A perfunctory glance at the timepiece strapped to her wrist via a pair of leather arms snuggly fitted to her skin startled her sufficiently. She bit her tongue when a mild curse threatened to gain dominance of her vocal cords, and she straightened her back, tugging the clinging sleeve of her yellow v-neck over the softly ticking watch. The front desk had been abandoned in the dimmed light of after hours, and she had been gone from her post for roughly an hour, trying to read some sort of emotion within the studious coloring Aimee was performing. Pointless, she thought to herself with a mental roll of her eyes and a sigh, and she leaned over to smile at the girl. "I have to go, Aimee," she informed her and the girl paused for half a beat, and then resumed her quick sketching.

"Right, then," and she moved back awkwardly, slowly crossing the tiled floor to the door cracked open. "I'll try to come tomorrow, okay?" Mina waited for some form of reaction and, upon receiving none, shrugged, reaching with one slender hand for the door and squeaking her heel around in her clog as she fingered her bun in distant thought. Turning before she exited the room, she saw Aimee staring at her, a muscle in her jaw working as if she was mulling over a sentence she was considering. The feeling of surprise she felt quickly faded into eagerness, but the dark-haired waif snapped her head back to the coloring book open by her feet.

"Okie," sighed Mina, and she closed the door at her back, leaving the light on in afterthought.

--
Requiem: Chord I
--

The applesauce clung to her tongue in grainy absolution, a sort of lumpiness struck over with a slick feel rather like something that could not decide whether it was a liquid or a solid. She stuck the spoon into the nondescript plastic tub once more, mechanically placing another lopsided dip of it into her mouth and using her upper lip to peel the remains away from the spoon's streaked curve. Cold metal grasped delicately in thin fingers had warmed in the presence of her body heat, no longer eerie or noticeable in its chill touch, and she continued eating the applesauce. An empty container at one point filled with a thick mixture of oatmeal and powdered medicine sat in the upper rightmost corner of the red tray placed on the flat metal block, its sole companion a half-filled carton of milk. Two green pills remained patiently waiting at the foot of the milk, and she ignored them, watching the opposite wall without seeing as she tasted the spicy blandness of the browned yellow sauce.

Licking a sticky drop on her lip, she caught the movement of the younger nurse waiting anxiously for her to finish the morning meal, and she scraped the sharp edge of the spoon in a semicircle inside the tilted tub. She carefully took the last bit into her mouth and, not taking the time to savor the unusual taste, swallowed, scooping the pills into her palm and dropping them one by one into her mouth. A strong swig of the milk, which all but drained the small carton of its contents, helped her gulp the slender ovals down her throat, and she set both tub and carton on the tray quickly. Picking the tray up by its flat edges and holding it waveringly in her hands, she offered it to the nurse and avoided meeting her eyes.

The weight of the tray was removed from her hands and she pushed her palms over her thighs, the rough fabric of the peach-shaded hospital gown rubbing enjoyably over the skin. Her left hand itched as did the sewn cuts under the bandages swathed about her legs, and she scratched with the first over the second, a minute frown tucking her lips down as she fought for relief. A soft sound escaped her lips, something like an aggravated 'ah' that did little to alleviate her situation, and she bent both her knees up, curving her spine forward to scratch with both hands. Dark hair tossed forward to obscure her face from observers as she struggled with the need to stop the itch lining her leg and palm, alternating picking at one and the other.

She heard the door open and the heavier footsteps of a man walking in, his weight balanced carefully so as to be a bit quieter and inconspicuous. Her head turned to face Maxwell-god-of-death and she gave him a desperate look, her lower lip pulling away from her upper and into a gaping frown that exposed her teeth as she scratched harder. She could see a startled look cross his features and she knew that, deep down, she was meant to be afraid of him, but the itching hurt so badly, she just wanted it to stop. The surprise faded into laughing amusement, and he kicked the standard undersized chair into the room's white confines before watching her actions.

"Itchy, huh?" he asked obviously, and she turned away, finally just slapping her thigh and immediately wishing she had not done so. The dagger of pain that lanced up her hip and into the rest of her body was unwanted, but the itching did stop, and she leaned further over her legs, rubbing one palm gently over the offended injury to still the pain. "Sorry," and he grimaced apologetically, clapping his hands together as if stalling time, dark violet eyes flickering from one corner to the other.

