Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Goodbye To A Good Friend. Part 3.

When the door opened, the first glance I caught of Winston was him with his cheek in David's hand. A kiss being placed on the opposite one as though in reassurance after a second or two of whispers. Then the assassin just turned and left down the hall. Leaving Winston staring after him like a deer caught in headlights. Even the ugly black that he had dyed his hair to after his kidnapping incident looked pale in that moment as he shakily stepped back to rest against the door frame. Sliding down it slowly. Sinking to the floor. Exhaustion, disbelief, and panic slowly melting away from his scarred features to leave only self-loathing in their wake. A despair that he had been wearing just beneath the surface for so long...  that was finally surging through to the surface like pus from an infected wound. Rising up and consuming him whole. His kidnapping had aged him greatly - the torture and the needle marks on his arms still all too apparent - but, to my eyes then, he looked even older. Nearly worn through.

He apologized without even looking at me. Voice hoarse. On the verge of breaking.

Then he apologized again.

And again.

And again.

Each time bringing that despair closer and closer to the surface. Crushing himself with it until every part of him was trembling. Twitching. Slowly breaking. It was like watching a crack start in glass. How it would grow across the surface. Spreading out like a web right before your eyes - assuring you that you'll eventually see it shatter to pieces completely. Winston whispered curses at his own uselessness. Voice like cracking ice in the dead of winter as he took the whip to himself - guilt overflowing from a glass that had obviously been steadily filling up for a while. Cursing himself for his state. For his inability to do anything except apparently be the "worst tossing ally in existence!" Bringing his knees to his chest as he spoke of how he'd had a chance. That I'd given him one. That, after Redlight made him "treat [me] like a bloody object in need of being put back together", I had put my trust in him. That he had had the chance to "do some goddamn good for once and keep [me] safe" for a while... and he had screwed it up. And royally at that. All because he'd been exhausted. Pulled in too many directions at once. With everything piling up, he let himself think that having David and I under the same roof would be alright. Not giving a thought to consequence. Of the history between us or any vendettas... and then forgetting to even mention it.

"Forgetting and leaving you to get..."

He couldn't say what had nearly happened. It pained him to even think it...

I couldn't help myself.

I started laughing.

I had listened to him. Listened to him come apart at the seams as I tried my best to pull myself back together... and, as I strained my muscles to sit up while clutching my dislocated arm, I just started laughing. I couldn't hold it in anymore. I felt it stirring inside and tried to bite it back, but it escaped. Starting as a weak chuckle... and slowly growing in strength until it burst from my gut in howling laughter. Laughter that shook and pained my tired body right down to my core. That made my lungs burn and my sides hurt. That made my eyes water and run in tears. Sitting on the bed with my feet on the floor, I laughed like the last shreds of my sanity were being set aflame. Arms coiled around myself in some desperate attempt of a fool's mind to ease the ache the laughter brought upon me.

The ache that melded into everything else that ached.

I knew... what I must have seemed like.

I knew that I was scaring Winston. Probably bringing back memories of the battlefield when his comrades had mentally shattered in similar fashions. Dissolving into mad fits of laughter after one too many bullets skimmed by their heads... and then all that was left was a not-so-temporary visit to the Funny Farm. I knew that's what he was thinking. I had been able to hear it in his voice when he whispered my name. But the thought of losing my mind only made me laugh harder (They're coming to take me away, ha-ha, they're coming to take me away, ho-ho, he-he, ha-ha...).

When I reined in my giggles, I only really had one thing to say. I asked him if he thought it was funny too. Holding out my hand for him to see.

It was trembling.

I asked Winston... if he had any idea what my hands had done. How I'd used them. How they'd tortured and manipulated. Contorted bodies in nearly every possible way. Been soaked in the blood of the Haunted and Innocent alike. How they'd felt the bulge of the skin just before a bone cracks through the surface. How they'd felt how the chest shivers and rises just before a gut-wrenching scream of agony sings into the air. How they'd closed around the throats of many a target of mine. Feeling the muscles strain for breath as life was slowly denied and terrified eyes turned dull.

How they'd held someone right up close to me... even as my gauntlet pushed itself deeper inside of them. Cutting through whatever resisted. Making a hand-puppet of the still-living. Bladed fingers wrapping so carefully around the heart. Caressing so gently. And then squeezing. Cutting. Ripping.

I asked him if he ever had a heart beat in the palm of his hand. Beat. And then quiver.




I had.

My hands hadn't shook then.

But that afternoon... in that Cafe... after I'd been chased and locked in a room... hit around and pinned down.... and nearly raped all by one little assassin...

That's when my hands shook.

I thought it was funny.

No, actually... I thought it was hilarious.

Winston just sat and listened. Quiet as the grave. Pale as the dead. Listening to me as I rambled through my chuckling. As I spoke through the wide smile that had taken my face. As I rattled on and on. Until I used one of those trembling hands to cover my smile which came to feel more like a grimace. Eventually sinking low over myself as I pressed my pained arm to my body and rested the elbow of my other on my knee. Holding my head. It still ached. Everything did...

I told him that I didn't blame him. That I couldn't blame him. Not while I was thanking him for interfering. Thanking him for putting himself as the one thing that stood between David and I. The one thing that... stopped what otherwise would have happened. While it was true, Winston had been given a warning which he'd failed to pass on... but David could have just as well not said anything. I had - like a stupid newbie - posted on this very blog where I was. Who I was with. What condition I was in. He could have come with no warning at all and it would have come to the exact same result.

The only one I had to blame was myself.

