head, he turns away from the doorway, muttering curses under his breath as he continues down the hall.

    “Whatever you say dad,” Cat laughs, giving a sarcastic salute.

    Cicero rolls backward again, laughing even harder, even louder. Somewhere down the hall, Nazir may very well be bleeding from his eye sockets. Cicero grips Cat's shoulder, pulling her backward along with him. She teeters down beside him on the bed.

    “Ok – ok – ok...” Cicero pants. “WE HAVE TO STOP!” He takes a deep breath, calming himself. For a moment, he refuses to look at Cat right away for fear she will do or say something to cause more laughing. “Just–” he gasps, playfully covering her face with his hand, “–just stop.”

    “I'm stopping, I'm stopping,” she laughs. “I swear to god! I will stop!”

    “Ok.” Cicero pauses. “Wait – no. By Sithis, I don't believe you.” His hand is still covering her face.

    “I swear. I'm done. I'm stopping.” Cat continues to chuckle.

    “Cicero wants to believe you,” he nods, “but I can't even look at you.”

    Cat grabs his hand, moving it away. “Look, look. I'm cool. I swear. Cool as a cucumber.”

    Cicero takes a deep breath through his nose. “...Ok,” he agrees with an exhale.

    The two of them lie quietly on their sides, face to face, staring at one another. Cat's hand is still holding Cicero's hand. Her fingers slip between his and she tightens her grip. As if in response, he tightens his. Cat isn't exactly sure why, but she cranes her face closer to Cicero's and plants a brief, albeit intense, kiss on his mouth. Stunned, he blinks, lifting his other hand to his lips.

    “Sorry,” she says, looking away and feeling awkward.

    Cicero smiles, tugging Cat closer. He wraps his arms around her as she wriggles herself against his body. Hugging her tightly, he whispers, “Don't be sorry.” He returns her affection with a slower, softer kiss that seems to last for as long as they lie there.

    After some time, the two of them drift off to sleep before much else could be said or done.
     
  13. Holiday Feartree

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    C.A.T. - Chp. 10

    As the minutes, hours, and days pass, Cicero grows fonder and fonder of his wonderful Wanderer. Often times, he finds himself blissfully ruminating on how close the two of them have become. For Cicero, it has been a long time since he has had physical interaction with another person. His Wanderer feels so warm, so real. Her jokes are funny, her clothing is funny, and everything about her is so strange and ridiculous that it is imperfectly perfect. Perhaps Cicero focuses so much on the Wanderer because, deep down, he mourns the loss of his Holy Matron. He decides the Wanderer is a wondrous, wandering, wonderful distraction.

    Stewing with optimism, Cicero hopes with every shred of his being that Astrid accepts his theory that the Wanderer is now a living vessel who carries the only intact remains of their Matron. But he suspects Astrid has no reverence for the Night Mother. And he knows she is not happy with the Wanderer's presence in the Sanctuary. Cicero often catches Astrid glaring from around dark corners. She appears to be lost in calculative thought. He fears the Pretender may be planning an ejection, or perhaps an execution, for the strange young woman with those sea green eyes and that black, and ever so deviously irregular, hair. Astrid is ready to pounce on the Wanderer at any moment. Cicero can sense these things. Oh yes! He may be a fool on the surface, but deep down his senses are as sharp as Skyforge steel.

    Beyond that, Cicero harbors concern for the Wanderer's health. She experiences frequent headaches throughout her stay in the Sanctuary. At times, she wakes in the night clutching her hair, groaning with pain. Cicero gives the Wanderer more and more medicine but his supply is running short. There is an alchemical station to mix more of the potion, but he fears that the medicine is not really doing a thing to eliminate the pain. The Wanderer exhibits no other symptoms at least. At the end of the day, Cicero wishes he could do something to permanently cure her affliction.

    Overall, however, Cicero is happy that the Wanderer has managed to befriend a few of the other Dark Brotherhood members. Veezara seems to chat her up from time to time. In fact, aside from Cicero, the Argonian converses with the Wanderer the most. Nazir will, on occasion, give her the time of day. But he isn't as kind to her as Cicero would prefer. This is likely because the Wanderer can be impishly playful and generally casual in her overall demeanor. She bears no callous apathy to everyday life and she is easily goaded into a smile or a laugh. Furthermore, the last time Cicero checked, there are no sticks to be found in the Sanctuary because Nazir may have very well sat on each and every one of them.

    Babette is also quite kind and friendly to their new guest, though the undead assassin struggles to convince the Wanderer that she is not, in fact, a child – but in reality a vampire. The Wanderer appears to be naive of this blatantly obvious fact. She is, instead, under the impression that Babette is a child playing a game of pretend. This frustrates poor Babette, namely when the Wanderer responds to the un-child's protestations with phrases such as, “Oh sure! And I'm Dr. Frankenstein!”

    No one in the Sanctuary is quite clear as to who this Frankenstein person is, but most everyone is certain that this physician must be so illustrious from wherever it is that the Wanderer comes, that to call one's self by his very name is as preposterous as claiming to be Sithis, himself!

