“I guess we should start from the accident,” Jace’s voice filled my room.
It was Zak, Jace and myself in the large bedroom. I was seated cross-legged on my bed while Zak leaned against the wall and Jace took a spot on the couch. I hadn’t seen Tristan since Ahmeil’s death the day before. In honesty, I had fallen asleep after Zak had taken me to my room. My body was sick from the event and even though I had been in shock, I couldn’t keep from falling asleep. I had woken up a little while ago when Jace and Zak came to my door.
“It was quite a while ago, several years. It’s really easy to lose track of time, but anyway. Tristan was out on a patrol with Ahmeil and one of the other guys that used to be one of the right hands. They ran into Hades, another gang that’s to the west of us. During that time, Hades had been a real pain in the ass, constantly invading our territory and trying to cause all sorts of problems.
“Anyway, they got into a fire fight, and Tristan had been injured. The other guy was killed in the fight and Ahmeil and Tristan were trapped in a building. Hades ignited one of the charges that they’d set in there before hand. It was all pretty well planned out, to be honest. I’m not sure of the details, but Ahmeil had lost her eye in the blast but she’d saved Tristan though they both fell quite a ways out of the blast.
“Before that, she’d always been pretty attached to Tristan. He treated her kindly, like a little sister. After the blast, he felt so bad about her losing the eye that he sort of… spoiled her I guess. Which she must have taken the wrong way because she started acting a little bit differently. She would constantly refer to herself as protecting him and that he needed her and that no one else would be able to take care of him like she could.”
“She had a sort of ‘hero’ complex, going on,” Zak interjected as Jace was talking.
Jace nodded, and continued, “I don’t know what really happened, but Tristan told her something one day in private and she sort of grew really cold and distant. I think he addressed her actions to the group. She was always referring to herself as the only one good enough to be by Tristan, and everyone else was underneath her. It started to grate on Tristan because he saw what it was doing to everyone else.
“He still respected her and didn’t tolerate anyone disrespecting her, but he couldn’t just let her keep going as she was. So he talked to her. Ahmeil grew distant and started doing things on her own, closing herself off from everyone. Tensions between the members slowly disappeared, but she was never really gone from the group. I was never close to her myself, I honestly hated her, the way she treated everyone and the way she tried to force herself on Tristan. That’s beside the point though. Anyway, the more distant she got, the colder she got.
“She started to become someone else entirely and her thought process never really made any sense. It just got worse and she still considered herself the one and only person for Tristan. I think she hated me and Zak because we were always much closer to Tristan than anyone else. Out of all the right hands, the two of us were at his side all the time, sort of like body guards. He considers us his best friends. But she saw us as enemies.
“Ahmeil never would have done anything to us because our relationship with Tristan never got very far,” Jace was staring at the ground now, his voice a little bit clipped on that matter and I swallowed hard. I knew that he had been in love with Tristan before me and it was all starting to sound so damned complicated. Ahmeil had been in love with Tristan too, but she had gone insane. For me, I thought that she’d already had a few screws loose to begin with, even before the accident that Jace told me about.
“When you joined us, she didn’t even acknowledge that you were here until Tristan and you became lovers. Only then did she see you, and that was when she came out of her isolation. Up to that point she’d only see Tristan when he was alone and with no one else, which was really hard to do because he is always so busy. However, when you joined us, his alone time was spent with you more often than not,” Zak added, his heavy accent rolling some of the words.
“I never… realized,” I uttered softly as I sat there.
Jace shook his head, “Of course you didn’t, she never was around for you to notice anything. Not until it became apparent that the two of you were in love with each other. She saw you as an enemy,” Jace sighed heavily as he stretched and leaned back, “No wonder she was so damned hostile toward you.”
I shook my head, taking in a deep breath, “Wow…”
“Yeah, that’s about right. I’ll probably sound like an ass, but I’m not sad she’s gone,” Jace said, his voice cold as he leaned in the chair.
I didn’t know how to respond to that and Zak gave him a slight frown, eyes narrowed, “She shouldn’t have died like that.”
Maybe not in that way, but something had to be done I’m sure… I thought to myself, but kept my mouth shut. Instead I turned the conversation. I was curious anyway and I needed to know for sure, “How’s Tristan?”
