She heard me. I knew she heard me. Because whatever I want, I get. I was feeling lonely. I'd felt lonely before, but not like this, not for a long time. There was something about her, something different than other women. And, just as I wished, there she appeared. I decided to have a little fun with her first. Make her find her way to me. Make her think she was playing a little game. That's it, a game. A game that would lead her right to me. And maybe then I would figure out why she felt so different.
If I could figure that out, I could rule the universe. No, more than that. I could rule everything and everyone. All I needed was that last pinch of control.
The carousel started again and I held on tight to my wooden horse. He was painted in the illuminating shades of neon pink and green, that along with the varied speed of the carousel and the dilapidated, warped music playing in a loop, might make someone believe they were on drugs. My fur cloak waved in the wind behind me as the ride sped up, then slowed enough for me to look where I expected her to arrive. Any time now.
She had appeared just beyond the carnival entrance, ghostly figures of people, all without faces of any kind, wandering the premises, playing games, eating food, riding rides, it was all natural. Apart from the strange silence expect for the two of us who were really there. Or were we?
I saw her look around for a few minutes, and smiled to myself, knowing what fun the night, the vision would hold. "Let the games begin."
This was nuts on a whole other level. This was like the double-packed, tooth-crunching peanut brittle level of nuts. He had gone too far.
Now by this time, yes, it's to be expected that Marcus would interfere with my life--hell, he invaded a private and very... intimate moment between meu esposo Rain and I on our wedding day, so I know shame and him have been estranged for some number of years. But up until this point, his intrusions have always been in the form of him in all his silvery glory, popping up at the worst possible moment, in the flesh. In the physical, material world. That's not to say I've never had any nightmares of him... but at least then, there was always the reassurance, way back in the waking, rational part of my mind, that as soon as I opened my eyes, the Marcus of those bad dreams would fade away, like a ghost in sunlight.
This was way too vivid to just be another one of those dreams.
It began with a feeling like being pulled from an abyss. My mind, maybe, asleep and restful and thinking of nothing in particular but getting those precious eight hours of relative downtime. Yeah right. More like four, if you crowded in the time I spent awake shivering at cool feelings when Morticus, or Death if you're nasty, lurked close by. The guy never misses an opportune moment. But you get my point--I was sleeping, and then suddenly, in some way, something seized me and dragged me to where it wanted. It felt so real that for a second, I wondered if I was really awake. If I had gone somewhere. I've forgotten a lot of nights for... various reasons. But tonight, no, tonight I distinctly remembered laying in bed beside Rain, remembered my head hitting the pillow after I flicked off the lamp on my nightstand. I was home tonight. This wasn't one of my past drunken wanderings.
Then, that meant this was a vision, or something else I hadn't the words to quite describe. It wasn't just a lucid dream, I thought. I'd had a few of those before, whenever I... dabbled a little with Johnny, into his Saturday stash. The sounds and sights and feelings that hit me once I stepped out of that void, and abruptly into some kind of candyland carnival on crack, were too immediate and real to be just another slumbering illusion.
Sure, I told myself, getting my bearings as much as anyone really could in the nauseating rush of swirling bright colors, the distant, dizzying music of a carousel up ahead, and the bustling sea of people. I'm convinced, sure. Not a dream. I didn't think this madness up. I'm totally in my right mind here. Right. I'd just... been dragged helplessly into...
I lost the thought as a man and his son--both who I now finally registered as being faceless, after my eyes had been screaming that very fact at me for minutes--ran towards me on their way to a popcorn stand, playfully racing each other at reckless speed. There was hardly a second to move, and I thought we were going to end up playing a clumsy, split-second game of chicken to figure out who was going to hold their position and who was going to dodge away at the last moment to avoid a collision. Sure, I began to move, lifting up my heel in that fleeting fraction of a heartbeat, but man and boy alike didn't do a thing but just plough on forwards.
And then they ran right through me.
It's a bloody chilling feeling to have a person pass through you--trust me, I've felt it before. I've dealt with a number of ghosts, and regularly work with shadows and shades of things. But even still, there was a trace of a shiver making its way up my spine as I stumbled on forward, apparently dressed in my nightgown, and headed on through a faceless, eerily silent crowd. If you ignored the faces, the people looked like any other happy, midday festival crowd, put on mute, yes, but bustling about and generally having fun at the events. But with the silence... the blankness... it was even more chilling than the ghostly man and child who had passed through me not more than a few seconds before. This was truly a deranged place.
And damn, by Gaia's golden light, there was only one twisted cabrón who could have conjured this all up out of his own imagination.
He was waiting for me at the carousel.
