The freshly returned Samantha seeks out the friend who once took her life, so very long ago. They meet in a desolate place - each carrying their own experience of pain and solitude. Xue posed longer than ever. I almost cried halfway through. What more do you need to know?
, Xue When:
January 27th, 2010 Where:
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A feeling of bleakness washes over the soul as one approaches this broken drawbridge. The very center of the bridge is broke, almost as if something massive split it right in two, leaving the two halves barely connected to eachother, to allow passage across. Upon the far end of the bridge lies a city that appears to be in ruins, a black overcast cloud hanging over the sky above. Positioned at the entrance of the town, is a glowing red portal...
Xue stands off to the side of the bridge, near the edge. Leaning against one of the warped supports, the half-elven girl casts her gaze off into the ever-shifting chaos and desolation of the place. For her, who has never really fit in anywhere, theres a sort of comfort here. Her hair blows in a sudden small gust of wind as she remains lost in thought.....
Comfort in loneliness. It's something Samantha had never felt before her death - always seeking out the warmth and joy in others, seeking to bring them more of that joy should it be lacking. But the passageways of time have not been kind to that outlook, and as she has moved through lives, deaths and dimensions she has been forced to adapt, striving to see the pleasure in one's own company. For lack of any other pleasures being available. Despite this, despite all she has learned, her first free-willed action upon the ever-changing soil of Twisted has been to seek out those she loves. Those she has missed dearly.
At this moment she makes her way toward the desolate bridge. Her body - larger, more muscular than once it was - bears the harsh marks of a recent trial. Scabs and bruises cake her skin, and she is clothed only in ill-fitting tendrils of ragged material. But her spirit blazes through it all, and hungry sapphire eyes seek the figure she has been striving toward. In a faltering stride she makes her approach, finally stopping just short of the bridge, as though her will has given out. A sigh leaves her lips, slow and shuddering, and her chin lifts as though this simple action will give her the confidence she needs to carry out her task.
"Xue..." It's a bare breath on the wind, the matured catgirl astonished at the tiny, fearful tremor of her own voice.
Xue blinks as she hears a voice behind her, and turns to look. She does a double-take as she sees who it is, not believing her eyes. She also pales visibly, her own voice almost mirroring Samanthas "S-Sam... ?". She slowly walks to the middle of road, caution winning out over.... whatever else shes feeling. Some habits do die hard. "From Metro?". Despite her caution, her hands stay relaxed, and don't go to her sword.
Samantha's heart all but leaps into her throat as Xue turns and starts toward her. Gentle as the half-elf's pace is, the proximity seems to cause further alarm, and a hand tightens at the catgirl's side, closing to a fist with a quiet pop from straining joints. She forces herself to swallow a rising lump and rallies into taking a compromising step forward. The closer she gets, the more clearly those distinctive eyes can be seen; and they glisten as she opens her mouth to speak.
"Why? How many do you know?" The intent may be otherwise, but her tone is flat. Dead. She lifts her chin a little higher, attempting a smile that turns into something more approaching a grimace. Another half step is taken forward. Her gaze flickers over her old friend, searching for any signs of violence; and her shoulders shift in a violent twitch as she alights upon SilverFrost. "It's been a long time." Her gaze lifts and comes to meet Xue's own for the first time, an eyebrow arching in muted enquiry.
Xue doesn't come too close, simply moves to an are where theres plenty of room to move should Samantha decide to attack her. (Not that i wouldnt deserve it....) she thinks to herself. "There was one running around some time ago, which was appearently a simulacrum, although i didnt encounter it directly, simply heard information, and scryed the UR for signs of whether it was you or not". She nods in agreement "It has been a long time.....". She turns and walks to the side of the bridge, her back to Samantha. "A very long time indeed.....". Her voice sounds a bit strained "For whatever it may be worth, im sorry about what happened.....".
The battered catgirl wears a frown as she listens to that tidbit. Nobody likes to hear they have a doppelganger, but her expression smoulders as though angry. As though Xue herself had done something wrong by relaying this story. Running through her head are a hundred memories, pictures of the past; from the simplest exchange of banter whilst on-mission in the vast wastelands of Metropolis, to that pivotal final confrontation. To the moment she remembers only as a torturous half-truth, a maybe-moment that could have unfolded in a dozen different ways. With an aftermath of which she has no knowledge.
