Odie had prepared some animal skins right opposite the entrance into the chamber but the hall was so huge, Jensen hadn't seen them when he'd entered it again.
The flames were still licking the stone, dancing across walls and weird formations that seemed to grow from everywhere; the stalactites and stalagmites he knew, he vaguely remembered being taught about them, but there were other forms, other things growing from everywhere. On his right was a wall of tiny, long rocks looking like a frozen waterfall, cascading down from top to bottom. It drew his eyes, especially when the light hit it just right to send crystals into a sparkling frenzy.
"There, there, you sleep there, Jensen, kiddo. There, you always slept there. It's dry, you liked it be dry, no muck, no mud, no water. Just dry sand. Gotcha some bear skins, fur, soft fur. I washed it. Doesn't smell, no smell. You sleepy? You hungry? You puked, puked everything. Want some more soup, do you?"
Odie's words were a jumble of things but they weren't mean, the man might be a few marbles out of a full bag, but he wasn't mean and Jensen didn't think the guy could ever really be mean. Could ever … kill. But that didn't change the fact that Odie's voice came out of nowhere, startling him and making him choke on his spit.
His mind was still somewhere far, far away in the land of dad and mom, in the land of killkillkill, and the only thing stopping him from punching Odie in his face, was Jared's warm hand squeezing his nape.
"Uh, that's … no, that's fine Odie. I'm just gonna … go to sleep, yeah."
"Okay, okay, skins are over there, like I said. Sleep well, yes? Sleep tight. No nightmares, none, I forbid it, always have."
"Uh, yeah…" he smiled and awkwardly patted the old man on his bony shoulder; the dark blue shirt the Icy wore hung off of him as if the man was a coat hanger. Jensen walked towards the far wall where he could vaguely see something on the ground that kinda looked like something brown.
The cave's chamber was really, really ginormous and Jensen wondered how it came to be. It was way below the surface, hidden among a lot of twisting tunnels; some wide, some narrow, some going up, some down. Some were made of limestone, some still had coal clearly visible in the walls; there were some tunnels where the wall was embedded with small spots of white crystals that Jared had said were diamonds. Jensen knew that diamonds had been very sought after in the Before, but now … now they were just shiny rocks. One couldn't fill one's belly with those, couldn't pay for anything with it … just rocks.
He sat down on the bear skin and stroked his hand across the fur; it was soft and warm.
He sighed and lay down, nestling his head onto a pillow that he just knew had dried leaves stuffed inside. He closed his eyes just as Jared stopped helping Odie sit down at the table and looked up. He didn't want to talk to or see him. He was disgusted with himself for crying. Crying, fuck's sake.
He blinked, one, two, three and looked up at the ceiling that was littered with stalactites.
There was a stalagmite near his foot, one short move and he'd hit the wet rock with his big toe but that wasn't what interested him. No, it were the icicle-like rocks that hung from the cavern's ceiling.
They looked majestic, thick at the bottom and narrowing down to sharp, serrated tips. If the one directly above him should break and fall, it would impale him directly through his chest.
He shuddered at the thought and then cursed beneath his breath because hadn't he been impaled? By Asshole no. two. Impaled directly through his stomach, the slime-ball's finger touching his appendix.
He gagged. Fuck.
The stalactites were shining yellow/orange in the firelight, some even sparkling with tiny crystals, violet or white, some even looked as yellow as Odie's teeth.
It was beautiful, but a beauty most dangerous; one never could know when it'd break, fall down and kill.
He turned to his side, not wanting to stare at his maybe death anymore and closed his eyes. No nightmares.
Sure, whatever Odie.
He hugged his chest, shivering a bit in the coolness of the chamber and sniffled, still sucking in snot that had ran freely when he'd been crying. The air smelled wet, dewy and it tickled his sinuses but not enough for him to sneeze.
No nightmares, his ass. A few seconds after he closed his eyes, images of Alineja assaulted his mind; Noah grinning while holding Alineja's spine, the crystal wiggling as if made of thin rubber. Images of Noah gripping the moving crystal high up to the sky, the crystal sparkling blue and green, radiating bright light, as bright as the sun sometimes.
