three days. Not moving, breathing shallowly. If she dreamed,
there was no motion to her closed eyes. She didn't respond to sound
or touch. Not Rean's quiet, pleading mantra telling her to wake up. Not
Sarah's forced laughter or uncharacteristic sighs. Not Demi's
rare tone of frustration.
afternoon of the second day, Sarah ventured to the nearest down to
send a message to Andrew. Even if he was unable to help... well, the
thought hadn't really gone beyond that.
happened?" Rean was asked, again and again. He didn't know, and
he couldn't explain. Really, they knew that... they just couldn't
help but ask.
night of the third day, they were sitting at the kitchen table in
silence. That was what made the purely animal sound and crashing of
furniture truly strike the depths of their souls; whoever was in that
room was most certainly awake. But whether or not it was Rakashi...
slept that night. Or ate. They took silent watches outside of her
door and window, but she never did emerge. The wails of what could
only be described as anger and agony continued on for hours, as did
the destruction. Until there was nothing left to destroy, they
she did not emerge. Rean had the stomach-churning honor of hearing
the moment she stopped raging at random objects and broke down and
sobbed in a purely human sound of absolute suffering. He sat against
the door and fought similar tears. Something awful had come from the
knowledge she sought.
worse, maybe. That knowledge could simply be that something
morning of the fourth day, the worry was sinking in bone-deep. Rean
was still numb and untalkative as he sat up against the door, but
then none of them were up for much of a conversation. The sobs
inside the room behind him had died down just after dawn, but he
still felt them sticking to his skin. He wanted to open the
door, wanted so badly to open the door...
wasn't until evening started to fall that Demi walked by, shook his
head and sat beside his friend. There no longer seemed to be
anything carefree or jovial about the man--his face was tired. Older
than it ought to have been.
want to go in." Rean spoke up quietly.
a stupid idea, kid."
sighed into his hand as he tried to come up with... anything. Words.
Ideas. Something that might pass for wisdom. "Something
happened out there. We can't exactly be sure that she's still...
know." The brunet countered, voice quiet but sure. "I
have to find out. I can't not know."
former captain's stony conviction wasn't really something that his
friend was used to; at least, not in serious situations. "You
could wind up hating her." He suggested, not sure why he hadn't
said, She could wind up killing you. He was pretty sure he
ought to be taking hold of the kid's collar and shaking him,
demanding to know why he was acting like such a suicidal idiot. He
supposed he sort of knew the answer to that, anyway.
could." Rean agreed calmly. "I have to know, one way or
another. I can't just sit out here and... wait."
don't have the training to defend yourself." Demi tried another
knows that." The brunet insisted, avoiding eye contact.
to know that." His friend countered. "What's in there--"
still Rakashi." It took Rean a little too much effort to keep
his voice down.
the hell can you know that?" There was no venom in Demi's tone,
but there was certainly steel in it.
still here, isn't she?"
wasn't as though there'd been agreement. Nothing close. But the
raven-haired man just sighed, putting his hand on his friend's
shoulder. No words seemed appropriate, so he didn't offer any. Just
a quick glance before he stood up and walked back downstairs.
was enough. Rean took a few seconds to gather himself to stand, legs
aching, back popping. He couldn't let himself think
before reached for the doorknob, turning it slowly, quietly, and
stepping inside. While he closed the door behind himself, he didn't
lock it. No need, he supposed... even though he could see the
destruction in the morning light streaming through the eerily
curtain-less window. Scattered from wall to wall, across every inch
of space, furniture torn to splinters, fabric reduced to threads,
lamps and little comforts shattered. Parts of the walls had been
torn open. The window glass had cracked,
but not broken. The thick scent of settling dust and dried, broken
wood was just mild enough to fall short of irritating his sinuses.
Sitting in the middle of it all and turned away...
swallowed and took a slow, deep breath. "Rakashi?"
