morning light was almost worth the rude awakening... but
only almost. After they'd packed up and gotten the horses calmed
down, checking to make sure the fire was out and buried well, it was
almost a relief to leave the clearing regardless of how tired they
felt. It was hard to deny that seeing a collection of meadows while
on horseback, alone together on a seemingly abandoned path bathed in
golden morning light, was all very... nice.
pondered to herself whether the view had been worth the bullet. Or
the hole left in the wake of it... not to mention what it was going
to take to dig the metal out. Not quite a greeting gift she'd hoped
to bring with her. She hadn't even looked at the extent of the
damage before wrapping it up. She just... couldn't.
beauty of the landscape and the quiet of the morning could only serve
so well as distractions, though. Even after the gold faded and the
warmth of the sun started to fall over them, silence hung in the air.
Rean was getting a little... tired of it. He knew she'd asked him
to trust her, and he did,
like avoidance more than anything else. That just
wasn't the general. Maybe it seemed like what she needed in that
moment, but he... really didn't think so. He didn't know how to say
it, or how she'd take it, but he did
want to help if he could. Clearing his throat, he tried to think of
a way to start--
you feel like talking, pick another topic." She stopped even
his thought process cold.
had been... odd. Not that he expected that she wouldn't know
where his thoughts were shifting to eventually, he supposed. Rakashi
was just too defensive, too eager to ignore and forget. He took a
slow, deep breath, pondering just how much courage he had in him.
Enough, he decided. "You can't keep running from it, you know." Not
that he was even sure of what he was saying, but he felt very
strongly that it needed to be said.
didn't seem to hear him, at first. A few seconds later, she pulled
her horse into a slower gait so they could be side by side as she
spoke, though she continued to look straight ahead. "I
appreciate the concern." She responded, honestly enough. "But
there's a bit more to it right now."
wasn't that he thought she was lying. She just didn't seem to be
telling the entire truth, either. Something seemed to snap
deep inside of him with that knowledge, neither a violent change nor
really all that noticeable of one... but it was there. The need to
be polite to the point of ignoring the problem, whatever it was, was
wearing thin. "You expect me to trust you. So... show me proof
that I can and tell me what's going on." Alright, so it was
sort of failed logic...
gaze remained on the path ahead, just as calm as ever--but that in
itself was almost withering. "It's not something you need to
worry about right now." She stated with absolutely no emotion.
Courage? No. Stupidity. But he
ran with it, needing to. "The fuck I
don't, Rakashi. I think this is a little my business,
silence. No eye contact. No response at all. Her traveling
companion was pretty sure he ought to be putting his hands up in
front of his face to defend himself just before she finally spoke. "You
shot me, Rean."
was a bit of a... halt, to the universe around them. He didn't.
He wouldn't have.
maybe you'll believe me when I tell you that now is not the time
to be discussing this. You are not safe, and neither are the others. I will
explain. Just not until that changes."
stomach was suddenly... not feeling so great. Nor was the rest of
to grow some balls, though." She commented offhand.
experienced his very first moment of laughing in horror. Nothing was
going to make sense for a very long time, he was sure. And yet he
still followed this woman with unquestioned loyalty, general or not.
She was interested in keeping them safe above all else... and
whatever she might be, wherever she may have been from, he could
came upon the edge of the basin shortly before noon. The land sloped
gently, meadows and forest giving way to plains of grass and
wildflowers, with a bit of sparse farmland. Rakashi couldn't be sure
that the speck she focused on in the far-off distance was Si'Terre,
but since that was what called her, that was the direction they
was a surrealness about the journey, about the mostly comfortable
silence. Rean wasn't really willing to ask any more questions after
that last one, thinking maybe the former general had a point about
not discussing it in that moment, when they were mere hours away from
meeting up with old... acquaintances. He wasn't sure at that moment
if he could use the word "friend" for Demi, and that was
was causing a bit of discomfort in the former general was how open
the landscape around them was. Granted, the towns seemed more than
far enough away, and if that was indeed the ranch they were headed
for, then they would get an excellent view all the way around
them--but in the moment, it was just a little bit nerve-wracking.