He opened his eyes and looked at the wall; there were creases and dips, small rocks sticking out, some white little crystals that looked like dew on blades of grass. A spider-like thing on thin, long white legs scurried across a shallow dip and disappeared into a hole in the wall.
Insects. Bugs. Beetles. Spiders and cockroaches. Mosquitoes and mice and rats. Those hadn't changed one bit, as he had been told. Those were the things that could withstand anything, even the Earth cracking more.
He sighed; they weren't his favorite things. Sure mice sometimes tasted delicious, but only if they'd been field mice, not the ones found in cities. But he'd never eat bugs. Snakes, apparently he liked.
But then again, for food, he'd do anything. Eat anything as long as it filled his belly and made him see straight again.
He pressed his elbows into his stomach. He was hungry, maybe he should've eaten some more of that soup, snake meat or not.
He felt Jared come close before he spoke or made any noise whatsoever. His uncle had a presence about him that could be heard, even if there was no real sound anywhere.
"You need to sleep, Odie'll keep the nightmares away."
"Well whatever that means, he's not doing a very good job with it."
Jared chuckled: "When you were a kid and we stayed here, he always told you that he forbids you to have nightmares and you didn't have them. I think you were so scared of him, you didn't dream at all."
"Well it ain't working now."
"You have to fall asleep, Jensen. You need sleep. What you see when you close your eyes shouldn't count. It doesn't count."
"Just go 'way."
"Noup, not gonna happen."
"Then just go somewhere else."
"Yeah … no, ain't gonna happen either."
Jensen turned around and watched as Jared made himself comfortable on another bear skin, a foot or two away from him. He turned back around.
"You snore and talk in your sleep. I'm okay with that. Now, go to sleep or I'll make Odie make you go to sleep."
Jensen said nothing. Why go into a fight with a man who would just talk and talk and talk until he'd make Jensen wanna punch his lights out.
Waste of time when he could spend that time faking sleep. Pretending.
He was good at that, wasn't he? Pretending to be something he wasn't. Pretending to be human, pretending to be strong. Pretending to be an ass, just so that everyone would leave him alone. He was good at that; faking who he was, well, he had made that into an art form.
He closed his eyes, seeking the stars, needing them to invade his mind, see them behind his closed eyelids. They always chased away things he didn't want to see. They always made everything better and if they were a result of him being half Icy, well, fuck it. The stars never hurt him.
The stars had always been there, whenever he had needed them. He squeezed his eyes closer together and yeah, stars and colors exploded, not allowing the memories of Alineja's death to come even close.
Jensen blinked his eyes open, slowly, dragging his eyelashes on his cheeks before finally gathering enough strength to open them fully and really look.
The wall was there, a black beetle running into the same hole the spider disappeared into before and Jensen sighed. The beetle was probably going into its death and the little fella didn't even know it.
It seemed like these days no one really knew when and where death would come.
He rolled around and saw Odie and Jared sitting at the rock table, eating something that looked like bread but could be anything. He was too far away to tell.
He groaned while trying to get up, because if this was some sort of a midnight snack, he wanted to be a part of it. His stomach was growling and gurgling and he needed to make it a peace offer otherwise he was afraid the thing would start eating him.
"Jensen, Jensen, kiddo, good morning, beautiful morning. Lake's still frozen, but sparkling, beautiful morning. Eat, come, come, come, made some jam. Blueberry jam, blueberries grow everywhere, just everywhere, blueberries, yes, yes."
"Morning?" he mumbled when he took a seat and saw thin slices of bread and some dark stuff in a jar. Blueberry jam, well, color him hungry enough to eat the sludge in the jar.
"It's almost ten."
Ten? That was … he'd slept for … hours. He never slept for hours, always an hour here, half an hour there, but never hours and never throughout the night.
"Come on, eat some and then … uh, then we need to talk."
"'m done talking," he put some jam on the bread and spread it around with a stick, "we're gonna go find Noah, and 'm gonna end him. There's nothing to talk about."
"Yeah? So, how're you gonna kill him? How're you gonna find him?"
The jam tasted sweet and delicious and he didn't care what crazy shit Odie had to mix with the blueberries to make the jam so jam like, because he was eating all of this. Odie could always make more.
