1509: Love of a Spartan – Chapter Ten (Eleven), Part OnePosted: August 21, 2016
This section of the riff contains potential flamebait in the form of brief discussion of military sexual assault. AGAIN.
Hello hello, all you humans! I have returned with yet more Spartan-lovin’ shenanigans!
This is actually my first riff since LOAS got deleted from ff.net- there’s been a bit of a time-gap as a result since I stupidly did not think to make any backups of the story (not that you would notice what with the long delay in posting these anyway), but in that time I’ve been swapping comments with none other than AshleyBudrick herself, and she’s pointed me to a number of backups. I don’t really know how well-known to the rest of the Library she’ll be by the time this goes up so a lot of this might seem redundant, but I really could not have done this riff without her contribution- in more ways than one, obviously.
Now, the backup service she directed me to kind of ruined the story’s formatting, but I’ve done my best to fix it as I go. Therefore, in sort of inverse John and the Dragon Rider situation, any random bolding or weird characters in the text can be assumed to be my errors and not the author’s. So. Let’s begin.
“And just when I thought it was safe to go back to the Haloverse…”
You can never truly escape Love of a Spartan, man. It’s like carcinogenic levels of gamma radiation, improperly-treated posttraumatic stress disorder, and a visit from my New Age aunt all rolled into one.
“Right. Well. Chapter Nine dropped a number of extremely boring bombshells on us: Renee Kilburn and John-117 confessed their idiotic attraction for each other but didn’t actually do anything that might abate it, it was revealed that at some point in the past she and Troy Fisher had planned to become mates but abandoned the pursuit for reasons that I’m certain have nothing to do with Kilburn’s unfathomable stupidity, and then John threatened to murder the poor Lieutenant over an argument in the ship’s gymnasium!
Chapter Ten (“A Spartan’s Love”) basically rehashes the events we just went over without actually doing anything, as the Marines babble like year-old chicks, John continues to indicate that he is dangerously unhinged, and Troy brings his concerns to the senior officers and is basically told to shut up and sit down because it was entirely his fault. Eventually, the Chief and Kilburn get in some sort of bizarre disagreement over… well, nothing at all, really, and she runs out of the cafeteria (presumably to cry against the tree where she lost her virility to Draco). I wholeheartedly agree with Sakai’s decision to cut the entire thing, but I did take the liberty of going through it and updating all of the counters for us:”
Mommy’s Little Marines (And Spartans) Counter: 35
Terrible Troy Counter: 43
Halight Counter: 13
“All of this brings us to Chapter Eleven, ‘Renee & John’.”
[March 10, 2535 – Halcyon Class Hercules – Slipspace]
It took me a little while to notice this, but it looks like at some point early on the author accidentally a few words in the location stamp and just kept copypasting it- they should all really read “Halcyon Class Cruiser Hercules”.
“Now, if you’re quite done being needlessly pedantic…”
Renee walked down the hallway as fast as her feet would carry her, her heart pounding wildly in her ears, and her breath hitching frantically every few seconds. Her face was red; she didn’t have to look into a mirror to find that out. She looked back over her shoulder almost constantly, to see if John was following her. She had a feeling deep down that he was.
This is getting a little bit creepy, actually…
What would she say to him if he caught up with her? Wait, when, not if. He would catch up with her, she knew. If he wanted to catch up with her, he would. There was no stopping him.
She was so out of breath that she had to slow down, but she slowed only a little. That’s when she looked over her shoulder again, and saw John come around the corner after her. She whipped her head around and continued walking, quickening her pace once again.
Ok, seriously, this is weirding me out. Romance should not be invoking slasher-film tropes.
She heard his strong, commanding voice echo down the hallway after her.
“Renee, stop!” even with two words, she could tell by each one he was growing closer. His long strides were superior to her own, and judging by the footsteps she could hear very clearly, Renee knew he was nearing.
“Why is this chapter so much more viscerally frightening than any of the Creepypasta?”
