Brothers in Arms
by Dark Amethyst

Chapter 5

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The stars are clear and bright above me. I turn my face up to them and close my eyes, crossing my arms over my chest. A slight breeze ruffles my hair, and I inhale deeply – the air fragrant and sharp from the recent rain. The noise of the streets far below is a distant hum…the quiet lapping of the water in the pool a soothing constant.

I clear my mind…feeling the stars…their power, their size…their mind-numbing distance…until I feel a part of them.

I turn my mind then to Rachael…seeking for her…sensing for her.

An image fills my mind…Rachael, lying face-down in a dark place…sleeping in her clothes...her face wet with tears. My mind grasps desperately at the picture, demanding more.

“Where?” I mutter frustratedly.

But as emotion takes over, my focus shatters and the image fades. Curses explode from me – I bellow them at the quiet sky, venting all the anger and frustration I’ve felt since I ‘died’ at Zoicite’s hands.

When my fury is spent, I fall to my knees dispiritedly, thinking of Rachael…analyzing every detail of the picture I saw. Miserable, alone, and frightened…her beating clearly still hurting her…separated from everything she owns. Because of me. After she gave me all she could… Her words of the previous evening sting my conscience.

Guilt roars through me – such a new and horrible emotion. I try to reason with it – and impose some calmness over these racing thoughts. It must be some human disease. Since I’ve been among them, my thoughts are rebels – impossible to marshal.

Firmly, I return myself to cool logic.

I have to find Rachael. It’s my fault she got away, and it’s my duty to help her. I will not regret her beating – she earned that. But she did not earn what she’s going through now.

I get back to my feet and recross my arms determinedly.

I cannot stand this again, I know. I haven’t the energy. One of two things will happen. I will die, or I will lose my form again – not having the energy to sustain it. If the former, I’d accept that almost cheerfully now. And if the latter – I know now that I’ll recover in time. But I can’t just do nothing.

I turn myself over yet again to the stars, sensing out for Rachael with all the energy I possess…demanding to find her. My mind turns hazy…and I at last feel her presence…dimly, like the light of a very distant star. I begin moving towards her, not noticing how or why – keeping my focus locked on her. I’m drawn, across the city…to a tall building…through the large windows…

…and here she is. Asleep, as I saw her.

I relax my intensity now, and notice my state – pure energy, once again. How long will it last this time?

Sensing around me, I notice it’s a library, and curse my dim-wittedness for not guessing that she’d be here. I move closer to her, noticing with gruff tenderness how her bangs fall over her forehead, obscuring her eyes. I long to brush them away…to dry the tears still shining on her cheeks. It’s pure torture being a ghost.

I wish I could wake her. Could I just…join her? Would that be wrong? I don’t care.

I move closer…and closer…

Suddenly I am transported to another place. A green park, in the twin darkness of night and storm. It’s so vivid, it takes me some time to realize it’s a dream…Rachael’s dream.

Wind rattles the leaves as she walks, and rain drums on the umbrella she carries. I know, somehow, that she’s coming home from night school, that she always walks this way. She heads up a hill, and in the distance sees a figure seated on a bench, their back to her. As we near, I realize that it’s me – hunched over strangely, my head down, my shoulders shaking as I weep. Rachael steps slowly round the bench, watching me – filled with desperate pity. I glance up at her, startled and anguished, my hands clasped over my stomach, and then lift my hands to her – my white gloves scarlet…the wound in my abdomen pouring blood. Rachael looks down…and sees a wicked-looking knife in her hand.

Rachael’s body and mind tense violently, and she writhes desperately to wake. When she does, she’s panting and sweating, her heart racing wildly. I’m a little shaken myself!

Her arms tingle uncomfortably beneath her, and she stands stiffly, the blood rushing painfully back. She leans dejectedly against the window next to her, looking out at the night. Her backside still stings viciously – and I feel it only fair that I should suffer from it too – having dealt it to her.

“What the hell was that supposed to mean?” Rachael wonders to herself, her mind still on her nightmare.

“Well – it’s obvious, isn’t it?” another part of her mind answers. “Nephrite’s in trouble and you abandoned him.”

How easy her thoughts are to read. Not just impressions or feelings, but clear dialogue one can easily eavesdrop on.

“I’d forgotten how miserable he looked when I found him. I was only thinking of myself when I left. I’ve got to go back…”

“Go back? And what? Let him beat you again? Or worse?”

“He won’t beat me if I do what he says,” she asserts, and I silently agree, wondering how I might get in on this conversation.

“Oh sure! If I go back and played the perfect servant, everything would be fine! But how am I supposed to do that? I can’t! Somebody tells me what to do, and I see red. I can’t help it. I’ve been alone too long…I’m too independent. Nephrite couldn’t have chosen a worse prospect for a servant.”