I could tell from the look on Winston's face, however, that he was far from done blaming himself. I still remember the exact words he used then. He didn't stand up. He didn't come over to me. He stayed where he was. Staring across to me. Catching my own stare with his. His were bloodshot. I was certain mine were too. 

"Sam... I would never betray you if I could avoid it in any possible way. Remember that."

I believed him.

Leaving did brush over my mind, but that wasn't a choice. Redlight desired me there. I knew that. To leave would have been foolish at best and suicidal at worse.

I stayed.

I healed.

I worked.

All in all, it was manageable.

David didn't try anything after that, but he still seemed to... find ways for us to brush past each other. Honestly, to an outsider, it would have seemed perfectly accidental or harmless. That is, if you didn't know better. If you didn't know him. Me. The history there. I know he enjoyed how it always made me involuntarily tense, but it never went further. He'd offer, at times. Make suggestions. Comments. But my repeated declines were... "respected." Which came with a wave of relief, needless to say. It meant we were able to work together without either of us getting the other killed. And, once Morningstar had joined us, that was twice the miracle.

Shooter had always had a certain level of disgust reserved especially for rapists, and that hadn't changed with his "resurrection". When he caught on to what had happened (I sure as hell didn't tell him), Shooter went absolutely lethal. It took me hours (of several days) to talk him down. Not even the threat of consequences from Redlight if Star removed a piece from play prematurely reined him in. Once, he pulled a knife and lunged with the clear threat of castrating David (for starters) when the assassin made a comment about how he could still say that I yelled out while under him. He'd just leave out that it wasn't his name.

Part of me really didn't want to restrain Star back for that one.

In any case, it just became another thing not to mention. Another thing to bury and forget about. After all, we were all working under a Certain Someone. It was best to not let the personal side of things overflow into business. Best for us to get along as best we could. Not make a laughing stock out of ourselves by revealing what kind of "unity" there really was in the Cafe. Amongst it all, it really did come as surprise that the one who came closest to actually dying... was "Joseph". Though, to be fair, that was when he pissed off Redlight. No thanks to Sage, of course. And, when all was settled again even as spiked nerves remained, the four of us split up to regroup ourselves. Morningstar went to the roof. David went to our prisoner to "keep him company" with Ronan. "Joseph" disappeared into his room... And I told the others I was headed to mine. To call if I was needed, but how I planned to catch a nap.

In actuality, I went to Winston's room.

I found him sitting on his bed.

Pale. Frail. Blank. Just staring off into empty space with his hands clutched in his lap.

I didn't bother asking for an invite. Merely closed the door behind me and sat down beside him. Putting my arm around his shoulders only to find them trembling so slightly. Letting him lean on me even as his thoughts replayed what it felt like to nearly be disposed of. Nearly be Hallowed beneath Redlight's hand. How close of a call it had been. He didn't utter a single word at first, but when I shifted to get more comfortable myself, all I heard was a soft plea for me not to go. I assured him I'd stay as long as he wanted, and there wasn't a single other word spoken after that. Nothing needed to be said. It felt awkward enough to... handle what our bond had become as it was. With no joke. No smile. Just a presence. It was the most I could offer... and the fact that I wasn't entirely sure Redlight was really gone for now made it a hell of a risk at that. 

"My own people seem to find themselves unable to be at least be somewhat 
honest with me, and on the other side... I refuse to work for that... 
that... bloody Red FREAK!! 
I know I never had many avenues to choose from in the first place, Sam, 
but now... why does it seem that I... 
I don't even have one path to walk down?" 

"...A logical mind doesn't find throwing itself 
into a volcano or a tornado to be available options. 
Sadly, that's more or less what we have. 
Listen to me, Winston. You've already had one run-in with 'that freak'. 
It's obvious the dislike is mutual.. 
But I can't protect you from The Devil if you run off with the Highers..."

And it was in the moment, with his head on my shoulder, that I realized with a bit of a curse that... I'd allowed it to happen. Allowed it to grow. A weakness that neither of us needed in this turbulent time. A weakness we couldn't afford. And yet, no amount of inconvenience could change the fact that Winston's words to David through that locked door had been the Truth. The complete, honest Truth. 

"Knock, knock. Is the lady of the house home~?"

"You just missed her... this old dog will have to do."

"Well, I always have preferred the company of animals 
in comparison to people..." 

We weren't "friends". 

"What can I say, darling? I'm a Proxy of my Word."

"You're a rank idiot."

We were Friends.


 "Keep stating the obvious, my dear, and you might become a Sage yet~"

 "Speaking of... they really don't have much of a chance, do they? 
The Runners, I mean..." 
"Sweetheart, when did they ever? It's Wash, Rinse, and Repeat. 
Even when they returned to the old Tried and Failed system yet again... 
their precious Sages abandoned them. So who did they begin to turn to? 
Who became Unofficial Sages in their absence? 
Gargoyle. You. And lil' ol' Me. 
Three Proxies, of all things. 
One of Past, and Two of Present.
And that, my friend, is just sad."

Right from the beginning, it was never "Nightscream" and "Sherlock". 

"Show me a man that says that he no longer fears death, not one bit, 
and I will show you a liar. Acceptance and lack of fear... 
are two very, very different things. 
Don't forget that, Sam. The fear never dies out. 
It is one of the only things that they can never take away from you. 
That fear is what reminds you that you're human. 
That is truly what I believe. There may be no way to measure a man, 
but one can quantify oneself as being alive. As being what they are. 
And that? That is humanity, Sam. 
There's no great tally, 
nobody keeping track of the so-called inhuman acts you commit, 
no one examining the good you do. We are just simply... here. 
I think... what everyone is terrified to admit... 
is that they don't think that is enough, 
when that is all they're going to get."