He shrugged: "Dunno, but I'll do it. I'll go to the first city and scream his name. As for killing him, well, I'll just rip out his spine, right?"
"Kill? Kill? Jared, why kill? Why kill? No! No! No killing, you can't kill my brother, you can't kill Noleih, you can't, no! No more killing, just, just, just stop him, Jensen, not kill. No, please don't. Please, please, don't kill Noleih. Please, please, please."
"Odie, Odie, listen to me. Jensen's not gonna kill Noleih," Jared send Jensen a look that spelled shut up, just shut up, "he's not gonna kill our brother. It's okay, it's okay, Odie. Calm down, just calm down. No one is gonna kill Noleih. Okay, okay?"
"Okay, okay, okay, you promise? Jensen, you promise? He's my brother, he's our brother, he's just … misguided. He doesn't know, he doesn't see, he doesn't know, please don't kill him."
"Uhh…" he was lost for words, Odie's eyes were spilling tears and he felt like such a douche for making an old, broken, crazy man cry, "'m not gonna kill him. I'll just … have a little chat with him, right Jared? We'll just talk."
"Yeah, yeah, Odie, we'll just talk. We won't kill Noleih, hey, I won't let Jensen kill Noleih, I promise. Okay? Okay? Calm down, I promise, no one is killing Noleih."
"Okay, okay, no one kills Noleih. He's our brother, he needs help, just help, help, lots of it, maybe, maybe when he'll go back to sleep, he'll be okay. He'll be okay."
"Yeah Odie, he'll be okay. He just needs some sleep. Everyone needs some sleep."
"Yeah, it's okay Odie. We'll just talk to Noleih and make him go back to sleep."
"But not dead sleep, but our sleep. Sleep deep, deep down under the ice. Under the water. Not up there in the darkness. But down there beneath the ice. Right? Right? Promise!"
"Uh, yeah Odie, under the ice."
Jensen looked at Jared shushing the man and rubbing his hand up and down Odie's arm, calming him down before he'd have a stroke or something. The guy might be a bit crazy, but he wasn't a bad man. He wasn't someone Jensen wanted dead. Odie was … like a kid at times, yet old beyond time at others; smart and naïve. Old and young and it puzzled Jensen, how the Icy became like that. What had happened? Because all of the Icies he had ever met had been young, well they looked young, and vital. Not old and all but becoming dust. Whatever had happened to Odie must've been really something.
"You okay now, Odie?"
"'m okay, 'm okay, my King. 'm okay."
"Good, all right," Jared looked at him, "it doesn't work that way, Jensen."
"No, no, no doesn't work that way, Jensen. Listen to Jared, listen to him, it doesn't work that way. You need to learn, you need to know, you need to be taught. No, no, no your plan is a no. No killing and no screaming for Noleih to appear. It's a no, he wouldn't hear you, he wouldn't come. No."
Jensen shook his head and rolled his eyes.
"Then tell me what to do and I'll do it. Just don't try to stop me, because I won't stop."
"I know you won't stop, but we have to do this the smart way."
"Okay, fine. Fine."
"He needs to be stopped. All of this has to stop."
"Needs to be stopped, stopped, yes, yes, stopped. But not killed, please don't kill my brother, our brother. Please, no more killing, please."
"Odie, it's okay. No killing Noleih, I promise."
"Good, good, good, yes."
Jensen had to stop this panic attack Odie seemed to be having so he licked his lips: "You know, there's just one thing I don't get."
"Yes, yes, yes, do say, say it. Ask it, I know you wanna, I know you do, what is it?"
"So you dragged me all the way here, told me all about me, or well, I hope that's all about me, but I don't understand why me?"
Jared sighed and just by that sigh alone, Jensen knew he wouldn't like this. Wouldn't like whatever would come out of Jared's mouth one little bit.
"Because you're … you're half an Icy. You're half us and half a human. You can call Noleih to come and you can," Jared paused, "stop him."
He was right, he didn't like that at all. Not one bit. He hummed around a mouthful of sweet, sweet blueberry jam.