    The Wanderer has not won over Arnbjorn for obvious reasons. He is faithful to the whims of his spouse, Astrid. Not to mention he also has a chip on his shoulder because water is wet and the sky is blue. Cicero wishes Arnbjorn would at least inform the Wanderer that he is a werewolf, because the jester would so like to see the Wanderer laughingly accuse the brute of being a silly man-child playing a game of pretend. Unless that brings the Wanderer to harm under the mutt's wrath, but Cicero doubts it would come to such measures. And if it should come to such measures, he would skin the wolf alive and proceed to dance beneath the moonlight wrapped in his bloody pelt!

    As for Krex and Gabriella, the two are in fact the least interested in the Wanderer. Krex is nothing but kind and friendly to Cicero, however the old man is dismissive and downright rude to the Wanderer. For this reason, Cicero does not like or trust Krex, no matter how well-mannered the wizard may be toward the jester.

    Gabriella is withdrawn and undoubtedly snobbish. She has not gone out of her way to be demeaning or rude to the Wanderer, but she has not gone out of her way for the Wanderer in any capacity. As far as Cicero can surmise, Gabriella only cares about Gabriella. Regardless, there is a certain something to Gabriella. She may not be friendly toward the Wanderer, but if pressed for the truth in any regard, Cicero suspects the elf would deliver nothing short of insight and honesty.

    [​IMG]music: Frankenstein - Overkill (Edgar Winter cover)
     
  14. Holiday Feartree

    Holiday Feartree Holiday Feartree

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    C.A.T. - Chp. 11

    “Augh!” Cat yelps as her hand snaps up to her head.

    Cicero looks up from penning his journal. “Another headache?”

    “Yeah, you got anymore of that stuff?”

    He frowns. “Cicero is afraid he's all out. You have used all of it.”

    “It should pass.” Cat's tone is hopeful. “I've never had headaches this bad before.” She grips her head with both hands, gritting her teeth. “God, it feels like a knife in my brain!”

    “Wanderer? Are you alright?”

    Unresponsive, Cat stands, stumbling across the stone floor. Her hands still grip her head as she groans louder with pain.

    Cicero jumps to his feet. “Wanderer!” He rushes toward her.

    Cat's body spasms and convulses, but she remains on her feet. Cicero reaches for her, but before he can get a grip, she spins around, facing him. Cat spreads her arms with her fingers outstretched and her eyes frozen in a wide, vacant stare. Her body is motionless and her eyes are no longer a beautiful sea green. From corner to corner, they've darkened to a steel gray. Inside their centers, Cicero notices the outline of yellow glowing rings. They look almost... mechanical.

    “W – Wanderer?” For the first time in a very long time, Cicero is frightened. Is his Wanderer hurt? Is she in distress? His poor dear Wanderer! He approaches her with hesitation.

    Cat blinks. Her eyes continue to stare ahead, unfocused on Cicero, unfocused on anything at all. “Greetings,” she says in a voice that sounds unlike her own. The voice has a metallic timbre to it – a subtle reverb that echoes with a hint of something not quite human. “This Communication Access Terminal is now activated.” …. “Greetings.”

    Cicero backs away ever so slightly, reaching for the blade fastened to his hip. “Greetings,” he replies, unsure of how else to respond.

    “Scan complete.” … “Accessing identification code.” … “Identification code 0001E64A acquired.” … “Greetings Cicero.”

    Cicero's grip on his blade tightens ever so slightly.

    “Accessing designation.” … “Cicero: Designation: Assassin. Sub-designation: Keeper.” … “Incoming message from unknown identification code.” … “Designation: Night Mother.” … “Continue with message?”

    Cicero's heart skips a beat and he nearly drops his dagger. “Mother?” he asks.

    “Continue with message?”

    Cicero breathes deep through his nose, then loudly exhales with frustration, “For the love of Sithis, YES!”

    Cat's glowing eyes speedily bounce from left to right. “Message processed.” … “Retrieval in progress.” … “Subject: Darkness rises when silence dies. Message: Travel to Volunruud. Speak with Amaund Motierre.”

    Falling to his knees, Cicero looks up at Cat and shouts, “What?!

    “Message replay command accepted.” … “Subject: Darkness rises when silence dies. Message: Travel to Volunruud. Speak with Amaund Motierre.”

    “Those words!” cries Cicero. “How could you know those words? WHO TOLD YOU?!”

    Cat blinks. “Inquiry received.” … “Processing.” … “Processing complete.” … “Reply: Message sender designation: Night Mother. Identification code unknown.”

    Cicero's face contorts with a mixture of befuddlement, hope, and dread. “Does this mean I'm the Listener? Or does this mean you're the Listener?!” He claps a hand over his mouth.

    “Inquiry received.” … “Processing.” … “Error. Inquiry unclear.” … “Do you wish to discard this message?”

    Cicero grabs his jester hat from his head and frantically twists it in his hands. “NO!”

    “Message saved.” … “No further messages are available.” … “This Communication Access Terminal will deactivate in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1...”

    Cat collapses into Cicero's arms, both of them sprawled across the cold floor. Cradling her, he lifts her head only to see that her eyes are now closed.

