The Fallen Chapter 16
You know what I like best about the cold?
Gabriels voice came out tired and strained, as he and Rory had been walking for several hours down the narrow stone rimmed path, feet sinking deeply into an inexplicable snow every step they took. How the frosted precipitation had managed to get into the cave itself, and to go as far as coating the floor, neither of them knew, but seeing how it had only come into existence recently they guessed that the path opened up to the sky soon. Explanations or not, however, both of them were cold, wet, and exhausted, and Gabriels questions had been the first words spoken in about thirty minutes.
Rory, who had sported a shorter pair of legs, had began to lag behind him despite her lighter frame to carry. She gathered a sudden burst of energy and pushed herself forward to catch up, answering his question with a brand of dry humor that she always sported when she was particularly uncomfortable. Let me guess, she said slowly, its perverted and is involved in the process of breast feeding?
With a snort, Gabriel shook his head, watching the burst of fog burst out from his nose. That was, in fact, a second thing that he liked about the cold, how easy it was to make yourself look like a bull. Fun stuff. But it hadnt been what he was thinking of when he had first spoke up. Nah, he said slowly, try to crack one of your knuckles.
Shrugging, Rory complied, reaching up to seize her pinkie, and quickly twisting the tip of it to the side with a popping sound. Instantly, her skin, which had turned chalky white due to the freezing conditions, quickly colored with a swirl of red, and a second after it had returned to white a searing pain raced through her finger. Ow!
Gabriel chuckled slowly and kept on walking, wondering how often that trick would work on people. Probably until he tried it on somebody with a gun, at which point it would no longer be an issue, as he would no longer be able to ask the question. Not without working out some sort of blinking alphabet system. He squinted into the depth of the tunnel, licked his lips, and braced his neck. About two seconds after hed done so a large, tightly packed snowball smacked into the back of his neck, and he slowly wiped the stinging ice from the back of his neck, not giving Rory the gratification of complaining, or even turning around.
A moment later, a second snowball came at him, but arced over his right shoulder and smacked into the stone wall beside him. Once again, he pretended not to even notice, but a flicker of doubt washed over his smile. That one had contained a rock in the center, that would have hurt like hell.
Then he felt something smack into the back of his head directly level with his ears, and instantly wished he had been hit by the second. Hey! he cried, spinning around. Youre supposed to at least pack some snow around the rock!
Rory laughed and faked innocence for about three seconds, and then simply broke out in a triumphant smirk. So, she ventured, what the hell do you expect to find?
Honestly? Gabriel asked, resuming his pace.
Honestly, Rory confirmed, doing the same.
Gabriel paused. Nothing, he said, after a moment.
Nothing? Rory asked in surprise.
Nothing. He agreed. The world is filled with many fucked up things. Lunatics, rapists, murderers, religious fanatics, and guys who are actually addicted to eating lard. The world is not, he added, something that has a mind of its own. And you know, even if it did, I dont think it would be a weapon maker. It would probably make pansy little booties or something.
True... Rory said, though it probably couldnt be plainer that she disagreed. Rory didnt know why, but faith was one of the few things shed always possessed that most people didnt have. The problem was, she didnt know exactly what it was she had faith in. Everything she heard she was supposed to believe and to believe in, she didnt. Everything she heard that was completely wrong, she could usually feel some sort of connection with. I dont know, she said, arguing both with Gabriel and her own statement, when I was younger I used to pretend I could hear the planet talking. Half the time though, when I was making up stuff it was saying in my head, it got weird. It was like it wasnt really talking, but like I had no control over what I was making it say. Like something was simply putting the ideas of what it was saying into my head, and I heard it that way.
Her words faded into an uncomfortable silence. After a bit, she murmured, I was probably just a dumb kid, though.
Gabriel didnt know what to say. He thought it was quite clear that Rory was nothing near dumb, but he didnt know how to state so without violating his firm opposing to everything involving fate, destiny, and a higher power. Instead, he chose to commentate on something else she mentioned. What was it like? he asked, living in Midgar slums? I never really lived in a big city until I was already in the Turk training program.