"So you need my, what? My human side? My Icy side? What?"
"Both, like I said. We need you to call Noleih to show up. I can't call him, he'll know it's a trap, he ain't stupid. But if he hears you, your … your signal, then he'll come get you and then … and then."
Jensen had a weird, weird, very weird suspicion that Jared meant kill Noleih, but was too scared to say it out loud.
"But he knows I'm with you."
"It's a chance we'll have to take. But he's seen you, read you and I kinda think that he thinks you ran away from me first chance you got."
"Yeah, well … I would've."
"But you didn't. So let's just hope that Noleih thinks that you did."
"Okay, and then, uh what? How do I, you know, talk to him?"
He meant to say kill him, but Odie was already on the brink of tears and Jensen didn't want them to fall again.
"We were waiting for you to grow up, so that we'd be able to teach you how to use what you have inside of you to, uh, talk to Noleih. But then things happened and the anger in you, Jensen, all that anger … you can't … you have to let some of it go. Otherwise," Jared sighed, "you can't allow anger to fuel you, can't allow it to dim your mind. You can't allow it to be in control."
"It's not in control."
"Jensen, I've seen you kill."
"But if I hadn't, I'd be dead by now."
"You don't know that. You always killed before anyone had even gotten a word or two out. What if all they wanted was help? Maybe a sip of water? A slice of bread?"
"I'd give them one sip, one slice and they would've wanted my whole arm! That's how this world works, Jared. In case you haven't noticed, that's how this planet spins. One sip of water can become three bottles of water that someone stole from you, just because they saw you have it. And it doesn't stop there. It stops when your neck is slit opened, because that justifies the water thievery. Man down, he ain't gonna be needing that water! See, Jared, that's how this world works now!"
"But not always, Jensen. There are still some good people out there."
Jared's voice was soft and full of understanding, such a contrast to his shouting and angry voice. And he was angry, why couldn't Jared just get it through his thick – skull, crystals, bones – that the world worked differently now. It worked with people saving their own skin, lying and deceiving, pretending to be something and then plunge a knife straight through someone's back. It was all about survival, now. There were no kind people anymore.
"No, no they aren't. Never were."
"Just shut the fuck up and tell me how to ki-, uh, talk to Noah."
"Not until you learn how to reign in that anger. We never wanted you to grow up like this; scared, sad and so full of rage. It's gonna be the death of you."
"Yeah, well, maybe if you hadn't left…"
Jared sighed and dropped his slice of bread, the jam side smacking onto the plate. What a waste of good jam.
"My King, you must eat, must, you must. Eat more, don't mind Jensen, he's scared. He's scared, he'll be okay. You said he'll be okay. Eat, please, you must eat Jared."
"I will Odie, it's okay. I'll eat."
"Yeah, you eat and then you're gonna tell me how the hell to k-, talk to Noah."
"Noleih is a bad, bad, bad man, bad brother. He hurt Jared, hurt him bad, left him to die. Suffering. Left him to the snow and the cold and the beetles and the worms. Left him in pain. Hurt him bad, brother doesn't do that to a brother. He doesn't. It's wrong, wrong, wrong. Left him to die."
"What? What's he talking about?"
"Nothing," Jared cleared his throat, "finish up and then I'll show you how to talk to Noleih."
"No, no, wait, what's Odie talking about? Odie, what are you talking about?"
"You didn't know? You didn't? Jared, he didn't know. Why didn't he know? Jensen why don't you know?"
"It's okay Odie, I didn't tell Jensen, he doesn't need to know."
"I don't need to know? What? You shut up," he pointed to Jared, "you," he pointed to Odie, "start talking."
"Noleih killed Alineja, killed her, right? Then he caught Jared, caught him like an animal. Where was that, my King? Alaska? Was it further up north? Where was that?"
"Right, right, yes, yes, there. Noleih caught Jared like an animal, brought him to the edge of death, the very edge," Odie's voice started to sound hoarse and breathy, as if it physically hurt him to talk about this, "left him there in the cold, in the snow, ripped apart and crystals everywhere. They were everywhere, Jensen, scattered around like glass, like glass, broken glass. I found him, picked up all the crystals, every last one of them, every tiny, tiny piece of crystal and took Jared to where we slept. To where some of our brothers and sisters still are, guarding. They are guarding and waiting. For us. For all of us, to stop this, Noleih and others."