He paused, looking down at the floppy books and box she had left arranged neatly on the hard surface that doubled as medical table and a rather uncomfortable mattress, and looked back at her with a degree of curiosity sounding in his face. "What's this?" he questioned, fingers touching the glossy cover of the top book, and she pushed gently, but firmly, at his shoulder. He pulled away, startled, and she placed both her hands, one sticky with gauze and the other pale as snow, on the books in a clearly defensive manner, shaking her head slowly from side to side.

"Okay," a smile slowly curled his lips, and he hooked his foot around one of the chair's legs, dragging it over the floor with a protesting yelp to deposit it near the heavy metal rectangle. He tossed his length onto its stiff corners, crossing arms across his torso and tracing fingertips along his lowest ribs, and rolled his eyes heavenward as he thought over what to say. She kicked her legs over the edge of the metal and hooked her fingers together into a laced bump that came to rest between her legs as she stared at him with little emotion piercing her features or eyes. "So…how's your sleep been?" he continued with a helpless shrug, knowing he was being somewhat foolish.

She wanted to answer, truly she did, but she could feel in a flash everything that had been taught to her and she reacted as she only knew how to, pulling her legs up once more to her chest and hugging knees to her chest. Tucking chin into the shallow curve of the thin dress collapsing between her knees, she kept her eyes on him, tracing them to his ear and keeping their midnight depths watching the curved skin. A disappointed look swept over his heart-shaped features, and she turned her face down into the cloth, pinning her cheeks with her knees as she exhaled softly. A sudden weariness befell her and she scratched dull fingertips absently over the bandages obscured by the hanging hospital gown, breathing a shaky intake of air and wondering why she felt so odd this day.

"One step forward, three miles back," she heard him mutter, sighing deeply with a comical heave of his shoulders. Glancing up, peeking over the edge of the peach fabric, she loosened her grip just so, hands still firmly encircling the upper angle of her shins as she peered foggily at him. Maxwell-god-of-death offered her a thin smile, a twitch of his lips that refused to melt into his black amethyst eyes, and the corners pinched into a dishonest glimpse of unhappy joy forced into expression. What could possibly, she wondered with a tug of sadness, change such an exuberant person? She knew it was not her place to ever question the motives of men, nor was she meant to ever guess why they behaved as they did, but from what little she had known him for, he was never sad.

She pushed a worrying sound into the center of her throat, letting it color the air and startle him into a parted lip show of raised eyebrow surprise, and blinked herself in confusion. Something flashed in his feline eyes and she curled her toes over the edge of the table, shrinking back and curving her spine sharply to avoid his curious glances. The familiar squeeze of panic tugged nauseatingly in her stomach and she felt her breath hasten, an uncomfortable, quick sucking in of air and expelling it forcefully. He was coming, now, that was how it would work as it was supposed to, and she tried to pull herself into her soul, fling limbs and mind into the engulfing pools of her essence. If she could not see anyone, she reasoned childishly, wanting desperately the foolish logic of a child to claim her, they could not see her.

She held her neck still, the muscles trailing under the soft skin frozen in quivering tension, and breathed quickly, shallowly, through the thin weave of her dress. The cloth was harsh against her face, a scraping reminder of the darkness and the pushing needles of reality, but when the memory of silk crossed her mind, the cool liquid smooth feel of satin fabrics, she relished the roughness. Fabric brushed her nose, pulled narrowly into her mouth and then shoved down when she gusted warmed air from her lungs and out her moistened mouth. For a moment, the world consisted of nothing but her ragged gulps, the quavering breaths thrust out, and the bland scent of the dress mingled in with the grainy taste of remnant applesauce fading gradually on her tongue.

A large hand, lean and taut, touched her shoulder blade lightly, a hesitant caress of alien concern tossing the thread over her tender skin, causing the bandages beneath to scream in muted, briefly present agony that fell silent when the fingers crept to grasp her shoulder firmly. Mind filled with a bewildered lack of recognition, she slowly lifted her head, focusing her eyes on the corner before her and calming her chest for the span of a few trickling seconds. She craned her head around, neck twisting up slightly to tilt her face toward the owner of the hand, and she saw Maxwell-god-of-death leaning toward her, an expression of wrinkled misunderstanding creasing his nose. It was his hand on her and she yanked away, pulled her shoulder free as if he was trying to break her, tear into her, and she fell to the floor, somehow landing on her feet and wincing at the daggers screeching through her ankle.