Enough to keep her going, keep them moving without stopping--though
she'd have done so if her traveling companion had requested it.
had his own reasons to keep on, though. As nervous as he was in some
ways, there was that need to know, the need to find out for
sure. It was kind of a pain in the ass. Besides, despite eating
nothing but a few forkfuls of whatever the ration pack had described
as "potatoes" the night before, he just wasn't hungry. It
was sort of nice, losing himself in the moment, in the motion of the
horse and the simple beauty of the fields they were traveling
was only when she could clearly see the details of the ranch that
Rakashi stopped. Rean stopped next to her, looking over in
over at him, her expression seemed to mirror his thoughts--though
there was a bit of a smile. "Ready?"
he wasn't sure that he actually could be. But he was inclined to
fake it. "Sure."
that was all she'd needed. With a sharp sound and a light kick to
her horse's flank, the animal started off in a trot that became a
run, shoulder be damned.
horse followed along right behind. When he saw the greeting party of
two exit the back of the farmhouse, however, he pulled the reigns a
bit to slow down. The general was more than free to greet and see if
she could have her shoulder taken care of, but he... wanted to talk
to Demi alone.
only slowed her horse within sprinting distance of the truly
relieving sight of an old friend. Sarah was upon her as soon as
she'd dismounted, embracing the other woman thoroughly--though
avoiding that shoulder. It would be taken care of, simple as that. Only
then did the blond greet simply, "Glad to see you decided
to get out for a while."
times, she could hardly believe the words that left the woman's mouth
normally, but that was enough to get an exhausted but good-natured
chuckle. "Yeah, well. It was time."
a nod, Sarah took the reigns in one hand and her friend's good
shoulder in the other. Let's get that fixed up. Then I'll perform a
miracle and cook!"
former general spared a glance back at Rean before she let herself be
pulled away--and got a nod from him. If he was alright, hopefully
ready to work things out, then she could let herself be tended to.
watched her go, could distantly hear Sarah's voice chastizing... but
in that moment, it just wasn't as funny as it should be. Of course,
neither was the fact that he was still terrified of dismounting without
her there to make sure the horse didn't lose interest and
start wandering off in the middle of it...
wasn't really so strange when Demi took the duty upon himself without
a word, taking hold of the bridle just to make sure the horse didn't
move. The brunet was silent as he managed to get to the ground
without any major faults, letting the older man take the reigns.
was a long, quiet look between two people who didn't know where they
stood anymore. Or even whether they were still friends.
kickin', huh?" Demi attempted, the silence having gotten to him.
too." Rean observed, still a little too uncomfortable to be
overly friendly. It seemed like they hadn't seen each other in
anything to add at the moment (very unusual, even under the
circumstances), the raven-haired man turned and started walking the
horse to the small stable. He had no doubt that Sarah had made quick
work of the other horse to give them a little time alone, but... if
there didn't seem to be anything to talk about, then it really
didn't matter. It was too uncomfortable to be silent, though. Much
too unlike him. So, he started with the only thing that he knew for
sure would get him a response--even if that may have been a broken
nose. "So... you two..?"
it, Demi." Came instantly and naturally.
got a laugh, at least. "Hey, so long as you two are still sort
of friendly, at least. That's all I wanted to make sure of."
he was pretty certain that wasn't just an offhand comment. Having
found out a bit about what the man was actually doing in the
Tower, Rean couldn't help but believe with certainty that he and the
general had been shoved together with a purpose in mind. "Why?"
his head, the former captain's laugh was fleeting. "You two...