"Odie, what about Jared?"
"Jared, he was all but dead. Dying. He was dying, I couldn't … none of us could watch him die. We all watched our Elder die, so many, many, many years ago, our Elder, we all saw him die, but we couldn't see Jared like that. We couldn't. We couldn't," he turned to Jared, "we couldn't watch you die. Not like your Father did. So we cried. We had to," Odie turned back to Jensen, "we cried and glued the crystals back together. Made Jared whole again. Made him alive again. Made him strong and better. Made him even better than our Elder had been. Better than his Father had been."
"Wiser, knowledge the size of the ocean, gave him our memories, our feelings, our emotions, our fear and our strength. Our, our, our experience, gave him all that we had. Gave him all we had, everything. Cried it onto him and put all those tiny, tiny crystals back to him. Made him. Rebuild him. Better. Healed him."
"You did Odie. You all did a good job, 'm proud of everyone."
Jensen looked at Jared; his skin was tanned, hands veiny and strong, muscled, broad shoulders and long legs, long fingers. A mole on his neck, a mole on his left cheek, dimples, blue-green eyes, brown hair that was always a bit wet from sweat, thin lips, laugh lines, frown lines, pointed nose. Nothing on him screamed 'made of crystals'.
Nothing on Jared screamed 'I can be broken like glass, crystals flying everywhere'. Nothing.
He couldn't even begin to imagine how it must've looked; crystals scattered all around the snow. Like glass. He couldn't image that.
Jensen cleared his throat: "Odie, when did … when did this happen?"
"Hmmm, hmmm, days, days, days, years, months, days are all the same, kiddo, probably, maybe, maybe, perhaps hmmm, two days after I felt Alineja go, g-go silent. Maybe two days. Could've been less. But I remember Jared go almost silent. Scared me. Scared me a lot. Scared me so bad, I broke a leg when trying to get up from the bed. Scared me more than seeing our Elder die."
"Odie, you did good. You found me. You fixed me. I'm all right now."
"But you weren't then. You weren't, Jared, you weren't. You were everywhere. On the snow, your crystals, everywhere. All around you."
"But I'm okay now."
"You are, you are, but you can't do that again. You can't go all but silent again, you can't. You can't leave us. You can't do that. You mustn't."
"You don't know that. You don't, you don't. Not for sure, and you have to be sure. Have to be sure. You can't abandon us. Can't abandon Jensen, can't abandon us. You can't."
"I'll try my best then."
"You try better than best. You have to try better than better than best. You have to. You have to go to sleep with us again. We have to leave this place, have to go back. Have to leave humans to humans. We have to."
"We will. We have Jensen now and we will."
"Why the fuck didn't you tell me?"
Jensen could see both Odie's and Jared's head snap up to look directly at him with eyes wide open and probably swallowing their tongues. He was pissed, he was beyond pissed right now.
"'s that why you didn't come back? 's that why? Because you were," he whispered, "dead?"
The bread and the jam were starting to wanna reappear and he swallowed it all down again.
"Would it matter if I'd told you?"
"Uh, yeah it would matter, you asshole. You were dying, dead or whatever, I think that kinda puts things in a different perspective, don't you think?"
"It doesn't matter. I left you and Alineja alone before Noleih found me. It doesn't matter."
"But you'd come back if you wouldn't have been, ya know, on your death bed?"
Jared nodded, because yes, he would've come back sooner. But he'd stayed on the Arctic, to plan and prepare and come up with a plan. He had been lost to Jensen anyway by the time he was well enough to get up from his dead bed.
"You should've told me."
"Why? What would that change?"
"Well, then maybe I'd hate you less."
"But you'd still hate me."
"Yeah, but less. Because it wasn't your fault. It was Noah's."
"Then 'm sorry."
"Yeah, me too."
There was no more jam in the jar. No more bread on the table, except for Jared's half eaten piece.
"You gonna eat that?"
Jensen was about to reach and grab the piece of bread when Odie slapped his hand and shook his head.