Distantly, she realized the tears lining her face were caused by the sunbursts of fear trailing about her mind and she bent over, nursing the ankle and quietly spitting out the applesauce returning to her mouth. She was thankful there was little coming up from her stomach, but she shook anyway, weeping when the painful itching speared her leg again. Wrong, wrong, wrong! She was not supposed to run, but she did, and she was crying because she did not want to imagine Maxwell-god-of-death bringing punishment, agony, ducking her face and trying to hide the tears, the consuming fear. With a soft noise, she curled her face closer to the floor, tilting her nose toward her awkwardly split knees and lips peeling from her lips as she spat out another small bit of stained breakfast.

"Shit, Aimee," she heard a soft curse, kept as quiet as possibly in his rumbling voice of rasping husk, and the malleable cloth of his sweatshirt windbreaker was tossed over the unsightly pool. The same fingers that had touched her shoulder with concern she was not used to splayed over the cloth, pressing firmly down on the spill. She kept her eyes, unseeing orbs that saw through a broken haze that filmed over her body like a heavy blanket sewn of led, on his fingernails while he blew air out in a noisy sound of helpless exasperation. The muscles in his wrist were subdued, the cord connecting hand to arm standing out barely so, and she watched the callous flatness of bitten fingernails shaded a pale tinge of pink.

A growing sense of reluctant peace touched her mind, but that was bad, he-that-watched-everything whispered in his cracking tone stealing her sanity and her bleeding soul from her weakening grips, and she cried silently. In that moment, she felt a deep spiral of hopeless sorrow kill the newly birthed peace and she was miserable, the memory of sharp glints and hard fists enveloping every hidden jewel of precious things so she was utterly alone. Nothing was right and nothing would save her, and she let her hands fall limply to the ground, knuckles bending carelessly on the tile as she allowed her chin leave to press sharply on her collar. I am nothing, she thought listlessly, and even the internal helplessness and the murderous anguish slipped into the abyss of blank apathy. I have nothing, she continued to herself, and she looked up at him somehow, dredging up the strength of will to do so. Why is he here, she wondered with a flare of emotion, a desire to keep this person so quickly becoming a support close to her, but knowing he would leave as everyone did.

Why, she repeated to herself and she shuddered, slowly, painfully, dragging to her feet and turning very carefully about to stagger, nearly unbalanced, back to the gleaming table. Wrapping her arms over the surface, she pulled herself up onto it and slid over the cooled slick flatness, feeling the hem of her gown bunch and twist up her leg to coalesce around her lower thighs. She picked at the loose threads sticking haphazardly from the hem and pulled it back to the loose dangling close to the swell of her ankles it had previously been occupied with, and stared emptily at the wall. If she was docile and did nothing more to possibly anger him, perhaps she could keep what few things were left to her before she was taken from the sanctity and loneliness of the white room. She sighed quietly, a murmuring stream of air that faded into the air and ceased quickly to exist as she crossed her legs into a lotus position and touched her eyelashes to the pale curve of her cheeks.

He studied her for a moment, crouched yet on the shining tiles with his hand pinning the finally staining fabric of his casual windbreaker to the simple affair dripped to the floor, and he brought one arm up, resting his elbow on the nook curved between knee and thigh. His index finger caught on his lower lip, teeth chewing stoically on the blunt end of his ragged fingernail and eyes fixed on her without actually seeing her shivering form. Duo could sense something odd changing in her, an unusually rapid acclimation most patients took months to gingerly step into, if not years, but he could see the hesitation, the sheer fear lining her. In a way, it was insulting and shaming, knowing she feared him with no encouragement of that irrational belief on his part, and he frowned around his finger, taking it from his mouth and letting his arm drape over his leg as he considered her. How exactly, he thought sarcastically to himself, am I supposed to analyze if I don't get anything from her?

"Not true," he answered himself sheepishly in a low voice, threading his free hand into his chestnut hair, bangs thrown into disarray as the strands flowed between his fingers. "I do have that Book of Truths thing, and she did speak, even if it was Spanish," and he frowned humorously, sticking his tongue out at the air and the unwelcome smell gradually pervading the cloth's casual weave. It drove him nuts having a problem he was unable to solve, be it by gun, ill-timed joke, or other questionable means. Not for the first time he wondered why it was he had chosen the profession of psychology as a permanent career.
"Especially when it's so damn frustrating," he grumped, drooping a little before flowing to his feet in smooth jaguar motions. Straightening his brown button-up shirt and threading his thumb into one of the loops of his slacks' belt path, he stuck his lower lip out a little, folding it temporarily over his upper lip as he blew a quick breath up into his uneven bangs and sending the tendrils fluttering for the briefest moment.