"How true. The only real tally is in your head. 
We know what we've done. And what we deserve in turn. 
And that, my friend, is keeping solid footing. 
That is remembering common sense and being able to... 
act normal, even if we aren't. 
Even if one has forgotten what 'normal'  even feels like... 
I envy you, Winston, in a way. You still remember. You still care. 
Though it's obvious what manner of price you pay for it..."

"Paid in blood. Sadly, mostly my own. 
Though... I'd make the same choices again. 
Especially if it meant reminding someone like you, Sam, of better times. 
I may be prideful, over-focused, and arrogant... 
I may hurt more people than I help in order to save my own hide... 
but saving your life is something I'll always be proud of. 
Something I'll never regret."

It was Sam and Winston.

"...What makes you think I'm motivated outside the cause?"

"You haven't thrown everything away. Not yet. 
You have clear motivations and aren't suicidal, 
which denotes that, even if it's practically impossible,
you still have somewhere you'd like to go back to. 
The "wanderer" archetype usually is a clear type of person; 
not the one who has nothing left, but rather...
the one that has something to protect."

"...Clever. Truly. Though one part of that is wrong."

"Would you be so kind as to enlighten me?"

"I have nowhere to go back to, darling. That's gone."

A Ex-High School Teacher and an Ex-Soldier. 

"...But fighting back to that extent
doesn't really help you if it's going to kill you in the end, now is it? 
Isn't it therefore better to fly under the figurative radar...?"

"You work under the radar, Winston.  

All while held up tight in this little Cage you call The Cafe.
Tell me, do you think you're able to breathe any easier than me?"


And I liked him. I trusted him. For once, I felt like... there was an understanding. An instant, mutual understanding. That was something... I'd never experience before then with any of my kin. We understood each other. So alike... and yet different in just the right places to nearly make us polar opposites. In many ways... he could have well been the Teacher. And I could have well been the Soldier. It's almost funny how lines blur... 

"Don't delude yourself; snakes that can cheat death, 
attendants that can freeze and burn,
 craftsmen that can create entire realities; 
what about that implies simple mortals? 
What do you see in those monsters that would 
possibly make them qualify to be men?"

"Snakes are eaten by birds and weasels. 
Ice melts. 
Fire is drowned. 
Illusions shatter at but a slight shift in light. 
Everything has a weak spot. Everything. 
Mortal doesn't mean human, love. 
Mortal means weakness.
It's just a matter of figuring out how to exploit it."

And yet... it was something else that caught my attention from the start. A simple thing. Something he had which I didn't. It was his eyes. Eyes that were deep and burdened. A cold flicker near the surface, and much turmoil beneath. A boredom. A hunger. A pain that struck him deep. And yet... they were such a warm golden brown when he laughed. They'd come alive. Nearly shine. He had the eyes of a Human. The eyes of the Norms. While mine... well, there is not a laugh I can give that would change them from what they are. They're eyes that are Wrong. Eyes that others shy away from peering into. Eyes that unnerve at a glance. Disturb at being held. As cold and as sharp as the blades of my gauntlet. An item that they've stolen their color from as well...

 "...I wouldn't last one second with Redlight,
and you know it, Sam. 
Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto. 
I'm just a man, Sam, and men are pests to him. 
No... men like me are nothing in his eyes. 
Maybe that will be his downfall..."

"I won't tell you what to do, Winston. For that, I have no right. 
For me, I suppose it's an easier choice. 
Staying at the heel of the Highers would only end up...
with an Elimination Order with my name in the wrong spot. 
At least, with Redlight, I have half a chance to live through the storm. 
I simply wish..."

There was a time... that my eyes used to change too. 

"...Humanity is a strength, Sherlock. 
Not a weakness. 
It's the Key. 
The Secret. 
Don't forget that."

"...So this is where it ends, huh? 
I doubt our respective bosses really will want us fraternizing. 
The less trouble we cause each other, the better... 
It's... almost funny.
Two clear divides between what is supposed to be one unified group. 
Take care of yourself, Nightscream. 
I mean that."

But that is long past now. Long past...

"I expect a coffee when this is all over."

 "Let's hope we both make it to then."

And, when I let myself into that no-name, nearly-condemned bar which was nested on the very end of a trashy, no-where street in some tiny, no-nothing town... the first words that Friend said to me weren't a greeting or a question of my presence or intent. It was simple fact. Spoken on a soft, drifting voice. One that should have been smothered beneath the sounds of the storm that ravaged the "building" on all sides. But, instead, the words seemed to fill the bar. Cover it. As if it was written on the very walls themselves. 

"So you got out."

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Goodbye To A Good Friend. Part 2.

My insides turned ice cold as I heard the lock click in place. His last words in the hall echoing in my mind. 

"This is the path you chose. You don't mess with me and get away with it!"

I gritted my teeth as I backed further into the room, keeping space between myself and him. Eyes constantly darting from one part of the room to the other from behind my mask. Looking for a weapon. Any weapon. I knew he was stronger than me. Even in my peak, he'd been stronger than me... but I had been faster. In that moment, I hadn't even had that on my side. He'd be faster than I was then. I knew that. I knew it. And I had to fist my hands at my side to force them not to tremble. Not to show that weakness.

Never... to show weakness.

"We're working for a creature without a face and you're going to complain about some simple mind games? That is what you brought Ronan into, David. You. Sue me - I gave him a crash course. And a kind one at that. It's part of the GAME, David. Did you really think you could shelter him from it? Do you think you still can? There's no point. None!"