Suddenly, as Xue turns she jolts forward, sliding another half-step on unclad feet, emitting an unconscious hiss as her skin rakes against rough wood. Her breath quickens with her pulse, and she stares levelly at her friend's back, waiting for the sentence to tail off and die before she moves further. She paces forward evenly, approaching with slow, deliberate footsteps. A hand lifts, moving to settle upon Xue's shoulder. Dextrous digits close, squeezing, but stop far short of causing pain. She smiles.
"I don't know the details," she manages to utter as tears bubble at her eyelashes, "All I remember is the pain. But I know you-" her breath catches and she hastily amends this, "I /knew/ you. And I couldn't believe for a second that y'wanted to hurt me. Tell me the truth, Xue, no matter what it is. You can be as sorry as you like." She pauses, and collects herself. The next is delivered in a harder, bolder tone, a demand more than a request. "Did you know what you were doing? Did you /mean/ it?"
Xue s body actually jumps slightly as the hand is put on her shoulder. Shes lost whatever familiarity she had with phsyical contact with others, outside of combat. On touch, Sam will find shes cold to the touch, as if holding an ice cube. Xue turns her head to look over her shoulder. As she does so, a speck of ice falls from her eye, her tears appearently freezing. "I dont remember anything after the fight on the large floating island. My memory doesnt pick up again until after i had been beaten unconscious, and told id killed you". She turns her head back to look out across the chaos "The full power i wield in my goddesses name is beyond any mortal control, including my own. Its a power that has saved the world previously on my home, and at the same time is the lonliest burdan i can bear...... the others like me usually keep each other in check, but with them not being here.....". Several more small specks of ice land on the ground at her feet, and begin to melt once they hit the ground. Seems the 'ice queen's facade has finally cracked for once.
That single drop of ice is enough to widen Samantha's eyes considerably, the impact of such a tiny thing creating a chain reaction far beyond it's scale. The words that follow make their imprint upon a soul laid bare; and the hand previously so controlled begins to shake against Xue's shoulder. Suddenly conscious of this, Samantha pulls it away, holding it close to the other at her stomach as she listens, otherwise rapt in her old friend's confession. As the half-elf's words drift away once more into silence, she holds still. Each drip of an icy tear is audible, though they are not joined by the catgirl's own. Instead, she keeps her breathing steady and her gaze locked upon Xue, until it seems an age has passed in seconds.
"That was more than you had to say," she finally whispers, raising her shaking arms with new resolve, and unashamedly moving to embrace the other woman from behind. Her cheek presses up against a chill shoulder, not caring for the cold - but caring so deeply for the person beneath it. "I've been lonely, too. I never thought I'd see anybody again, let alone you, and-" her voice breaks, and she shakes her head once, ever so lighly bouncing off the crying mage's shoulder blade. "It doesn't matter," she rejoins as the tears finally come in force, streaming down her bruised face, "I forgive you."
Xue leans back against Sam, feeling like the weight of the world has been removed. Such is the way of guilt. "I explored and searched Metro afterwards in the hopes youd somehow survived. I eventually gave up and went home. Cale actually came to my home dimension to tell me you were here and to ask for help finding you. I've been here ever since. I couldnt leave another dead friend behind me without trying....". Her eyes stay dry, the intermittant tears drops of ice. Even now, she cant just let herself go, and is internally striving to bring it under control. "Ive left too many to do it again.....".
The cold radiating from Xue quickly starts to become painful - the assortment of rags Sammy wears are meagre in the best of situations - but she clings on all the same, keeping herself flush to her friend as she speaks. Gradually she eases her grip, and then releases with a sigh, stepping to Xue's side. One hand sweeps outward gently, barely brushing the other woman's hand as though she means to maintain at least some form of contact, but she pulls away with only small hesitation.
"I don't know what I believe any more, but I know where I've been. An' I might have been there for years. If the people we love can make a difference, then you mighta saved me in the truest way possible." She brings a badly cut forearm up across her face, wiping away the tracks of her tears. "But all this time, I didn't think about how you felt. When I remembered what happened, the first thing I felt was fear, then anger, then the deepest regret that I ever tried to save you..." Her teeth close upon her lower lip, and she glances away from Xue for the first time, flushing in shame. "An' while I was down there, this is how you felt. It came to me later; that maybe I was wrong, maybe we /did/ save you after all. Maybe the others did what I couldn't. I guess they did, huh?"
Samantha looks back to the thawing ice queen with a shake of her head, mustering another smile - this one steeped in relieved warmth. "I'm sorry myself, because at some point I've lost faith in everyone, including you. Thank you, Xue. For not losin' faith in me. If it wasn't for that, I'd never have found faith in myself." Suddenly she laughs, a natural sound, so pure and happy through the fading mists of sadness, "You might've been lonely, but you brought us back together. That's more than either of us could have hoped."