The recollection of the night before crept onto the edge of his sense, sweeping into quick existence before he managed to quash it, throw it to the demons kept pinned and hovering in the darkest corners of his nature. What did she mean to him? Three days alone, this one notwithstanding, had he known her, shadowed visits meant to bring her back into the normalcy others so easily gained and kept near to their personalities. It was this kind of bland normalcy that was so desired by many and meant so little in the long run. For the first time since he had taken the unusual assignment, he felt insecure, seeing too much of his own priorities, his own selfish wants for peace and sanity, the ability to interact with other humans and not feel he was forever lurking on the edge of darkness, in his actions. How could he ever think to help her when he refused to even see her for who she was?

Breathing out heavily, lip peeking at one corner as he closed his eyes shut tightly, he wove fingers through his hair, twisting the bangs into a careless fan of the chestnut darkness as he rubbed fingertips over his scalp. Question of the day, he chirruped brightly in his head in a tone that mocked his own confusion, and he swept his hands from his hair, pinning them over his face while he tilted his chin toward the lights above, braid swinging from his back in a slipping arc. He drummed, for the passage of a moment, his fingers along his temples, a pointed expression of his unfortunately constantly present impatience, and he plucked his hands from the contours of his face with a sigh. "This," he grumbled, "is getting me one place and one place only, and nowhere is a very boring place indeed."

Duo turned, twisting on his heel and rechecking the knot at the end of his braid with a sort of thoughtless habitual motion, and crossed his arms over his chest in the loose ravel of cloth and folding arms that never managed to convey the precise emotion he was reaching for. She was so very small, a nearly fairy-like quality about her with that skin so pale it was sickly, thrown into a deep contrast with the levels of darkness that were her hair and eyes. The hospital gown, a thin contraption hardly fit for wearing by any individual, still hung far too loosely around her waifish body, exposing bandages and faded scars intermingled with the fresher wounds she was being treated for, and it was - unnerving, he assumed the word was.

This was also not getting him anywhere quickly enough to satisfy his patience or prominent lack thereof.

"Aimee," he spoke in his most forcibly pleasant voice, the horrible one that was a mask and overly common in the psychology field. Careful steps were taken to cross the floor, a conscious effort to shorten his normally loping stride into one a bit calmer and a little less unorthodox so as to avoid alarming her as he seemed so apt at doing. He paused near the table, hands turned palms-up in a truce gesture. Her head, a river of dark hair flowing around the polished alabaster stone of her face, tilted slowly toward him, those deep reflecting pools of oceanic swirls focusing loosely on his face in spite of the blank emptiness she had summoned into them. She was motionless, then, a quiet specter waiting for what he might dole out to her, be it encouragement or punishment, and he nearly swore at the confusing frustration inside himself, wondering if she would ever at least trust him with some part of her constantly.

When she made no move to lift her head further to make it easier to watch her features, only imperceptibly tighten her hands around the cloth of the gown pulled into an engulfing swath around her crossed legs, he prayed he would not manage to spark her flight reaction again. Slowly, cautiously in hopes she would not flinch or turn away, he rested his fingertips, a shade of tanned brown against her own continuous ivory, on her cheek and pressed gently. Something flickered through her eyes, dilating the pupils before they relaxed and fell back into her controlled façade, and her breath hitched whether in fear or another thing entirely, and her own fingers grew tighter yet on the cloth, fisting dangerously and wrists quivering though the rest of her did not. "I'm not going to hurt you," he said, beginning with the damned psychology voice and ending with his own natural husk, too bothered at the moment to care about it.

His other hand framed the opposite side of her face, fingertips and the rough pad of his thumb digging almost tenderly into her thin cheeks, and he lifted her face just a bit with his hands, resting the warmth of his palms near her jaw line as she seemed to blanch. "See?" he suddenly smiled, his rare honestly felt one that just tweaked the corners of his mouth and parted to expose the thinnest line of teeth. Her eyes blinked tellingly, caught off-guard, and her hands relaxed in her lap, slowly uncurling from their painful fists as that sardonic eyebrow of hers picked its way up along her forehead. "I'm touching you," he moved one of his palms to remind her of his presence, "but I'm not hurting you. Your nurses, the doctor, everyone: they touch you, but not because they want to hurt you.