Nothing. Not even the sound of
breathing. No flinching, not so much as an
unconscious acknowledgment that he'd been heard. He waited. He was
already prepared to wait four more days, if he had to.
she spoke after several minutes, her voice thick, raspy, sounding
vaguely of sleep and undefinable emotion. "That's... your name,
isn't it? Rean?"
teeth clenched, body aching all the more. "Yes..."
nodded shakily, still facing away from him. "There are
others..? Two others?"
thought that maybe he finally knew what poets talked about when they
spoke of an ache that nothing could lessen. "Yeah. Demi and
long, drifting silence. "It's... hard to remember where...
things begin and end. Time... got damaged..."
didn't even understand why tears stung in his eyes. Her voice made
her sound so lost,
the words not helping...and there was such a terrifyingly empty
feeling to it all. He tried not to let his voice shake, staying as
strong as he could possibly manage. "I... could I come closer,
"No." She whispered instantly,
sounding weak and hurt and so very much not
herself. "I might... I don't know if I can... I might try to
hurt... or kill... everything..."
not afraid." He responded, wiping his eyes almost shamefully. "I'm not
afraid of you. If you wind up killing me, then... at
least it was you, right?" He couldn't quite manage to keep
voice steady with those words, but he continued regardless. "I'd
be... okay with that."
curled in on herself, shaking pitifully. "No." She
repeated a few times, seemingly unaware of Rean's slow steps toward
her. "Nothing else... should be damaged. Not anymore..."
didn't care. It was too much not
to be at her side, to attempt
some comfort. Fuck the consequences; he knelt and embraced her,
disturbed more by the fact that she didn't
fight him in the least.
all gone." She whispered, too tired to cry and too worn down to
do anything more than whisper.
he had absolutely no idea what she was referring to, but... he could
relate in some way. Something stronger than words, than conversation
or even instinct, had been passed from her... and it just ached.
Everything ached. He wished there were enough platitudes in all the
world to heal it... not that he had the power to speak any of them in
cautiously, silently opened the door an hour or so later, not so much
concerned by the silence as he was by the sheer amount of time there
had been no movement. He saw two forms curled up together
amidst the staggering
debris--both still breathing, by the look of it. It wasn't... as
comforting of a picture as he was hoping to find, leaving him
standing there with absolutely no idea of what to do next.
"Demi." Came Rean's whisper,
cautious and trying not to wake Rakashi. Though, with all that had gone
on, he doubted that he should be
worried. She was just too tired in too many ways to bother.
raven-haired man really wasn't sure if he ought to enter that room. He
couldn't quite put his finger on it, but everything just felt... different. As if something had changed
dramatically, grown... dimmer. He shook
his head and tried to banish such a ridiculous notion. Carefully, he
moved around the wreckage as silently as he could to kneel beside his
friend. If he really was forced to acknowledge the situation, he'd
have to admit that being around Rakashi in that moment, even
sleeping, made him incredibly nervous. Even so, just being there
seemed to be the important part. His voice was quiet, keeping a calm
that he didn't entirely feel. "What's going on, kid?"
his head lightly, not even remotely certain of how to respond.
"Blankets... could you bring some blankets?"
gave him a speculative look. "You sure it's best for you to
"Yeah." Rean's voice was just as
rough as Rakashi's had been. "I
just... have to be here."
again he found himself sighing. "And you call me an idiot."
woke in a curl of blankets in the dark of night, body jerking away
from the warm thing that had moved
behind her. Her body felt drained of all life, completely unable to
defend herself from whatever it was--
Rakashi." Rean was careful to keep his voice soft and calm even
though he was still only half-conscious. He didn't move to pull her
back, but reached to place a hand on her shoulder to let her know he
was really there. There just... didn't seem to be any more that he
shivered, trying to figure out if she were awake or dreaming. Or if
it even mattered. Her dreams had been memories... but they were
mixed between worlds and warped, cut apart, scattered like puzzle
pieces. Things... weren't right. She very much doubted that they
would ever be right again, or make sense. All things, all places,
all experiences, had been thrown asunder. Even so, as she let her
eyes scan the room, she remembered. "Guess I really tore this place up,
couldn't help but be glad to hear Rakashi
again... even if she sounded strained, hurt. She sounded like herself,
though. Of course, she also made it sound like she could see in
near-total darkness... "Can you see it?"
