Comfortably Numb

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Chapter 41

Everything hurts. My body feels like it's been put through a meat grinder, and my mind is hazy.

I groan as the thumping of my heart echoes in my brain. I reach up to touch the place I'm hurting the most- the base of my neck- but cold words halt me in my tracks.

"I wouldn't do that if I were you." My eyes snap open. Above me there is a single swinging lightbulb. Beyond that is a stone ceiling I know too well.

I can't stop the scream that rips out of me. It hurts, but I can't seem to stop it.

Pain laces across my face and my scream is cut off. My face throbs where Blakes hand had connected.
"Shut up." He hisses at me. I glance up at him but keep my mouth shut, the fear of more pain keeping me silent. He shoves his hand through his hair and then stands up straight again. He takes two steps back and then leans on the wall.

Without wanting to, my eyes automatically trace the familiar prison. Every memory I have been avoiding plays out at once in my mind, and it takes everything in me not to scream again. I screw my eyes shut as tight as possible and try to regulate my breathing. I fold the material of the dress I've been placed in between my fingers to focus on instead of the hellhole I'm locked in.

"Why?" I whisper through my teeth.

Blake snorts. "What are you on about?" He spits. I haul in a deep breath and then focus on him- and only on him.

"Why did you do this? How could you do this? You know-" I cut myself off, unwilling to let him see me cry.

"Know what? All the intimate details of what he did to you down here? Know how he ripped you apart and left you for dead? Know how badly you want to be anywhere but here?" He chuckles and my chest squeezes. "Yeah. I know."

"Then how can you do this?" I squeeze my eyes shut to stop the brimming tears.

"Quite easily, actually. I told you.. You took everything from me. Seeing you hurting... Well it makes me hurt less" His fingers tap on his leg, and he pauses briefly to cock his head as if listening. His smile is back, brighter than before. "I wouldn't worry so much about the why, if I were you. You have bigger things to think about."

I shove myself to my feet, the pain from our last fight dull enough now that I'm not in screaming agony anymore. The pain in my mind is still very much present, but I choose to focus instead on our conversation.

"What exactly is your plan here?" I spit through my teeth. "To leave me here to die? To pass me into his arms? Do you honestly expect that after he has me he will want anything to do with you?" He snarls and his goo leaks faster from the cuts on his arms. Pain dances at the back of my skull and I realize he's causing it.

"Watch your tongue, bitch."

"Why?" I spit, pushing past the pain. "It's the truth. He wants me, he has me. What use does he have for you now?" He takes a step towards me and lifts his hand as if to strike me again.

"I wouldn't do that if I were you." The voice of my nightmares speaks from the doorway. My skin tightens as if I've been electrocuted, and my old wounds ache as if they are fresh.

Blake steps back from me and bows his head. I can hear his heart beating faster, can smell the excitement clinging to his skin all of a sudden.

The second he enters the room, I feel him. Every inch of my skin screams out, and the mind numbing blackness in my mind surges forward.

I screw my eyes up to block him out. My ears are roaring, and even though I know they're talking, I can't make out what they're saying.

Blake leaves through the same door he entered through. I keep my eyes screwed shut.

"Andromeda....." Seth's voice cuts through the roaring in my ears. Unable to stop it, a tear slips out.

Cold fingers brush it away and a sob cracks out of my chest.

"Andromeda... Why are you crying?" His hands cup my face and more tears fall. His thumbs brush them away. I am only too aware of his body, inches away from my own. Every scar, every healed break of every bone, every cell in my body burns.

"This is a happy occasion." His thumbs swipe across my cheeks again. "We're together. There's no need for tears." Another sob rips out of my chest.

"Andromeda..." he pulls me into him by my neck.

The second our chests connect my body buckles and I black out.

————-----------------------------------------------------

Waking up is harder than the last time. The blackness calls to me, beckoning me to stay but reality is stronger.

The first thing I'm aware of is that Seth is gone. The next thing I notice is that I'm stretched out on a massive fluffy bed.

I sit up and glance around me. The rest of the room is the same- how they've brought a bed in without my noticing is a mystery I don't care enough to solve.

"Well Meda... What are we going to do now?" My heart falls to my feet at the quiet rumble. I whirl around and there he is- standing in the same place I last saw him.

Steven's smile is genuine. His eyes twinkle like the night sky and my bones ache with the need to wrap myself around him. I am so surprised that he is here, having already had our goodbye weeks ago. I can't stop myself from rushing towards him, desperate for the comfort he is sure to offer.