The music got louder and the erratic speed and changing colors made me wonder, again, if maybe I had taken something I hadn't remembered. If someone had worked a spell on me. Another part of me wanted to just hurl. It was that bad. The whole thing was spinning and wavering and screeching so fast that it looked like someone had supersized a kid's toy top on steroids and sent it careening over the ground. The crazed, circular motions were almost as hypnotic as they were sickening. Mierda, I thought. The vision had just started, and already it was going into a full-on sprint in the race from bad to worse to downright crap-tacular.
As I strode up, the ride whipped around once more and slowed just in time for when Marcus, his fur coat blowing in the wind as he sat like a king on his ludicrous pink plastic horse, came around to face where I stood.
Oh perfeito, I grumbled, the sarcasm as rich as ever in my mind.
Don't let him see you squirming. At least not so soon.
I can think of mage-hunting inquisitors and two-ton ravening monsters I would be more happy to see. But there I was, stuck in whatever game the control freak wanted to play today. It was hard to remember there had ever been a time when I had felt sympathy for the younger, childhood version of him. My softhearted, sad memories from those brief times were guarded under layers of well-practiced false courtesies and suspicious evasions at the ready.
"How are you today?" I asked, the polite words almost feeling brazen as they left my mouth, after he had gone to so very much trouble to bother me. But hey, politeness was what he liked, wasn't that what he always said?
You take your little victories against Marcus when you can get them.
OoC: For those that don't know her well enough to tell, this is from Cadenza's first-person PoV. Sakume's posts are from Marcus. This has always been my song for the two of them in this stage of their interactions/relationship.
I had just managed to gain my bearings, eyes seeing double, no, triple of the woman in her nightgown in front of me. I shook my head, smiled a perfect smile at her hello and polite greeting, and responded with a jaunty wave, bending over backwards on my horse, hair flying towards the ground so I saw her upside down. "Good evening, Cadenza! How are you this fine fine evening? Fine, I hope?"
Cadenza blinked at me and took a half-step back before she swallowed and replied, "Well up until this point I was sleeping pretty well..."
"Silly Cadenza!" I laughed, a genuine, not so crazy laugh. Rare for me. "You're still asleep!"
"So it's a dream?" The beautiful gypsy raised an eyebrow conspicuously. "But..."
"Or Nor And! See I can spout conjunctions too!"
She smiled, but it wasn't a real smile. It was forced, sweet with fake amusement and acceptance. I'd seen it many, many times before.
Did you beat the Vandibrough child?
Yes, Father... I beat him by a full letter grade...
That's my boy!
"Why did you bring me here, Marcus?" she asked, not budging an inch.
"Whyyy?" I repeated her question. Why did I bring you? These are shadows of things that have passed. Things I wished for. I jumped off my horse, giggling and clapping my hands together. "So we could have some fun of course!"
"This..." She gestured to my world I'd created, "is your idea of fun?"
"Welll...." I droned, swinging around on a pole on the outside of the carousel. "What would you suggest?"
"Maybe a gypsy music festival," the woman mused, "with places to dance."
I chuckled at her expression and it was done. The carnival gone, nameless gypsies filled the void, of all ages and sizes, and with another thought the two of us were clothed in traditional gypsy garb. Not something I was used to, but I didn't really mind.
"Could you make a few booths do rock music too?" She was almost smiling now.
I nodded, and again it was done. It wasn't hard. Then she asked something I did not expect.
"What would you like, Marcus? You like dancing?"
I was silent, stunned for a brief moment with a lack of words. "I don't know these dances," I heard myself reply after a moment of quiet reflection, "Why would you ask me that?"
"Well, you were... were making all these things come true for me. I thought if we were both going to be here there might be something for you too."
I stared at her. Did she really mean that? Something for me? I had not had something for me in quite some time. Hadn't deserved it. "Something... for me." I repeated, this time outloud. "I like to be with you." That wasn't expected. I'd have to remedy that.
Something about him had changed, in these few brief minutes. He was almost gentle. It was these kinds of shifts in his personality that confused me so damn much--almost like he was bipolar. And I guess that wasn't too far from the reality, either, from what I had seen in all the time I had known him. I'd seen him as a sorrowful child, and a malicious manipulator, but this... kinder, milder man was a new side even still.
Man, was I gonna need therapy after all of this or what? Every passing moment with Marcus made me have to re-evaluate everything I knew to keep up.