“I never intended for you to hear it,” Renee spoke loudly, not looking at him. Her voice however, failed her, “Forget you ever heard-”
“No, listen to me,” John’s voice was right behind her now, “Stop.”
She felt his large hand grasp her upper arm, encircling it completely. His hands were warm against her skin. He pulled back ever so gently, but it was enough force to make her stop dead in her tracks. With a flick of his wrist, he had her spun around to face him, holding her in place, his hand on her arm like a vice.
“Well, we’ve already got gross insubordination, fraternization, and striking a superior officer… I suppose it was only a matter of time before we’d have to add forcible sexual assault to the sins of the once noble Master Chief Petty Officer John-117…”
It wasn’t OK when Troy did it, and it sure as hell isn’t OK now.
Halight Counter: 14
Renee bravely looked up into his eyes, which seemed to be carrying more emotion than she ever recalled seeing before.
“Were they full of so much depressing sorrow and evilness, by any chance?”
For a moment, she didn’t say anything, but she was eventually able to locate her voice.
“Demon. A warrior who does not allow his mate to speak does not deserve her loyalty.”
… You know things are bad when you have to get relationship advice from the Sangheili.
hear me out. If you’re mad at me, I’m sorry,” John started;
Oh, you’d better be sorry…
however, Renee cut him off abruptly.
“I’m not mad at you,” she replied in a whisper, shaking her head. She touched his arm gently, feeling his muscles rock-hard beneath his shirt, which was something she had always wondered what would feel like.
Renee Kilburn, ladies and gentlebeings. Full-time “soldier”, part-time Internet cat.
John exhaled slightly, relieved to hear it. He let go of her arm, and reached up and took her little hands in his own weathered ones,
“She has other, larger hands?”
“This has to be the third or fourth time we’ve seen that exact phrasing, and it’s still strange.”
and brought them up between them.
He brought his hands up between… themselves? Is this like when Snap got possessed by Snap?
He looked down at her hands, her skin almost as pale as his own.
Halight Counter: 15
He gently caressed her skin with his thumbs. It was the softest thing he’d felt in a while.
He let out a little chuckle.
“Your hands are so small,” he remarked.
His mind felt hazy; he wasn’t even that sure what he was doing,
“Well, neither are we…”
or why he’d felt so compelled to touch her like he was doing now.
Oh, well, we know that at least- the subversive influence of the plot.
He glanced up to Renee’s face, and saw her cheeks were predictably red.
“Your hands are huge, ” Renee replied quietly with a little laugh, looking back down.
Well, you know what they say about huge hands…
“They say something about huge hands?”
“… Never mind.”
She allowed her hands to grow limp in his own, and he closed his hands around hers, squeezing ever so faintly, before letting go. Glancing down, as if he’d been unable to control what he’d done, he apologized.
Wow. Better keep the kids out of the room for this part, all of that erotic hand-play going on…
“Sorry-” he started.
“It’s fine. “
No, it really isn’t.
They met each other’s eyes again. Somehow, John’s face had grown closer to hers.
“You heard what I was saying back there?” Renee predicted.
“That is not what that word means.”
“Every word,” John answered, smirking, although his face didn’t match the smirk. His eyes were gentle, his face muscles relaxed.
So I guess he was smirking telepathically, then…
Cerbersheep: Does that even count?
He looked so calm, so- fascinated- an expression Renee thought couldn’t exist on his features.
“I shouldn’t have said-” she started quietly, but John put his fingers to her lips in a lightning fast moment.
Halight Counter: 16
“But you said it, ” John replied, taking his finger away to hold up her chin instead. He felt some hesitance, but her dark eyes never left his, “And you made something hell of a lot easier for me.”
“What might that be?”
“Gross imposition, probably.”