she pulled her knees in closer. "I've always been able to, a
little... but more, now."
was a long silence as Rean sat up and scooted to sit closer. The air
was heavy with questions left unasked--though they all boiled down to
one. "He just... left." He spoke of an entirely different
line of thought, one that even managed to surprise him. "Just
handed you over to me and... left."
good." She responded, distantly. "He kept his word."
again as he fought the urge to speak platitudes or wrap his arms
around her as if that would make everything better. What an idiot he
was. A fact made especially clear when he finally gave voice to all
of those questions, asking simply, 'What happened?"
responded without anger or annoyance--without emotion. "He made me remember... who I was...
where I came from..."
throat was dry with possibilities. "So, I guess... you'll be
trying to get back there, huh?"
took a couple of seconds to compose herself enough to answer. "It's
gone." Her tone fell into a numbness, as if discussing
something purely dull and ridiculously hard to understand. "Family,
friends, the world they existed in... are gone. This body isn't
mine. The strange man's name is Arabis. He's under the impression
that he came here 'naturally'. No one winds up here
head was spinning a bit from all of the not-quite-information. There
was too much
to ask, to actually be able to pick another single question--
interrupted with an off-hand thought, spoken. "Two lifetimes,
in a sense..." Her laugh was too fake, too empty. "Yeah. Great. I'm a
fucking cat. Third time's a charm, or so I hear."
really wanted to prove that, suddenly. "Let's... start off with
some more sleep, first. Okay?"
eyes glowed a soft gold in the dark as they focused right on him...
but her stare wasn't disapproving. Morning, then. She could attempt
to start this "new life" in the morning. He didn't ask and
she didn't invite him; staying beside her was implied.
completely motionless silence. It was approaching late morning, and
both Demi and Sarah had given up on the idea that they'd be getting
any clue as to what was going on that day. They certainly
didn't expect the formerly absent sleep-disheveled pair to emerge
from the closed room and head directly for the kitchen table.
surreal. Too mundane in the absolutely insane they'd been
living in for days.
a few tries. A few breaths to really get it started. A little
strange at first, considering the subject matter... but nothing could
stop Demi's laughter once it started, even if it did take a little
more effort than usual.
arrivals stared at one another from across the table for a moment
before Rean finally decided familiarity was a decent thing. "Shut
course, that only managed to make the man laugh harder and far more
naturally. He was glad for it, though. It was a... hopeful thing.
finally caught her breath from the unexpected entrance and cleared
her throat, approaching Rakashi slowly. She didn't want to give a
single reason for fear or distrust, certain that her friend had
enough on her mind. "Does this mean you'd like breakfast,
brutal honesty, she wasn't sure that she could ever be hungry again.
Her stomach was protesting the very idea of food, but her body... she
couldn't let herself be physically weak. Not when she had no idea
what was to happen next. Rakashi spoke slowly, quietly, as if unused
to her own voice. "Yeah. Sure. I guess that would be a...
other woman took her leave, perfectly satisfied to distract herself
by making food enough for all of them. No one had eaten well for
quite some time.
usual, it was Demi to make the first violent stab at real
conversation--despite the blank stare from Rean. "How are you
looked genuinely surprised to be asked, though the answer came long
before she had a chance to think it over. "Every instinct in me
is telling me to kill everything."
was a pause after that confession when even the former captain had
absolutely no response. It proved to be a small obstacle at best.
"That's just pre-coffee speak."
the attempt to smile, even if it did turn out weak. They didn't fear
her... at least not to the extent of hate. Not yet. They had no
will to hurt her. Not like... shredded, half-dreamed memories... She
shook her head, trying to physically banish the thoughts.
the war over, General?" Sarah asked over a bowl of beaten eggs.
nonsensical question, perhaps... but one she found herself answering.