He was granting my every wish, too easily and agreeably to be true--I never have believed in genuinely getting something for nothing. Someone always wanted something in return. But he gave and gave freely, using his powers to bend the realm around us to my whims. The power came so simply to him, and I could only imagine how many people would want to take it from him if they knew about it. How they would want to use him as a tool. I'd been used that way. My eldest sister, years ago, had seen the magic I was capable of, coupled with my ruthless drive to survive in any situation, and found herself a perfect weapon, if she could just break me to her will.
And broke me she did. I fought it and fought it until I felt like I was being torn apart inside, like I had no control over my life. It wasn't what had driven me to drink originally, but it sure as hell had helped. Had someone ever broken Marcus? His father... his father had put him to work in that brothel, the Red Robin, from such a young age... I wouldn't be surprised if the dirty puto forced Marcus to use his powers for him too.
Had anyone ever considered what Marcus wanted back then? Before he lost it, and turned into the silver-haired jackass I knew?
"What would you like, Marcus?" the question was out of my mouth before I even knew it, "You like dancing?"
It had even more of an effect than I could've bet zecca on. He looked at me like I had just started spluttering Swahili folk songs at him. "Why would you ask me that?" he managed after a pensive pause.
I didn't struggle with the answer as much as I thought I would. It came without even a moment to consider, "Well, you were... were making all these things come true for me. I thought if we were both going to be here there might be something for you too." The honest truth felt so foreign to my lips, especially around Marcus.
This stunned him even more. His ice blue eyes stayed on me for much longer than I was used to being comfortable with. Normally, I'd be happy never have to cross his sight at all. 'Out of sight, out of mind' seemed like a pretty flippin' good policy.
"Something... for me," he repeated my words, like he wanted to see how they would feel when spoken out in the air. Like the shape of them was something he had to wrap his mind around. Like if he spoke it aloud, maybe it would make them more real and believable. "I like to be with you."
I blinked, waiting for some kind of trick, some kind of clarification. Then it was my turn to stare stupidly back, as my mind seemed to forget every single word I'd ever knew in just about any language. Some responses presented themselves, but nothing that made any sense. Nothing that didn't just make me wanna scratch my head and wonder when I must've gotten a concussion or something somewhere.
"I, er... erm... you do?" I titled my head a little to one side, "You've always either been mad with me or... around to take care of business before..."
It was probably really, really stupid of me to remind him of all of that when we finally seemed to be moving on to somewhere better now, but I couldn't get over the paranoia that maybe this was all just a weird phase he was going through, like when he was a gentle child, and that later somehow this was going to all come back to bite me in the ass if I wasn't too careful.
"Maybe it was because I liked to be with you..." I responded, each word carefully chosen, eyes burning into her figure. "I could take you, you know. If I wanted to. Rape you, that is. Make you mine in every way. I could make you anything I wanted. My little slave. My concubine. My wife, my homemaker. My ****buddy."
Her eyes widened and she looked taken aback.
"But I wouldn't do that. Because I don't want you like that. I just... like you."
Again, puzzlement flooded her eyes, but she didn't let it show much.
"I like you because I... feel something around you. I feel a sort of... peace. Like... I'm happy." My own words sounded immensely alone and I was suddenly painfully aware of the reality of it all. That was the problem. Reality. "Nothing makes me happy, Cadenza... because nothing is all I have."
"Maybe it was because I liked to be with you..." he told me, his normally icy eyes smoldering with intensity as he looked me up and down, making my stomach turn in discomforting knots, "I could take you, you know. If I wanted to. Rape you, that is. Make you mine in every way. I could make you anything I wanted. My little slave. My concubine. My wife, my homemaker. My ****buddy."
My lips wanted to twist into a snarl, my fingers wanted to curl into fists and knock the taste right out of his foul little mouth--I've been told s*** like that far too many times before. Always my first instinct was to make them eat those words, to shove my boot so far down their f***ing throats before they knew what hit them that they couldn't even choke out a cry for mercy. I'm not meat. Not prey. Not a slave. Not any godsdamn more. But like a shackled animal, I was up against one master I couldn't reach. Couldn't bite back at. Or I'd be put down. So I forced down my anger, kept it out of my eyes. Disgust and surprise still made their way into my expression. But the aggression stayed hidden. The retaliation that I just had to bottle up. If you spent too much time around Marcus, it really got to a boiling point.
But then, as thoroughly as ever, he changed the whole tone of the conversation again, hitting me in the heart after he'd just low-blowed my pride as a strong woman like a baseball bat to the crown jewels.
"But I wouldn't do that," he told me. "Because I don't want you like that. I just... like you."
I wasn't sure what to think. A rollercoaster of emotions doesn't really cover it. No rollercoaster takes enough stomach-wrenching turns to compare. Marcus would outdo Six Flags every time, if you wanted to talk disorientation and hurls.
