We All Fall Down: Part Five
Single Walls Tend to Fall
"Cerulean, you left the front door open. That's how the Doglefox got in."
"...Cerulean! What's happened to you? You never talk like that!"
"I just said okay!"
My heart froze.
"You guys both shut up!" I yelled.
They stared at me. I covered my mouth in horror.
My own name barely reached me. I don't even know which one of them said that. The room began to slowly tilt, throwing me to the ground.
"Faith, dear, are you feeling alright?"
Was I feeling alright? Me?
"What is up with you?"
I managed to raise my arm into the air, but my muscles faltered and it hit the floor again.
"Dear, you should sit down..."
I felt one scaly wing hug my side and lift me to my feet. Reluctantly, I staggered over to where Rubia guided me, and I collapsed into the chair at the last second. A mug was pressed to my mouth, and a few drops of hot health tea trickled down my throat. I opened my eyes to see a face that was concerned... Too concerned...
"Do you feel alright?" Rubia repeated, bringing her cup away from my mouth.
I weakly mumbled, "No."
And then I passed out.
He sighed very, very deeply with grand exasperation.
"Calm down, Cerulean," I coaxed.
"I don't want to be a little kid anymore."
"Faith's acting weird and you're acting weird and I just think it's about time I grew up."
"You... You sound like a character from a terrible book! Snap out of this!"
"Which terrible book?"
"I don't know, Cerulean! Just a really, really terrible book!"
"Well, this would make a worse book, wouldn't it?"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Heck if I know."
I gazed sympathetically at him. He sighed.
"Cerulean..." I started.
"My name's four syllables. I'm always telling people that it's alright for them to not use it."
"Look. Faith's acting weird because she feels like you're driving her away. I'm pretty sure I'm not acting weirder than usual or saying your name more than usual. Just be nice, okay?"
He was in the other room before I finished talking. I buried my head in my wings, massaging my temples. Cerulean's been eating mountains! He's... He's just making an excuse to leave me here!
"Nngh..." Faith mumbled, sitting up, as I shifted my attention to her and not my head. "...Rubia?"
"Don't worry yourself, dear," I calmed her, edgy but glad to take comfort in comforting.
For a moment, she half-opened her mouth. She closed it, though, and looked away. "I'm just not used to you and Cerulean fighting..."
I nodded. I knew how her mind worked. "I'm afraid that never really means almost never. There's always exceptions here or there... And we, as people, get stuck dealing with them."
Then I realized something.
Cerulean had gotten up with his broken wing and lugged it into the bedroom. There was no denying that it had caused him pain he was willing to bear. Just so he could put distance between us. I buried my face in my hands and groaned, "Oh, no..."
I let it all fall apart.
I had never bothered to dry off, and the bedroom fire was too far away to do me any good. When I'd entered the room, I collapsed by the doorway in pain from my wing. I inched towards the flames, crumbling.
In a shot at inner peace that was vain in two ways, my breathing deepened. My eyes drifted shut as I thought selfish thoughts that pushed my hated companions down and me up. A tiny part of me was trying to remind me what loyal friends they both were. I suffocated that corner of my mind. But when I took off my cloak and set it at my side, I remembered just who mended it.
In my mind, I saw Faith. Because I had to, Cerulean.
Faith. You're wrong. You wanted to...
I neared the fire a little more...
And then I jolted upright as hot liquid splashed on my feathers. I found myself staring at Rubia, who was standing two feet away from me. She was holding an empty wooden mug. I smelled tea.
"That makes twice," she huffed. I noticed Faith standing behind her.
"What, twice that my wing's caught on fire or twice that I damaged the same one in one day?" I asked as I examined my wing. Several feathers were charred.
"Twice that you've been completely ignorant to the wounds you're giving yourself today," the Hissi remarked. Her words sliced me open like a scimitar through cobwebs, chasing away all of the self-righteous ideas that I'd had mere seconds ago. I realized that Faith was clearly not going to get involved in this unless Rubia brought her out. My fellow Xweetok was gazing down at folded fingers in idle shame, avoiding me with good reason. She wasn't with Rubia to get caught in any more crossfire.
"I sort of obviously knew that my wing was being broken in the first place, you know. And that wasn't even my fault! I was saving her!"
"Oh, I was referring to when you got up a few minutes ago. Don't you know that you shouldn't have done that?"
Rubia had caught all my mistakes. I glanced at my wing again to see an alarmingly-worse injury that I don't think I can describe here.
"Now you need me, don't you?" Rubia inquired as she carefully lifted my wing. "Come on. That tea was going to be for you, by the way."
