Betwixt and Between
Part Two: Chapter Seven
"There's only you, to answer you, forever."
"Even after all that I've seen and heard," Tavarez commented, "I never thought that those 'others' of his were real."
"I hadn't, either," Yula admitted. "It was so creepy, seeing them all lined up, just standing there without saying anything. They almost didn't even look real, like there was something wrong with them all, just enough to make you look twice and wonder why you couldn't quite believe in them."
"But Karthekeyan believes in them, enough to be afraid of them."
"And that one-- Misha-anju-- actually grabbed him." Yula shuddered a bit. Misha-anju had been the most real, the most believable, and still the one who had made her the most nervous. The fact that they'd actually touched-- after a fashion; Yula rubbed her knuckles at the memory of it-- made her stand out even more, because nothing that solid couldn't be real.
"I wonder why none of the others reacted at all," the Rattai murmured thoughtfully.
"I don't know. Maybe they just didn't like her. I'm just glad they didn't-- we never would have gotten home."
Yula sprawled off of Lament as soon as the familiar garden solidified around them, landing on her back in the grass and cushioning her harp's fall with her own belly. She stared up at the twilight sky, amazed that she was seeing it at all, after the past several hours. When she sat up after a moment of catching her breath and marveling at their continued freedom, Nightling was on his feet, a pointy-eared human again, with his face buried in Lament's shoulder. The young dragon had his small wing around him, half-hiding him in feathers, though he held his own head low and breathed heavily. The teleport had to have been difficult, again.
"Nightling?" she asked, climbing back to her feet and approaching him anxiously. "Are you all right?"
"Fine," he said, voice muffled by Lament's furry shoulder. When she put a hand on his shoulder, he expanded, "I'm fine.... Just tired...." He turned his head just a little, so she could see him look at her out of the corner of one eye and smile a tiny bit. "My head feels very full...."
"Wanna talk about it?" she suggested sympathetically.
"I don't know what there would be to say.... I know my own name, but I don't remember it being mine; I met my old guardian, but all she said was 'help yourself'; and the Others... didn't do anything."
"Did you expect them to?"
"They always do something," Nightling said softly, without even a tremor of uncertainty in his voice. "Always. I've never known them not to, except now."
"That woman did something," Lament pointed out, a little breathless still.
"But... it wasn't as bad as I'd thought." Nightling turned his face away again, letting the thick locks of hair hide it from her view. "I got away. Without help from-- from Lady Sphiridon. That's never happened before...."
"Yes, it has," Lament said quietly, nuzzling into his bond's side. "When you found the sunlight and flew away, you didn't have anybody's help...."
"I had yours, this time." He looked up again, between the two of them. "Thank you."
"You're very welcome," Yula grinned at him, giving his shoulder a squeeze before letting him go and hefting her harp. "Couldn't very well stand there and let whoever that was talk down to you, like that, after all!"
Nightling actually chuckled, albeit weakly. "She does that all the time... I'm used to it, by now."
"That doesn't mean it's right," Lament protested. "I'm glad someone finally stood up to her."
Yula laughed, just a little, at the dragon's earnest tone. "Stood up for," all right, with a now-sore fist! Really, the whole conversation sounded markedly odd, talking about someone who Nightling had only seen when he dreamed, as if she were a real person all that time-- though... she had been. Sort of. It was just strange to hear!
Nightling didn't laugh; he stroked his bond's neck gently, then pushed up. He trembled, standing on his own, whether with weariness or reaction. "I think... I need to rest for a while."
To her surprise, Yula didn't feel the need to keep him longer, to try and extend this most amiable conversation a little longer or convince him to let her rest with him. She just nodded agreeably, and said, "I could probably do with a good meal and a decent bed, myself. I'll be around if you need me."
Nightling looked at her with something that might have been surprise, as well, but he just nodded, as well. "Thank you again, Yula."
"Not a problem at all. It'll make a great song-- or six songs!"
That surprised him, as well, but made him laugh. "Bards-- always trying to make things into music."
As he slowly moved off, one hand on Lament as if for support and the other holding his pack in place on his shoulder, Yula watched his back thoughtfully. She was a little surprised that all she felt was a gentle pleasure. Getting an honest, freely given "thank you" out of Nightling might have been enough in the past to make her glow with happiness, a few weeks ago, and hope fervently for more. Somehow, over the past few weeks, she'd gone from desperately in love and hurt by constant rejection, to comfortably friendly and understanding the need for distance. It was the last thing she'd expected to have happened after so long with no one but him and a half-grown dragon for company.
What had changed?
Drifting back to her own room, Yula thought it over, but couldn't come up with a single moment or turning point for the shift. It hadn't been in the caves, but it hadn't been before the caves, either. It certainly wasn't because of his so-called "importance", being the "key to everything"-- because she still wasn't certain she believed it all-- and it wasn't even his attitude about her being completely unwavering. She'd dealt with his mixed passion and rejection for months before this-- ever since they'd arrived here late last summer-- and it hadn't changed how she felt.
"Maybe I'm just growing up," she told herself wryly as she shut the door behind her. Her familiar, comfortable, messy room lay out before her, and she smiled with weary relief at it, dropping her things on the couch and heading for the kitchen.
Even if she didn't love Nightling, she decided as she made herself some tea and pulled out a cup of rice to cook for dinner, she still liked him. She certainly wouldn't be avoiding him, now.
A line of poetry ran through her head as the tea kettle whistled its readiness to be poured, a piece of lyric inspired by the journey, and she grinned again. At the very least, whether or not he was really important-- in that prophetic, magical sort of way the old woman Sphiridon had said-- he made for some good music! If nothing else, she'd make sure she stuck with him just for the inspiration. Who knew what new songs she could write, following him on whatever adventures he went on?
Well, she'd find out later. Right now, all she wanted was a full belly and a warm bed. The rest... could wait!
Song borrowed from the OST for Hack//Sign, the song "The World"
Draclin'geyar are the Creative Property of Silver Midnight; Fleshshifters are the Creative Property of Drakiera