    “Wanderer, wake up!” says Cicero, desperately moving her chin back and forth to arouse her from her stupor.

    Cat's eyes flutter open and they are back to their usual sea green color. She groggily mutters, “W – what happened? Why are we on the floor?”

    “Wanderer...” Cicero gives a small gasp as he wipes something from her upper lip. “Your nose is bleeding...”

    [​IMG]music: I'm Downright Amazed At What I Can Destroy With Just A Hammer
     
  15. Holiday Feartree

    Holiday Feartree Holiday Feartree

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    C.A.T. - Chp. 12

    Standing in the main room, Astrid struggles to understand Cicero as he attempts to explain what just happened with his beloved Wanderer. Veezara sharpens his blade in the background, pretending not to overhear their disruptive argument.

    Crossing her arms, Astrid glares at Cicero with contempt and impatience. Holding up a hand to silence his rambling, she asks, “Where is she now?”

    “She's resting,” replies Cicero.

    “Is she aware of what happened?”

    “No,” Cicero admits with a frown. “The Wanderer has no memory of the incident. Cicero has not told her.”

    Astrid nods. “Good. Keep it that way.”

    “But–” says Cicero.

    “–Keep it that way,” Astrid repeats in a firmer voice.

    Balling his fists, Cicero straightens his back, lifting his chin with a hint of defiance. “Cicero will not keep secrets from the Wanderer! She trusts me.”

    Astrid uncrosses her arms and grabs the little man by the collar of his motley. “You will do as I say!”

    Wrenching the fabric from her grip, Cicero snaps, “I will do as the Night Mother says!” His voice drops an octave as he narrows his eyes on Astrid. “You are just a Pretender! You do not dictate the will of the Dark Brotherhood!”

    “Oh you really are a fool!” shouts Astrid, withdrawing her blade.

    “Is this what it has come to? Fine by Cicero!” he yells, unsheathing his weapon.

    “What in the name of Sithis is going on in here!?” shouts a voice from the entryway of the mess hall.

    Cicero and Astrid look over to see Arnbjorn standing with Nazir. The werewolf's face is twisted up with irritation. Nazir momentarily hangs back as Arnbjorn storms up to Cicero with rage brewing in his every step.

    “Stand down, Arnbjorn!” snaps Astrid. “I don't need you to fight this little clown.”

    “His weapon's out! I'm just trying to help!” hollers Arnbjorn, growing defensive.

    Not knowing where to channel her frustration, Astrid gets up in her husband's face and screams, “I don't need your help!”

    “Hey, hey let's calm down!” says Nazir, slipping between the two of them. “Back off,” he repeats, locking eyes with Arnbjorn.

    “I'd like someone to answer Arnbjorn's question,” says a voice.

    Everyone turns. Cat is standing on the stairway leading down from her bedroom. Shrugging, she says, “What exactly is going on here?”

    Sheathing his weapon, Cicero asks, “How long have you been listening?”

    Descending the stairs, Cat walks up to him and takes his hand. “Long enough to know you two are fighting about me.”

    Still gripping her blade, Astrid says, “Go ahead fool. Tell your pet what happened – if the story is even true.”

    By this point, Babette, Gabriella, and Krex have filtered into the main hall, curiously awaiting an explanation as well.

    Cicero sighs, briefly looking down at his boots. Lifting his gaze to Cat's, he begins to explain what occurred while she was in the bedroom. He frequently pauses to add comments like, “...and I have no idea what that means...” with regard to her strange wording and vocal inflection. As more of the story tumbles from Cicero's mouth, Cat's face grows pale and her jaw slowly drops. It is as though she knows exactly what he's describing, in spite of his difficulty to wrap his own head around it.

    “No...” whispers Cat. Her eyes stare off at nothing, fixed with a vacant look of horror.

    “Wanderer?” Cicero places a consoling hand on her arm.

    Cat shakes her head. “No...” She squeezes her eyes shut. “Please tell me you're lying. Please tell me you're joking!

    Cicero gently holds Cat by both of her shoulders and looks her in the eyes. “Cicero is being honest. Wanderer... what does this all mean? What do you know about this?”

    Cat's eyes swell with tears. They grow heavy and roll down her cheeks as she looks around the Sanctuary and yells, “This isn't happening to me! This can't be happening!” Pulling away from Cicero, she runs to the exit, grievously crying out, “Stay away from me! You have to stay away!” Cat's legs move faster and faster as she pushes her way out through the Sanctuary's sinister skull door. Not pausing in her flight, she feels the blast of cold winter air swell around her with the sharp frigidity of night. Running, she repeatedly sobs the word “No!”

    Cat retreats farther into the dark, chilly woods of Skyrim. The weeping causes her breath to escape her and her energy slows. Knees buckling, she dejectedly crumples to the muddy ground beneath a large tree, gripping its roots as she hangs her head low and sobs. Wailing for what seems like an eternity, her voice goes hoarse and her breath diminishes into pitiful, desperate gasps. Cat's head bobs up and down as her weeping goes mute, shaking with the wind chill that sweeps across her from time to time.