"I'm not sure something like that ever ends. It seems a...
constant fact of existence."
deep. Way too deep. Demi stood to get her some coffee himself.
there's no peace even where you're from..." Sarah's voice was a
whisper, a bit disappointed with that idea.
is no utopia." Rakashi responded almost matter-of-factly. "The
mistake seems to be in thinking there is a greater good."
no one else was going to ask, then Rean supposed he may as well. "So...
world destroyed." She answered distantly, nodding her thanks to
Demi for setting a mug of extremely strong coffee in front of her.
"Nothing out of the ordinary, honestly. Except that it was mine
former captain took note of the humor that was trying very hard to
settle back inside of Rakashi as she spoke, trying to get used to
being there again. He'd had an idea that if she ever remembered
where she came from, and specifically how she came to be dragged away
from there, it would be hard to adjust to put things lightly. He
wanted to know more, they all did... but he wanted to keep her
somewhat stable, as well. It felt best to keep her talking. "Destroyed
first sip of coffee was... nice. Grounding. Even if it was apparent
that Rean had nothing to do with it, not that she minded the extra
strong bitterness considering the subject matter. "Revolution. An error
in programming. Some cock-sure deity with too much time on
Its cosmic hands. Depends on the point of view, I guess."
was... interesting as all hell. "How..." Rean tried to
articulate the most obvious question in his mind. "What got you
'out' in the first place?"
shook her head slowly, closing her eyes to drown out the memories or
to enhance them; even she wasn't quite sure. Everything was still
so... nightmarish, not real and yet far too real. Images, sounds, shards
of things... not to mention the difficulty of
think in two distinctly different groups of archetypes at the same
time. "It started with genocide... and what we knew of the
universe around us lead us to believe that we could escape. The...
the Strain, that string that binds everything together that Andrew
referred to..." She was trying so hard to make sense of it, let
alone to express, explain. Eventually she merely sighed, giving up. "I
can't remember much about the... end. And it's not
particularly coherent, anyway."
carefully placed a full plate in front of the former general,
studying her reaction. She hadn't really expected that much hunger,
even after days of not eating, though she was pleased to see that the
fork was at least tentatively picked up. That much assured, she went
back for the other plates and orange juice.
picking at the scrambled eggs and toast, Rakashi wondered if the
bacon was worth the risk. Well, perhaps later, if her stomach proved
remember..." Demi spoke up quietly, out of nowhere. "Seeing
you for the first time, I mean. I wasn't supposed to be there, but I
had to deliver a report..."
he trailed off, she pressed for more. "I don't remember."
supposed she wouldn't have. Somehow it seemed easier to continue
when he was staring down at his plate. "I just remember...
catching movement through one of those little windows in the
infirmary doors, you know? Had to go over and see what it was... and
I guess were kind of tearing the hell out of some of the staff." Demi
wasn't entirely willing to admit to how much blood there'd
been. Or how the one guy was screaming, Rakashi half-crouched on the
floor with her lips pulled back in a feral expression... "I was
sort of pulled away before I saw much more. 'Reprimanded' with a
broken arm and told not to talk about it again. A week later, I was
on the project." Even he'd understood that he'd seen too much
to just "forget about it"--but he was too well-known and
liked to have just disappeared.
was a span of silence as she considered that information. "Who
broke your arm?"
former captain looked up, a little surprised by the question--but
only a little. "The illustrious Admiral
only response for several seconds was the way she stabbed at bits of
egg with sharper motions. "I sort of wish I'd been the one to
kill the bastard." She stated perfectly simply.
were all waiting for the day, General." Demi joked easily.
an amused snort, she corrected softly, "Not a general anymore." Not
that they needed to be told, she supposed. Given another few
seconds of thought, she admitted, "Maybe I do remember, a
little. The room, the staff... thought it was just another
fork went down immediately. All of those times went she'd been so
eager to convince Rakashi that her dreams of blood, killing and being
restrained were just nightmares, understandable for her field and
position... She'd just never imagined...
took it all in with a considering silence. To think of how much had
changed on a fundamental level, or maybe how much simply wasn't real
to begin with... --No, that wasn't it. She was still Rakashi;
he knew that without a doubt.
