Sunday, April 15, 2001
Abednego shifted back and forth on the couch. His heart had stopped aching; his… everything had stopped hurting, thanks to the blue pills and a few days of doing absolutely nothing, although he was going to have to learn to walk all over again.
They were all staring at him. It was the first day he’d been up and around, and every single one of the people in the suite were staring at him.
No, he realized, Zeke was staring at Joff. Which kind of made sense. Joff was acting weirder than normal.
Abednego scooted back on the couch, although it didn’t really work. His knees — his everything — went all in the wrong directions now. “Say something?” He meant it as a plea. It made everyone jump.
Eris spoke first. “You don’t look like him anymore.” She hesitated. “I know you weren’t trying to kill me, not really.”
Abednego shifted. “Can I—” He looked at Rafe, hoping he didn’t have to finish the question.
Rafe, however, was just as lost as the rest of his crew. And, Abednego realized, with a bit of a shock, still Masked. Eris was the only one in the crew who regularly went unMasked, and her Changes were, well, trivial, in comparison to some. Abednego absently fingered a horn. He was pretty sure he would have liked elf ears and blue hair.
“Rafe, sir,” he repeated. It wasn’t like he had any shame left, anyway. “Can I talk to Eris?”
On an ordinary day, it would have been a risk to use her name. Right now, he wasn’t sure Rafe would have any idea who he meant otherwise.
“What? Yeah, of — oh.” Rafe flushed and looked away. “Yeah, you can talk to anyone in the crew whenever you want.” He added a mutter at the end that, in other circumstances, might have sounded like a sorry. Abednego wasn’t going to bet on it.
Abednego turned back to Eris. “I wasn’t trying to do anything except stop myself,” he admitted. “It wasn’t — it was like orders, except… uh, more so? I mean, I think an order could make me say something but this was —”
“It was making us be someone else. Someone who killed his Keeper.” Eris twitched. “I understand the urge.”
Some self-destructive urge made Abednego answer her honestly. “Me, too.”
He felt Rafe tense up, but it was too late to take the words back.
“Me, too,” Joff whispered. And then, “You really don’t look like — like your brothers anymore.”
“I don’t?” They’d both said it, but he wanted the reassurance.
“No. And when I really look at you—”
“They didn’t like Changes. Or their Masks down,” Eris interrupted. “Or ours. Theirs, I could understand. They looked like monsters.”
“They are monsters,” Abednego muttered. “Handsome, lying, horrible monsters.” His hand went up to his horns again, and to the animal-like ears he’d sprouted.
“Yeah.” Rafe spoke slowly. “You knew that all along, didn’t you?”
In for a dime, in for a dollar. “They were my older brothers. And their father was just as bad. Do you think — do you think that they held back at all with me, considering what they were like? The only saving grace was that they couldn’t tell me I liked it. Or they could — they did — but I didn’t have to believe them.”
There was silence. Everyone was staring at him. Again. Abednego shifted a little more, struggling against the urge to kneel down and apologize. He didn’t even know if he could kneel, like this.
“How bad was it?” Joff asked, into the hanging quiet. “At home?”
“I don’t regenerate.” He said it flatly. “And I learned how to work around them, after a while. Some broken bones. They didn’t – uh.” He looked away. “There was never sex. I think they thought Dad would care, because he certainly flipped out the one time that’s what he thought they were doing.”
He didn’t want to say rape. He wasn’t sure why. Maybe because when he thought about it, he thought about his brothers doing that to these people.
He wouldn’t mind, too much, he supposed, knowing Meschach had raped Rafe, except that it had led to this.
Rafe cleared his throat. “You understand wanting to kill your Keeper?”
“If you make me tell you,” Abednego found his voice was flat and angry and decided he didn’t mind, “Sir, then you’re going to know, and you’re going to be angry, and you’re going to take it out on me, because that’s what you do. Don’t you understand wanting to kill someone?”
“Yeah… yeah. Not Liza, not as much. She wasn’t as bad—”
“Don’t even start with that.” Joff’s voice was surprisingly harsh. “Don’t you even pretend that she wasn’t a screaming bitch, just because she didn’t physically rip you apart.”
“I— but.” Rafe sounded lost.
Abednego took a breath. “She let my brothers touch you, didn’t she? That makes her pretty awful.” He hazarded a guess, based on things that Rafe had said while the demon was pushing them. “And my brothers made you hurt Eris. You said to me, I should be glad I didn’t have friends. Because that made it suck worse.”
“Rafe!” Joff’s shout was furious. “How could you? Having you two, that’s the only way I made it through this school.”
“You’re not the one they made — you’re not —” Rafe shuddered. “He made me cut her, Joff!”
“And we recovered, together. At least, I guess I thought we recovered. Remember how much worse it was when they made Shadrach free Eris, even though we were so glad she was gone? Remember how we were trying to hold on to something, anything, and we couldn’t? Why the hell would you deny him friends? That’s worse than stacking orders and then taking them all back! That’s worse than—”
“I couldn’t really have friends anyway,” Abednego muttered, suddenly feeling bad for his Keeper. “Not after what they did, what Meshach and Shad did.”
“You could have. First year, second-year students, they don’t know. If he’d let you, you could have had friends.” Eris’ voice was cracking. “Joff, Rafe, you never told me—”
“You needed to heal.” Joff sat up straight. “You needed to heal, and to be away from him, and to rest. You needed to be free, before he really did kill you. That was the most important thing.”
They kept talking. Abednego looked at Rafe, who was pale and nauseous. “What do you look like with your Mask down?” he whispered.