    The warmth of an outstretched hand spreads across her spine. It gently moves up and down in a soothing motion. Cicero has followed her. Kneeling beside Cat, his eyes hold back tears of their own. He has no wish to see her in such distress. He does not understand why she is distressed but he trusts that Cat must have a good reason. And because of that, Cicero is scared.

    “Wanderer,” he softly whispers.

    Cat turns to him, looking up with red puffy eyes, her cheeks streaked with stale tears. Her mouth opens to begin a sentence, but the words freeze in her throat as her lower jaw trembles.

    “I – I...” she says.

    Cicero cups her face in his hands and looks deep into her wide and terrified eyes. “Tell me,” he says.

    Cat closes her eyes and two more tears roll down, landing somewhere in the grass and mud below. Her voice trembles with delayed admission just before she utters, “I'm a synth.”
     
  16. Holiday Feartree

    Holiday Feartree Holiday Feartree

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    C.A.T. - Chp. 13

    Cat and Cicero remain under the tree for some time, lost in silence. Cat has not yet elaborated on the word “synth” and Cicero is afraid to push her for more information. Panic-stricken, she trembles and shakes in the jester's arms, gripping him firmly, as though he may disappear should she let go.

    “I can't go back,” says Cat, shaking her head.

    “Why not?” asks Cicero. “Cicero can handle Astrid and her dog for you. The Sanctuary is your home.”

    “No,” says Cat, “it isn't my home. None of this is my home.”

    “You're still going back,” insists Cicero.

    “No,” whispers Cat, almost starting to laugh. “You don't understand.”

    Cicero presses his cheek up against her cheek and softly pleads, “Help me understand...”

    “Ok,” she says with a shallow sigh. “I'm a synth. I'm not real. I'm what you would call a – a false person.”

    “That doesn't make any sense,” replies Cicero.

    “I'm a machine,” Cat clarifies.

    “That still doesn't make any sense,” says Cicero. “And it doesn't explain why you can't return home.”

    “Cat is dead,” whispers Cat, “Or she never existed. The memories I have of my time before coming here, of my sister, everything – they're false memories. They never happened, at least not to me.”

    “False memories?”

    “Yes. See, that's what the Institute does.”

    “What is the Institute?” asks Cicero.

    “The Institute is where synths come from. They create synths. Synths are their slaves. They're treated like things.” Cat grits her teeth, holding her head. Another headache – dull, but aggravating. “And,” she adds, “the Institute can wipe my memories. They can remove every memory I have up to this point.”

    “Well,” says Cicero, “there is no Institute in Skyrim. There is no Institute in all of Tamriel!

    Cat turns her head to look Cicero in the eyes. “That won't matter when the Coursers come.”

    Cicero furrows his brow. “Coursers?”

    “Cicero,” says Cat resting her head on his chest, “imagine fifteen... maybe twenty five... Dark Brotherhood assassins embodied in one person. And that person isn't even a person – they're a machine. That is an Institute Courser. Elite synth assassins who hunt down other synths.”

    Cicero's chest rises and falls with slow, steady breaths. He holds Cat a little tighter.

    “I wouldn't put it past them,” she says. “I hope you understand why I can't go back to your Sanctuary. The Institute finds a way. If I'm sending and receiving signals – they'll find me. They'll eliminate everyone.” Cat pauses and takes a deep breath. “They will be coming for me.”

    Cicero reaches a hand up to his head, pushing aside his jester hat as he runs his fingers through his thick red hair. He hugs tighter on Cat, appalled by the claim that she isn't a real person. She feels warm in his arms. She smells of skin and hair and breath. She is real to Cicero. She is everything to Cicero.

    “I will kill every last one of them,” he says.
     
  17. Holiday Feartree

    Holiday Feartree Holiday Feartree

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    C.A.T. - Chp. 14

    Trudging through the woodlands, Cat and Cicero enter a clearing that appears decent enough to make camp. Prior to their hike, the two made a brief stop at the Falkreath Sanctuary to gather traveling supplies. Cicero had yet another fight with Astrid. Pulling rank, she forbade them from traveling to Volunruud. Such was a vain attempt to assert her dominance over the whereabouts of any Dark Brotherhood member. Cicero had none of it – he was determined to go. As he and Cat exited the Sanctuary, Astrid called after the two of them, banning the pair from ever returning to Falkreath. Cicero was not as upset over it as he thought he would be. He knew it was coming, and luckily for the Wanderer's sake, it did not end in bloodshed. Regrettably, however, Cicero would have liked to shed Astrid's blood – wall to wall, floor to ceiling. Such was an altercation he would save for another time.

    “I don't see why we're still going to this Volunruud place,” says Cat, laying out a bedroll covered in soft furs.

    “It's what the Night Mother wants!” chirped Cicero, unpacking the essentials to start a campfire.

    Cat rolls her eyes. “Look, man, you shouldn't be anywhere near me. I'm a liability. You'll be killed.”

    In no time at all, Cicero gets the campfire started. The flames flicker and dance, creating warmth and shadows that spread around the camp in a wide circle.

    “Cicero is the Keeper,” says Cicero, shaking his head. “The only thing left of the Night Mother is within you. Where she goes, I go. Furthermore, she spoke to Cicero. She said to go to Volunruud, so that is where I will go. Wherever Cicero goes, the Wanderer must go. I am not leaving you alone.”