"For Jared. He must eat. He must, just must."
Jensen glared at Odie, and then looked at Jared. Maybe the guy could get some comfort, even if it was in the form of blueberry jam.
"Okay, 'm sorry. Eat Jared, then you need to show me how to call Noah."
The jam tasted like dead, raw squid in Jared's mouth, but he ate it, otherwise he'd get grief from two pigheaded … family.
"Okay," Jensen clapped his hands together getting rid of the bread crumbs, "so we're leaving now."
He was about to get up from the small round stone table littered with bread crumbs and puddles of condensation from the jam jar when his uncle's soft: "It's Friday, Jensen, we're not going anywhere." stopped him from moving a muscle.
It always rained on Fridays. Always. No matter what season it was, winter, summer, fall or spring, no matter if the day before it had been sunny and hot like hell or a snow storm, it always rained on Fridays. No one could explain why, Jensen thought that no one really even cared why, it was just a thing that was. Just like why and how the smoke and ash of the volcanos erupting just … disappeared from the sky after a few months. It was just a thing that was, existed and people had to adapt to and not think about it too much, otherwise they'd go crazy – well crazier. Sometimes some things just were.
"The fuck we aren't, it's just a bit of rain."
Well, okay, that was a bit of an understatement, because the Friday rains were actually downpours of biblical sizes, but the hell Jensen wouldn't be leaving. They had to leave, he had to leave. If this was his chance, their chance to actually get shit done, to get Noah to stop his reign of terror and other things that Jensen didn't even wanna think about and get all the Icies go back to the Arctic and go back to sleep … and maybe right the Earth by doing that, then a bit of a rainy weather wouldn't be the thing that would stop him.
"Fine," he crossed his arms at his chest, "we'll do it here, then."
"No, we're not."
"Why the hell not?"
"Because I said so."
Jensen narrowed his eyes: "You planned this all along, didn't you?"
"What do you mean?"
"You knew Friday'd come and we'd be stuck like this, didn't you?"
"Yeah," Jared got up from the stone he'd been sitting on and stepped closer to Jensen, "yeah I did and you know what? I'm not sorry. You," he poked Jensen's chest with his pointer finger, "need to learn a few more things before we go talk to my brother."
"I can't believe you. I … no, no, we're calling Noah and we're ending this. I'm ending this, one way or another."
Jensen growled which in return made Jared sneer: "No, we're not."
"Fuckin' tell me how to call Noah, you son of an Icy bitch!"
Jensen shouted and didn't even flinch when Jared grabbed him by the lapels of his over shirt, spun him around and brought him to the wall in ten big steps, all but dragging Jensen backwards.
His back hit the wall; poking stones and valleys with sharp serrated edges digging into his spine, taking his breath away. His eyes widened, because Jared was a warm, breathing pressure all along his body, from the tip of his toes up to his collarbone, where Jared was pressing his forearm to.
"Don't call me that. Don't you ever call me that again."
He slammed Jensen to the wall again, ignoring a slight hiss of pain, knowing full well that the wall wasn't smooth and that rocks were digging into Jensen's spine. No one called him that. His mother … wasn't …
… he looked down at their feet and shook his head. He knew Jensen was pissed, knew his nephew just wanted to rile him up, make him fight, knew Jensen was itching for his knife and bow, itching to draw blood but it wouldn't be him who would give that to the kid. He didn't want to fight, he never wanted to fight, especially not with Jensen.
He looked back up and pressed Jensen harder into the wall, making Jensen gasp.
He whispered inches from the little punk's face: "We're not putting Odie in danger, you hear me?"
Jensen was silent, just big wide open eyes, so green, so green, like an Icy's eyes.
"Do you hear me?" he repeated in a growl, pushing his forearm deeper onto Jensen's collarbone.
"Yeah," Jensen gasped, "yeah I hear you."
Jensen was scared, Jared could see that, deeply hidden memories kicking in, reminding Jensen that an angry uncle was like a flood, taking everything down with it.
"Okay, now, here's the plan," he released some of the pressure he was putting on his nephew, "we're gonna use today to make you learn how to control your anger because without that, our meeting with Noleih'll go down really, really badly."
