I hold back tears and lift what I guess is the speaker part of the phone. God knows how this works. If it is like the rest of the ship, it probably operates on pure, refined whythefucknot.
“You sound upset,” Tania says. “What’s wrong?”
“Aren’t we supposed to be talking about you? You’re the queen of everything around here. How are you?”
I change the subject. I don’t really need another person knowing that I’ve been used and dumped again.
“I’m fine,” she says. “But you really don’t sound okay. Tell me what’s wrong.”
God. Tania is actually a nice person. I barely know her, but she’s the closest thing I have to a friend on this ship and she might be the only thing anchoring me to anything like sanity now.
“It’s just Terrible,” I sigh. “He’s… such a dick. Why are all males such dicks, Queen Tania?”
I wish I could sit with her and talk. It would be nice to be with a friend, but Tyrant is still insisting I remain away from her until any germs from Earth have worked their way out of my system, because Tyrant cares about her. I wonder what that’s like, to be cared about. Nice. Probably.
“I’m not a queen,” she laughs.
Okay, so ‘queen’ isn’t her official title, but she’s obviously the fucking queen, so I’m going to let myself think of her that way. Unlike me, her mate dotes on her and adores her, so she probably can’t relate to any of my problems.
“Terrible is… challenging,” she says. “His whole identity seems to be wrapped up in just ordering people around — which is kind of a king thing, but Tyrant isn’t even that obsessed with it.”
“Yeah, because Tyrant's never had to prove his royalty. He was just always royal. Terrible’s had to work and fight to get where he is.”
In some linguistic self-jujutsu, I have just managed to flip myself over my own head and now I find myself arguing for the guy I think is an asshole.
“Tyrant didn’t know he loved me, even after we were intimate. I think the Essence males are… a little slow.”
“He sent me all the way back to Earth. I had to lie, cheat, and steal my way back onto the ship. Only then had he figured it out.”
“Really. He seems so intensely attached to you. I’ve never seen anybody so in love.”
“He wasn’t at first. They hide their feelings. It takes something intense to bring them out.”
“Something intense, huh.” That makes me think. I’m intense. I’m real fucking intense. My life on Earth was one big, long, intense clusterfuck. I also know how to get a man’s attention.
“Lucky, word of advice. Don’t do anything stupid. Terrible doesn’t like to be tested. He expects to be obeyed.”
“Oh, I know.”
“I don’t want to see you get hurt, one way or another. You’re sassy, and you’re smart, and he’ll come around soon enough. You just have to be patient.”
That’s probably good advice, but I’ve never been patient. I’m going to have to play to my strengths. Fucking. Shit. Up.
“You’re going to get into trouble, aren’t you?” Tania sighs.
“Probably,” I shrug. “That happens when I’m not trying. It’s almost definitely going to happen when I do try.”
* * *
It takes me a while to work out how to get back at Terrible. When I am not being used as a sentient stuffed toy to comfort Tania in her lonelier moments, I am supposed to be following him around and learning how to best aid him. Most of what Terrible does is tell others what to do. He spends more time issuing orders than Tyrant does. Where he walks, others quiver. Or, if not quiver, at least shit themselves.
I don't think this ship would run without Terrible. He has a way about him. An officious, stern, unyielding, and uncompromising way. I become the mostly silent, almost entirely ignored witness to every interaction he has on the ship.
Today we are dealing with a young officer named Angst. Angst is in trouble because he hasn’t been crossing his T’s and dotting his I’s. An Earth boss might call an employee into his office. Terrible corners his misbehaving underling on the job.
“Lord Terrible…” The shining alien officer blanches visibly. The color drains from his scales and his eyes flash an apologetic blue. Being around these creatures makes me realize just how much color can convey. Right now, Terrible is decidedly rouge in his visage.
“Is there some reason you haven’t filed your TPS report?”
He asks the question with a casual viciousness. That’s the thing about Terrible. He’s not overtly aggressive, but there’s something about the way he speaks and carries himself which is very intimidating, even to his own kind. He’s dangerous in the way a very sharp knife is. You don’t have to touch the blade to know it could absolutely take you apart.