"I like you because I... feel something around you. I feel a sort of... peace. Like... I'm happy."
I just plain gaped.
Yes folks, I know. I am so articulate when it comes to complex feelings. Bear with me here.
There was so much pain in his voice... maybe he was just playing my sympathies like a violin, but a big part of me wanted to believe him. It's the same part Kate probably plays upon when she cries big crocodile tears. Or the same part... the same part of me, rather, that knows what it feels like to be as lonely as he sounded. I've usually... kept someone around for company. I needed to... after losing my dad to prison when I was young... losing Paris when I was older, and Johnny... losing Sonya, who I know I... still have a lot of mother issues with. Sometimes all I had was a friend, like Louis. Sometimes all I had was a man I'd picked out for his good looks and the way he could finesse his fingers on a guitar. I'm thinkin' of you, Erik. Sometimes all I had was a bottle of tequila and a bar that stayed open all night.
Nowadays, I was lucky enough to have Kate, Rain, and Jessi (and even Avello and Laurana) to keep back the coldness of those long, empty nights. Yes, I was going to die, maybe even soon--hell, probably soon--and I was going to be stuck forever on my own in the Realm of Shadows as a Spirit. But until then... I had the chance to cherish every precious moment with a family whom I loved, and who loved me in return.
I knew how it felt to be alone. And I thanked the gods every day that I'd been rescued out of the miserable, downward slump I had been in.
"Nothing makes me happy, Cadenza... because nothing is all I have."
I winced at his words, felt myself crossing my arms, as if to keep out the cold that his feelings reminded me of from not long ago. Could... anyone rescue him? The man who could make reality do anything, except maybe give him genuine care?
"You've... never really had a loving family, have you, Marcus...? At least... at least not in a long time..."
It took a lot, but I forced my gaze up from the floor to risk meeting his eyes. I was... okay, I was worried about how much more pain I might see there... for all he had done to me and mine over the past year or so, he had been through even worse.
I stared into her eyes, silent for lack of response. My eyes shimmered in some sort of emotion. "Families..." I felt the word leave my lips as if dripping in poison, bitter to my taste.
"Families... make no sense to me." The words sounded foreign, like someone else speaking. I could feel myself slipping. My fingers were loosening on the tight grasp I held over my persona. My thin lips curled into a snarl at the loss of control. I couldn't let it fade, not long enough to give her any indication. "No, families are worthless," I ground this out between clenched teeth, fists following suite.
"Families... are complicated." My voice was growing softer. I looked around at the crowd and felt myself grow antsy. My steps shifted back and forth. "I... I don't... no..." A lollipop appeared in my hand. "Want some?" I thrust it towards her, blocking the sanity that edged into my brain with an inane offer.
Something in me stirred at his words. Maybe it was the generations of gypsy teachings calling out. Or maybe it was just what I'd learned to be true myself after growing up with a big family and then marrying and having my own little one. I wasn't going to be thrown off track. Something was breaking open in Marcus, some little leftover sliver of sanity, and he could try to hide it all he wanted, but I knew there was something back there to be seen. Even if it was something ugly or painful. Even if it was something he never wanted out again.
I ignored the lollipop, not pushing it away or accepting it. Giving him nothing to work with at all.
"Whether you hate them, love them, or worry about them, Marcus, no connection is stronger than family," I started, hearing the determination in my own voice, strong and steady. I don't think I've ever spoken to him like this since we'd met. Maybe I was even crazier than his loony ass to do it. "Yes, they're complicated as hell. But nothing makes you feel like they do, nothing touches you that closely," I watched his manic eyes lock onto me, piercing and frigid, darting from me and back. I knew what he could do to me if I pissed him off enough. But my words were coming from another place, and I don't think I could stop them if I wanted to. I felt like I had to say it--this was a pivotal turning point, and I knew it somehow. He was cracking. I had to do something, or I might never have this chance to break through again.
"When you argue with them, you can't help but think about it all day, it gets under your skin like nothing else, practically drives you mad until you can make peace again. When they're happy, it lifts you up, makes all your worries seem lighter, all your cares a little less important. You have an emotional reaction to it all, an opinion and a feeling about everything to do with them, every single member of the family, it's all in here..." I pounded my chest lightly with my fist. "It's true whether it's the family you're born into, or... the one you make. Families can make you wanna pull out your hair sometimes... but they're important."
My voice was ringing out now in a deafening silence. The world around us had fallen quiet and still, as if everything was leaning in to listen, to watch what would happen next. I became keenly aware that everything... everything was resting on me. But the next words were so simple. They were words I had carried with me my whole life. One of the very few things I still believed in.