I don't know. I just sort of saw it working, I guess." Entering the
stable, sure enough Rakashi's horse was already enjoying
some food and a bit of well-deserved rest, but the women were nowhere
to be seen. All the better; if the two of them had followed the
clues, then Andrew had spoken to them... and they knew. Demi also
had some truths to tell. "I wanted to get closer to her from
the beginning, actually... but she already knew me as an officer. So
I couldn't be trusted. Andrew managed to come the closest, acting as
a janitor, so... he kind of reported to me."
and making sense of that information was surprisingly difficult. "You
set us up." The words fell just short of accusing. The why of
it still didn't make any sense, the reasoning
behind it all...
tried." Demi admitted, walking the horse into a stall and
starting to get the saddle off. "For both of your sakes. I
stupidly thought that maybe you could manage to protect each other. I
was losing hold... being moved further away by the Control Room."
really hadn't known what to expect... didn't know what he expected to
find. A man with a completely different personality, maybe. Someone
totally different, living a complete lie where he just played them
like pawns. What Rean found was his friend sounding completely,
painfully honest. As though very little had changed, even if
everything seemed scattered and different. He remembered back to
Rakashi's truth-telling, how she'd said only this man had managed to
keep him from the fate of most orphans within military reach... "You're
responsible for... keeping us both safe?"
as he removed and hung the bridle, it almost seemed like a loaded
question. "Just a little while after the whole... thing
that brought the general into being, I guess, Andrew and I... sort of
discovered that we were the only two people who seemed to give a damn
about her. And, well, Sarah; but she was always innocent, and
we wanted to keep her that way as badly as Rakashi did. And you
just... well, you're my friend." He grinned a little.
supposed that made as much sense as the man normally did. Even so, a
long silence fell as Demi gave the horse some food and closed the
stall door. It must have been the older man's presence that drove
him to such lunacy. "Did you know..? About them?"
was the brunet's hushed tone that made him follow the question's
meaning, chuckling. "Rakashi and Sarah? Not until we got here,
does she know about..?" he'd started to ask long before he had
any idea about what he was saying.
words prompted an all too familiar devious grin. "Does she know
about what, kid?"
decided that not answering at all was the only way he could escape
that question, though probably not any teasing. Besides, it seemed
to provide the perfect time to ask what had been on his mind for far
too long. "So... who are you?"
question seemed legitimately shocking. "I'm... I'm me,
Rean. I'm who I always was."
you're not." The words were more matter-of-fact than accusing. "Not
exactly. Not after... all this."
sighed painfully. I am. None of it was ever faked.
There were some things I couldn't say, yeah, but..." He stopped
himself before emotion took his voice, unsure of how he could
possibly convince Rean. "Look, I was... obviously never really
a captain. Staying in the cafeteria gave me all of the rumors about
Rakashi that I needed, to know what was going on around her. I even
started some, when I needed to."
bit of information that the younger man tried to reconcile--but then
the idea that Demi had been controlling the flood of rumors wasn't
really in the least bit surprising. "I knew it couldn't have
been for the food." He offered just a little humor, maybe a bit
of hope. "Andrew said you were... something like a
was a soft snort. "Yeah, well, not officially. I was..." He trailed off
and laughed a little--though it had an air of
bitterness that was decidedly not exactly part of the man that
the brunet had come to know. "I don't know what I was,
actually. A low-level tech with no future, no prospects." There was a
pause when he tried to pick his words carefully. "I
was an orphan, too, Rean. If I hadn't been at the wrong place at the
wrong time, I would have been just another pawn, moved around by some
asshole at the top."
hadn't even considered that, of course. The man never spoke of
family... and Rean had just assumed it was to keep him from thinking
about the lack of his own, or maybe they were all damn nuts. Rakashi's
words from what seemed like so long ago just echoed. "Why
wasn't I a pawn, too?"
you listening, kid?" Demi teased. "I made the bad mistake
of getting to know you. Same thing happened with the general in a
way, I guess. Chalk it up to being old enough to know better but not
giving a damn."
that was interesting. "How old are you?"