Jensen's breath smelled of blueberry jam and a few days of unwashed teeth, but Jared was used to it. He'd smelled worse in his time.
"Because if we don't, Noleih will sense your anger, your fear and twist it all around, twist it so that you'll start following him. He's good at that, just look at what he convinced some of my siblings. Twisting fear and rage," he shook his head, remembering his sisters and brothers succumb to Noleih's words and thoughts, "and Jensen, you're filled to the brim with that."
Jensen was about to shake his head 'no' but Jared gripped his jaw, stopping him and pushing his lips into a pout.
"Don't … just don't deny it, don't do that. It's okay. It is. We'll fix that. Odie will fix that."
"Odie?" Jensen mumbled through squished lips.
"Yeah, Odie's a great teacher."
Jared chuckled and released his jaw and retreated his forearm: "Yeah Odie."
Jensen couldn't really see any way out of this one. He was trapped; with Jared's body and with his words. He couldn't really escape this one, because he needed to find out how to call Noleih and he knew that neither Jared nor Odie would give him that information just like that.
He sighed: "Fine."
"Fine." Jared snapped back with a little quirk of his lips and stepped away from Jensen, giving them both some breathing room.
Jensen unglued himself from the wall and shook his hands, rotating his shoulder, trying to unkink his muscles.
"Stop askin' me that, 'm fine."
"'m sorry if I pushed you too hard, I didn't …"
"I said 'm fine. Not your fault."
Jared nodded and walked back to Odie who was standing by the table, eyes wide open and hands nervously rubbing his arms.
"Odie, it's fine."
"Jensen will learn, right? He has to learn, Noleih can sense, he'll sense and he'll turn it all around, he'll turn Jensen all around. Jensen has to learn, he has to, I'll help him, I will, I promise, I'll do a good job at it, I will, I swear, but he has to learn. He will learn, right? He'll do it? Right, Jared? Jensen will do it?"
"Odie, yeah, Jensen will do it and once he does, we'll leave."
"All right, all right, yes, okay, we'll make Jensen see, right? You and me, me and you, we'll make Jensen see. We will, yes?"
"We will, Odie. We will."
Jensen was listening to the conversation and wanting to or not, he had to give Jared credit. The man was a saint of patience, dealing with Odie, but then again, Odie was his brother, was family where family was scarce and Jared never could know who was with him and who was against him.
He shook his head and rotated his shoulder again, pressing his hand down to his right side, feeling nothing. Finally, shit was healing.
Took it long enough, but the ache in his side wasn't going away as quickly as he wanted. It still throbbed at times, especially if he moved too fast or turned at the wrong angle. But it was a throb he could deal with, he really could.
He looked up at the stalactites and sighed; he wanted to go away. Wanted to pick up his knife and his bow and go away. Go far, far away from here, go live his life of hiding and surviving and just … maybe find some medicine folk to help him get rid of all he had found out in the past few days, just erase all memories he'd recently gathered. He knew the medicine folk could do that, they had stuff that would probably taste foul going down but would make him feel pretty amazing afterwards. Yeah, he wanted that. To just disappear from everyone's radar and be left alone.
A drip of water; a clear, big drop that flew from a near stalactite and crashed onto the tip of a stalagmite made him blink. And then another one came and another one and they all dispersed into tiny, tiny droplets flying through the air and landing onto the muddy ground. Drop after drop after drop.
Life and death and life.
He didn't wanna be alone.
He didn't want to be alone anymore.
He stopped chewing on his thumbnail – stupid habit that neither Alineja nor Jared had ever managed to break him out of - sighed, stepped across the muddy puddle and walked towards the two Icies; Odie was wiping the stone with some wet cloth and Jared was just sitting there, watching his brother.
He cleared his throat when he stopped by the table and placed his hands on the cold stone, leaning down, because the fuckin' weight of everything … it was making his head hurt.
"What do I have to learn? What … what do I have to do?"
His voice was raspy, filled with fear and determination, because he was going to do this. He was going to kill Noleih if it was the last thing he ever did. His eyes met his uncle's and when Jared said: "All you have to do is trust us." his head went up and down without him even thinking about it.