"Families..." I said, much more quietly, but Marcus bent to listen closer anyway, "...families are everything."
I felt something snap within me. The lollipop disappeared completely. My eyes narrowed, pent up emotion snarling inside me, waiting to develop, to eat her completely. My lip curled dangerously, a strong magic of unknown origin building and building about my body. My hands lifted from their sides, tight and clenched before relaxing to perform their dangerous spells.
And I burst into tears.
I was nearly gone. It was almost his turn. I'd have to let him have his turn or risk much worse. I wiped at the tears aimlessly though they flowed and flowed like a river. I had become a sniveling little child. Mind you, not literally. Not yet, anyway. I sniffed, turning away from her, trying desperately to regain my position. It should not be that difficult, but if I did not allow him some control now, he would interrupt at a more crucial moment. I couldn't allow that.
"Families..." The foreign term again. "Why did I have to... why how is it fair that... I don't understand what I did... what I can do..."
Among my babblings, I managed to come across a lock of my wild, unkept hair. Only to discover the tips were becoming black. So. It was happening. And I couldn't stop it.
I may as well have let loose the floodgates on the world's biggest dam while standing right in its path, because everything was coming gushing right out. His magic rushed me, assertive, overwhelming, and powerful, without a care for stupid little minor human constructs like the private space of a person's mind or the integrity of someone else's being. Burning can't describe the sensation that seared through me. Pain either. It was malicious, cold, precise and yet all-over at the same time, tearing in through my defenses like they were tissue paper, wreaking havoc and confusion on whatever it wanted as it did. It consumed me, leaving no portion safe or untouched.
His cold presence seeped into memories, and shook them up, twisted them, turning them hideous and tragic. His presence seeped into future goals, and shut them down, darkened them and tore them to bits whatever they might be. It went into my emotions and left a wasteland of lifelessness and pain, of complete hopelessness so strong, I wouldn't ever have the energy or desire to move again when it was through. It scoffed at feelings of love I harbored, poisoned those feelings until they bubbled and festered and spoiled. It warped anything it came across, until even my own name was lost to a void in my mind. Leveling a building with C4 would have been more merciful in comparison. I was like a chew toy to him.
It hurt... it hurt so damn much. I shuddered and clenched my hands around my upper arms, squeezing the muscles there, trying not to grit my teeth hard enough to chip any of them. A tension headache hit me with pressure behind my eyes like a sledgehammer to a thin baking sheet, sending pulses of reverberating agony. I might have screamed, but I scarcely could focus on any sounds. He held me in the grip of his magic, magic he commanded so easily, effortlessly--magic that could have just plain erased me if he wanted. But torture was coming first.
But then, as suddenly as the wave of power had come, it receded back into him like a black hole had sucked it in, leaving the air milder for its absence. I shook all over with aftershock, my teeth chattering like dice shaking and clattering against each other in a balled-up fist, too lost in my own pain to hear Marcus' tears.
"Families..." he was saying, his back turned to me. I could barely make out the word amidst the merciless pounding in my head, the dizzying, dancing images before my dazed eyes. My knees were feeling weak. I'm not sure what kept me from blacking out--maybe it was his will, or maybe... maybe it was just because this was all in my head. I haven't the slightest damn idea. "Why did I have to... why how is it fair that... I don't understand what I did... what I can do..."
I couldn't take it anymore--I lowered myself to my knees, panting, holding myself up with the support of my hands braced in front of me. I counted heartbeats, or at least, I tried to. Numbers were a little hard at the moment.
Un... d... dos...
The world started to spin back into focus. My brain was frantically running a check of all my vitals, sending back signals in disrupted bursts, You're alive... you're alive... When I finally glanced back up at Marcus, his hair was almost entirely jet black.
Was I seeing things right? Or had my vision just been shot completely to hell?
"Y... you're..." I mumbled, lips too numb to form more words. I couldn't remember where or why or even much of who I was for the time being.
Blurry. Everything felt blurry, as I remembered from the last time. It's hard to explain, but I once likened it to what I think your sight may have been when you were born. Everything suddenly blurred in sounds that were too loud or too soft, shapes and colors that I could not distinguish. Then, like a sudden rush of fresh air filling my lungs, my eyes cleared. I saw her, standing before me. I'd never been with her like this, in my true, what I liked to believe was true, form. I didn't know whether it was real. Whether anything was real. Or simply a game I played with myself, an imaginary world of people and friends and family I simply did not have.
She breathed shakily in front of me, a sad, weak figure shaking on her knees. Almost instantly, although I knew it would only speed up the time I had here, I made the world come to a halt. She found herself resting on a cot, in the sweet embrace of a plushness I could only imagine. A glass of cool, clear water sparkled on a small sidetable beside her.