He laughed. Demeanor a little too casual. Covering up that burn beneath... "Little shadow, I refuse to let your fear prevent me from creating happiness. Which is possible. Which I've been fairly successful in making. Do not try to justify you getting in the way of my work by saying that I reach for an impossible goal. Because I don't."

"You're as blind as ever, I see. Flowers don't grow in cesspools, David. And that's what this is. That's what my life is and what your life is and anyone else that comes within throwing distance of His Game. It's a cesspool. A cesspool of suffering and insanity that taints even the purest intentions black. Its poison. It deforms, infects, mutilates... and I thought your fiance should realize that before following you down the black, blood-soaked Path. I had a spouse too, David. There's nothing 'happy' to be had there. I'm sorry. But Father doesn't allow it. It's not our place."

He stepped forward. His hand raising to tilt my chin upwards. Smiling at me. "So many things grow in cesspools. It's a shame you're only interested in flowers."

I batted the hand away. Trying to keep my nerves beneath the surface and only show annoyance. Shoulders stiffening. "Yes, well, I've had more than my fill of plague and disease, darling. However, if that's what floats your boat... then by all means. Do a cannonball. I gave Ronan advice from one simple soul to another. He didn't take it. Simple as that. I 'lost' that one. Enjoy it while it lasts. And, for your sake, I hope it does." I made to move around him.

He blocked me off. "It's sweet that you pretend to care." And then he closed distance. Stepping forward so that we were almost touching. That smile - those eyes - telling more than what I cared to read as his voice lowered. Nearly whispering. "You shouldn't be so frightened, you know. You might even enjoy it."

I could feel myself bristling. Anger building beneath the calm front, barely contained. "No, David. I sincerely doubt I would. I don't deny that you're an... attractive enough man. And your... experience is no doubt... full on the topic. However... I believe I'd sooner enjoy a lobotomy than what's working through that special mind of yours at this instant. You've made your point. Now enough is enough. Try it... and, I swear in the name of the Slender Man Himself... that you better make damn sure I'm dead when you're done. Otherwise, I promise you... I'll spend the rest of my life tearing that 'Happiness' of yours apart."

And, it was in that instant, his entire demeanor changed. He stopped smiling... and that near venomous edge of his presence seemed that much more potent. There was a bare inch between us... and I could sense what was coming the same way one can feel a storm in the air just before it hits. His voice was low. Dark. Carrying every shred of intent of what he planned to do next.

"Perhaps I would have stopped... but not now."

He grabbed at me.

I snapped my fist into his jaw. It hit, but with far less strength than what I needed as I ducked low. Throwing my shoulder down as I tried to sprint around him. Tried to get to the door. And I felt an omnious sickness rise in me when his hand closed on my arm. Twisting it near to the point of dislocation. I cringed down.

"You spout so much so called wisdom about our situation, but you know absolutely nothing about pain. You will though."

His fist crushed into my own jaw. His wedding ring tearing my lip as my body twisted that little bit more... and I bit back the pain as my arm did dislocate. The world hazed over in my mind... and then it suddenly spun. I was thrown on the bed. 

I scrambled to get up. 

Scrambled to get off. 

Yelling at him. 

 "Pain?! You think I don't know PAIN?! Goddamn you, David, what the hell do you take me for?!"

  "I take you for a fool who has threatened what I love once too often."

He grabbed me from my struggles. Forcing me down onto my back as he came over me. Straddling me. Removing my mask in the same motion that he forced a kiss onto my mouth. His hips grinding to mine as his hands explored the map of scars and healing injuries under my clothing. Fingers digging through bandages and scabs to push deep into wounds. Tearing them wider. His mouth eating at my neck as my body trembled against each invasion. Biting my tongue against the pain to choke back any admittance of it until it was bleeding in my mouth. My good arm trying and failing to shove him off even as his free hand, having been familiarizing himself with the pattern of scars over my skin, followed one right to the edge of my pants. My belt. And I felt him... begin to loosen them off.

I went for his eyes.

His throat.

I kicked and thrashed and clawed. Struggling to gain even an inch of difference. An inch of advantage... but his weight over mine wouldn't allow it. Wouldn't even humor me to it. Eventually, he got tired of the attempt and squashed it. Backhanding me as if I was not but a disobedient whore... and then flipped me over onto my stomach. Pinning my arms beneath me and forcing me down onto my bad shoulder that screamed with the pressure of it. His body over mine as I screwed my eyes shut. Forcing back the pain with ragged gasps. Sweating from the struggle. Exhausted from it already. I tried to yell out, but his hand slapped over my mouth. His other... returned to its former duty before... making use of the room it had made. Feeling... lower. Feeling... me.

I hated him.

I wanted to shred him. The rage that surged through my system being the only thing that kept me from going comatose with exhaustion and injury. My heart and head pounded so hard I couldn't even hear the ruckus out in the hall as David purred about "now knowing The Big Secret". I forced my weight onto my bad shoulder and threw my elbow backward. I hit him, but if he noticed, he didn't pay attention. Too focused, perhaps, on molesting me to care about something so minor. So I bit his hand. He saw it as an invite to put his fingers into my mouth. So I bit harder. Tasting blood. Hoping it possible to bite someone's fingers off... and his response was with a laugh that I felt rumble in his chest more than I actually heard. Dark and purposeful. Full of intent... and loving the struggle. The Fight. Loving every damn second of it...

And I felt... all that I didn't want begin to press against my thigh. A reality that I couldn't accept. Wouldn't accept. Screaming in my head of how I didn't get this far only to fall this low. How I didn't work this hard - give up this much - to lose control now. How I hadn't SURVIVED the goddamn PLAGUE DOCTOR just to get raped by DAVID FUCKING BANKS!