"Thirty-one." He offered without
blinked. All the pranks... the jokes... acting like a moron... "That
doesn't explain anything."
it was, Demi's real laugh. "C'mon, kid. I'll get you
set up with a good meal, then we can shoot the shit and feel really
had never been trained as a nurse, but she seemed to have acquired
the profession by necessity and instinct. The general certainly
didn't trust any of the medics, avoiding them at all costs not only
out of distrust but for the way they fawned over her in a sickeningly
false way. At least her field secretary would tell her what looked
like hell and what didn't.
holes weren't such a new thing. They'd been rare and most often came
with an exit wound, but after the woman had seen it done once, she'd
gotten a decent enough idea of what to do... and Rakashi's pain
tolerance. Sarah appraised the wound in the well-lit room, moving a
couple of lamps around to make it easier.
the former general finally invited assessment.
too bad." The blond assured. "It's actually sort of a
little too perfect."
forced herself not to cringe. Too perfect... no bone splinters, no
permanent damage done as far as could be told in the moment... just a
"warning shot". As she suspected. That didn't really set
her mind at ease in the least. "Well then."
hint was taken in stride, a bit of that gift of Cure-All working to
sterilize everything nicely. She paused when she heard the sharp,
indrawn breath, then the hissing release... only to pour more of the
alcohol over the wound. The instruments she was to use on the wound
soaking in a pan of Cure-All already, all that was left was to douse
her hands and start. A little conversation as distraction seemed
like it may be welcome, though. "And how did you get this?"
knowing that question was coming, it caused another sharp breath.
Rakashi stared at a point in the wall, just trying to breathe evenly
as the wound was lightly prodded at. "I'm not really up to
telling anyone about that yet."
chuckled softly, though her hands were perfectly steady. She didn't
have standard medical forceps, but she would make do with kitchen
instruments and gunsmith tools. "A secret, then?"
now." She responded, gritting her teeth as she felt cool
metal--then tried to focus right back on that wall. Or at least...
on something else. A question that was not a question. "So you
response was given for quite a length of time as the blond very
carefully opened that entrance hole enough to have a clear view of
the bullet. Yeah it was going to hurt like a bitch, but she could at
least be mercifully quick. "Well, I always knew you were
different." She offered, switching tools.
the middle of getting metal dug out of her flesh by a former lover,
perhaps Rakashi should not have been so surprised to have been made
to laugh. "That's putting it a little lightly."
it's true." Sarah didn't quite argue. "Alright, here
comes the hard part."
of her tensed up, certainly. But not her shoulder. After a deep
breath, she forced her body under control, preparing for that
pain. And much as she appreciated the other woman moving quickly,
grasping that bullet and getting it the hell out of there, she
couldn't quite remain silent. It really fucking hurt,
a damn lot more than getting shot.
General." The bottle of Cure-All was offered for its intended
matter how much Rakashi willed herself to laugh, she couldn't manage
it. She did, however, grasp the still-heavy bottle with an unsteady
hand, taking a large, burning gulp of the swill before handing it
accepted with a small sound of thanks, dropping the bullet into the
pan and setting out to dump more alcohol over the wound. That
hiss was peppered with astonishingly creative curses. "Ah, just
like the field."
again, as much as the former general willed herself to laugh,
she couldn't quite actually get to the point of doing so. Not that
it mattered; the blond's presence and bedside manner were still
appreciated. "You've been... doing well, here?"
worried about someone else, aren't you?" the woman teased,
taking another look at the wound to make sure it was clean. Rakashi
always had managed to heal faster than anyone she'd ever seen... and
she supposed she finally had sort of an explanation as to why. "I've
been well. I enjoy it here. And it's nice to have entertainment."
least a weak, breathy chuckle came of that. "I hope my
entertainment is making up with your entertainment right now." She
hadn't heard yelling, at least.
that left her wide open for attack as Sarah started to get that wound
ready to wrap. Medical instruments she had none of, but the Captain
had brought along enough bandages and First Aid kits to make her
suspicious of how much the military hid away without telling anyone.
"So Demi tells me that Rean may have a thing for you."
was a more direct attack than the bullet had been. "Cliche,
say the same for you, General." She teased, plenty of
antiseptic gel everywhere--and then the padding and wrapping
could begin. "You look well, but I can tell you haven't
eaten for a while." The woman kindly changed the subject.
you remember what rations were like." Rakashi was amazingly
grateful for the change in conversation.
"Unfortunately." The blond
agreed. "But there's real food here. We're on a
working ranch not too far from a real town, so... all the
standards. Too tight?"
fine." She assured as Sarah secured the end of the bandage. "Since when
have you even been in a kitchen?"