She handed the empty mug to a stunned Faith, who shakily grasped it and stepped out of our way. I groaned again, wishing I could act dependant. Rubia led me right back into the kitchen, even turning doorknobs for me as I stared blankly at my feet.
I dejectedly let Rubia do as she pleased to my wing. I knew that every move she made was helping me, but the violent way she worked made me ask myself what I'd done.
My pain suddenly spiked and then vanished. I cracked an eyelid open to see that Rubia was gently finishing by wrapping bandages around my wing. Finally, she tied the last one.
"Thought you might want to get that over quickly. Listen to me this time. I don't want you moving from this spot without help, unless you absolutely have to. As in, if you'll die if you don't move. Not if, say, you have to get some food."
"I was saying, until your wing heals, I'm not letting you take it from this table alone."
"Y-you can't be serious, can you?"
"Look. I'm glad you're not the kind of person who'd be glad for an excuse to sit here for a week, but you have to, so there."
I felt so much dying away inside of me. Determination. Pride. The ability to stand on my own. Her gaze flickered at me in the torchlight as I felt my stance shift from a stiff, irate one to a gentle slouch. And then I lied down.
"Tell Faith that."
"But I... I saved her!"
"Well, whatever happened after that, she's crushed. Well, really, it's what you said to me that got her."
"What do you mean?"
"Can't you see? She doesn't like you acting like this to anyone. It's unnatural for her no matter who you're talking to, but especially the other person she loves."
The words I'd spoken to char Rubia had burned Faith to ashes. I felt a huge, unfamiliar weight come over my shoulders and rub itself into my raw, wounded conscience.
"I'm assuming now that you haven't actually done anything against her in particular other than be rude. Apologizing to her alone won't do anything, and it'll look staged if you purposely apologize to me in front of her, so just try to be nice to her, okay?"
"Alright," I mumbled. As if on cue, the red Xweetok stepped into the room. My stomach sank. Her eyes were wide with jumpiness.
"Dinner should be about done," Rubia chimed as she went to the furnace, also as if on cue. My gut lurched. She was shoving opportunity in my face so that life could get back to normal as soon as possible.
"Hey," I said distantly. She hesitantly took a few steps closer to me. Could she be thinking that I was still angry at Rubia, but not at her?
"I'm sorry," she murmured, wringing her hands a little. To her, the world had collapsed and she was cautious to see what was left of the apocalypse. No... Faith, I... I'm sorry.
"What for?" I asked instead of saying the pressing apology which was banging at my lips' door and begging to escape. But I couldn't show guilt in front of Faith. For her sake...
"It's just, well, I'm kind of the reason that your wing got broken." She rushed at first, but abruptly slowed to a mumble, suddenly acquiring an intense fascination with the floor.
I realized what Rubia had referred to. Faith thought of herself as not only the source of my injury but also an easy target for the same hatred I'd shown Rubia. You're not vulnerable! I'm not about to take advantage of you!
"No, that Huntress is just a jerk," I smoothly explained, doing my best to feed Faith's confidence.
"I... oh..." she muttered, thinking I was downplaying it, which I was.
I grinned supportively.
She blushed frantically, but came to me. I knew that words couldn't mend what I'd done, so I fluffed out my good wing and laid it over her.
But it suddenly ripped a hole in me. Faith's ears twitched.
"Alright, I know something is wrong here, but I'm having trouble figuring it out," Faith admitted.
"...We're standing on opposite sides." I sighed.
I shouldn't have said that. Faith turned her head away from me.
I hurriedly added, "It isn't your fault."
She sat down and hugged her knees, but also inched closer to me. "I've been thinking..."
She glanced at me, as if she was expecting me to say "yes?" or possibly a teasing "that's unusual," but I just leaned closer to her, and she continued,
"She could have caught you. It's not like a Hunter to just injure someone on purpose like that."
I furrowed my brow. "You're right..."
"I know it's kind of stupid, but I'm starting to doubt that her motives are even to catch people to display in collections... Wait, you know that, right?"
I suddenly jumped a little. "Huh? Oh, yes, I do..."
"She's different... Wait... Wait, hold on!" She closed her eyes in concentration. "Wait, wait..."
I took a single glance at her defiant position. Her brow was furrowed, her raised paw trembling like a rickety sign. Her eyelids were pulled shut, her mouth slightly parted as she breathed slowly, silently and deeply. I used a moment to awkwardly inspect my claws while she focused on what I knew could only be her past.
"I... remember something..."
To be continued...