Instead of answering, John bent his head, his lips meeting hers. At first it was gentle, and Renee cherished it, the softness of it, then the spark ignited between them. Without a warning, John shoved her against the wall, deepening the kiss,
“*Sigh*… Why am I always right about this sort of thing?”
and Renee instinctively reached up and managed to wrap her arms around his neck. The kiss was passionate, yet clumsy,
Oh, it’s clumsy all right…
and both of them were eager, yet nervous, letting new feelings take over them as they got lost in the kiss, lost in the feelings, a sweet heaven that took them to a temporary place, away from the war, away from everything to a place where it was just them and that’s all that mattered.
Away from prose that makes any goddamn sense…
This world was abruptly shattered when a cold, unfamiliar voice reached their ears.
“How sweet. ”
John pulled back, and Renee gave a little gasp of surprise, and they instantly jumped apart, and turned to face Lieutenant Fisher, carrying an expression brimming with sarcasm, his mouth wrenched into a bittersweet smile, his eyes cruel.
… and legolas ran down the hall.
Terrible Troy Counter: 44
Hey, at least he managed to catch the ambulatory smile’s snarky older brother.
“He’s carrying an expression brimming with sarcasm.”
“Sir,” Renee saluted him, her voice wavering, “I didn’t see you there.”
“No, you wouldn’t have, would you?” Troy sounded anything but amused. His eyes locked with John’s. It didn’t take a scholar to notice that their hatred for one another must have grown exponentially from the fight in the gym and the issue on the bridge that followed.
Terrible Troy Counter: That, and I just walked up to one of my men making out with a psychopath in the middle of the corridor. 45!
They stared at each other for a long time, a dead beat of silence accompanying it; finally, Troy spoke, addressing them both.
“Spartan,” a quick raise of the brows; then his features softened, “Private Kilburn.”
Renee swallowed a lump in her throat, looking nervously at him. She’d known Troy since they were children, and the expression he wore on his face at this moment she’d seen more times than she could count, she knew he was far from being pleased. She could tell right there and then that this wasn’t going to end nicely.
“I should hope as much! It is past time that these so-called warriors be taken to task for their abhorrent behavior!”
“Now can one of you tell me, I don’t particularly care which,” he began lowly, his voice filled with malice, and on cue, “What the hell do you think you were doing?”
Your guess is as good as ours.
It ended in a bellow that echoed down the hallway and cut through their ears.
She sputtered something unintelligible, her brain abuzz, and her lips felt like jello.
“So, business as usual then?”
She wasn’t able to look Troy directly in the eye, and she bowed her head shamefully.
“As she should.”
“Ah, Kilburn, thank you for offering. I expect an answer,” Troy snapped harshly.
“I-” she began, clenching her hands into fists nervously,
” I – i ”
“Answer me, Private!” It was a yell that caused her to cringe backwards.
Ok, taking the bad-cop approach with the soldier who was being assaulted by the psychotic Spartan and not the psychotic Spartan himself might be the only genuinely questionable decision Troy has made so far in this story (discounting the part where he kissed Renee in Chapter Nine, but that came so far out of left field that I’m still unable to find any reasoning to it whatsoever and the universe just seems to want to expel it from the timeline). Nonetheless, since Troy now knows that the chain of command on this ship is completely insane, I could still see this being justified in that if he doesn’t get incriminating testimony from the victim on some sort of record- even if the victim doesn’t want to give it- he’s definitely not going to get it out of the ship’s sensor net or the perpetrator.
John, upon seeing her cower away, felt like taking Troy by the scruff of the neck and firing him down the hallway so hard he would go through the wall.
“In addition to the points the Admiral made, if he did decide to interrogate the Spartan directly there’s also a very real probability of that happening…”
Terrible Troy Counter: 46
However, with a polite, unnoticeable cracking of his knuckles, squeezing his fists and releasing them, John made that urge pass.
He could’ve damn well done it though, very, very easily, and so quickly Troy, nor probably Renee would have known what happened until it was over and Troy was lying on the floor in his own pool of blood with his head smashed in.
“My, what violent thoughts John’s having today!”
What violent thoughts he was having today!
