I'd only just pressed "publish post" for my last update on here when I heard a knock at the door. Of course, I was leery. I was having an exciting enough day and wasn't really looking forward to a third go-around with anyone, but I still got up. Checked the peep hole first in case I wanted to shoot bullets through the door instead of just opening it. Who I saw made me look twice... and he didn't look particularly happy.
I opened the door, frowning a bit. "Sage? I thought you... left. Is everything okay?"
He walked inside without a word, brushing past me.
I closed the door, my frown deepening. "...Apparently not." I watched silently as he went further into the room, but stayed back from where Valerie was. He paced a little bit, obviously figuring out his wording. I let him take his time, waiting with my back leaning against the door frame. Arms crossed.
"...How've you been feeling, the last couple of days?"
I blinked. "...You came back to ask me THAT? Couldn't you have picked up the phone?" But when he gave me this annoyed look that spoke volumes of his current mood, I sighed and shrugged a bit. "No different than I have been. Worried sick." I gestured to where Val was. "Obviously. Why?"
His eyes narrowed. Tone getting stronger. "Really? Because it seems to me like you're being eaten out from the inside."
I said nothing for a long moment, eyes flickering to where Valerie was for a split instant. I thought for a bit about getting him to specify... but after I rethought his choice of words... I realized he already had. There was only one thing that fit that description. It made my stomach turn to think of how to put this into words, but on the same token... "I... honestly expected you to notice, Sage. It... sort of... surprised me when you left without comment before. I just figured you thought I was dealing with it..."
Sage shrugged. "It's subtle. I didn't notice it until I touched your shoulder. And then I had no idea what to do about it. Had to think for a bit, run what I saw through my head until I could comprehend it."
"And what did you see, Sage?"
"Veins of darkness coming out of a very, very tiny seed. There are similarities to... others I've seen."
I swallowed hard, nodding a bit. "And... now you're back. Why?"
"I've been thinking. Long and hard. About how that shit could have gotten in your system. The only thing I could think of was when you burned down the tree... but if it was that easy, through aerosol, why, Ryuu would have been infected at some point. I mean, there are trees whose seeds only sprout if they're set on fire, but even then... there's no way she'd have made it through this uninfected. But she isn't infected." He came back up to me. "So why are you different, in this place, and in this time?"
I shifted. Completely uncomfortable with how... close the conversation was getting. Personal. But... it didn't mean I had to admit about my arm. He didn't need to know. I... tried to take the detour route. "...What do you want me so say, Sage? That I have shitty luck? This shit is your thing, not mine. I was just trying to stop the voices for Valerie. That's IT. Really, Sage... she's the one you need to focus on. Not me." And, yes, I was attempting to redirect his attention.
It didn't work.
His hand extended and gently pulled my left arm from how I had it crossed under the other. My first instinct was to rip it away from him... and I partly did yank it back with the memory of the pain from when Valtiel wanted to see it flashing into my mind. But... I forced myself to stop. I forced myself... to let him look at one of my biggest omissions.
At first, Sage started to roll up my sleeve, but I knew it wouldn't be good enough to see anything. I could tell he knew I was uncomfortable and didn't want to make me more so... but at that point I decided it didn't matter anymore. "...I wish you'd just leave it be, Sage." Then I carefully shrugged out of my jacket and... it took practically every nerve I had to hold out my arm for him to see. I kept my eyes across the room as he examined the wound.
My burn... got infected months ago. When I cut down the tree that was once Redlight and burnt it... I guess some of the shit got in my wound. It had been healing alright up until that point... but since then it's just gotten worse. The whole burn from part-way up my forearm to my shoulder and a bit across my back had deteriorated back to how it had begun when I'd first got it. What had healed peeled off, leaving my arm an angry red. It stings like a bitch and throbs sometimes. Sometimes it swells up and this... crawling feeling across my skin comes and goes. But... the most disgusting part about it is how it oozes yellow and black puss. I keep it as clean as I can but... it's getting to the point where I need to wrap it up.
"N-Not... exactly my best feature, eh?" I muttered, gut twisting inside. I kept thinking of how Valtiel acted when he saw it - how he just walked away like I was nothing but trash. In my head, I could see Sage doing the same thing... only he would take Valerie with him. I'd be alone. No matter how much I told myself that he wasn't like that - that Sage wouldn't do ANYTHING even REMOTELY close to what Valtiel did or would do... my brain just kept telling me I'd be alone. Over and over and over again...
But, in reality, he just shook his head with a deep frown. He spoke in nearly a sigh. "Jumping Jesus Christ on Crutches, Mitch... well, now I think I know how you got it. Should have dressed your wound before you started a deforestation project."
I smirked but it died just as soon as I had created it. "I covered up... obviously not well enough, of course..." I shrugged a bit, looking at the mess of my arm that he was still carefully holding. "No point... in whining about it, right? My own fault. I'd cut the damn thing down all over again if I had to though." I smiled, genuinely. "It stopped the... screaming... for her."