Odie dropped the cloth and looked at Jensen: "Trust us, trust us. Me and, and, and Jared. Trust us, we'll never hurt you. Never could. You hurt us all the time, but we'll never hurt you. Could never hurt you. Trust us, just trust us. We'll teach you, we'll make you learn and, and, and we won't hurt you."
"'m sorry for hurting you Odie, I really am."
"You think 'm crazy, think 'm craaaaazy, but 'm not. I am not."
"Odie, hey brother don't…"
Odie ignored Jared's warning.
"I'm not crazy, the things I've seen and, and, and felt … things I know and see and hear and feel and need and have loved and have lost and want them back, I can't have anything back. I just have Jared, I have him and he's mine, my King, our, he's our Jared and, and, and you keep fighting him and keep fighting yourself and you're losing Jensen. You can't fight everything, can't fight it, can't lose it. Once you lose it, you can't get it back. I can't get anything, any- any- anyone back. Never again. And you hurt Jared, you hurt him with, with your … you talk dirty, just dirty, dirty words, and you think them too. Such foul language, Alineja would smack you, smack you hard, but she can't. I lost her, she's not here anymore. She's gone. Jared was almost gone too. Everyone goes away, Jensen. Have them while you have them, don't, don't, don't fight, Jensen, kiddo."
"Odie, hey, hey, Odie, why don't you take a seat, huh?"
Jensen watched how Jared helped Odie sit down on the stone by the table and how the old Icy placed his head into his trembling hands.
Jared stroked Odie's narrow back and Jensen hung his head when he heard Odie start to cry.
Fuck. Fuck. He never meant …
He walked to Odie and kneeled down, placing his hand on Odie's shaking back, his hand touching Jared's because Odie was just so thin … the man was like a dried up twig, he could feel all the bones in the man's back, or at least he hoped they were bones.
"Odie, 'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I never meant … I didn't mean to hurt you. I'm sorry. I'll learn, I swear. I'm sorry."
He looked at Jared then and got a tight lipped nod at his words. He knew Jared didn't believe him, not a single word he said, but he did mean them. He was sorry, he was so sorry, he was a selfish bastard who … he just hurt so badly. All these secrets all the betrayal, how does one cope with that? How?
"'m sorry, Odie. 'm so sorry."
The man wept, shaking beneath their hands and Jensen swallowed down the big lump that formed in his throat.
He closed his eyes and didn't open them, not even when he felt Jared's hand on the back of his.
"Odie, you gonna be okay?"
"'m okay, I am, I am, I'm okay."
"Come on drink some water. It's rain water, it's okay."
Odie's hand was shaking so bad when he reached for the glass Jared held out to him that half of the water sloshed out before it got to Odie's lips.
"You really okay, Odie?"
Odie's eyes were a bit red and puffy from crying and Jensen knew exactly how that felt. He hated the feeling of bloated eyes and red cheeks and snot all over the place, but crying was an ugly affair, even if it felt good afterwards. Well good, after all the embarrassment went away.
"I am, Jensen, I am okay. I am. I'm sorry, I shouldn't've said all that, I'm sorry. I am."
"No, you were right. Everything you said, you were right."
"You lost too, you did, lost so much Jensen. Lost it almost all."
"Naw, I didn't. Not really, besides all that I've lost I got back, didn't I?"
He patted Odie on his back and got up from the muddy ground, grimacing at the feel of mud soaking through his jeans. He could even feel the sludge on his skin through the rip on his left knee.
"Well okay then, you drink that and then teach me what I need to know. You up for that?"
"Yes, yes, of course. I'm okay. I'm better now. I am. I'll teach you, Jared will teach you. You'll learn. We'll make you learn."
"You sure, brother? You can lie down for a bit, take a nap, maybe? You don't have to do this right now."
"'m okay, Jared. I am, I promise. It's okay. The water helped, tasted puffy. It's good, I'm good, I am. I promise. Jensen has to learn. We need to make him do it."
"All right, I'm trusting you here, Odie."
Odie nodded and placed the empty glass on the stone table.CHAPTER 6 _II_ CHAPTER 7b