I reached for the glass, took ahold and offered it to the woman, the woman I knew so well but had never, in all these months, had it really been that long? In all these months, I'd never met her. "Take a drink..." I pushed the glass on her, knowing it would help revitalize her.
In the reflection of the glass, I caught a glimpse of myself. Sorrowful, cool blue eyes, nowhere near the icy harshness I knew, soft, pale skin, not eerily so, but more with a serene beauty, almost shimmered. My ebony hair, falling loose and gentle over my shoulders, gave the appearance of gentleness. I had not seen my reflection, if it was my real reflection, for quite some time.
The drink was like a cold splash in the face of the very water he'd offered me, and it woke me up out of what felt like a coma or the worst damn concussion I'd ever had. Thoughts began to swim around, and then coalesce again, into coherent chains and impulses. Things began to repair, rebuild. It was like turning back the clock on all the damage there had ever been. But like any wound, it would always leave its irreversible scar.
I know a thing or two about scars.
I sipped water for what felt like a long time, but was maybe really only a few seconds. It was so refreshing... it tasted like what the water must have been like on that first day Gaia walked the earth, when the land was wholly untainted by pollution or industry or so many other things. It left a cool, sweet little tingle in the back of my throat, and the same sort of sensation came over my eyes when I finally looked to Marcus.
You wouldn't believe he could be the same person.
Cool and sweet. Those were good words to describe the new him. He had sorrowful eyes, like he had as a child, a soft blue with constant flickers that displayed his emotions, like a changing sky. A storm was being held back behind those eyes, my mind told me. I wasn't safe. This Marcus was here for now, but there was no telling when the other would return. I felt myself quiver and cower away from those thoughts, in a way few things had ever made me do before.
Damnit, I was scared. I hated it desperately, even when I knew I had every reason to be terrified, but I was.
The gentler Marcus turned his head of flowing black hair to me, which only emphasized the pure, sensitive look of his pale face, and frowned, almost apologetically.
I finished off my water as he watched me with that gaze, and then managed to collect myself enough to try to speak, but I didn't even try to get up from the cot yet. My voice sounded weaker when I did speak, but I could hear my usual tone slowly recovering, seeping back into my voice, albeit a softer version, "Y... you... you're different... you're like..." I struggled to make sense of my thoughts, feeling a little frustrated that he might not understand me, "Like... the grown-up version of... the child I met... verdad...? Você entiende... a-am... am I speaking right...?"
"I know. You might say that... you're speaking fine. Are you feeling alright?"
She shook her head, seeming to fumble with her thoughts before replying, "More... more good?" She shook her head, a hand up to it as if to rub away a headache. "Not the word... mejor... b-better... I'm better."
I looked at her deeply, eyes squinting a little, as if not understanding. "I could have killed you."
She looked at me quietly in return, her chin bowed down and blue eyes submissive, almost cowed, like a dog hunched under a master's gaze.
"Why?" I asked, eyes a little moist in the pure inability to understand. "Why would you try so hard?"
She swallowed with difficulty. "Ch... child... hurt... bad childhood... could... c-could be..." She was still struggling with her sentences and sipped the last of the water, swallowing slowly. "...could... have been different..." She coughed and sniffed. "Better family... could... h-have been different for you."
My eyes became sadder. "So you feel sorry for me?" She only felt sorry for me. That was all? That was the only reason... she didn't know anything I'd been through.
She nodded in response, a little stiff. "Sh... shouldn't be... like you are. Not malo...b-bad man... j..." She paused for a breath. "Just sad." Her eyes drooped a little. She was tired.
"Rest yourself." I stated, looking away for a moment. "We will talk more when you feel better."
"You... be here?" she asked.
"...Yes." I resolved, sitting down beside her, calmly. I would resolve to remain in control.
Panicked thoughts fluttered around in my head like startled bats in a cave, as my eyes begged to close.
You can't trust him! He could kill you! part of me said.
He almost did, too! He would've made you a vegetable! another thought agreed.
Another person would have been afraid--voices were answering other voices in my head, thoughts arguing with other thoughts in the jumble his magic had left to recover. But I was just too damn tired to worry.
If he wants to kill me... there's nothing stopping him from doing it any time he wants. I'm not any safer awake than I am asleep. In fact, I'm probably even better off asleep--that way I can't open my mouth and get myself into more trouble.