Dirty. Rory said simply, obviously not wishing to discuss it. But about what you said... how did you manage to get into a group like that? >From what Reno told me, you cant be very nice.
A ghost of a smile crossed his face, and quickly faded away. He half closed his eyes, as if a full scope of vision clouded his memories, and spoke softly. Im not really sure.
Rory looked over at him in surprise. Huh? she asked.
Im not sure, he repeated. I was born in Kalm, I think. I remember a lot of hills, and a lot of green, and that could be a lot of places, but God knows Im not from Kalm and I dont have the eyes for someone who was born in Mideel. A distant memory crossed his mind, a friend of his whod had the almost neon green eyes of a man born on that island. He was probably thirty something now, or all out dead. The fact that the latter was far more likely than the former didnt make him near as sad as hed thought it would, or should.
And? Rory prompted, reminding him that he was telling a story and this wasnt the best time to go off on a walk through random memory lanes.
Yeah... he said irrelevantly. And then it goes blank, until Im walking into a Shinra office, Im dressed in blue, and a really tall, really pale man is explaining what he calls the rules of the game to us. As far as rules go, these were pretty weird... but with nothing left to do, I followed them, for about a year I guess. Things sort of settled into normal, I went out drinking one night, and boom- I wake up naked in an alley with you. Quite a life, huh?
Oh... Rory said slowly, you talk awfully mature for someone who can only remember the cliff notes to his own life. What, were you in a coma or something?
Dunno. Gabriel said simply, and shrugged. I doubt it, cause like you said, I dont talk like a three year old and I know how to do a lot of shit. For instance, I can put disassemble and put a hand gun back together in under twenty seconds. While mixing a martini. Not to mention my bodies not all atrophied and weak. He added that last part, he thought, with far too much pride.
So you just cant remember it... Rory said.
Yeah. He nodded. I guess.
Maybe youre lucky. Sometimes I wish I couldnt remember any of my life. Rory said suddenly, breaching the subject that shed turned away just seconds earlier.
Really? Gabriel asked, Any parts more than others?
Eh. Rory said, exhaling deeply. All of the parts that involved being cold, or hungry, or tired... or eyed by some of the perverted pedophiles in limousines who patrolled the neighborhood looking for a lil girl who wanted a candy bar. She twitched especially hard at that one, and then looked desperately for something to change the subject with. Do you see that?
What? Gabriel asked, going suddenly alert.
That... Rorys voice changed strangely. She had first said it without actually seeing anything, but a sudden sparkle down the tunnel caught her gaze. Cmon, she said, and began to walk a little faster, hoping to god that maybe it was a space heater or anything they could light on fire. Gabriel hurried to keep up with her, trudging quickly through the ever deepening snow.
They entered into what had to be one of the most bizarre rooms that either of them had ever seen, and not just because it was, in fact, a carved out room in the middle of a mountain path. Three tall pillars jutted up from the floor in a triangle pattern, apparently made of stone or some sort of crystal. The ground around the pillars seemed radically different in every respect, the first one having snow piled up all around it, the second having a large ring of bare rock where their was absolutely no ice of any kind, and the third had a group of dark purple, sickly looking plants sprouting up straight through the ice and the stone. Embedded in the top of each pillar was a long, leathery handle.
Woah... they said together, and shared a look. Together, they approached the closest pillar, which unfortunately was the one waist deep in snow. Struggling over the ice, Rory suddenly slipped, and falling forward, reached for the leather handle for support. Somehow, though she didnt understand it, she missed, and went tumbling to the ground. Gabriel leapt up to help, but upon seeing her lying fine but rumpled, couldnt help but laugh.
Very funny... she muttered, pushing herself to her feet. Why dont you try to grab it?
Aight... Gabriel balanced himself slowly on the ice, taking baby steps across it until he was within range of the handle, which he promptly grabbed. Hed expected it to come away easily, as if it had been perfectly balanced, but instead he felt a kink, and pulled it away slow as a long, sheathed blade came with it, emerging from the pillar itself.
Woah... Rory said, leaning forward for a closer look. Come on, lets see it.