Mommy’s Little Marines (And Spartans) Counter: 36
However, he snapped back to the present when he heard what sounded to be a little sob come from Renee. Her eyes looked to be brimming with tears as she tried to keep a hold of her slipping composure.
Well, she has basically just been assaulted, but 1) we know that’s not what the story meant, and 2) she’s still a Marine. Supposedly.
Mommy’s Little Marines (And Spartans) Counter: 37!
Sniffling, she shook her head, “I don’t know, sir,” she finally choked out.
John’s eyes snapped to Troy, who met his glare with a little smirk on his face.
Oh my god it’s adorable!
Yes, take Fisher by the hair and smash his head off the floor until it looks like a cracked egg.
Terrible Troy Counter: 47
“You don’t know?” Troy’s voice grew softer, he didn’t distance his face any further from Renee’s, it was close as if he was going to tell her a secret, “Oh, but dear Renee, I think you do know. You lost grip on where you are, a refresher course might be needed, I think they shipped you out too early from the Academy.
Really? I think they shipped you out too early from middle school.
We are fighting a war!”
“Or, at least, you were until recently. I think even the Covenant just got bored and left.”
John didn’t hear the rest of Troy’s lecture; he became too focused on trying to control the rage that was building up inside of him. He was seriously contemplating taking Troy and chucking him,
“Are you entirely certain the Demon has not somehow been replaced with a Brute?”
when heard footsteps behind him.
And it looks like the Chief was so angry accidentally his pronoun.
Amy dove in between Troy and Renee, sputtering a colorful array of curses as she passed them. John had no doubts she had not been far away, watching the whole scene.
“Ah, Private Smythe, ” Troy continued calmly, “Nice to see you.”
“I wish I could say the same.”
“… No, actually, I do not.”
“You just love exercising your bountiful authority, don’t you, LT?” the redhead demanded, “You have no right to grill John or RenRen, they were doing nothing wrong!”
“Nothing wrong when it comes to your low standards. Private.”
Ohohoh, NICE ONE!
“A critical hit! It is super effective!”
… where did he get into Pokemon?
“It twists the knife, doesn’t it Troy, to see them together, to see them happy? Here you are harping on about expectations, and you’re the one allowing jealousy to fuel and manipulate your desire to discipline. “
Terrible Troy Counter: No, I’m the one stuck trying to keep the two of you in line so that your little soap opera doesn’t get us all killed the next time the Elites come calling. 48!
“If that’s what you’d like to think, be obliged.”
“Thinking is one thing I don’t need your permission for, asshole.”
“Mostly because you never do it.”
A smile formed on Troy’s lips, a smile that commonly surfaced as of late.
“If I hear one more disrespectful word out of you, Smythe,” he announced, staring her down, “I can go to my office, fill out a few papers, and as soon as we exit Slipspace, I can send you and Kilburn packing and have your asses on a flight back to Earth within twenty-four hours, the words ‘general discharge’ bolded in your files.
Do I make myself clear?”
Amy, although unwavering to his threats before, wasn’t going to take chances. This was the first time he had mentioned having them discharged, an action he could do as easily as he’d said , filling out a few papers. She had no choice but to nod.
“Good,” Troy sneered, “Fall in.”
She did, and now Troy, having the three of them under control, folded his arms calmly behind his back and looked at each one of them individually.
“This is despicable behaviour. I don’t know how far I’ll have to drill it into your heads – especially you two, ” he looked to Renee and Amy, “That we are in the middle of a war. Breakdowns in the rules are unacceptable. Smythe, you clearly disregard my rank and think you can say anything you damn well please to me. Kilburn, you also have a high disregard for my authority and are much like your friend when it comes to speaking to me. And 117!” Troy paused to glare intently at him for a few minutes, “You too, seem uncaring, if not oblivious to my rank of Junior Lieutenant, which you clearly demonstrated in the bridge, in front of Dr. Halsey and the Captain, of all people, when you gave the so-called wise advice for me to ‘grow up’. Also, let’s not forget that you assaulted me in the middle of a public area with intent to harm, and it looks to me like you have been trying a different type of assault on Kilburn.”