"Well." Demi interrupted the
long, strangling silence around the table. "She show you any fun moves
last night, kid?" He narrowly
avoided several pieces of toast aimed at his head, but couldn't
manage to avoid the kick in the shin and the rough, spontaneous
laughter that was from the former general herself.
spent most of the morning and afternoon outside with Sarah, learning
the routine of tending to the animals and crops. It was almost as if
she were settling in to stay... and the blond nearly let herself
believe that, no matter how fleetingly.
spent his time nervous. Inside, cleaning up the room that had been
more or less destroyed... and being very nervous. No one had asked
what was going to happen next, what Rakashi was thinking or what her
intentions were now. He thought he would have been a lot more glad
somewhat surprisingly taken to the general house chores--a shock only
because he'd always seemed like he hadn't done a single chore, by
choice or otherwise, in his entire life. He was quite apt at it,
though, taking care of the kitchen while humming a variety of
unrecognizable and off-key tunes. At one point he got so loud that
he almost didn't hear the door.
itself was a strange thing. No one was ever known to visit, the
people in the area keeping to themselves. Not to mention that they
were in the middle of nowhere... Seeing as how they were all sort of
escapees to a point, Demi kept humming as he made his way to the
front door, stopping at the closet to take a pistol from a jacket
pocket. Upon opening the front door, however, he was quite pleased
that he wouldn't be needing it. "Took ya long enough."
stood on the front porch, looking every bit as though he'd been on
several trains for exactly as long as he had been. He gave his
colleague a blank look, commenting flatly, "I'd ask you if that
was a gun in your hand, but..."
just come in." The other man invited, stepping aside. "Guess
we have a full house now--hey! You don't have any luggage?"
possessions." Andrew shrugged. "Now what's this about
Rakashi being in trouble?"
er..." Demi began uncertainly. "She's fine, now. But...
apparently she's not the only... 'one of her kind' here."
went through the other man. "They didn't create another
no. I'm not quite sure what happened..." Explaining the
situation, he realized, would entail actually understanding it. He
supposed he could do his best. "Point is, she remembers. From
before. Her... life, before. They don't really seem like the best
kinds of memories to have."
to absorb in such a short period of time. "And the boy? Rean?"
former captain gave a familiar cocky grin. "Oh, he's just
dandy. Actually, he's cleaning up the... result of remembering."
actually been able to hear everything, having stopped what he was
doing just to listen. The words make him flinch a bit, but that was
a... decent way to describe things.
door swung open then, signaled by the telltale squeak of its hinges.
Demi gave a quick nod in the direction of the kitchen. "Everyone's
here now. Meet and greet?"
didn't appear to be all that excited about the idea, uncertain of his
welcome. Seeing as how there seemed to be an "incident"
that needed cleaning up, combined with the way things had been left
at the inn... "Maybe I should... just..."
"Oh!" Sarah had merely been
looking for Demi, not expecting the company. "You made it here fast.
Want something to eat?"
about who she was talking to, Rakashi wandered into the room, leaning
against the doorway once she'd recognized their guest. "Well." She made
her presence known. "Gang's all here."
former general had left Sarah and Demi to dote over Andrew, chatting
him up and feeding him well after his trip. She elected to busy
herself by offering Rean a hand with cleaning up the room. It was
kind of her fault for mostly destroying it, anyway.
don't have to." He insisted.
feel I should." She didn't quite argue, picking up the broom in
accept that. Besides, it gave him the opportunity to talk to her
alone. "So... what are you going to do now?"
considered the question for a moment, mentally adding up the cost of
everything that had been damaged beyond repair... which was pretty
much everything but the walls. "Possibly make sure that
everyone with knowledge of who I am and where I'm from is either on
our side or dead." She didn't sugar-coat the truth.
no idea of whether he was grateful or not. That task seemed so...
stay here, with the others." She informed him, voice quiet but
very cold all of a sudden. "You're going alone?"
wouldn't be safe." She simplified without looking up. Sweeping
up the bits of glass and ceramic were... easier.
