Chapter Twenty-Two. Author's note: Many, many thanks to those who have supported Inamorata thus far. Believe me, I would not have continued had it not been for the support. So thank you very much, and keep it up!
Nightingale gaped in a rather unattractive way, her jaw falling open as she gawped. At her gormless expression, one someone such as Michael might have been proud of for its stupidity, she saw David's mouth quirk the tiniest bit, a ghost of a smile lighting up his eyes before he glared again.
"Me? You've got to be out of your minds," she informed Clarence and David, even turning her head to look at Robin, who smiled and patted her cheek.
"Perhaps we misspoke," said Clarence, sighing. "It won't only be you presenting the case. Naturally, David will present the evidence. However, we've chosen you as the Inamorata to be interviewed by the Council."
Nightingale reeled, shaking her head like a dog with with water in its ears. "What?" she whispered, astounded. "Why?"
"Because you are truly the greatest example of what it means to be an Inamorata," said David softly. "You're so terribly human, Nightingale."
She felt a little soothed at the fact that he was back to using her name, but she quickly frowned again. She'd never been so nervous of any idea in all her life, not even when she'd lost her ribbon for the first time.
"I'll fuck up," she told him.
He smiled robotically. "And prove your humanity. Besides, Nightingale, all you should do is answer their questions the way you did mine when we first met."
"What, grab the Councillors by the lapels and snarl at them?" she retorted.
He chuckled and earned a surprised look from everyone else. "That might not be wise. But be yourself, Nightingale. You were bitter when I interviewed you; don't hold that back now. Any indication that you are a person, anything, will do our cause good."
Nightingale nodded, though her mind was a million miles away. She'd realized, unfortunately, that their entire cause hinged on her - if she came off as unfeeling, it meant she and her sisters would never be free.
"What is it?" asked Robin, patting her head. "You seem troubled, Gale."
"What do you think?" she fired at him. "If I make a mess, then I'm not only hurting myself, but I'm hurting every single Inamorata on the damn continent. Of course I'm troubled."
He lifted his hands pleadingly and stepped back. "All right, then. There's no need to snap at me."
Nightingale sighed. "When will this be happening?" she asked.
"You will appear before the Council tomorrow," replied David. His words were short and clipped, and geniality that he'd had long gone now.
"Tomorrow?" she hissed.
He quirked a smile again, one so similar to Robin's that Nightingale wondered if he'd learned it from his friend. "We ought to proceed as quickly as possible. There is no point in delaying. If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well it were done quickly," he said. Nightingale smiled, too, at the Macbeth quotation, but both of their smiles vanished as he went on.
"Besides, you didn't really think I brought you out here just to shout at you, did you?" he snapped.
It must have been Robin's muted giggle, Clarence's muffled snort, or Nightingale's openly disdainful sneer that informed David that they had, in fact, thought he'd done just that. As a result, he glowered at them before continuing.
"Anyway, you'll be taken to the Capitol Building. Other than that, just follow my lead. Speak when asked questions and, most importantly, answer honestly," he said.
"The only time you'll ever be asked to honest with the government," muttered Robin. It must have been funny, for Clarence laughed, though it was too far out of Nightingale's conditioned knowledge to be amusing to her.
"It's that simple?" asked Nightingale, ignoring Robin.
"Yes," said Robin. As he said it, he meandered around Nightingale's chair so that he was standing next to it, one hand on the arm and the other on his hip. "It's so very simple. All you have to do is convince the government of something the Corporation, Starkwood, and all the other companies that thrive off your slavery have been saying is not true. It's very easy, really."
Robin's sarcasm made Nightingale smile but David glare.
"Enough, Robin," he told the gangly man.
Robin rolled his eyes. "Why on earth would I listen to you?" he said.