"I'm learning." The woman
couldn't really help the laugh that time. "Alright, alright. But I'm
not eating until everyone else has had a bite." At
least Sarah struck her good shoulder.
what they'd thought was a "little farm house", it was
actually quite impressive. Not that there was a tour to speak of,
but just stepping inside made the two-story house feel quite a bit
roomier. The kitchen itself was surprisingly large, and yet somehow
managed to maintain a "cozy" feel even though there were
plenty of cabinets and appliances.
of which were particularly worrisome if only because letting Sarah
anywhere near food preparation seemed like a bad idea on the whole. It
had been tried a couple of times, but... everyone knew better
after that. Everyone.
some real food, Rakashi." Sarah invited, leading the other
woman over to the large, simple wood dinner table at one end of the
kitchen. "I'm sure it's been a while."
it might be a while longer..." she joked quietly, sitting across
from Rean and to the right of Demi. Well, the two of them seemed to
have worked something out, at least. Her attention turned back to
her old friend. "Since when have you known what a kitchen was,
pointed accusingly at the former captain. "He taught
eyes on Demi, the good-natured man shrugged. "Nobody ever asked
if I could cook."
was once again fascinated by what he hadn't known about his friend. "I
always thought that was why you were in the cafeteria all the
not. I mean, it was a perk." The man admitted. "But
those ladies are mean."
had to chuckle at that. Even so... there were some more serious
words to be had while the blond was getting food together. "Why
were you so sure that I wasn't coming to find you for vengeance?"
wasn't." Demi answered simply. "Couldn't have been. But,
well... I was hoping it was enough of a gesture to get Sarah before I
took off. And to keep you and Rean together with a bit of distance
and a few traveling complications to keep you from being found."
that was... interesting. "All in good faith?"
to save my ass, sure." Demi admitted, grinning. "But...
yeah. There are a few people who give a fuck about what
happened to you, you know."
"You and Andrew, to start." It
wasn't a question, but wasn't quite
an accusation. All in all, they were words spoken so Rakashi could
judge his reaction.
And that was plain
nervousness. He didn't know what had happened to Andrew, hadn't
asked... and was suddenly a little afraid to. "Yeah, actually."
what could have been an even more uncomfortable situation by placing
a plate of venison and fresh vegetables in front of the former
general. "Don't waste any time, do you?"
could afford to." She agreed, though the amused smile was
genuine. After the rest of the plates were placed on the table, the
blond sitting to her left, she switched subjects just a bit
dramatically. "So, as far as anyone knows,
I'm the only one who's not human in these parts, hm?"
was definitely not ready for any of this conversation. But he was
damn well starving and the food smelled good. They were in a house,
with food, and around
a table just eating and talking without being in a cafeteria. He was
going to take it as it came and try
to enjoy every second... even if his stomach wasn't quite agreeing.
But that question
seemed a bit concerning for Demi. "Yeah..."
Rakashi seemed in
no rush to continue, picking up her knife and fork so that she could
take a bite of that meat. Quite pleasant, to her surprise, tender
and spiced just right. It seemed difficult for venison. "I
seem to have reason to believe there's... another. Different, but
There was a bit of
heavy silence in the room, save for that knife against the plate as
she went for another bite. The point finally seemed to sink into the
former captain's brain. "I don't know anything about that. I
don't even see how it would be possible. Not after talking to
Yes, she could see
concern there. She'd had her own, of course. It didn't keep her
from enjoying her meal.
was used to this behavior, however. As a general, Rakashi had
managed to break a great many people by discussing some interesting
horrors over food. They'd started betting on it beforehand, in fact. In
this case, she
felt it important to try and lessen
the impact of the other woman's words. "Venison not your
Having become the
sudden center of attention, it took him a few seconds to understand
that he should respond. "Oh, no. No, it's fine. Good. It's
Demi gave a
half-hearted grin at the poor boy before delving into another
subject. "Speaking of Andrew... how is he? Or should I not
safe." Rakashi responded honestly. "At least he was when
I left him."
It seemed a little
early for a sigh of relief, but the raven-haired man was pretty damn
sure "safe" didn't mean "dead". Close enough,
anyway. "So he told you... everything."