I literally cannot get enough of this guy.
“I… I’m in awe!”
“My brothers. Let us raise our blades in honor of Junior Lieutenant Troy Fisher- the true protagonist of Love of a Spartan!”
“We’re saving him before the ‘fic is over, right?”
Amy fidgeted, looking like she wanted to shout something, but she didn’t dare. She looked to Renee, who had suddenly grown pale. Amy looked back to Troy.
“What kind of assault, sir?” she snapped.
“Don’t be stupid,”
“Well, I suppose even model officers must sometimes order their men to do the impossible…”
Troy raised an eyebrow, “Sexual assault?” he looked to John, “Do you understand what that means?
“I fear he understands all too well, or not at all.”
No wonder Kilburn’s on the brink of tears.”
“No,” Renee spoke up, her voice calm. She met Troy’s eyes, “Don’t even go there, Troy.”
Oh, how dare he speak honestly about an awful situation!
They looked at each other for a long time, and Renee could see by the expression on his face, that Troy’s eyes were almost questioning, carrying a certain element of disbelief. She’d seen it before, when she’d first ran into him after enlisting, cheerily telling him she’d joined up.
Terrible Troy Counter: 48
Sorry, Kilburn, but after everything he’s done (and everything you’ve done), it’s going to take a lot more than that data point to convince me that Troy was being sexist or otherwise demonstrating any sort of undesirable character trait. He wasn’t surprised that you’d signed up because he was biased, he was surprised because by any rational metric, you are clearly unfit for service.
“Really, my main problem with Troy Fisher as a character right now is that he seems to have very few actual flaws– some of the things he says to 117 indicate that he probably has unreasonable concerns about the deployment of Spartan-IIs, but it’s hard to tell how much of that is directed at Spartans in general and how much is just a reflection of the Chief’s own freakish behavior.”
He’d looked at her with the same expression that he wore now, and he didn’t need to speak to have her understand it. Troy’s behaviour suddenly became undeniably clear. She knew.
“LT, defying someone of higher rank, mouthing them off and assault are all against the rules, but don’t try and tell us that love is too,” Amy spoke up, “There is nothing that says UNSC personnel can’t have affection towards one another, in relationships or otherwise.
“Actually, there is. It’s called ‘fraternization’, and while individual organizations have somewhat different rules that are often largely up to a disciplinary officer’s discretion, the one constant is that it can get you into quite a lot of trouble if you’re being stupid about it- for instance, if you’re trying to mate in the middle of a public corridor.”
That’d be like saying we can’t be friends, either.”
“Not really, no. There’s a pretty big difference, actually.”
Mommy’s Little Marines (And Spartans) Counter: 38
You know, being a career civilian with basically zero interest in military history, for a while I really did question the need for strict fraternization restrictions in military and paramilitary organizations. They just seemed… kind of arbitrary and pointless.
Love of a Spartan has done better than any other work in explaining to me exactly why those sorts of regulations exist.
Troy blinked, as if he just tuned in to what she’d been saying. His expression hardened.
“For Christ’s sake, you’re all dismissed, get the hell out of my face,” he muttered quickly, waving them off.
Terrible Troy Counter: 49
“I wish only that we could be rid of them so easily.”
John, Renee, and Amy exchanged surprised glances, but fell out of line and gladly started to walk off, happy to be released from Troy’s seemingly never-ending grasp on them- but he’d let them go, and rather quickly, too, as if he couldn’t wait to be rid of them. They could feel his eyes on their back as they left, as if he was eagerly waiting for them to be gone from his sight.
“I know exactly how he feels.”
Renee almost jumped out of her skin as she felt John’s hand come to rest on her shoulder; his mouth was suddenly next to her ear:
“Are you alright?”
And that’s still creepy as all get out.