That reasoning grasped firmly in my mind, I let my heavy eyelids finally close, and fell into a deep slumber. I'm not sure why I could sleep now when I couldn't pass out before. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that he told me to rest. He made the rules here--it made sense that if he wanted me to sleep, I could sleep, even in a vision like a dream. Maybe a period of "unfeeling" would be a better description, but whatever it was, I was in a state that was restful, and quiet, and calm, and my mind had time to recuperate and repair during the lull. I awoke some time later, hardly even remembering the disarray I had been in earlier.
I was afraid to see if Marcus had really stayed himself or not. But keeping your eyes closed never kept away the bad things. Man has learned you can't keep the dark at bay just by pretending it's not there. So I yawned and opened up my eyes, preparing to look for who I'd find beside me--savior or enemy.
Was I a Savior? Was I an enemy? What was I? I didn't know. And I couldn't bring myself to a final answer. Did I even belong in this world? I cursed myself for reading her thoughts, her feelings, but I couldn't help it. He was pushing to the surface, pushing to take control once more. I could fend him off for a while, but not for long. Not like this. I wasn't strong enough.
I turned my gaze to her, the voice my own, soft, almost feminine, but still mine. I tried to keep my heartbeat to a minimum instead of the crazy erratic pattern of beats I felt thudding within my chest cavity. I blinked once or twice, looking over her body. She was alright. Still looking a little tired, but much better.
"I hope your rest was something you gained from," I drew my gaze away now. "I wish you had never met me. Your life would have been much simpler... much better. I'm not good for anyone around me. Not even myself."
"I hope your rest was something you gained from," he said, an odd choice of words. But I think I was beginning to understand a little of why he said the things he did. He'd taken a lot from me. Felt like he'd never done much good. Even this simple kindness of allowing me to rest was something to cherish, a good deed amongst so many bad that probably burdened this Marcus' heart.
"I wish you had never met me. Your life would have been much simpler... much better. I'm not good for anyone around me. Not even myself."
I blinked a bit and sat up, finding I was still on the cot. He was aware of my movements as I did, in an indirect sort of way, even as his gaze avoided mine. He was resigned to hating himself, I think. He didn't want me to waste mercy on him; he couldn't even bear me looking at him.
"It's no use wishing the past away..." I told him, my voice so calm and restful that I was a little surprised by its tone. "You can't change it now. It's not worth... worth regretting... it's not like... you could start all over..."
"No..." I said, my voice reflective and soft. "I suppose not..." I've tried wishing the past away. Tried changing things. Tried forgetting, remembering, blocking... nothing works. "I've tried to wish things before. It doesn't work. I'm just not... strong enough. Strong enough to gain that kind of control over myself... after everything. I've tried so hard to block it out and erase it, I can hardly remember myself. I don't want to drag anyone into me, because I'm too convoluted to struggle out of. If you get involved, like you seem to desire, you will sink further than ever before. This is not something you can back out of, you know..." My eyes turned upon hers, beautiful and serene. "If you choose to see what I have not shown... I..."
I paused for a moment, contemplating. "You're different, Cadenza. I know you are. I believe in you. I trust you. I've never been myself. Not like this... not long enough. I can't keep it up much longer, I just can't. I know I've caused you... caused many turmoil, even if they deserved it, every last one of them. I'd watch them burn if I could for what they did." My voice changed drastically as I said this. He was returning, and I could feel it, it was as if I could only stand back and listen while he spoke, reduced to a helpless mute watching my body being toyed like a puppeteer while I watched and slipped away.
"I'd kill them, those bastards. Those ❤❤❤❤❤es. Those fuc*ers." A stream of vulgar profanity slipped from my lips, something beyond my control. I did the only thing I could do to retain control of myself. I lifted a hand and materialized a glimmering sliver of steel, a dagger with a leather handle, and cut myself in a slash across my arm. It was all so quick she did not have time to respond, but I felt myself return and that... that other part of me leave. The pain I could focus on. The pain drew me back to this world. "Cadenza..."
I looked to her with pleading eyes, giving her the dagger in slightly shaky hands. "Please kill me. You can save me by doing this. I beg of youuu..." my voice trailed off into a groan, the black hair I had been born with shifting to the cold silver matching the blade in the light. "Please..." I choked out as I clenched her hands in mine.
I was losing him, and losing him fast. Everything I said had been lost to his ears when despair settled back in, a black and pervasive despair that he had grown almost used to being swallowed by over the years of his young life. He resigned himself to that despair, convinced there was no way out but release. Convinced that somehow that would save him from the struggle.
Maybe it would have saved him, if he ever really could die. But I shuddered to think what would become of me in the process. My heart had opened up so much to feel the sympathy I had come to know for him now. It was soft and vulnerable like I scarcely remembered it feeling before. Now he was asking me to do something that would be like... like sticking that dagger into my heart.