"He had his
confessions." She confirmed, moving onto the vegetables. Crisp, lightly
seasoned; very good. She wasn't sure if she believed
it was entirely Sarah's work.
With a sigh, Demi
didn't shy away from admitting, "It was a... terrible thing to
have done. In every possible way. He wasn't directly responsible,
but he wanted to take responsibility for everything..." Shaking
his head, there was just nowhere to go with that thought. "I
didn't really grasp the... horror of it, at first. Not until I saw
how much his part in everything tortured him."
Rakashi had seen
that, certainly. "He seemed legitimately regretful."
The former captain
wasn't quite certain he'd wanted to voice the question, but
they'd already gone so far... "Is that why you let him live?"
There was a
thoughtful pause on her part before making eye contact. "No." Short,
simple, very much to the point... but leaving larger
questions unanswered. Then kindly destroying the conversation
altogether. "Considering this woman hasn't cooked a day in her
life and this meal was a lot of work, I'd think you'd all be more
grateful and eat."
slightly as she smiled, taking that as order enough to pick up her
fork. There were a lot of deeply serious things to discuss, no
doubt... but for the moment, ignoring them in favor of a meal was
much too tempting.
Demi didn't seem
willing to argue in the least. For once, not talking seemed
like it was completely necessary. Besides, Rakashi had managed to
somewhat effectively shatter the tension.
Which may have
been why Rean was slow to start eating again. He looked across the
table at the former general, knowing more than he had before, but...
so many things remained silent. Life had changed so
dramatically, and he knew that it would change again, soon.
But then, as he automatically moved to divert Demi's fork away from
his plate with his own utensil, he supposed some things remained
absolutely the same. There was something reassuring about Rakashi's
snort of amusement... and it was enough to unclench his stomach
enough to be hungry.
Sarah spoke up several minutes later, as if a conversation had been
going the whole time, "There's dessert."
"Who made the
dessert?" Rakashi teased recklessly, having already cleaned her
did." The woman insisted with a pretended huff. "Well, he
true." Demi confirmed, managing to finish his meal and stand
up to take the empty plates to the sink. "Who's for pie?"
"Tell me you
have coffee with that..." the former general sounded
"Of course! We're not uncivilized
out here." Sarah confirmed with a little
laugh. "Though I know I could never make your coffee right."
started as those gold-flecked eyes turned to him. This was already
so surreal, to be eating real food with everyone out on a ranch, but
to be called to his assistant duties all of a sudden... Well, no
reason to back away from that challenge. Standing for the moment, he
asked quietly, "Where do you keep the coffee?"
Demi took him on a
quick tour of the cabinets while Sarah was busy grinning at her old
friend. Rakashi pretended not to notice as well as she could. "So
what is this dessert you speak of?"
old-fashioned country apple pie." The blond boasted proudly.
Alright, so Rean
found his stomach very interested all of a sudden. Starting
the coffee maker, it would be only polite to sit back down and
finish his vegetables... or make the attempt, at least. When the
former captain started serving large slices of pie that looked and smelled
like the real thing rather than the cafeteria's
idea of what pie should be, he didn't feel too bad about leaving most
of the green things untouched.
"The hell you
gonna get your vitamins from, kid?" Demi teased.
"Pie." He didn't miss a beat,
getting another couple of amused snorts.
the coffee maker made that godawful slurping noise that signaled it
was done, Rakashi was on her feet and at the machine. It had
been a while. Far, far too long. It wasn't going to help her
shoulder ache any, but at that moment she just didn't care.
Sitting back down with a mug of delicious black abyss, that slice of
pie took a very important secondary position in her current
worldview. It didn't matter who made it or how--the first bite told
her that the crust was flaky, the apples were firm and the cinnamon
sugar glaze they were bathed in was absolutely perfect.
near-silence followed when the lot of them were just... enjoying
something so ludicrously simple, but it made all the difference in
the world. Simple pleasures indeed. Something to enjoy to the
absolute fullest, to just sit there afterward and reflect upon the
nature of pie...