"It's not about power," continued Duo, musing in a corner of his mind where, exactly, he was pulling all this philosophy from lately. Her eyes darted nervously anyway, panning around the room as if perhaps she could find something to put her mind at ease, and he stifled the urge to sigh in heartfelt exasperation, instead strengthening his grip enough for her to return her dark orbs to him. "It's not about power," he repeated, "or control, or anything like that. I'm not here because you need to be hurt or reminded of something that bastard put into your mind, I'm here to get rid of those things he made you believe." He grinned rakishly, old movies suddenly brought to mind and corny dialogue popping into his mouth before he managed to rein in his slightly odder tendencies, and he said cheerfully, "It's what I do!"

That upturned eyebrow of hers was, thank God, still twisted upwards in disbelieving sarcasm, an unconscious ineptitude on her part as she persisted in maintaining her elaborate charade of icy nonexistence. "Do you understand?" he asked as gently as he could manage, flattening his hands on her face, fingers tickling into the cushioned swell of her dark hair. "You aren't in any danger whatsoever from anyone here, anyone at all. Not Miss Jessica or Elizabeth, or Doctor Anders, not Mina, and, yeah, I know it's hard to believe, but not from me, either." He attempted a smile, the corner of his mouth flickering up into a peculiar, lopsided rictus of a smile, and he watched as her lips thinned, rolling together and pressing as though she was thinking deeply, concentrating soulfully on his words. Her eyebrows knit, curving and arching down, ridding her face of the skeptical look it had seemed to gain on its own, and she somehow managed to twist her body about so she was bodily facing him in sync with her head.

A pair of small hands slapped either side of his face, a stretch of rough, pebbled gauze smacking him squarely on the jaw, and he paused, noting her skinny arms flowing to the hands currently grasping him. "Me no hurt you," he nodded, and her hands twitched, following the movement whilst fingers pried at the skin. She looked almost wholly fascinated, turning her grip into a light-fingered assault of ticklish feelings as she grazed over full cheekbones, tracing down to feel his shaven chin and popping his nose with her thumb amidst her tactile discoveries. "Ow, not so hard there," he grimaced, wrinkling his nose and working his mouth in a pout as she slunk her hands higher, plucking curiously at his long, uncombed bangs.

Aimee nearly pulled back then, her fingertips hesitating and jerking across the wispy hairs undone from his braid near his temples, and he quickly took his own hands from her face, wrapping them firmly over her slender wrists. She did pull back then, fear crossing her features prominently, and he gave her a stern, albeit concerned, look, before his own face collapsed into a wry, wide grin that completely engulfed his lips with the flash of teeth. "Relax," he laughed, guiding his hands to surround hers in a friendly handclasp, "I come in peace."

Reluctantly, after a long, overly drawn moment of waiting and relative silence, she jerked her hands to her shoulders and he was forced to swipe his hands from her, granting her the freedom of herself as she rocked back, legs still folded, her mouth frowning as she thought. Duo was considering whether or not it was worth repeating the same actions again, in vain hopes it would turn out with the same results or possibly an even better turn-out, when the door swung quietly open, admitting the nervous shell of Elizabeth, RN.

"Doctor Anders needs her in x-ray," she said meekly, all but wringing her hands together as she nibbled anxiously at the curve of her lower lip, "to scan her ankle." She was speaking timidly, her face fairly declaring she was hardly used to dealing with such matters, and she walked quietly to the dark-haired girl, offering her hand in support for the girl's descent from table to floor, swathed ankle immediately drawing attention. "He apologizes for cutting the appointment short, but he needs examinations of the fracture to make sure it's healing rightly."

"We really need to stop meeting this way," Duo muttered to himself as Aimee gripped the offered hand briefly, holding only so long as it took to gingerly switch her weight to her ankles, one swollen, the other sturdy, and she let go as soon as she was on the ground, following silently after the young nurse toward the sole door in the room. "Hey," he called swiftly, catching Elizabeth's arm and pulling the nurse into an unexpected pause in motion, "try to bathe her tonight, okay? She was scratching at her bandages during the entire session, and even if her bandages are being changed daily, she does need to at least be doused in some water. Hell, it's common sense." He looked her straight in the eyes and she nodded, stammering an agreement, and he released her with a broad smile, switching that brilliant gaze to the voiceless patient. "See you tomorrow?" he suggested, and she brushed past him without a word or a hint of acknowledgement, trailing at the back of the nurse.