I heard yelling. Pounding at the door. Doorknob twisting, but hitting the lock.


David froze at the voice, and I saw my chance. Taking it before I lost it. Yelling out. Yelling back to Joseph. Pleading for him to help me. To stop him.


Something changed.

I felt it pull through the assassin like an electric jolt... and then, just like the flip-of-a-coin change I witnessed in him when I had threatened his "happiness".... his demeanor flipped again. That dark burn I'd felt before suddenly lessened. Withdrew. And, as though in mockery of all my previous struggles, he was off me. Leaving me where I lay without a single glance back as his attention focused completely on the door and he who was on the other side. I suppose he wasn't too concerned about me going anywhere. Especially with one screwed-up arm...

He called back to "Joseph". Speaking in a tone that sounded nearly soothing. Telling him to calm down. Making a small comment about how naturally he was using my real name. Going on about how "close" we must have become in such a short while. Assuring that he understood that "Joseph" was concerned... but that "Joseph" himself didn't understand. David spoke through the door to tell him that I deserved all that I was getting. Telling him that I had taken advantage of the situation before with Ronan... so it was only fair for him to take advantage of my situation now. That I've threatened them for the last time. That it was time I learned my... "place".

I could plainly hear "Joseph's" response from where I was. Just trying to be a quiet as I could. As still as I could. Just to let him handle it. Handle David. I stayed on the bed clutching my arm... repeating to myself that Winston would fix it. That he would stop it. He would know what to say. He would... 

"...We're friends. Allies. David, please. Most of the blood you're spilling is mine. By all rights, Sam should be dead right now. If you do this, you'll erase everything. Everything I did. Everything I've done to keep Sam alive will be for bloody-well NOTHING! Sam's body won't take this. Its HEART won't take it!"

David began to pace. Arguing back. Nearly growling that I had to be taught that the people he cared for were not pawns to be used to my benefit. That, if he didn't - if he let me go - I'd do it again. And he wouldn't allow that. Noting the possibility that I could pull the same trick with "Joseph" himself. Justifying himself by saying that, if he had to "break" me to make sure I didn't hurt those that mattered to him, then that would be exactly what he would do. That he would take whatever he needed from me - whatever was important to me - to reduce me to nothing. And then only let me back up when HE said so. Making it well known to EVERYONE that HE wasn't to be double-crossed. And if "sex" (rape) was the tool to get to me... to "clip its wings"... then he was well within his right to enjoy it.

It mystified me at the time... how little the man understood my thinking.

And yet... the reply was silence and, for a moment, I feared Winston to have left me to my fate... but soon that voice came back. Quieter. But just as strong. "...No. No, this... I swear to God, David... if you do this... I won't love you anymore. It'll be over between us. Do you understand? It'll be OVER!"

From my spot, I watched, nearly astounded, as the physical presence of David Banks visibly shrank down. Stiff shoulders lowering as he put his forehead against the door. Eyes closing for a few seconds... and then opening slightly to turn that gaze back to me. I stiffened across from it, but otherwise didn't move. It was quiet then. Everything was. Except for my heart pounding against my chest with such force that I felt the beat in my ears. I recognized the look I saw in David in that moment. The look that smothered what had once been excitement and lust edged in justification and anger. It was disappointment. The same look I remember seeing on Leo's face from time to time when he'd be clutching a new toy to his chest at the store and Alex or I said he couldn't take it home. To put it back.

It was a highly disturbing comparison.

It turned my stomach.

I heard "Joseph" whisper something on the other side of the door, but my attention was too focused on that expression... before David seemed to make up his mind. There was something in his eyes then. Something that was telling me how lucky I was that Winston liked me. Telling me... how I didn't owe just my life to him anymore. That I should find a way to repay him... and not forget that Winston was the only thing that stopped David from having me. Warning me to watch my step and mind the trust that had been put in me... because, if I twisted it and broke it, he would be back to finish what he started. 

And, yes, he would enjoy it far more than I would.

Then he turned away from me. 

Unlocked the door.

Opened it.

And stepped out. 

As casually as someone would leave a grocery store.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Goodbye To A Good Friend. Part 1.

It was October 5th.

The storm had devoured the afternoon. Pounding the no-name, no-where, no-nothing town with torrents of rain that fell in a chilling blanket. Winds tearing their path down near-empty streets. A howling wolf of a creature in itself as it prowled for its next victim. Whether that be a roof not nailed down quite tight enough to prevent it from rattling, lifting, and tearing off... or just an old window that has seen one storm too many and can't stand to face another. The wind eager the shatter the feeble barrier to turn its protective value into something much more lethal. Adding a blood thirsty edge to its already-sharp bite...

Nature was hungry.

Eager to prove its savage nature to any who utter soft pleasantries on a warm, summer day. Or dare to insist that a short prayer to an unhearing God will protect them from her wrath...

Leave a baby crying out in the middle of the woods.

See what comes first.


Or the wolf. The cougar. The fisher. The goddamn birds...

Now the day being gone and
the night coming on
Those two little babies sat under a stone
They sobbed and they sighed, they sat there and cried
Those two little babies they laid down and died

Pretty babes in the wood

Pretty babes in the wood
Oh, don't you remember
Those babes in the wood

I used to be a God Loving Soul as much as I was a God Fearing Soul. I used to Believe in an Almighty. I used to bow my head in prayer and thank The Lord for all that had blessed me in my life. For my health and my upbringing. My job and the opportunities brought upon me. For His Guidance in leading me to the Love of My Life... and for Leo. I'd pray for Him to watch over my son. To guide and protect him like He had done over me, and to let him grow strong. Physically. Mentally. Emotionally. Spiritually. I'd ask Him to feed the hungry. Shelter the homeless. Lead the lost. And to embrace those who deny Him in their hearts - for it is they who need His Guide most of all.