Until Rakashi did
the unthinkable. The one thing she hadn't expected, something that
had managed to sneak up on her suddenly--she covered her mouth with
her hand and yawned.
I've seen a miracle." Sarah teased.
"It's been a
long journey." The former general defended.
"Yeah." Demi agreed, stretching
his arms above his head. "And you two
have a nice, big bed."
Rakashi and Rean
both gave the man a murderous look, and for once he actually
considered apologizing. The thought was fleeting at best, however.
the rest of the 'serious stuff' tomorrow, hm?" Sarah merely
suggested, standing to clear the table.
Rean cringed a
little with that idea. He definitely wasn't looking forward to more
conversation like that... but commenting wouldn't have done any good.
Instead, he stood to help with the dishes, thinking it was the least
he could do.
together", Rakashi gave Demi a long, accusing look. "One
He grinned without
shame, shrugging. "Yep."
There was another
careful silence. "Did it ever strike you that you assumed too
"Nope." He chuckled.
guest room was upstairs and on the other side of the house from the
other two bedrooms. Rean did not question why the two of them
couldn't share a room instead; but he did come up with various plans
about how to wake his "friend" as rudely as possible.
weird thing, a really odd and unexpected bit of information, was how
strange it didn't feel. Of course they'd shared one bed
during their travel, but it was always kind of... well, frightening
in one way or another. At least, to Rean. There were things
encountered within the last few hours that were a hell of a lot
scarier, though--and it wasn't until that moment that he recalled one
in particular. She and that man who wasn't a man... were supposed to
meet up, alone... and he got the feeling from watching her stare out
the window that she'd prefer to do that sooner rather than later.
"Don't go out there, Rakashi."
looked back at him quickly, surprised at his words and hardly having
been aware that he was in the room at all. There wasn't a verbal
response; just a considering look with eyes that really did almost
seemed to glow gold in the dim light.
for now." He added, sheepish and a bit embarrassed under her
gaze. He didn't exactly have a right to ask something like that.
Particularly because he could see that she was thinking about
it, torn on the subject.
she walked over to the bed and sat. "I'll have to go out there
sometime, you know." Sometime soon, her eyes said.
sooner than Rean was ready for. "I know." He admitted. "But... not yet."
was a quiet, amused sound in response. She was leading him on, for
sure. Though he and even Demi seemed to know that this was temporary
at best. Even so... well. "Are you cold tonight, Mr. Coi?" And she did
try not to grin at the blush she got in response.
really, no." He managed. "So you can take all of the
was bizarrely charming, in its own distinctively weird way. It was
just a situation open to so many other teases... but at the
moment, maybe rest really was more important. "Don't mind if I
out of the house, and even out of bed, unnoticed, was easy. It'd
been a while since she had to work with creaky wood floors, but she
remembered exactly how to rock on her feet and position her weight to
lessen the noise.
was not that quick and simple a task to get past the livestock
unannounced, however. She had to slowly make her way around the
house and go the way of the crops, instead, almost unconsciously
trying not to leave any incriminating footprints behind in the dirt.
Even as she left the shadow of the farmhouse for the glow of
moonlight and stars, she knew she was being watched. Certainly that
not-man was following her lead, not approaching by way of the animals
so he wouldn't startle them and make his presence obvious. Small
favors, she supposed.
wasn't until she was almost past the orchard when she stopped and
looked up at the moon. Yes, this place was as good as any. It
hadn't felt right to leave the others behind, in some ways... but
these were things she needed to know, and she wanted to keep
the others out of danger. This was certainly no guarantee that the
promise would be kept, unfortunately.
sound of a branch snapping attracted her attention immediately, and
she sank down quickly to wait in a crouch. It could have been any
number of predators or people... but she knew better by the twist in
of you to make it, Rakashi." That strange voice almost managed
to be pleasant. "Sit, won't you?"
watched as he made a move to sit first, just right there amongst the
dirt and the rocks. She also noticed the bullet holes in his
clothing, bloodstains spattered around them, but no indication of the
wounds themselves. Sitting with a deliberate distance, close enough
to reach out and kick but no closer, she asked the very first thing
on her mind. "What was that? Earlier?"