    “plops!” huffs Cat, angrily dropping a satchel of supplies. Shaking her head with a belittling squint in her eyes, she asks, “Do you even know what an Institute-grade standard issue laser rifle is capable of?” Holding up an index finger, she says, “One shot and you're vaporized from your neck to your nuts. And that's if you're lucky. Mod a beta wave tuner onto one of those motherfluffers, and whatever's left of your skin is burnt beyond recognition.”

    Cicero shrugs. “That doesn't sound any less pleasant than trying to out-maneuver the flame bolts of a testy fire mage.”

    Angry, Cat turns and kicks a rock high against a tree and yells, “Jesus fluffing christ!”

    “What-y fluffing who?”

    “Nevermind.” Cat pulls up her hood and stuffs her hands in her pockets, sauntering around in a circle like an angry teenager. “This isn't funny,” she mutters. She stops pacing and glares at the jester. “This isn't a joke, Cicero.” Cat turns away. She doesn't want him to get killed, but he refuses to listen to reason.

    “You know what your problem is?” begins Cicero.

    Whirling around, Cat points at him. “You know what YOUR problem is? You're so fluffing obsessed with this Night Mother bullplops that you're too brainwashed to see how asinine it all is!”

    Speechless, Cicero grabs Cat by her wrist. His grasp is quick and rough. He wrenches her closer with a simple tug and glares into those beautiful green eyes. Deep down he's enraged, but swirling somewhere in the midst of his ire, he's also hurt.

    “Ow!” she yells. “Let go of me!”

    In a calm, even tone, a voice that doesn't quite sound like his, Cicero warns, “You're testing my patience.”

    Unimpressed, Cat snaps, “And what're you gonna do? Kill me?” Cat, scrappy enough with what little muscle she has, tries to pull away but Cicero's grip is too hard. “FINE!” she shouts less than an inch from the dead center of his face. “Slit my throat and dig that old finger bone out of my guts! Go fluffing prance off into the sunset with it! Because that's all you care about, Cicero! You don't give a plops about me!”

    Cicero's nostrils flare ever so slightly as he presses his lips together. Then his face relaxes as he says, in his usual tone of voice, “What Cicero was going to say was... do you know what your problem is? Your problem is that you run away from everything. You want to run away now. You ran away because you found out you're a – a synth! You RAN AWAY – like a scared mangy fox – when trouble started outside Loreius' farm!” Cicero releases his hold on Cat and she falls to the ground, slamming her hip bone against a sharp rock. “That's all you know how to do,” he adds, giving Cat a sardonic bow. “You turn into a gutless mudcrab and scuttle away!”

    Cat reaches down past the waistline of her jeans. Withdrawing her fingers, there's a little bit of blood seeping from her skin. It's just a scrape, but it upsets her nonetheless. This blood isn't even real. Manufactured blood. Feeling insulted as tears gather around her eyes, Cat stands back up, rushing toward Cicero. She shoves him. Barely budging, Cicero grips her elbows, locking Cat in a simple restraint. The two wrestle to the ground as she yells and squirms, trying to take swipes at his face. But with each flail, he swiftly evades her hands.

    “Cicero does not only care about the Night Mother!” he yells as his hat falls off and his voice falters from dodging Cat's slender fists.

    “Bullplops!” Cat wants to hit him right in the face – right in the god damn face. But it's like trying to hit a really strong spider monkey with ninja reflexes.

    Pinning Cat's arms above her head, Cicero adds, “I care about you! YOU, Wanderer! I love you!” Instantly letting go of Cat's arms, Cicero gasps, snatching his hat from the dirt, pressing it over his mouth as if he's blurted a naughty word.

    Stunned, Cat stares at him, her jaw open. “What?” she asks.

    “Nothing,” says Cicero, his voice muffled behind his hat. He lowers the hat and repeats, “Nothing.” Then he shakes his head. “No – no,” mutters Cicero. “It's not nothing, dear Wanderer. Not nothing.” Adjusting the hat back on his head, Cicero looks down at Cat and says, “...I love you.”

    Silence holds the moment hostage as the two linger on the ground for some time, mulling over those three words which hang in midair, awaiting judgment.

    “I'm sorry for the things I said,” Cat mumbles, looking down.

    Cicero shakes his head. “No, Wanderer,” he says. “You were being honest. Honesty is brutal, like a pickaxe to the spine.” He sighs. “But honesty is the one thing Cicero holds dear. He can't be Keeper and not favor honesty. Cicero has ...killed in the past because of lies and treachery.” The jester stands and walks to his bedroll, kneeling down along its soft fur lining.

    Cat follows him, pulling her bedroll up alongside his. “Who did you kill?” she asks, point blank.

    Looking down at his lap, Cicero mutters, “His name was Rasha.” He pauses. “It was a long time ago.”

    “Why did you kill him?”

    Cicero stares off into the darkness of the trees. They sway around the camp like tall, ghostly dancers, moving to a silent hymn that changes with the breeze. He whispers, “Because he was not the Listener.”