It never seizes to amaze me... how stupidly naive I was.

How... idealistic.

It sickens me.

And it sickens me even more now. For I've let such idealistic thoughts invade my mind even recently. And I've paid the price for such foolishness. As have others...

Dimme would be killing herself laughing by now. The woman barely ever cracked a smirk, but I think she would laugh for this. For all of this. This mess that I created. How I painted myself into a corner... and let myself get Close when I knew better. Let myself think I could Trust when I knew better...

Let myself think that having true friend in this bloodfest... wouldn't come back to bite me.

The Game is lonely.

To call someone a "friend" is, at most, a joke. Only allies exist. Or should exist. And, even then, it's tentative. People are savage by nature. Quick to use and manipulate. Quick to betray. Sometimes even without meaning to. I, of all people, know that. It's what I Do, after all...

And what I Do... what I had Done... put me straight into Sherlock's care. Whether either of us wanted it or not. Admittedly, I liked the man when I first met him. He was a quick one. Sharp as a blade and just as lethal. But he was also very... normal. A common man amongst psychopaths. I liked the contrast. It refreshed me in many ways. And when he was the one I woke to when death nearly had me---

There is a road between Here and There. An Endless Road beneath a Golden Sky...

---I broke and wept at that voice.

I remember the flood I burst through when consciousness slapped me alive again. I remember the feeling. Like jetting up through water from the darkest depths it can offer - breaking through the surface far too fast so that the pressure, the intensity of it, is actually painful. Like a whiplash that starts in the brain and just spreads into every nerve. Blazing heat into muscles that were nearly prepared to go forever cold and stiff. Tearing one memory after another from the reach's of your mind to slap them before your eyes in a torturous slideshow of every failure and success. Every joy and pain. Every moment of suffering and turmoil and uncertainty and rage and sorrows so deep they drive you to your knees. All overlapped and warped around and twisted - mutilated - until even the happiness seems like nothing but a hollow scream. Voices and feelings and touches and smells and PAIN...

And then you're... I... was thrown back into Reality.

At first, all I knew were the tubes attached to me... and thoughts of the Oathbreakers flashed forward first right amongst the cold burn of a memory that was me pinned beneath The Beak's cane. I thrashed. I fought. I cursed... and I pleaded for no more. To be left alone. Begging even as I tried to get up. Tried to rip out the tubes that were the IV. The antibiotics. Even as I tried to hit and scratch at whatever Cultist was trying a new experiment...

And from my weak attempts at freedom... from amongst the hysteria that had sunk its claws into my mind... Winston spoke to me. Holding me down - more so I didn't hurt myself in my mental state than anything else. Never minding how I had raked my nails across his neck. Never minding how I had cursed and pleaded against the hold. He just spoke. I don't remember quite what. I don't think it matters. Eventually, the voice got through. Recognition keyed in over the hysteria... and, after a strained moment's pause, I wept. I curled into myself. Legs pulled up and my face buried... and I wept and laughed and went through every emotion that I had kept locked up so as to handle what my situation had been. So as to handle The Sickness. The Beak. My unavoidable death. Plans left unfinished. Ambitions unrealized. All of it came like a wave from that same water I had emerged out of to grip back onto Life. The water threatening to reclaim me... but Winston just kept speaking to me through it all as I trembled and shivered from shock and relief and everything else that kept coming to the surface. Layer by layer. Shred by shred.

I was a wreck.

And then... I twisted on the bed I was on and heaved. Nothing came up except blood. It hurt. God, it hurt. I felt like I'd swallowed razors and now they were working their way back up. Winston held me from collapsing all the way over off the bed with one arm and rubbed my back with the other. Still uttering little assurances and calming sounds. Trying to comfort me.


A foreign word for any Proxy.

And yet... I welcomed it. It confirmed he was Real. Another human. "Proxy" didn't even come to mind. He was human and he was alive and I didn't want to be alone. I didn't want to be left alone. As if it was his company that was keeping the Monsters from coming back again. Keeping them from finishing me off. As if... there was some part of me that was terrified of drifting back out to sea... and he was Port.

It wasn't until he ripped out a needle in his arm that was still dripping blood and pried my grip off his arm to grip it in his own hand that I realized I'd been holding on at all. That I realized... I had been able the feel the blood on his skin under my fingers. That he had been and still was shaking on his feet. Struggling to keep balance from blood-loss. Blood given to me. He nearly missed the chair at bedside when he went to sit down. Trying to joke. Called me a lazy asshole for my heart stopping for a bit, if you remember. I could feel on my chest where he had pounded with his fist. Trying to encourage the beat to come back. Probably bruised or even fractured a rib or two, but it was a small price to pay...

I spent nearly a week in his company before the world even realized I was still alive.

I never spoke of it. It wasn't something to discuss. There were other, more important matters at hand...

But it was a good week.

An honest to God, good week.