“Taking it hard,” Jace answered without hesitation. I supposed it was one thing I did like about Jace, he never really seemed to sugar coat things.
“He had been close to her at one time. Like he said, she was like a sister to him. He just… didn’t have time to pay attention to how she was destroying herself.”
“She was already destroyed, Zak. Something was wrong with her long before hand. Some kind of condition, mentally. Whatever he said to her that day made her snap completely. I’m not saying it’s his fault, and how were we to really know that something was up with her? It’s not like we could take her to the doctor and Kilia can only do so much. If it were about ten or fifteen years ago, sure we’d have been able to treat her properly and she’d most likely be normal, but we couldn’t.”
Zak sighed heavily as he tilted his head back against the wall he was leaning on. I flicked my gaze between the two of them tiredly. With the story of Ahmeil’s spiral downward finally laid out before me, it was easier to see where she was coming from and why. It didn’t make it any less painful, or irritating, or shocking. She had been the epitome of crazy, the word itself in a nutshell.
“Did he… know that she was like that?” I asked tentatively.
Jace glanced at Zak who shrugged and answered for me, “We don’t know. We think so, but like Jace said. How were we to know for sure, and most importantly how were we going to deal with it?”
I reached up and ran my hand through my hair, rubbing at my scalp a bit as I frowned at the floor, “That is… difficult.”
“Besides, he still feels bad about her losing her eye. He blames himself for it, so in a way he was sort of punishing himself. Tristan really did respect her, and owed her a lot for saving his life, not once but a few times. I’ll have to give her that, she did save him. Still doesn’t really make up for her going insane like that, but…” Jace shrugged a bit. He gave a long drawn out sound of irritation and ran his hands along his face.
“We also wanted to stop by and ask you a question,” Zak said suddenly.
I lifted my head, arching an eyebrow at him, “Yeah?”
“What happened when you fought with Alik the other day?” Jace asked.
I swallowed hard. Jace hadn’t been fooled by her in the least and he must have known that something was up when they came back from that particular mission. Tristan still didn’t know the truth, and honestly I wasn’t sure I had the heart to tell him. He was sure to be confused though. Ahmeil had clearly stated that she’d been waiting for Excalibur to kill me. I stared at the floor for a while before I answered the question.
“After I got Alik’s attention, I was starting to fight him when Ahmeil came up behind me. She shot me, twice. She threatened Alik to kill me if he didn’t give her Excalibur. It was the first time I heard her say she was going to ‘heal’ Tristan of his sickness,” I grimaced, realizing now that the ‘sickness’ she was referring to was the fact that Tristan was gay. I ground my teeth, feeling a new rise of anger and a wave of dizziness too.
As I sat there, I wrung my hands, glaring down at the sheets, “Alik gave her Excalibur, and she left me. I nearly got raped again, and I threw everything I could at Alik. Right before I passed out, he told me that we were both going to be killed by Excalibur and that he couldn’t wait to see me in hell.”
Jace scoffed at that, rolling his eyes, “Well, that explains where she got Excalibur from. I went yesterday and asked Kilia if she was missing any of the vials that we brought back in that case. She said no, so Zak and I were at a loss as to where Ahmeil had gotten the drug in the first place.”
I frowned, “I’m sorry… I should have said something,” I ground my teeth together tightly. If I had said something, then she probably wouldn’t have died like that. Or, she might have just jumped on that ledge in the first place and down the drug back in the medical room where I had woken up. I wasn’t sure, either way I had a gut feeling that no matter what I did, she would have ended up taking the drug.
Zak shook his head, “Don’t be. Yes, Tristan is upset about it, but that doesn’t mean that you have to beat yourself up over it. He trusted her, and thought of her as family. How were you to tell him that she was going to take Excalibur?”
“I could have told him that she’d shot me.”
“That wouldn’t have gotten you anywhere,” Jace countered, folding his arms over his chest, “Look, Tristan’s a good guy, but when it comes to some things, he can be pretty damned blind. I’m sorry Valkyrie, but he wouldn’t have believed you. Now, why you didn’t tell me is an entirely different story.”