Numbly, she nodded, giving him a small smile of assurance. Still feeling Troy’s eyes on her, she was compelled to look back at him.
She did; he hadn’t moved from the spot he’d been standing in when they told them to leave, he wasn’t facing them at all now. At that exact moment however, he turned and their eyes met. His eyes burned intensely with an unmentioned emotion,
“I really hope they make drops for that.”
and she felt unable to keep his gaze for long. Quickly, she looked away. She couldn’t help but feel that all along, if she had been losing Troy Fisher – he was definitely lost to her now.
Terrible Troy Counter: 50. And good riddance.
At the same time, she felt she was walking away from her past, and into a new part of her life. Troy had been her past, her old love that had lasted for well over five years, and now she was starting anew love, with John. She had a feeling this would be more promising, and John wouldn’t walk out on her like Troy had. She knew it.
“Well, it’s her funeral, then. Perhaps literally.”
The chapter goes on after this for a little ways, but it’s mostly logistics and actual military stuff (remember when that was what Halo was about?) so I’m going to go ahead and pick it up next riff while I talk about the rotting zombie flesh at the heart of Love of a Spartan– the “romance” element.
I’m not the sort of Librarian who gets offended easily and writes big long explanation-point-filled rants. I’m more the quiet disapproval type, and my rants usually include footnotes. I’m also not sure who the intended audience for this is since AshleyBudrick herself has already pretty effectively convinced me that she has already improved substantially as a writer and isn’t penning this sort of nonsense anymore… so I guess I’ll just call this a PSA and leave it at that.
Let’s, for the moment, put aside the fact that Renee Kilburn has the mental age of a particularly stupid middle schooler, and along with it just ignore the creepy pseudo-pedophilia that comes from the idea of her being in a romantic relationship with an adult (1). Let’s also ignore the fact that she’s a disgrace to her uniform because, quite honestly, Troy Fisher has explained that point far more effectively than any of us riffers ever could.
Rather, my concern is with the relationship itself- and the fact that the Halight counter is no longer just for John-117 looking like Edward Cullen. Over the last few chapters he’s begun a bizarre, werewolf-like transformation from a professional soldier, to a giggling idiot, to the stereotypical douchebag controlling boyfriend. It might not be as… egregious as the sort of nonsense we usually deal with here at the Library, but I have no problem whatsoever classifying what John did to Renee in the hall- pursuing her when she is trying to get away from him, physically immobilizing her, and not allowing her to speak- as sexual assault (2). Add onto that the fact that he’s apparently so goddamn attached that the mere thought of anything at all bad happening to her breaks through decades of training and causes him to dissolve into homicidal mania… Well, I’m not really sure what that all adds up to.
I’ll admit that I have zero experience with romantic relationships myself due to not having any sort of sexual orientation (3), but there’s no way this is healthy. Now that I’ve talked to her at some length AB seems like a perfectly happy, normal, and well-adjusted person, so I don’t think that she was writing any of this from actual experience (4). In fact, she came to her senses and took the ‘fic down entirely, and while initially I’d wanted it left up for archival sake, I’ve now realized she made exactly the right decision. A lot of teens patrol ff.net, especially on T-rated stories like this one was, and I’d very much like to limit the number of people who get their idea of “storybook romance” from… this. So I guess that’s my message here, to those of you who actually have relationships outside of your immediate family and the Computer Science Department: if your boy/girl/whateverfriend ever approaches you in the manner that the Master Chief approached Renee Kilburn in this chapter, run.
- Although, really, John’s not too far above her by this point.
- I’d like to note here that I don’t consider John being male and Renee being female as relevant to that determination, although I am taking note of the fact that John is augmented and Renee is not, and perhaps more importantly the fact that John is a high-ranking noncom and Renee is enlisted.
- And since that conversation never goes anywhere pleasant, I am preemptively ignoring all inquiries as to my personal life.
- Unlike the truly terrifying saga of a certain ZincRae.