Warnings: Really nothing that hasn't come up yet. Something we all knew was coming happens. I'd like a muffin but it's too late to raid the fridge at this time.
Disclaimer: I don't own Legend of Legaia.
A/N: Um, not much to say about this chapter. I'm worried some stuff is too abrupt, but you can't foreshadow everything. I might take a slight break from this story again in other to work on some other ficage, so that I'm still interested in DA when I'm writing it, but I'm not quitting. I don't want to just put out chapters and not really care and have it be obvious that I don't really care to the people who liked the idea of this in the first place. D: I need to think about where I'm going with this, too! Once I get back to this, I'll be all refreshed and super interested and such, and it'll be more awesome and more awesome is always good.
"What the hell did you do to Zora?" Gi yelled, knife pressing into Cort's neck. He couldn't breathe, couldn't swallow… it really had happened just like that, and Cort didn't want to think about it but if he even moved the wrong way… it wasn't fair, one moment, he was walking up to the hotel, going inside, and the next minute, Gi was right there, holding him in place and just barely restraining himself from slitting Cort's throat.
"What do you mean?" Cort asked, teeth gritted. "I didn't do anything! She kissed me!" Wasn't there supposed to be a clerk at the desk? Where was everyone? It wasn't supposed to be so easy to pull a knife on someone in the middle of a hotel lobby! And why was this such a big deal? It wasn't as if Gi had never kissed a girl… well, he thought. Cort didn't know or care or want to know about Gi Delilas' love life, but really, he couldn't have expected Gi to have been any more moral about it than he had, if Gi had been Cort and Zora had been… whoever Gi thought of that way. It better not have been Zora.
"Don't play dumb!" Gi replied, sharply. "I know this is your fault! What did you do to her?"
Perhaps this wasn't about just the kiss. Maybe something was wrong, actually wrong, and even though he didn't appreciate being held at knifepoint, if there was something wrong and if Gi was screaming about how Cort supposedly did something to Zora (besides kissing her), he needed to know, he needed to be there…
"Did something happen to Zora?" Cort asked, worriedly.
"You… don't know?" Gi said, lowering his knife. Cort couldn't see his face, having been attacked from behind, but Cort could imagine Gi's expression implied that Cort was taking him for very, very stupid.
"What's going on?" asked Cort. "Tell me!" Gi pushed him forward, and fortunately the knife was gone, or else Cort figured he'd probably be dead by now. Gi held on to Cort's wrist, though, and started pulling him down a hall.
"Don't get me wrong," Gi said. "It's not like I trust you." He led Cort to the room—well, perhaps "led" was the wrong word, since it implied that any of this was voluntary, but it would have to do, Zora could be in danger so this really wasn't the time to bitch about Gi or Lu or Key or Noa or anyone, it was time to focus…
As they approached the room, Cort could hear Lu shrieking and panicked. "Come on, Zora, wake up!" She got louder as they got closer, and once Gi opened up the door, they could tell she was screaming at the top of her lungs. "Wake up, just wake up! Please!"
"Still nothing?" Gi asked. Lu didn't turn around. She'd lifted Zora up by her shoulders, shaking her a little, and was still yelling at her to stop being asleep and wake the hell up, despite the fact that she'd been yelling so loud that if yelling could convince Zora to wake the hell up, she'd be awake already and asking Lu to please stop all that noise. Yeah, she'd probably say please, even. Zora didn't get the hang of hating these people yet.
"Did you find out what that bastard did to her?" Lu asked. "She won't wake up, I've been trying and trying and trying…"
"What happened?" Cort asked. He knew he was starting to sound like an idiot, and he really didn't appreciate being referred to as "that bastard", but this wasn't the time to get up in arms over something so trivial. She didn't seem to be moving… and how could something happen to her? It just wasn't right if something could happen to her… He ran through the possibilities in his mind. Key probably hadn't been there, Lu and Gi wouldn't make any sense… hurting Zora wouldn't do anything to alienate Cort from her, unless you thought about it really twisted, if they were hurting Zora to frame Cort for it, but… Lu's panic seemed real, and it's not like they'd do that, it's not like they had enough planning skills and control to do that... or maybe Cort just didn't want to admit they cared.
"I didn't realize you were there," said Lu, angrily. She sighed. "We were just talking, and she was just sitting there, and then she fell over and we couldn't wake her up, and you did this, didn't you? It wasn't enough that she fucking loved you, now, was it? You had to… I don't even know what you did!"
"He says it wasn't him," Gi said.