“People change,” I tell her quietly, trying to pass the comment off as her own thoughts. “You could change too, if you wanted.”

“I suppose,” she answers grimly. Emotions waft through her – so feminine and foreign to me. “I could do that. And bye-bye self-respect.”

“Well so much for that! What’s self-respect ever gotten you? Old and alone. What have you got to lose? I think it’s time you stopped waiting for Mr. Right and true-fucking-love. I think you’d better take what you can get.”

Rachael’s self wilts at this harsh voice, and I find myself growing angry at this ‘alter-ego’ for being so severe with her. Her thoughts are silent for a long time, her emotions warring silently.

“Once again, Rachael,” the harsh voice resumes at last. “Will you go back? Respect and obedience – that’s what he asked you for. Can you handle that? Anything he asks?”

“What could he demand now that I wouldn’t gladly do?” she reflects sadly. “Iron his clothes? Warm his bed? I’ll pay any price. If that’s how it must be…then I will. I’ll do anything. He wins.”

If I have won, it seems a very hollow victory. I wanted her obedient, not broken.

“But what about the light, Rachael? And the door?”

Panic races over her as she thinks about these unexplained events…evidence I sloppily didn’t conceal. Her mind is very logical. No beliefs in religion nor magic. Not a shred of explanation she can cling to.

“I don’t care,” she lies bravely. “He needs me. And he might be in trouble. I’ve got to go back.”

She grabs her purse and marches off towards the elevator. In a few minutes, she’s outside, running for all she’s worth through the dark campus – the fire-door’s alarm clamoring in the distance.

I have to admire her spirit. If she’s stubborn, she’s also bloody determined. I could have wished for such determination on the part of my own warriors.

“Now what, genius?” Rachael demands of herself, slowing to a walk now, getting her breath back. “How do we get home?”

She must have spent a long time alone to have developed this constant alter-ego. I suppose it always gives her someone to talk to.

“We walk.” She shrugs. “It’s not so very far.” Her matter-of-fact tone is a bluff, for I feel her rush of unease. She doesn’t want to be abroad on the streets at this hour. Having few options, however, she heads off, hoping to get home by morning.

It is early dawn when Rachael finally steps up to her door, turning the key fumblingly, exhausted and longing for her bed. I have attempted throughout her journey to find some way to get her to the new apartment, but haven’t come up with anything. I’m far from wakeful myself, and my thoughts are hazy.

Opening the door, Rachael takes two steps inside, then gasps disbelievingly, the sound bouncing off the empty floors and walls.

“I don’t believe it,” she cries. “He took everything?” She looks up at the far wall and cringes with physical pain as she realizes her books are gone. Tears of rage and remorse cloud her eyes as title after lost title occur to her – like old friends dying.

“Why would he take them? What would he have gotten for them? And even the shelves? It’s just spite, that’s all!”

A thought occurs to her, and she rushes desperately to her bedroom door, only to stand lifeless in the frame, her worst fears realized. Her bed is gone…the bed she bought with all the money her mother left in her will…the bed she sees as her only link with her family.

She steps slowly to the middle of the floor, thinking disjointedly of all the things she believes gone forever…letters from far-away friends…pictures of her baby self and her barely remembered father…favorite clothes…her toothbrush.

This last thought sickly amuses her and she laughs like a lunatic.

“A toothbrush?” she cries aloud. “I have NOTHING! He’s left me absolutely nothing! I’ll never replace it all – there’s no way. I can’t buy new things and food too. He’s killed me – that’s all. I’ll starve to death!”

She collapses on the filthy floor, weeping. I’ve had enough of this.

“Rachael,” I tell her sternly, speaking in my own voice in her mind. “Enough of this nonsense.”

She tenses suddenly, looking around the room huntedly, eyes narrowed in hatred. Seeing nothing, she stands guardedly, and backs into a corner.

“I didn’t steal your things. I moved them. They’re at our new apartment. I want you to go there.”

Rachael’s eyes widen as she realizes at last where my voice is coming from. Her heart races in fear – not fear of me – fear for her own sanity.

“I’m hearing voices,” she whispers, whimpering slightly, holding her head in her hands. “I’m losing my mind…”

It doesn’t occur to her that I could be anything but a delusion. I can tell that arguing about it would be fruitless. We’re both exhausted – this is no time to try. There’s only one option. I’ll transport us both to my apartment, using her energy. If it kills us both, then so be it.

“Rachael,” I say again, as sternly and sharply as I can, hoping to will her temporarily into obedience. “Stand still and be quiet.”

In the instant that she complies, I stand her up straight, close her eyes, and concentrate with everything we have…willing us to my apartment…to the bed…and to my relief, Rachael’s body dissolves into very bewildered energy.

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return to Index / go to Chapter 6

The Nephrite and Naru Treasury