Xue eyes the forearm, and the other injuries all over Sams body. She also takes note of the status of her clothes as she listens. Afterwards, she nods "They did indeed save me. Twice. First was beating me to a pulp and bringing me back to sanity. Rock did again later when guilt and depression got the better of me shortly after.....". The tears finally stop as she regains control of herself, and the temperature begins to stabilize "Just where HAVE you been? Thats a lot of injuries....". The guilt begins to slightly rear its ugly head in her mind once again, although its quickly squelched this time. She was given forgiveness, and thats all that matters. "I know of someone who may be of help with those...."
Rock. Samantha blinks as she hears the name, looking away from Xue and out over the wastelands. She doesn't ask after her brother; as she won't ask after anybody else, because the possible truth is one she has already come to terms with. She could cry a thousand tears, and she already has; reliving her life over and over, unable to change a single moment for the better. As the question comes, she turns back without regret, only too willing to tear herself away from the thoughts the conversation has conjured. The smile had died, but it returns, flickering onto her lips with a hint of dark humour.
"I've been through Hell." It's spoken non-figuratively, the name falling into place as the most proper of nouns. A wicked spark plays in her eye, dancing with something deeper - a hint of the pain and torment she has been through. "I couldn't tell ya how long it's taken me to come back. Time has lost all sense of meaning; I still don't think it's come back. But I had to fight to escape. Long, and hard. I slept when I could, but I'd always wake up in the middle of my next trial, screaming an' kicking, because that was the only way. I don't know when I started fighting." Her voice has gained distance now, and she looks away again.
"I've seen every moment we spent together, every second I was with Sun, the times with Rock, Jack and Zel. Alex. Raven." She swallows, massaging her lips against one another before she finishes the thought. "Johnny. And everybody else who meant something to me. I saw the end, I saw myself die over and over. I could never speak, never interact, never reach out to them all." Rolling her shoulders, she looks down at a raised hand, intently examining the cracks of her palm. "In between all of that, I suffered. All the time, it was me hurting myself. I /wanted/ it. I was completely alone, but I felt so much pain; more than I ever felt in life, amplified by desire. As though I was punishing myself for every little transgression." She looks up with sudden resolve, mouth a grim line, "I don't want to heal quickly, Xue. I want to suffer through this so that I remember what it took to get to this point. If I forget again, I-" she chokes, and stops, shaking her head. "I need to be stronger this time. That's all."
Xue steps up to Sam, eyes sympathetic, although her 'mask' has reasserted itself once more "I havent been where you were specificly, but i have been close figuratively. The pain will be carried here..." she points to Sams head "... and here" she points to her heart ".... more than likely as long as you live. No amount of healing will remove those scars. There is no shame or release by simply taking care of your physical injuries. In the end, they will not be what truely reminds you of the past". She looks off towards the city "When i was a child, i was badly burned in a magical accident. I avoided fire magic like the plague ever since. The burns i left for the same reason: to remind myself how dangerous the element was. After Neo and Metro, ive learned its just another element, not to be feared, and had my physical scars from that healed. The mental scars will never go away, so why suffer the physical along with them? However, that is your decision, not mine". She puts her arm on Sams shoulder "Come. We need to at least get you more modest clothing. Dont want any of the men around here to get the wrong idea". She winks, a touch of humor in her tone.
Samantha follows the motions with her eyes, glancing slowly downward and upward as Xue's finger indicates head and heart. She nods then, recognition in her eyes, and watches the half-elf as she turns her attention away. The sympathy she has always felt for her friend has become a deeper form of empathy, that of time-tested comrades where it was once that of a passionate youth. But she still feels the sense of wisdom in the other woman, and smiles with only a trace of chagrin as she delivers her penultimate advice. Perhaps she hasn't grown up as much as she believes she has.
The arm on her shoulder is met with a clasping hand, keeping it firmly about her as she turns with Xue, answering her wink with a cheery lopsided grin - a touch of her father, and her adoptive father, in the gesture. "Hey, so suddenly beating off the minions of Satan is nothin' compared to dealing with a couple of creepy old men?" She asks with a soft laugh, letting herself be dragged along in spite of the protest. She's colder than ever, now, on the outside; though deep down, warmth has flooded her soul. She finally feels alive again. Not just safe, not just free, but truly and spiritually vibrating with life. She says nothing more, falling silent to walk with the other woman, simply enjoying her company...
It's been a horribly long time, she is older - changed. But her spirit still burns alongside a kindred; and this matters more than anything past...