    Cat watches Cicero. There's a sadness in him, something very distant, but very obvious. It has something to do with his past, of which she knows next to nothing. She called him brainwashed and now regrets her outburst. She is a terrible person – a person who is not even a real person. Pulling her knees to her chest, she lowers her head to hide her impending tears. “I'm sorry,” she cries softly at the ground.

    Cicero removes a glove, placing his hand on the back of Cat's head. He runs his fingers over the short hair of her shaved scalp, then glides them through her thick strands hanging just across the other side. Leaning close, his lips hover beside the metal piercings which decorate the auricle of Cat's ear. “You didn't run when Cicero tried to kill himself,” he utters. “You,Wanderer – you saved my life.”

    Cat lifts her head, wiping away tears. “I love you too,” she admits. “I – I'm sorry I didn't say it sooner.”

    Shaking his head at her apology, Cicero reaches a hand to her chin, lifting her gaze to his. Without reservation, he presses his mouth against hers. The two kiss softly for some time, just as they have in recent days.

    Pausing the kiss, Cicero closes his eyes. “If you're not going to stop me...” he whispers against Cat's lips.

    “Not at all,” she whispers back.

    Cicero's lips move slowly against Cat's mouth as his tongue gently rolls in and out. Reaching his fingers below the waistline of her jeans and underpants, he continues the kiss until he feels the concurrent swell of wetness from both her mouth and her groin.

    Cicero leans Cat back along his bedroll as she cradles his jaw in her hands, bringing down another passionate kiss. Catching her breath, Cat rolls back her head. Cicero slowly, deeply kisses along the outstretch of her neck. Cat's hand traces a path down the fabric dangling against his chest, inching her fingertips over the muscles that spread across his stomach. Continuing downward, she discovers the firm shaft pressing eagerly against the tightness of his trousers. Cicero's hand reaches for Cat's, slowly guiding her fingers below his clothing. When the two locate the smooth, hard width of his erection, Cicero moves Cat's palm up and down its length, gently squeezing her hand beneath his own. His hips pump in rhythm as Cat feels his kissing intensify against her mouth.

    Their clothing gradually escapes them as the two draw one another closer to their naked skin, sliding against each other in a tangle of warm, sleek limbs. Cicero feels the heat between Cat's thighs as they wrap around his hips. Her hands earnestly slide along his toned shoulders as his breathing and thrusting envelops him in a deep, swelling rhythm. Tension grows within Cat, tighter and deeper until it releases against the steady grinding of his pelvis.

    In response, a restrained breath, almost a whimper, escapes Cicero's lips, arousing the delicate skin of Cat's ear. Cicero slides himself deeper inside of her, his erection expanding against the sensation of her quivering warmth. Moving his hips back and forth, he whispers in her ear that she feels exquisite. He whispers that he loves her. He whispers, in perfect sync with his steady thrusts, that he wants to feel her come again – and again – and again – and again. Shuddering, Cat's torso arches against the musculature of Cicero's body, her muscles tensing, then languishing as she goes weak.

    Cicero gently glides the tip of his tongue along the bottom of Cat's earlobe, then whispers that he is not finished. Snaking his arms around her waist, he leans back, lifting her to his lap, continuing his thrusts. Practically upright, Cicero kneels with Cat wrapped around his lean frame. She holds onto him with what little strength she has left as waves of contractions continue to tremble through her, enticing him to finish. Cat feels Cicero grow deep inside of her as his embrace around her tightens. His breath now comes hot and wicked and fast as he fluffs her with commanding deliberation. Together, they climax with the harmonious echo of hungry gasps.

    Frozen in a deep kiss, bodies still interlocked, Cicero leans forward, gently laying Cat back down on his bedroll. As the euphoria subsides and the exhaustion sets in, the two coil around one another like kindred lost souls, abandoning themselves to the dark, cool breeze of the night.
     
  18. Holiday Feartree

    Holiday Feartree Holiday Feartree

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    C.A.T. - Chp. 15

    Screams awaken Cicero from his deep sleep. What was a relaxing and tantalizing night before, now turns into a morning filled with shrieks and cries. Cicero jumps from his bedroll, barely dressed. Cat is nowhere within sight. His ears detect that the screaming is hers and he scoops up a weapon, hurrying toward the sound of her voice.

    Dodging through a cluster of nearby trees, Cicero discovers Cat, bent forward, clutching her head.

    Yelling in pain, her hands press hard against her temples as her eyes squeeze tight. “It's... happening... again!” she groans. Cat's body shakes violently as her arms fight to stretch themselves wide. Her chin lifts high as she stares into the bright morning sky. Her screams subside, diminishing into a hum of electronic signals. Light flashes across her green irises as the whites of her eyes morph into a steel gray, emblazoned with a central glowing ring of yellow.

    Cat lowers her chin, staring vacantly through Cicero.

    “Greetings identification code 0001E64A Cicero,” Cat says in that computerized voice which unnerves Cicero for a variety of reasons – namely the bizarre fact that he has a code number.

    “Greetings,” Cicero responds, still unsure how to address Cat when she suddenly pulls this crap.