saw her point. And he sure as hell wasn't eager to behave in a
suicidal way, but he honestly believed his words. "I don't
think any of us would want you to do this alone."
she stopped and rested her folded arms at the top of the broom's
handle. "I'm a bit of a pack animal." She admitted
softly. "Used to a group. But this just wouldn't work." Before Rean had
a chance to argue, she reminded him, "And my
shoulder proves it."
lungs felt momentarily too constricted to allow a gasp. "Is...
is it okay?" That was the safer question.
easier one to answer. "Yeah. It's... healed now, actually." She saw it
coming, eyes sharp and softly glowing... and still she
waited, watching him.
didn't really want to ask. But it was something that he felt he
needed to know. "So... when I shot you... how did that happen?"
took a very slow breath, going over the events. "Arabis... had
come more to taunt than anything. I probably woke you up with
yelling." Despite the subject matter, she gave a genuine sound
of amusement. "You came out of the tent with your gun drawn and
just... stopped." Her voice fell in tone and volume, the events
just a little difficult to talk about. "He thought he'd show me
that I was 'still a monster'... but it looked more like he was using
you as a puppet. The first shots were only warnings, only his fun...
it wasn't until I'd turned to shoot him that I was actually hit." Her
eyes grew distant, but her voice was calm. "He thought
he'd 'do me a favor' by sending you back to bed. I told him I'd send
him back to hell. Shots were fired, you know the rest."
remarkably hard to swallow, let alone think. If that not-man could
use him as a puppet, then... he might be capable of a lot more...
stay." She assured. "You'll all stay and take care of
you'll go off and die somewhere, so long as you take him with you?"
Rean asked quietly. The question was sort of out of nowhere,
but he had this feeling...
former general blinked as if stricken. "Well... I don't
particularly belong here, do I?"
"Of course you--" he
managed to stop before making a complete
fool of himself... maybe. "You're welcome here. We want
you here. And you're not a monster."
all... so very odd as she considered his words in silence. "You
are an idiot." She announced--though there was the slightest
little smile at the corners of her mouth.
the idiot." Rean corrected. "I'm just... the apprentice,
made her laugh, tension easing. "Fine, we'll discuss it. Later." Damn
they'd done all that they could manage, Rakashi excused herself to
wander outside alone. Just walking around the grounds by herself was
an appealing idea after having everyone of importance in her life in
the same house.
almost everyone. What continued to make Rean nervous was that
strange man, Arabis... and the fact that he didn't know if Rakashi
knew his name because he'd told her, or had actually known him from
before. He was insane, clearly, obviously--but that didn't mean he
was lying, exactly.
his head at himself, he supposed that he would just have to accept
there was more to discuss in the future. The near future,
probably; but for the moment, trying to find something like
"normalcy" would be kind of nice. Even if he was tempted
to go right back up the stairs he'd just come down because of the
already well-established conversation in the kitchen.
surprisingly Sarah who noticed him and invited, "No need to be
shy, Rean. Sit down, there's still more pie."
even." Demi added, taking the remaining third of the apple pie
out of the oven.
that was too hard to resist. He sat in the same chair he'd
been using carefully, still feeling just a little out of place oven
with his friend's familiar, good-natured chuckle.
"So." Andrew spoke up, albeit
with a slightly timid air.
you he was a survivor." Demi sounded like he was boasting,
bringing over the freshly cut and still-steaming dessert to the
seemed a touch on the more reserved side of things (for which Rean
was extremely grateful), pretending to cough rather than laugh. "At
this point, I suppose we all are."
there's absolutely no better way to celebrate than with pie." Sarah
took it upon himself to complain, "Now if only we had ice
forward, Andrew proved that he was more reserved,
yes; but the sense of humor was about the same. "Rean, I'll
give you $20 if you stab the captain with a fork."
whatever out of place feeling he'd had before fading. Yeah, this...
wasn't so bad. Rakashi could take care of herself, would be back
soon. And the rest of them could just... get used to this for a bit.
was when that fork was reached for that Demi finally pulled back a
little. "New rule at the table: no stabbing."