"And you believe him?" Lu replied.
"No," said Gi. "I'm just letting you know what he said. Doesn't mean he's telling the truth."
"I didn't do anything!" said Cort, but the Delilases ignored him. He wondered if Che would be arriving on the scene, ready to strong-arm him into admitting his non-existent guilt. He hated all three of them right now, even if only two of them were present—the third one just had to be close by. But those two could yell at him all day, they could even be clever if they wanted to, provided they weren't too stupid. It didn't matter, something had happened to Zora.
He looked at her. She didn't look peaceful (they always said people looked "peaceful", when something was wrong), with that horrified look on her face, but she didn't look like anything was wrong with her, either. He checked her for a pulse, and found one. Her chest was rising and falling. Coloring was normal, fingernails and lips weren't turning blue… If something was wrong with her, she was okay for the moment.
Then he saw her eyes, moving around in her sockets like she was having some kind of vivid dream. Rapid eye movement, didn't they call it?
"Oh no," he murmured. She was dreaming, and she wouldn't wake up, and something exactly like this had happened before.
When Cort had just been a kid, he hadn't known about the Mist.
He'd thought Noa was stupid for the way she'd given him a name like that bad guy's name, especially since he kind of looked like that bad guy, too, but it was okay if Noa was stupid. Maybe he and Cort were related, or something, because Cort didn't see anyone else who had one green eye and one violet one, but he couldn't help wondering if that stupid name was the reason people were avoiding him. The other kids never wanted to play with him, and the one time one of them did, his mother had scooped him up and carried him away with a dirty look at Cort. Vahn told him that maybe he didn't want to call himself Cort, that maybe he should make up some other name to call himself, but if Cort was his name, that was what he would go by. What was the point in giving somebody a name just to make them go by something else?
This was back when he was living in Rim Elm, before the family had started moving, before Cort understood why the family started moving.
He didn't understand it, but he was quickly learning that people weren't going to want him around, and that it was all he could do to learn how to be alone. It wasn't that bad. There was nobody around to bug him, to boss him around or to talk all the time. It was just him, and he could do whatever he wanted. Besides, he had friends, sort of. Whenever he dreamed, there were the same people there, and it didn't make much sense (most of the time he found himself a lot older, and in those cases, his friends weren't kids either), but he liked them and they were his friends, and they were a lot more interesting then the other kids running around, the ones that didn't like him. Maybe this was what the future would be like. He'd be happy, and surrounded by interesting people. He seemed like maybe he was some kind of royalty, and it didn't seem like that was about to happen, but who knew? The future wasn't set in stone or anything.
His friends called him Cort, and if that's what they called him, he didn't want to have any other name.
He was drawing in the dirt with a stick when it happened. Rim Elm didn't really have much to do if you didn't have any friends, and he was trying to draw his house with a stick in the dirt. He felt himself lose his balance, and he saw the stick hit the ground, but then it didn't really matter what was going on in Rim Elm because he was back again with his friends… and then he was watching them change, shift, become something inhuman, and it was all his fault, his fault, and people were dying and he couldn't recognize himself, this couldn't be him, this couldn't be him! And yet, it was him, they were calling him Cort, and he could feel and remember what all of this was like…
When he woke up, he was in his own bed, and Noa and Vahn were talking in whispers outside the door. They'd tried to wake him up, but they didn't know what was wrong, and wouldn't somebody be there soon to help? And then of course they heard him get scared and cry, only he hadn't been crying, he hadn't been that sentimental even then, and it was all hugs and nice things to say and asking if he felt alright. But it didn't matter. Things were… different, somehow. Maybe it was just a dream, but it had mattered to him, and now it was all different… maybe there was a reason nobody wanted to be around him.
"He knows what it is," said Gi.
"I'm surprised that you don't," replied Cort. "She's okay."
"She's okay?" screeched Lu. "Then why isn't she waking up?" He didn't want to explain this, he had an idea of just what Zora would be remembering… and he knew it would happen, but why did it have to be like this? He could have told her about it, prepared her for what was going to happen (what already had happened, really). He could have apologized, and told her he really wasn't like this at all anymore, that she really did mean a lot to him. Maybe he didn't care about her exactly the way she cared about him, but he liked her. He liked her a lot. And it wasn't fair, he was going to tell her about it on his own! She didn't need to just… find out. Not when he was about to tell her, just about to tell her… eventually.