He seems to feel the same need, and we collide in a fierce hug. Even though I know that it's impossible, I feel him. I feel his chest pressed against mine, his arms wrapped tightly around my back, his back against the inside of my arms. I can feel his chin resting on the top of my head and I can smell him.

"Stevie" I whimper. He presses a kiss to the crown of my head. "Meda" he whispers back. I press him tighter to me, scared that if I let him go he will disappear like last time.

"Just breathe, Meda. Just breathe." A sob pushes its way past my lips. He rubs one arm up and down my back in an attempt to soothe me.

"How are you here?" I shake my head.

"It's ok, Sweets. It doesn't matter."

"How can you say that?" Another kiss is pressed to my forehead.

"Because it doesn't."

"It matters to me." He chuckles. "I know. But it's ok, I promise."

"I don't understand." I whisper. He hugs me tighter for the briefest second.

"I know Sweets. There's a lot that I don't understand either. But I don't think any of it really matters right now."

"What do you mean?"

"Well," he sighs, "Right now we need to figure out a plan to get you out of here."

I pull back from his chest so that I can see him. "Get out of here? Why?"

"Why?" His eyebrows disappear into his hairline. "You can't be serious."

"Why not?" He grabs my left hand in his right.

"Meda you can't stay here."

"Why not? You're here, I want to stay with you. You left so quickly last time and now I'm so afraid...." He sighs and pulls me back into his chest.

"Meda..... You can't stay here with me."

"Why?" Tears build behind my eyes and I'm not sure if it's the feeling of rejection from my best friend or the words I know he's about to say that are causing them.

"He's coming back, and I can't protect you." He presses a kiss to the top of my head again before continuing. "I can't stay here either."

I bury my nose into his chest and haul in a deep breath to try to calm the raging pain in my chest.

"Stevie..." I whimper. "I can't do this again. I can't... I can't watch you walk away again. Actually being back here...Watching you die broke me, Stevie.. And Blake... it ruined me.. I don't... I don't know how I'm going to find my way back to who I was."

He sniffs and leans down to press his forehead to mine. "Now that's the biggest pile of bullshit I've ever heard." I flick my eyes open and he's already smiling down at me, the warmth and compassion he always emanated warming up my heart.

"You are the bravest woman I have ever met. You're stronger than steel and tough as nails. I know...."He pauses to haul in a deep breath. "I know losing me was hard.And Blake.." He sighs, "He has paid for his magic with more than he expected. But we're not the centre of your universe, Meda. You are an entire galaxy all your own. "

"I don't think I can let you go again."

"You don't have to. I'll always be here with you, even when you can't see me. You carry me with you in everything you do. And I am so, so proud of the woman you've become."

"We were supposed to do it together." The tears are falling faster now, but I don't care enough to wipe them away. Instead I keep holding him, hoping for just a few more minutes. "We were supposed to grow up, and tour the world, and fall in love with interesting people... all of it. We were supposed to do it together."

"Meda....."

"It's not fair. He took you away. And it's not fair."

"I know. I know." He traces his hands up and down my back again, trying to soothe me. "I know."

Another sob rips out of me, and Steven just lets me cry for another minute. Finally, when my tears have dried up he pulls away slightly.

"It's time to go now, Meda." I nod and grab his hand as tightly as I can. He smiles and squeezes my hand back.

"I'll always be with you, I promise."

He steps away and the lights around him start to shimmer. "Remember Meda, you don't just exist in this universe. You are an entire galaxy all on your own." He reaches up and waves at me one last time, and then his form starts to disappear.

"Stevie!" I call. He smiles back at me. "I love you." "I love you too. Be good."

His words are left floating on the air as his form completely vanishes. My heart aches as I realize that I am completely alone down here, locked in my own personal hell. I sink back onto the bed and wrap my arms around my chest, suddenly cold.

"Well Andy..... what are you going to do now?" I whisper to myself. I haul in a deep breath and then flick my eyes open. Part of me knew that it was just a dream, and yet..

The room looks different now, but I can't tell why at first. I push to my feet and glance around the room.
The lighting isn't as soft as it was, and things I hadn't smelt when Steven was here are biting at my nose. A quick glance around the room shows that what I was laying on wasn't a bed like I'd thought, but rather a stack of blankets I'd been stretched out on. Another deep breath confirms that it had all been a dream.
Sadness hits me, but Stevens' words echo in my mind to numb the blow. "I'll always be with you."

I stand up and stretch out my sore muscles.

Suddenly, I am not alone.

"Fainting whenever you see him is probably not the best method of avoidance." Blake's amusement makes my skin crawl. I turn so I can see him and almost gag at the fresh gaping wounds he has leeching up his neck now. His amusement drops into a menacing snarl.