Seizing the sheath, Gabriel slowly began to pull it off of the blade, revealing the base that was an incredibly dark blue. With a flourish, he pulled it off the rest of the way, and went to inspect his new weapon, stopped by only two things. First, a wave of incredible cold came at him, causing him to turn his face, and a second after that- blackness hit.
Its 4:00. Time for your pill.
He hated the man. And he hated his pill even more. He didnt know who the man was, or what the pill was, he just knew that he hated them both to an incredible degree. The man was tall, pale, and wearing a long white lab coat, which was amazingly clean considering the greasy condition of his long brown hair. The pill was green.
No! he heard himself saying, in a voice not entirely his own. It sounded... higher, and far more irritating. Kind of like a six year old who didnt want to take a bath, because hed just get dirty the next day anyway. I mean, who cares that he was probably carrying six kinds of disease on him from the grime outside, baths were inconvenient.
Its 4:00, the voice repeated dryly, malice creeping into its tone. You will take your pill.
NO! he was screaming this time, and he was trying to lash out, but something was holding him down. Not completely, just his limbs and his head, and as if to prove it he threw his chest out wildly in an effort to break the bonds. A sigh was his answer, and the greasy haired man shook his head.
Heavens, it said, I thought we were past this. I thought you had grown up.
As if from no where, a syringe was produced, but for some reason he wasnt objecting to that. Needles, normal medication, apparently those hadnt scared him... but the pill, that was terrifying. The needle sunk into his arm, and almost immediately he felt sleepiness wash over him, and his eyes slid shut as the man in the white lab coat stared in humor at the needle, which was dribbling a cool blue liquid down its edge.
Gabriel blinked. His cheek was cold. Idly he realized that it was exactly as cold as it had been before his bizarre vision, or memory, or whatever it was. In fact, everything was exactly the same as it had been. The entire disturbing visual had lasted less than a second, apparently. Feeling mildly put out, Gabriel shook his head, and returned his gaze to the blade. It shimmered in a bizarre way that made it look like it was reflecting the light at angles that werent really possible, and the cold it emitted was enough to make him replace the sheath in a few more seconds. His eyes met Rory.
Wow, he said.
Wow, she agreed. They shrugged, climbed away from the ice, and each walked towards a different pillar. Gabriel, with longer legs, longer arms, and less of a bruise from a nasty ice fall, got to his first, and this time the effect was different- the blackness hit him the second his hand wrapped around it.
Flashing lights. Lots of flashing lights. And sirens. Oh god damn the sirens, God damn the sirens to hell. They were always the worst part, as his ears were sensitive, and he was really prone to head aches in those years.
He did a mental stop.
Honestly, he didnt know what years he was thinking about, except that he was prone to head aches during them. Especially during these little expacades by the guy with the greasy hair, who would move him from the monotony of being strapped down and take him instead into the blinding activity of being strapped down in a room with a strobe light and a siren. And the itch was starting...
...he tried to fight it like he always did. He didnt like the itch, and he truly didnt like what came after it. Especially because it made the man in the coat so fucking happy. Once in a while he able to fight to itch, hold of the resistance to symbolically scratch it, but usually not. Those rare times he did, the way Mr. greasy hair looked like he had just swallowed sour milk was classic, but this was not one of those times.
Which would it be? He felt to distant to really feel which one was bubbling up like he usually could, even though he only had three places to look to. Then he felt his skin begin to bubble and stretch, and new exactly what- the armor. Hadnt it been different in those days? Oh, thats right, it had been painful...
Screams ripped from him, from pain and horror as he literally felt his rib cage realign itself in his chest, and he felt an empty sucking system as most of his internal organs simply disappeared. Out of the corner of his pain glazed eye, he could just see the greasy haired man, a bright disgusting smile on his face.
Her face hurt. Honestly, everything hurt, but that was the main thing. Her face. It was swollen with bruises, and a long gash traveled down the left side of it. One of her eyes was swollen shut, and her lip was split too.
She would have blinked if she wasnt already squinting through swollen eyes. Reno was standing above her, framed in incredibly bright light, and he looked like he was about the throw up and burst into tears at the same time.
How ya doin kid? he asked, but his voice was incredibly distant.
She felt her lip tremble. My stomach hurts, her voice said, sounding small and pitiful.