Sticking the dagger into my heart.
Gods help me, I really must've gone mad. Would it at least delay his plunge, back into his cold prison behind his other self?
I curled my fingers around the dagger's hilt, even as my other hand closed around one of his, holding it tight. I knew he could probably read my thoughts if he wanted, so I couldn't let a single flicker of my planning betray the impulse that was to follow. As soon as I was certain he was too distracted to stop me, I pointed the dagger's silver point towards my heart, and drove it home with all my strength.
Physical pain is nothing compared to killing yourself within your own mind.
My fingers spasmed but it was too late for the dagger to drop. It had done its work. I felt the first spurt of blood, and then blackness swam over me, Morticus' cold touch already a whisper against my shoulder.
She slumped down, her body twitching and fingers still clutching tightly at the knife. My eyes widened and I immediately screamed. "No!" It was a scream from both of us, the one part of me that knew it had lost the raging battle of the moment, and the other the side that had lost everything. I took her into my arms, but I couldn't support her for long. I felt her pulse, smelled, even tasted her blood. I was kissing her wound. I felt my magic swell powerfully, surround her and I in a warmth, a sense of magic I'd not used in some time.
It was encompassing, true and strong, and yet, somehow real, more real than I'd had the chance to remember. I felt the tears fall from my cheeks as I set her down upon the floor, throwing the dagger away so hard it buried itself into the wall, sending cracks down it. "Please..." my choked voice begged. "Please don't die..." I leaned over her chest, listened to her heart beating still, felt the blood as it spurted. Warm.
"Please don't leave me..." I whispered. I couldn't cover her hands now. Mine were too small. "Please don't leave, Mommy...please." And then the magic filled her body. It was a sudden gush of healing, a change of reality. I knew the sense well. It was as if she'd never done it at all. And that's when I burst into fresh tears.
I felt the Spirit of Death's cloaked arms close around me, sending a chill through my... I guess it had to be my soul, even as his voice seemed to come from far ahead. This was closer to him than I'd ever been, except for in my nightmares. He was a regular star in those.
" 'Yes, death, — the hourly possibility of it, — death is the sublimity of life,' " he opened with a quote, as he always did, from a dead soul he had claimed. Poets, authors, singers, politicians--no man's words were safe once they had passed over. All things of theirs, in death, belonged to Him. I'm not sure if it was a sign of a black sense of humor, or just his dominion over all who now rested beyond the flow of time. I didn't care to think on it much longer than that.
I waited for him to continue, as I knew he would.
"I will not allow thee to play these games with Death again, Cadenza. Don't dare knock on my door again for anything but the means to the final end," Morticus went on, in a tone like the earth's deep echo in a stone tomb. I had to steel myself not to shudder again at the seriousness of it--if I let myself even think of how dumb the move I'd made had been, how close I'd come to handing myself over to Death himself, I don't think my sanity would last out the train of thought. Even his simple use of my first name had sent ice cold needles of fear through me. Mort's voice filled the vastness of the dark space as he spoke, now seeming to come from almost everywhere. "Why hath thou risked it?" he asked.
My eyes, eyes so used to searching the dark, only found blackness, save for two blazing pinpoints, somehow blacker than even the darkness around them. I could hardly even see my own damned hands in front of me. "I risked it... I risked it because I believed I had a safe bet."
"And if he chose not to save thee from my scythe?"
"Then... then I suppose this conversation of ours would have been much longer, wouldn't it, Mort?" my words on the surface must have sounded insolent, especially with the shortening of his name, but my voice came out quiet, without the same rebellious heart in it. I slightly bowed my head to the Spirit, the Claimer of Souls, before light and life began to reclaim me once more. I had believed.
I swore I heard Gaia's voice in my ears.
"Please don't leave, Mommy...please."
Something was warm on my hand. Soon, my skin was telling me it was also wet. Someone was rubbing a... a tear-stained cheek against me, I realized. Marcus...
You think I'm your mae again...
I wasn't sure how long it would last, but it felt good to have someone to care, someone to comfort. Warmth flooded my revived body as I let my arm curl around the boy who now was before me, and drew him in, close against my healed heart. It took me longer to open my eyes. They wanted to rest a while, recover and then relish this moment. His crying hadn't subsided, but he nuzzled harder against me, and I knew he felt safety in my arms. The shock of what I'd done was still too strong for him as a boy, but I was alive, and that was helping.
Y... you see...? I thought, hoping he would hear it, still too weak to summon words aloud, ...that is how... far I'm willing to go... I won't kill you... so you'll have to find another way, Marcus...