We'd carry on conversations for hours. Usually ending or "on pause" when I got tired and had to rest. We did a little of Quid Pro Quo to learn a bit more about where each of us had come from. Our views and opinions. Stories of Missions Gone Wrong and people we used to know. Going on with "You MUST know so-and-so..." which would always land up taking the topic the exact opposite direction as it was originally intended. We'd go on rants about everything under the sun... irritation slowly working away to anger on certain subjects... and then there would be a comment. One comment. And we'd be laughing. Absolutely killing ourselves laughing. My body would be SCREAMING with the effort of it... but it felt good all the same. It felt very good. Like all the knots I'd tied in myself with work and being Hunted... were slowly loosening up. Winston started looking better as well. We'd both gone through our own personal Hells and got to the other side somehow or another... much worse for the wear, but alive. And still able to laugh... practically a miracle.

And, as my care taker at the time... Winston was absolutely determined that I wasn't going to rush my recovery. Giving me complete hell when he walked in with my lunch as I was attempting to get to my feet for the first time. Asking me if I wanted to fall and crack my skull open. I knew I was weak. Malnourished. And still quite sick. Not as bad as I had been, but some symptoms were still clinging. I was in no shape to be doing much of anything... but I had to teach my body to work again. I had balance to regain. Muscle. Coordination. Sitting in bed wasn't going to give me any of them...

But... I let him talk me into taking it easy. Giving myself time.

At least that was until David arrived.

After my post. And then Joseph's post. Darling David had decided to bless us with his presence...

And I hadn't known.

Winston had. But he hadn't told me. I suppose he thought he'd be able to deal with any "tension" between David and I when the assassin walked in the front door. The only problem with that little plan... was that "Joseph" was busy briefing his squad in the backroom when David arrived. As luck would have it... the door opening was also timed with my first steps on the stairs going back up to my room. Coffee in hand. I turned as I heard the creak and the chime of the bell... and it took only a second for dark, familiar eyes to turn up to me. The unease I felt was instant and deep. I was weak, and David and I were a far stretch from allies since the little Cult/hostage incident...

He greeted me. Asked how I was faring. I only offered a small smile - barely a tweak - before answering with a simple "on the mend - nothing short of a miracle". Going on to inform him that "Joseph" was around back. That he should be out anytime now. My attempt to quickly redirect the assassin's attention... but nothing is ever so easy... 

"Actually, Nightscream... I came to see you."

He gained a few steps up the stairs even before he had even finished his sentence.

I knew.

Father Knows, I knew.

Those eyes of his burned. Each of them like smoldering charcoals. A cooled surface just managing to conceal the fire beneath. A searing heat that I could nearly feel as his gaze lifted over me. Studied me. Sized me. And I was nothing to size. I was thin. Gaunt. Weak. And I knew... I knew right down to my core... just what thoughts boiled behind that gaze. What he wanted. His intent... his purpose... it practically radiated off of him. A hunger for more than blood. More than what scraps were left of my life...

For the first time in a long time... I felt vulnerable.

I felt...

I kept my shoulder open to the stairs above. Not dumb enough to block the escape - my only escape - by turning my own back to it in some false show of strength. I could feel my nerves tightening even as I smiled at the assassin. A smile I've used a million times. One that always came so easily to the surface... and, in that moment, had never felt so fake. So cheap. And yet, I still kept my pace. Swallowing my unease to coo a comment about feeling oh-so-special that he'd make a special trip just to come see lil' ol' me. That I was touched. Flattered. But that, perhaps, whatever it was he wanted could wait. That I was tired and needed to rest. That we could talk later.

I still thought... I could defuse it. That I could redirect him. If only my mind would get back in The Game. If only my thoughts would stop acting like a bloody crossword puzzle...

He rose a brow at me. Pausing on a step just a few below mine. Staring up. And, in those eyes, I could see... that he knew I knew. 

"Please, don't make me chase you. You might get hurt."

My insides twisted. I stole a glance to the backroom, only to quickly redirect my attention as I caught him move out of the corner of my eye - an advance up the steps that I was quick to correct with a retreat of my own. Taking two steps higher. Sloshing coffee from my mug onto my fingers as I did.

It burned.

I didn't care.

Instead, I pushed a chuckle through my throat. Complimenting the joke. Telling him that it was cute... even as I backed up another step. Insisting that I was in no mood for these Games. That "Joseph" would be out any minute. That he should go get himself a coffee. That I was certain... that Jo would be thrilled that he dropped by.

He only chuckled. Following each step back I took. The sound bearing nothing but sweet satisfaction. Commenting on how I was insisting to make this "difficult". That he didn't expect any less from me. And then the smile he wore darkened, words tainted with just an edge of anger as that heat in his stare grew hotter still. Bringing up old business. How I took Ronan from him and put him in danger. Humiliating David. Opening the door for many others to attempt - though fail - the same trick. Growling... how these were things that he couldn't just let go...

Wouldn't just let go.

I had been able to feel myself bristling as I took one step back then another. Thoughts of the lock in my room already flickering to the forefront of my mind. My only chance at refuge if there was one. At sanctuary. But I forced myself to focus on the assassin. An edge cut in my own tone as I corrected him. Reminding him that he was the one who had put Ronan in danger by trying to attempt the impossible. I had merely put David in danger - but nothing worse than what I had myself in. I had been surviving. That was all. If he wanted someone to blame, he needed to blame the Organization. Kidnapping and blackmailing aside, I had kept Ronan safe under my watch. Not letting a thing happen to him. Not a thing. I told David he couldn't deny that. Telling him to think about what he was doing. To consider the consequences. How it would lead nowhere worth going...

He followed each step. Overflowing with an intent that was only getting darker...