laughed quietly, the sound obviously unpleasant to her. "With
the boy, you mean? Ah, he saw the wrongness in you."
saw whatever you made him see." She did attempt not to
hiss... but she didn't really worry about succeeding.
boy saw the monster in you." The not-man corrected, grinning. "Not to
worry, you'll soon see it yourself, if you'd like. The
truth, total and complete."
about you?" Rakashi was not in the least bit ready to
agree to anything yet. "I've been told how I got
have you now." That chuckle was far less pleasant. "Yes,
well... your passage was forced. Unnatural. Mine was in the natural
flow of things, but... alas, I arrived incomplete."
just stared at him for a long time. "I don't understand--"
will. If you want to remember."
was another long pause, trying to pick apart what she knew about him.
"This body, then... what is this body?"
I don't know." He admitted, looking down at his own. "Yours
is... complete. Mine lacks bits of physical sensation, like pain."
still that only explained so much. Rakashi scoffed. "So you
only have so many answers."
have the ones you seek." The not-man assured.
laughter became much harder to tolerate, scratching and unstable. "Ah,
what a question. No, Rakashi. We are kin, you and I. I
owe you this much."
eyes narrowed even as she felt her stomach tighten considerably. "You
can't possibly just be here to 'help me'."
this is not a help in any way." He assured, grin turning
a bit vicious. "This is the truth. Like that reaction of
yours. Like how even your body can sense the wrongness in me... that
reflects the wrongness that's been hidden away in you."
felt so cold. She was a little afraid that lovely dinner from
earlier in the evening was going to be wasted on the ground, but she
managed to hold on.
debt is paid by knowing the truth." The not-man
that's where you come in." Sharp, accusing.
voice didn't change. "It can be. If you want to remember."
of her didn't want to know, didn't think this was worth it... but
something far deeper had a desperate need to know the truth.
She'd always healed faster, always had an instinct that others seemed
to lack, could cause instantaneous reactions in people--mostly
getting them to not like her in the least very quickly. "You
will leave them out of this." She growled, quietly. "You
will never be in contact with any of them under any circumstances. You
will never try to seek them out or contact them in any way--"
is my word, Rakashi." He promised, far too honest and far too
calm. "I have no desire to harm that little... family of
most things, she did not trust him. At most times, she wouldn't have
trusted a single word he said, at all. There was some... deeper
instinct, though. Something reaching out, absolutely sure that what
it sought was right there in front of her, just waiting...
jumped a bit at the first cool raindrop as it hit her arm. Surprising,
how suddenly that storm had come in, covering the sky
without being noticed. The drops came faster very quickly, bathing
her in the scent and feel of rain... something that both stung and
felt incredible. "Kin." She spoke quietly. "Is
that really what we are?"
was a very strange smile there. Unsettling. His voice was suddenly
far more gentle than it had ever been. "Let me, Rakashi."
swallowed and looked at the man-thing again for a long while. Leaning
forward at first, she then backed away and simply considered again.
having come to a decision, she moved to get
legs underneath her.
took that as enough of a sign. With ease, he darted forward before
she could so much as register the motion, placing his palms against
was a brilliantly painful taste of eternity.
Rean waited on the porch by the back door, he heard the animals,
first. Bothered by something, calling out, moving around--and then
he saw a distinct figure moving toward him in the rain. Pistol in
hand, he wasn't exactly surprised to see that strange man--but he was
completely taken aback by Rakashi's limp body draped in his arms. He
stood up and ran toward them, mindless of the rain, gun in both hands
as soon as he'd come to a stop. "What happened?!"
the moment, I am not your enemy." The not-man told him slowly. "But
when she wakes up... you may be hers. She
has not come back to you the same."
shivered with the words rather than the cold rain. He dropped the
pistol's aim in favor of taking Rakashi for himself, barely able to
find his voice again when she felt so... cold. "What happened?"
he repeated, venom having almost faded.
knows what she wanted to know." He responded simply, turning
and disappearing back from wherever he came. The further he went,
the calmer the animals became, until it was like he'd never been
there at all.