    Cat's eyes quickly move back and forth, from left to right.

    “Incoming message from identification code ~Encrypted~: Designation: ~Encrypted~” … “Subject: Communication Access Terminal Detected.” … “Message: C.A.T. is off protocol. Synth prototype is to be returned to the Institute immediately. Failure to comply will result in punitive action.”

    Cicero's ears perk at the mention of the Institute. “By Sithis!” he cries out. “What?!”

    “Message replay command accepted.”

    Cicero smacks his palm to his face, groans, and shakes his head.

    “Subject: Communication Access Terminal Detected.”

    “Yes, yes,” mutters Cicero, gesturing with the whirl of his hand that she get to the point.

    “Message: C.A.T. is off protocol. Synth prototype is to be returned to the Institute immediately. Failure to comply will result in punitive action.”

    Cat's body stiffens. The yellow rings in her eyes flash and glow, shooting beams of light which spread across the ground and trees.

    “Scanning environment.” … “Longitude and latitude coordinates recorded.” … “Uncontaminated vegetation detected.”… “Hostile lifeform detected.” … “Deactivating this Communication Access Terminal's safety parameters.” … “Survival mode activated.”

    Cicero scrunches his brow. “And what exactly does that mean, Wanderer?”

    “Processing inquiry.” … “Survival mode: This synth prototype will no longer respond within pre-programmed safety parameters.”

    “What safety parameters?” Cicero narrows his eyes and shakes his head, utterly confused.

    “Speed and strength has been increased by two hundred and fifty eight point three percent.” … “Hostile lifeform detected.”

    “Uhh... wait a moment, Wanderer. A hostile whaty-what?” Cicero suddenly hears rustling from the surrounding trees.

    “Hostile lifeform detected.”

    “Wanderer...”

    The rustling moves closer. Cicero hears a grunt as leaves violently shake from the trees. Twigs snap from a definitive weight trudging eagerly across them.

    “Hostile lifeform detected.”

    “Gah!! Wanderer! Can't you say anything else?!” scowls Cicero, unsheathing his weapon.

    “No further messages are available.” … “This Communication Access Terminal will deactivate in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1...”

    Cat falls to the ground, her nose bleeding. Delirious, she tries to stand to her feet. With one hand holding his blade, Cicero extends the other hand in an attempt to help her up. But before he can get Cat to her feet, a troll bursts from the foliage, grabbing the blade of Cicero's weapon, wrenching it from his hand. The troll roars with ferocity as spit and mucus rattle from its wide, ugly mouth. The creature tosses Cicero's blade high into the trees – gone forever.

    Rarely is Cicero ever caught off his guard, but in this instantaneous moment a troll now springs forward to beat him to death. It all happens so fast, yet so slowly once Cicero's adrenaline pumps its way through his core. The troll leaps into the air with its fists raised, yet there it remains for less than half a second, frozen in mid-jump. Blinking his eyes, Cicero snaps himself from his anxiety-induced trance and tries to scramble out of its way. The jester, usually nimble and quick, slips and falls. The troll lunges after him like a wild dog, grabbing Cicero by his left leg and holding him up high. The fat, hairy monster inspects the little man as it aggressively shakes him like a doll. Cicero feels his insides melt and twist in agony as his world suddenly appears upside down in a violent swirl of chaos. His leg burns at the hip joint and he braces himself for the impending sensation of a torn limb. But before anything snaps and his world goes black, the jester is released and he falls to the ground. As he looks up, Cicero sees the back of a small figure standing between him and the troll. “WANDERER?!” he yells, thinking she has gone completely mad.

    Poised between the troll and Cicero, Cat fearlessly moves closer to the creature. Bellowing like a frenzied beast, it barrels toward her on its simian knuckles. Cat slams into the troll with an uncanny strength that overpowers the heft of the monster's weight, knocking it on its backside. She leaps onto the troll, grappling along its torso with her nails. The creature howls in pain. Cat sinks her fingers deep into the beast’s flesh, digging at its chest cavity like a machine digging for ore. She tears away skin and muscle, ripping bones from their ligaments. The troll’s tendons loudly snap around Cat's wrists and hands as she yanks its bloated heart from a warm, fatty cave of arterial tissue. Raising the vascular organ high above her head, Cat becomes drenched in the monster's blood as it spills down her face, shoulders, chest, and legs. Trickling past her toes, the blood rushes through the grass, staining it beneath her like a platform of crimson turf.

    Oooh!” Cicero yells in a sarcastic tone, still lying on the ground, but propped on his elbows, nodding at the whole spectacle. “Thoooose safety parameters!”
     
  19. Holiday Feartree

    Holiday Feartree Holiday Feartree

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    C.A.T. - Chp. 16

    Cat and Cicero continue their travels over a string of days and nights.

    Along the way, Cicero witnesses the ways in which the Wanderer's physical strength has beneficially changed. His beloved Wanderer is no longer just a simple young woman who had, by circumstance, absorbed the remains of the Night Mother. She really is something greater – something he finds even more alluring than before.