"What?" He growls. I shrug and take a step away from him. He rolls his eyes.

"Where did he go?" His eyes narrow. "Why do you care?" I shrug again. "Gives me an idea when to expect him b-back."

"He's out. That's all you need to know." I nod and glance over his shoulder towards the door. It's bolted shut. Perhaps if I can get him distracted enough I could slip past his defenses and escape....

"You know you n-never explained how you got involved in all this" I wave my hands at the visible seeping wounds on his arms and neck. From the smell I can tell there's more on the rest of his body as well. "Black magic stuff."

"I don't owe you anything." He mutters. A sharp laugh bursts out of me without my permission.
"You don't owe me anything?" I glare at him and then carefully trace my eyes over the tiny cell he'd hauled me back to. "I think I deserve at least answers to my questions after you roasted me alive and dragged me back here."

"I don't owe you shit, little girl. You took everything from me and didn't even blink. You're Lucky I haven't skinned you alive."

"Lucky? You think I'm lucky? I fucking dare you to lay another finger on me. Oh wait- you can't. Your m-master wants me alive and well so he can do the s-skinning himself."

"I wouldn't be so cocky if I were you." Blake steps towards me, bringing his horrible stench so close it takes everything in me not to vomit. "He's been locked up for almost a year now, fantasizing about all the things he wants to do to you...... that's what's keeping me here. Knowing how much he's going to make you scream, how badly you're going to wish you were dead..... and when he finally puts you out of your misery, I'll be here. Waiting for him."

"And what, he's just going to run into your arms and you two are going to run off into the sunset?"

He smiles. "Maybe. Or maybe we will go hunt down the rest of those mutts you call friends." My breathing stops.

"Ohhoho that caught your attention didn't it?" He laughs, a cruel harsh sound. "Someone doesn't like their mangy pack of dogs being threatened?"

"You leave them out of this. They have nothing to do-"

"Nothing? You really are stupid. Why do you think that Seth wants to be made into a wolf so badly?" My mouth is so dry I can't answer.

"He wants to kill all the selfish elitist dogs that wouldn't give him the time of day when he was human. You might be his obsession right now but hunny...." he laughs again. "You are only the first in a long line of conquests."

A shiver runs down my spine so strong I nearly fall to my knees."And you're ok with him wiping out everyone we love? Killing an entire species for a grudge he's made up?"

"Why would I care? Wolves or no wolves the world keeps spinning and I will finally get to be with the man I love."

"But they're your community! How can you help this man murder all the people you care about?"

"If I didn't care about killing my own parents, why would I give a shit about all of those people?"

My heart srops. "What?" My voice is so weak I'm surprised he can hear it.

For a split second, I see remorse on his face. Then it's gone and the mask of indifference is back.

"I murdered our parents. Set up the fire and locked them inside." "Why?" I breathe. He glances down for the briefest second.

"A sacrifice." "You killed our parents so you could do MAGIC?" I explode and throw myself at him, intent on breaking his neck. Air slams into me, shoving me back away from him. I snarl and throw myself harder against the invisible barrier, desperate to rip his black heart from his chest.

"Heel bitch!" He screams at me, and I feel invisible fingers wrap in my hair to yank me further away from him. I fight harder and manage to slam his barrier an inch backwards. He mutters more incomprehensible words and the black ooze drops faster from his cuts. Sweat breaks out across his forehead at the exertion. My rage burns hotter at the reminder of his magic, and the first sacrifice he made to get it.

"I'm going to kill you!" Something slams into me and although I'm aware that it likely hurt, the pain doesn't register. Blake frowns and whispers more nonsense words, but I push and claw at his invisible wall.

My fingers find purchase on the smooth barrier, and suddenly it doesn't feel like air between us but glass. I focus all my strength on my hands, and I feel small cracks beginning to form.

Blake throws his hands up and the barrier shifts, no longer invisible. I can feel it beneath my palms and see smoke and embers beneath the glass outer layer. I growl and pull my right hand back before screwing it into a tight fist and shoving it with all my strength straight through Blake's magic barrier.

I can feel the heat around my wrist, and beyond that something freezing cold. But against my knuckles I can feel Blake's body heat. I haul in a deep breath before raising my head to meet his gaze. I draw back my fist, ignoring the sting of pain as I do, and throw it back Into the hole I've made. Blake's body goes flying back from the strength of the hit.

Someone grabs my neck and before I can register who it is, they shove a soaked rag over my mouth and nose. Too startled to stop it, I inhale a huge breath and realize that the rag is soaked with chloroform.

I'm out before I hit the floor.
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