He nodded. "I understand."
That made me smile a bit again, but this time it was at him. So often, I feel like I'm talking backwards. That my thinking is backwards. That I'm struggling to connect simple dots on a page when it comes to expressing how I feel... to hear someone say they understand comes with a wave of relief. It really does. Sage let me take my arm back then and I put my jacket back on.
He was frowning more now, obviously worried. "I don't think there's anything I could do for you, Mitch."
"That's okay... I really didn't think there was." I felt more at ease now that it was covered again. Not by much, but some. "I deal with it the best I can. Really, it just stings. It's... an inconvenience right now. I don't know much much worse it'll get, but compared to some of the mindfuckeries from He That Is, this is nothing..."
He gave me a long look. "I'm wondering if leaving Ryuu in your care is recklessly dangerous of me."
All the thoughts in my head - everything I deemed paranoia - suddenly slapped me in the face with an 'I told you so'. I turned a glare to him, voice now cold as a pain twisted in my chest. "...You think I'd HURT her? Hm?" My hands went to fists. "Goddammit, Sage! If it weren't for her, I'd be dead! I'd be with THEM. With HIM. Which is WORSE than being dead, right? I may have failed over and over again... but I won't fail her. I can't. I would NEVER hurt her. EVER."
Then... he grinned a bit. "That's what I needed to hear."
I frowned. "Wait, you're... you're... not going to make me leave? You're not taking...?" I struggled for words. "I... I thought..."
"I just needed to see if you had some fight in you. You do." His grin seemed to grow a bit more at my awkwardness. Almost like he was amused.
Did I feel dumb right about then? Yep. "Sage..." I gritted my teeth as I found the words I wanted. "Listen, I know I... mess up a lot... but I'll always be here for Valerie. That'll never change. I know it may not amount to much - especially from your line of work - but... I'll do everything I can to keep her safe. And if you yourself ever need anything done or picked up or whatever... just let me know. I'll fight. Fighting is really all I seem to really do right these days." I laughed a bit. It felt a bit forced, but not by much.
He gave me a reassuring smile. "I know the feeling."
I nodded, my own grin spreading. "Yeah, so I've read. Just... don't send me to deal with any pissed off unicorns and I'll be right on it~"
"I'll keep that to myself, don't worry." He laughed a bit, smiling, only to then frown a bit as he continued. "How'd things with Valtiel go?"
I jolted a bit at the name, trying to ignore the shiver that went down my spine as I frowned at him. "H-How... how did you know I was with... that I ran across... th-that Valtiel found me?"
"I caught up with him before he found you. He gave me a choice. I could keep chasing him, and he'd go after you or Val." He frowned. "It wasn't a choice at all. Valerie is comatose and was alone. You can take care of yourself pretty well it looks like. Sorry about not being there."
I nodded slightly, swallowing a lump that had risen in my throat. "That's... fine. I understand, I..." I cleared my throat, shifting a bit uncomfortably. "...He wanted me to... replace M-Morningstar. I said no, of course. He... didn't exactly make it EASY, but I said no. He's just... very good at getting inside your head."
"Well done." Sage smiled again. Friendly. Welcoming. Like he always is. "He's a tricky one. Not as smart as he thinks though."
"Smarter than me." I admit, thinking back on how easily he got to me. "If... you ever catch up to him, give him a black-eye for me, yeah?"
"You got it."
I smirk a bit. "So... need a place to spend the night?"
"Wouldn't mind sleeping in a room I'm not paying for. Nobody ever told me that motels would be such a pain."
"Heh. Tell me about it. You have no idea how much I miss the country. THE SPACE. But, anyway. Feel free to crash. What's ours is yours and all that."
He's been here since then. I went out for a bit for a supply run, but other than that we've spent a lot more time talking. Just different things. What he's been doing. What he's planning/ worrying about. About myself and Valerie and what OUR plan is. About what happened in the bush and what I've read so far in Steven's journal. Just tossing ideas around a bit and making jokes. Having a laugh while we can. It's a bit awkward at times but... it's an okay kind of awkward. We never really got the chance to talk before, so it's just... new ground, I guess. I'm not sure how he felt, but I felt it nice to have someone to talk to. I haven't had anyone to really talk to who wasn't trying to mindscrew me... since mid-September.
Mother fuck, has it really been that long?
I have forced him to take the second bed though. With how quickly Valerie responded to his presence before, having him stay closer can only help. I've been with her for weeks now. We've always been close, even before all this Haunted shit... and she didn't respond to me. Doesn't respond to me. She responded to him. So it makes sense to use that to our advantage... right?
I'm crashing in a chair, but I can't sleep... so I decided to update my blogger account. Might as well, right?
I'm still on the Right Side. You may not believe me, but I am.
Even if it feels Wrong sometimes.