    Cicero recounts how she had knocked down trees to bridge cliffsides, which helped cut down on travel time. The Wanderer even stopped a vicious bear right in its tracks, literally, and flung the dumbfounded creature nearly 300 feet. He remembers watching the animal land at a great distance, rolling in the soft grass. It stood, shaking off what iota of embarrassment a bear could feel, bellowed a roar of bitter defeat, then awkwardly bumbled away.

    As the trek goes on, the Wanderer continually refers to herself as a machine, a word that carries an inflection of self depreciation. However, Cicero recalls one particular upswing in which she gleefully said she felt like a hero from “one of those great American tall tales, set on the wild frontier” or whatever that meant. The Wanderer then said, in an accent Cicero could not identify, “Ah swung me that bear over mah head an' he landed on that there ground, makin' a big ol' hole that filled with buckets o' rain water! E'er since they's been call'n it Lake Bearlake!”

    Cicero doesn't always understand the Wanderer's references, but he tries. In return, the jester senses that the Wanderer feels the same in regard to his ramblings. She still can't understand why every inn across Skyrim doesn't serve some beverage called “Nuka-Cola” – insisting that she needs “a little pick me up.” For the life of him, Cicero can't justify how a person with her newfound speed and strength would ever need something called a “pick me up”, and he has since written the whole Nuka-Cola thing off as an addiction.

    Oh, her little addictions... her imperfections... her wiry body... her awkwardness... her short legs... her jokes... her terrible clothing... her crazy hair. Has Cicero fallen in love with... Cicero? He often wonders about that.

    The Wanderer says she was manufactured in a laboratory, built by men and women in black and white coats with Institute emblems stitched to their breast pockets. Whomever created the Wanderer must have gone far out of their way to make her as real as possible. But Cicero understands that there is something engineered about her. When the Wanderer stops humming those foreign tunes from her homeland – songs that have strange words and bouncy tempos – and then she stands up tall like a crucified draugr, speaking in that steely, automaton voice, sounding like something only the Dwemer could have dreamed up, then yes – yes! Cicero understands! The Wanderer is different! The Wanderer is not entirely human. Perhaps she is even dangerous. And for some reason, the thrill of such menace causes him to desire her even more.

    Cicero often thinks about the Night Mother, questioning his remorsefully waning loyalty. Questioning if he misses her – misses tending to her physical remains. All the years of work he did to keep her exhumed body as preserved as he could... wasted. Bittersweet, really. He realizes he doesn't miss it anymore. And no, it's not all about the Wanderer. In fact, he has been spending a lot of time deep in reflective thought about himself, often at night when he and the Wanderer are wrapped up beside one another in a snug bedroll. When the air is still and calm and there's nothing else to breathe into one's lungs but silence. Silence, for so long, plagued Cicero. Yet now, he's beginning to hear a sobering disquiet amid the maddening reticence. He hears himself.

    All those nights Cicero spends beside his Wanderer, he is reflecting most heavily about himself – about the person he used to be. That person is a distant stranger, moving closer to recognition over time. He was an assassin, sure, but he was more than that, so long ago. He was a young man – a rowdy teenager. A wild, ivory skinned, red-headed heart breaker with the stamina of an untamed saber cat. A gorgeous, recalcitrant youth who often landed in trouble for the sake of thrills. Oh yes, Cicero was rebellious and beautiful and vain and so very young at heart. The lad was intelligent and educated too. His parents hadn't died or abandoned him. No. No such tragedy was part of his upbringing. Cicero was in fact, much to the Wanderer's curiosity back at the Bannered Mare, admittedly a rich boy. His father was a land baron, buying and selling estates, settlements, farms, and temples. He was rich beyond measure. Cicero, an only child, attended some of the best schools in Cyrodiil. Learned to fence, learned to speak all the dead languages, learned to charm women, and learned many more of the ambitious things that only the privileged children of the wealthy elite could afford.

    Something clicked when he fell in with the Dark Brotherhood. Cicero realized just how good he was at covert contract killing. It thrilled him. It employed his youthful skills. It glamoured the women, and at times the men, right into his bed. If anyone was a machine, it was Cicero. The old Cicero. He was a moving, breathing, captivating, killing machine that never quit – not until his final contract. Then, all those subsequent years spent with the Night Mother. During said years the fire inside of him slowly died out, replaced by something... dim and unfamiliar.

    The Wanderer reminds Cicero of his old self. She is like a mirror, staring back at him through time. Because of that, every moment they spend together feels extraordinary. Tiptoeing around sleeping giants, scaling snow covered mountains, tossing bears, ripping apart trolls, dancing beneath the moonlight amid a field of torchbugs. Their travels have been more like a holiday. An adventure. A dream.

    Cicero feels himself becoming himself again. He doesn't want this dream to end. But he wonders what will become of it when they reach Volunruud. It won't be long now, he realizes. The tomb isn't far around the corner. For posterity's sake, Cicero hopes that all goes according to the Night Mother's plan. But deep down inside, there is a small, shameful, blasphemous part of him that hopes the Night Mother will stop making any future plans. He's happy with his Wanderer. He feels that she is all he needs – she is all he wants.

    The Wanderer, Cat, the so-called machine, has been nothing short of Cicero's long awaited salvation.
     
: 18+

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