I bowed my head at that. He was right. I should have picked up on it when we had been ordered the leave the dining hall the night before the mission. Jace had been really pissed off at how Ahmeil was acting. I should have realized that if I could talk to anyone about anything, Jace was certainly one of those guys. It wasn’t that I didn’t think I could talk to Tristan, but in light of that situation, as Jace had said… Tristan was too blinded by trying to take care of a ‘family’ member.
“Sorry… I’ll, try to do better next time.”
Jace scoffed and looked away, his face starting to take a pink hue again. I wondered why he was blushing but decided not to worry about it. After all, I’d already pegged him as a giant teddy bear that just didn’t know how to show his feelings. I sighed as I leaned my head back a bit and looked up at the ceiling.
“So,” I started after a while of silence, “What are we going to tell Tristan?”
I heard Zak shift against the wall and Jace give a sigh before Jace answered me, “For now, nothing. He’s grieving at the moment and I don’t want to push it. We’ll tell him the truth later, when he’s thinking straight again. What happened was… It really shocked him. I don’t blame him either. That was… awful.”
I nodded slowly in agreement. Closing my eyes, I could feel a headache beginning to pound at my temples again and I did my best to keep from showing it. Straightening, I looked back to Jace as I shifted around on the bed to climb off of it, “Where’s he at?”
“His bedroom, why? You want to go see him?”
“Yeah, if that’s all right?”
Jace rolled his eyes as I stood up, “You have to ask if it’s all right? You’re his lover, not mine. Of course it’s all right, you idiot.”
I smiled at Jace’s attempt to being pissed off at me, he’d even narrowed his eyes as he frowned, “You’re right, sorry. Thanks, for everything,” I said and started for the door.
Zak reached out and took hold of my shoulder. I stopped, glancing up at him in confusion. His dark eyes narrowed and he looked… worried. What? What was wrong all of the sudden? Then I felt it. Heat slowly spreading in my nose and trailing down to my upper lip. I took in a short gasp and reached up to try to cover the blood.
“I think you should see Kilia,” he said.
“It’s nothing,” I muttered, sounded stuffed up as I covered my nose and attempted to get to the door, “It’ll go away.”
“What? What’s going on?” Jace’s voice was behind me and I heard him get up from the couch and head over to us.
“His nose is bleeding,” Zak answered and held my arm so I couldn’t leave.
“It’s fine…” I said, though this time my voice sounded really weird. The door in front of me spun out of control and I shoved Zak’s hand off of me. Stumbling away from him, I landed on my knees hard, one hand holding onto the side of the dresser as the other braced against the floor. I threw up in the trashcan, coughing hard and feeling as if my stomach was having a war with itself.
A hand was on my back, patting gently and I recognized it as Zak’s, Jace wouldn’t have done that. I continued to cough and dry heave for a while longer, unable to move from my spot. The door opened behind me and a loud voice filled the room, “Valkyrie?!”
I heard Kilia’s heels brushing across the carpet as she rushed over to me and dropped down next to Zak and I. I glanced over to her as I held one hand up over my nose to try to stem the bleeding, the other still grasping the dresser to keep from face planting onto the floor. My heart was beating heavily in my chest, each breath burned like a bitch and I felt like I was going to going to be sick again.
“He suddenly had a nose bleed and then just threw up out of nowhere,” Jace’s voice explained from somewhere behind me.
I closed my eyes as I knelt there, trying to breathe and slowly beginning to freak out. I could feel my eyes burning as well as my nose as I started to cry out of fear. This is Excalibur… Eating at my body. The blood I’m coughing up… Is my body, I thought in horror. My entire body trembled as I knelt there, hyperventilating now. The trashcan became a blur and my hand slipped on the dresser as I lost my strength. There were loud sounds from around me, but I couldn’t register them as I fell over.
I found myself staring up at the ceiling, feeling blood curdling at the back of my throat as I coughed again. The semi-darkness of my room was slowly becoming brighter. I saw Kilia’s face but it was blurry most of the time and sometimes I didn’t see her at all. Their voices hovered in and out, just noise in the background as a buzzing sound filled my ears.
In a few minutes, everything went bright white.
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