"Right, then," he replied to his question in a muted rumbling mutter, opening his crystalline eyes as wide as they would go for the time being. "I'll be seeing you tomorrow, Doctor Maxwell, sir, so you can make more stupid comments in a half-assed manner when I'm pretending you don't exist." He cast a despairing look at the windbreaker bunched on the floor and wrinkled his nose unhappily, crossing the floor to scoop it cautiously up into a wadded ball of cloth and unpleasant stench, holding it out from his shoulder with a comically twisted face. "And, joy of joys, Dennis is next," he grumbled.

--~--

She let them buckle the heavy curtain of lead-lined draperies over her thin body, tying in sturdy knots the thin strings that would keep it tucked around her, a shallow wall of protection from the radiation pouring out of the machine above the table whenever the cold men in white flicked their holy switch. Arms spread slightly to the side and legs kept close together without touching but for the upper stretch of her thighs, she stared into the deep oblivion of the soulless machine dwelling on her vision. It was a long rectangle of framed black, white tracing the outside of the lengthy box gazing without eyes upon her body. Beneath it she waited on the mirroring table set into the floor, watching the high ceiling of darkened yellow shaded with red. The room was dusky, kept in perpetual twilight for the sake of the filmy x-rays pinned onto boards around her, and she felt dead inside as she watched them move, waiting for one of the robots disguised as humans to prod her or slap her, do what was meant.

Within her chest, the deep ebony oceans of her soul, she felt a quiet death, as if something was being slowly ripped away from her by a new occurrence, a new change that sought to protect her or destroy her. She thought perhaps this was brought about by the words and actions of Maxwell-god-of-death, if this was how he was going to punish her for her willful ways and her sinful actions: do not question man even in your mind, be quiet and still and never react, be subservient and accepting of what you deserve - give in, fall still, let the pain take over everything as the man punishes what is wrong, and never fool yourself into believing you are more than what the man says you are.

It mattered little to her, as there was a chill void inside where she once had been, a waiting cold that saw nothing and recognized nothing, for she was nothing, and she closed her eyes tiredly, dark eyelashes stark on the ivory of her face. Tendrils of emotion still waved through her occasionally, when she thought of the massive confusion, the contradictions inside her head when around the man with the oak tree hair, and when she thought of the warming affection wrapped about her while near Jessica-the-nurse and Golden Mina, and she breathed the sterile air of the room as she tried to unravel the enigmas of those remaining emotions.

The two women gave her a sense of protective care, a sort of loudly engulfing maternity she had not known for many years. She bled the strength to move from her limbs as the first switch was flicked, turning the machine into a whining hum that clicked and vanished swiftly when she had been photographed the first of however many times they would need. She could hear, eyes still closed gently, men murmuring amongst each other, the scraping sound of wheels carrying heavy equipment passing over the floor toward her, a smaller x-ray machine being tugged to grant them a closer detail of her wounded ankle. The splint had been removed, letting the non-circulating air access to her tenderized skin and a path to creep more fully under the lead blanket swaddling her with its gradually crushing weight.

As they prepared her and the anxious voice of the smaller nurse, one who brought no affect for better or worse from her, piped up, informing her it would be just a minute more, they would be done soon and she would be taken back to the room, where she could be alone for the rest of the day. The new machine began to hum, clicking hurriedly and winding down as they directed the new images into the database of the twin computers decorating the far corners, and she was like a porcelain doll. She did not smile, nor did she frown; she granted no response in either direction.

Alone, she whispered in her mind softly, no Maxwell-god-of-death in the room waiting for me. She felt ambiguity at that thought, knowing he frightened her and fascinated her, giving her feelings of confused meaning, from a wondering awe to an unnerving sense of safety near him. He is a man, she screamed at herself with the part of her body that was not numb, and men can never be safe! It is wrong to feel safe around a man, wrong to want to be near a man because he does not hurt or threaten or cause the kind of fear that turns souls into steel and ashes!

She bit her tongue to silence her mind, and let them take the pictures they needed, all the while wondering what part of her had died and if she would ever care about losing it.
--~--
Author's Notes: Garf! I'm loading this on my art teacher's computer at school (long, convoluted story), so I don't have space to write all my notes - thanks to all, especially (as always), Kaiya-chan, who liked the nowhere line (hee - me, too!). I'll repost at a later time! Many, many apologies.