Its okay, Rory youre gonna be okay Reno said, but his quickening breath and his shaking hands seemed to belie that statement.
Her lip trembled again, and with a small wail, she burst into sobs. Reno, I dont wanna die I dont wanna die
Reno squeezed his eyes shut as tightly as he could, letting a few tears slide down his cheeks. She fell against his chest, shaking with sobs. Shh shh Rory, youre not gonna die youre gonna be okay he trailed off as his voice cracked.
Then why wont you look at me when you say that? Reno nearly choked, horror-stricken as Rory continued her sobbing. She realized she was going to die. His Rory, his innocent, realized she was about to go away from everything she had ever known. Reno she sobbed. I dont wanna leave you .I dont wanna leave I wanna stay here .Dont let them make me go
Reno held on to her, tightly as he could without hurting her. Shh .Rory, shh just He didnt know what to tell her to do. He shut his eyes, and quickly opened them again. Whenever he shut his eyes, he saw the horrors of reality. What would an innocent, a young girl with an imagination see? Just close your eyes imagine things are different imagine things are okay where do you wanna be? You can be anywhere in the world.
I wanna be here with you. Sobs overtook her as she once again fell into Renos arms.
The nurse came in with the IV bag that held the sedative to send Rory into her dreamless sleep, before Reno was to pull the plug. Hey Rory, he beseeched softly. The nurse is gonna give you some medicine to help ya sleep, okay?
She sniffed. Okay.
Anything, um, you wanna tell me, cause I think theyll make me leave while youre sleeping. Reno felt so sick. It had always hurt, lying to Rory, and now it hurt most of all.
I love ya.
I love ya too, kid. He squeezed her against him until she murmured a soft ow.
Since youre goin out, do ya think you could scrounge up the gil to get me some ice cream from the cafeteria?
Renos heart splintered. Her innocence Uh, sure.
You aint gonna leave till I get to sleep, are ya?
He hugged her. Wouldnt dream of it. She smiled and lay against him.
Gnight, Rory. He kissed her forehead. In a moment she yawned, and drifted to sleep.
It was like an electric shock, coming back into reality, and the two of them reeled together, nearly dropping the new weapons they held in their hands. Gabriels was sheathed, and hers was not, so Rory got the first look at her knife, but even before she scooped it closer she could feel an air of familiarity about it. The blade was long, thin, and incredibly green. Dark to the point that it almost looked purple, but when she tried to check out how truly dark it was, a wave of sudden nausea swept over her, and she fell back against the pillar. Unable to explain, but almost positive the wave of sickness was coming from the blade itself, she lowered her eyes to the nearest thing- the hilt, and almost dropped the weapon yet again.
The handle was simple, but beautiful. It had been engraved with something, not carved into but around, so the image actually rose up from the handle. A long stemmed rose curled around it, long thorns jutting out on either side, dripping blood. The blossom of the flower spread out into the opening where the blade would emerge. At the very bottom, one word was written:
It was the switch blade her brother had given her, with a different blade, and she didnt even need to check her pocket to know that she wouldnt find anything. Shaking her head in amazement, she looked over to Gabriel, who was staring at his knife in what seemed like fear.
Whats wrong? she asked in a low voice.
Uh... he pulled the sheath away from the handle a little bit, and showed her. Brimming low, around the exposed edges, danced little red flames along the bottom of the blade. He pulled it a little more, and not only was their fire their too, but it was wider, and a darker shade of red, flickering out but somehow not burning the leather sheath.
Huh... Rory said, holding her green blade up a little higher for him to see.
Huh. Gabriel agreed, slowly licking his lips as he stared at it. A moment later, he needed to look away, and a sudden gag ripped through his mouth. Ugh... he muttered, holding his stomach, what the hell is that thing?
I dont know... she admitted, and went to test the blade on her finger. Something stopped her, and she stared at it a moment longer, and then flicked it back into its sheath. I wonder if were going to beat the others back.
Gabriel shrugged at her, slowly holstering his knives on his belt. I dont know, he admitted, but if their stuff is weirder than this, I dont think itll matter, cause theyll be fucking nuts by the time they arrive.
Rory couldnt help but agree.