He asked if I really thought... that he didn't know about all the things I mentioned while The Mad Ventriloquist - Dearest Venny - was under my care. All the things I spoke about. That I used and twisted around. Making him doubt David's intentions. Making him second-guess his choice of being with the assassin. Second-guess his future. His role. We played music together. He, on the piano. Myself, on my soprano sax. We made it a duet. It was fun... and it built trust. Music is the God of all languages, and we found a center between us. A center that I used to rattle the little part of Venny's brain where the common sense and simple observation are supposed to be. I suggested the foolishness of what they were attempting. Suggested David was using him. Suggested that he should get out while he still could...

With every step, I watched that anger increase. Until his words came out in a poisonous hiss as he lunged at me. Wanting to grab me. To pin me to the wall. I used the only thing I had: my coffee. I threw the mug at him - spraying coffee across in a scalding shower - and spun around. Bolting up the rest of the stairs and down the hall. The only thought pulsing through my mind being the lock on my door. If I had only been in my proper condition, I could have made it into my room, spun, and slammed the door shut with ample time to lock it... but, alas, that had not been the case. I staggered when it came to turning back to the door. Eating up precious seconds before I managed to shut the pathetic barrier - throwing my shoulder against it to hold it as I begun to turn the lock... only for it to burst back open against me. David forcing his way in as I staggered backwards to catch my balance.

He closed the door behind him and locked it.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

To Err Is Human.

and i am... human

so very human

capable of so much... and also so very little. capable of... such insight and blindness. strength and weakness. caring and cruelty...


just a simple human playing a Demon's Game...

I just... wanted to protect my son. Proxy, though, I am... the job could never... completely kill a parent's devotion. That is truth. Yes. It is. No matter how we break. No matter how much It takes away... tearing into you until you're not but a puzzle of bone and blood for them to rebuild for their own... purpose... their own... game...

it can't make you forget

not unless you want to

And I didn't want to.

I wanted to Remember.

To Know Who You Are is a Strength that comes far beyond any manner of muscle and skill. 

But, For Others To Know Who You Are...

That... is the Crack in the Armor.

And yet... I wanted to believe I could keep it together.

I wanted to believe... I could still make it work... that Leo could still have his foster family...

"--until they die. Just a few more years of Preparation, Sam. 

Then he needs Tragedy. 

And then he will spiral down to our level.

There really is a science to making creatures like you. 

You have to get the formula just right..."

Goddamn you.



Amber Eyes... why the HELL did I trust Amber Eyes? I had a warning, and that wasn't good enough? Did I not SEE??

I didn't want to see.

Only Human.

Now... now I've made everything so much worse. I should have killed him. I know that. I knew that then too. I should have taken his life like I took Alex's. I could have done it quick - it would have been a mercy! It would have  been... i'm not... i'm...

my arm... still feels like it's on fire. He spoke of claiming him and I just... drowned in The Red. I lunged at him and pinned him and he... he grabbed my gauntlet so damn calmly and the burning was so intense I could smell the burnt flesh, skin sizzling beneath the metal as the steel of my weapon... my signature gauntlet... the inside just... melted to me. I could feel it as it dripped and molded and fuse to my skin and I can't get it off... i cant...

"Tisk, task, Sam. Where was your head? I'm disappointed. You should know by now that the Job doesn't come off that easy. Let me make this more clear for you.... Once you have claws, all you'll ever be is a monster."

How could I have let this happen? 

How could I have been so damn BLIND?

I wanted to think... it would be so easy. I wanted to think that I was the only target. The only one being looked at. Sized up for future plans. A Solider Who Still Has Some Fighting Days Left. That's what I wanted them to see. That was my role.

Use me.

Use me, and I'll use you to get what I want in exchange...

I am a Tool.

I am a Soldier.

Use and be used.

Handy dandy little system...

but this Tool... this Soldier... is wearing out. Wearing down. A toy can only be glued back together so many times and I can feel that. Why did I think they would not see it? Especially him. Amber Eyes. That fucking bastard. HE LIED TO ME.


I lied to myself.

"You have done well. Very well. You are a model agent and a fantastic killer. And that is why I want Leo to be the future Nightscream, when you are old and withered... Or more likely dead. You should be proud."

I want to be Proud.

I do.

I truly do.

Right, Vivi?

Just Like I Said?

Just Like I Said When You Had To Have It All? When Enough Wasn't Enough? Is It Enough Now, I Wonder?

You Must Be Proud. So Proud.

Your little plan... it paid out, didn't it? I fell for it. Like a mouse in a mousetrap, lured by cheese. Lured by a promise. Lured by the Hope that things could just be that easy. And then it was just SNAP and, oops, too late for second thoughts. I fell for it. And you... you must have worked so hard to control your grin. To watch me blind myself with Hope and Hope alone. It has been... such a long time since I've been taken in by its whispers... its poisoned 'what ifs'...

It's never that easy. I knew that.

But I wanted to believe it could be. I wanted to. Like a child wanting to believe in fairies and trolls.

There is nothing more destructive than Hope.

But, I believe... a Congratulations in in order, Amber.

It was a good little game, I'll admit, from one Trickster to Another. I may have done something similar myself at one point...

But you've underestimated which Toy you're playing with.

I Want To Be Proud Too, Valtiel.

Proud As I Watch Fear Stir In Amber Eyes.

Proud As All Your Delusions Of Superiority Crumble.

Proud As Your Precious Control Is



From You.

You don't think I can, do you?

Of course not.

For I Am Human.

And you are so much less more, correct...?

Heh. You're not as complex as you think you are.

Showing you that... is going to be My Pride.

Humans may seem so very fragile to you... but Monsters still BLEED, you greedy little bastard.

Father wears a Scar.

The Beak Limps.

So a little Nothing like you sure as all FUCK can DIE!!!