"I can't say for sure," Cort started, nervously. "But… sometimes a memory is so important, it just… can't wait. I think that's what happened." God, he hoped Lu at least wasn't about to put two and two together with this, wouldn't stop to wonder exactly what was so important to Zora it couldn't wait…
Maybe it was something else, maybe there was something she'd find more important. There was the ball, wasn't there? If she really… cared about him… that much, wouldn't it be more important to remember dancing with him? It had almost been romantic, even, like something that would happen now instead of then, because he couldn't ever remember being anything other than good friends with her until just yesterday... even the tension that came before it all was new... and didn't it make more sense for her to focus on the ball, if it was a bit of contrast? It probably didn't mean anything, but she could make assumptions and guess at things and that was more important than when he had her killed, right? Oh please don't let it be that memory, please, I'll tell her about it, really…
Two-thirds of the Delilas siblings discussed between themselves whether they in fact had been pushed asleep by especially important dream-memories, and whether it counted if they didn't just fall unconscious right away, but became incredibly drowsy or felt compelled to sleep. They seemed to be heading toward an consensus that if drowsiness counted, then such a thing did really happen to them when Zora's eyelids began to flutter.
"Zora?" Cort said. "Are you…" Her eyes snapped open, her breathing… changed. It was hard and ragged, almost like she was about to cry but didn't have it in her to do even that. "Are you okay?"
She didn't say anything. Lu climbed over the bed to get to her, sitting next to her and sitting her up.
"Don't worry, you're awake again, it'll be fine," Lu whispered, like a bad imitation of a lullaby. It was poisonous, almost. She was poisonous. Maybe Lu hated him, and he didn't really care if she hated him, but she wanted to spread it around, pass it to Zora and probably everyone else. Maybe Gi didn't even hate him that much, maybe he'd just been… influenced.
Cort wanted to hit her, to push her away. Zora shouldn't be around people like her, people who would tell her things meant to get rid of him, he liked her, really, and that look in her eyes was just dead and Lu was taking advantage of that, wasn't she? If he and Zora could just be alone, he could fix this, he could reassure her and have the situation under control… but it wasn't necessarily his betrayal that she was remembering, was it? No, not that. Please.
If only Lu would just go die. He could just wrap his hands around her neck, or push her down the stairs. He was caught unarmed yet again today, which really was a pity because for the moment, Lu had her back turned and everything… and he wasn't going to kill her, not really, he just wanted her to stop. He wasn't a bad person! He deserved another chance, he deserved a shot at making it up to Zora, and please, oh please, let Zora be okay…
"Hey, are you…" She still didn't say anything, and he couldn't quite understand that look in her eyes because he couldn't quite look at her directly. He reached out for her shoulders, tried to pull her in a way so he could look into her eyes, so he could see if this really was the worst. She snapped back, shivering harder. And for a second, he did see into her eyes.
It was as bad as he had thought. He couldn't see everything she was feeling, but she was definitely, definitely afraid of him.
"Zora," he said. He needed to talk to her, to explain that as bad as he was, he wasn't the person that betrayed her before. "Please, just listen to me, I can…" Zora tucked her head into her shoulder, trying her best not to look at him, turning away. "Please just listen to me! I can explain!"
"She doesn't want to listen to you," Lu interrupted. She softened her voice as best as she could, put on that sickeningly concerned look. "Zora, I know you don't want to talk about it, but what did you just see?"
If there was any consolation to be had, it was that Zora didn't say anything to Lu, either.
"Okay," said Lu, still acting 'nice', still babying her, "Did you remember when you died? Just… nod your head or something." It took a couple of seconds, but Zora nodded, slowly. "I thought so, I thought so." Cort expected Lu to turn and give him some kind of harsh glare (and that was undoubtedly what Gi was doing, from the other side of the room) but she kept her eyes on Zora, even held one of her hands.
He wished she could just act like the bad guy again, instead of a supportive friend. He needed to blame her, and for a second he realized he needed to blame her, couldn't take responsibility about Zora. (It wasn't him! It was a long, long time ago! It was Rogue's fault! Lu was just making it worse, trying to keep them apart on purpose! Lu didn't want Cort to be happy, she didn't even want Zora to be happy! All she wanted was to drag everyone down and tie them to the past and…)
"Are you really alright with that man being here with you?" Lu asked. Zora shook her head, and tears spilled out of her eyes. Her mouth formed the word "no", but she didn't say it, and if she did, it was just a whisper too quiet to hear.
"You saw that," said Gi. "Out."
"But I need to talk to her!" said Cort. "Sometimes memories aren't really, I mean, we all see things differently—"
"Get out of here!" yelled Gi. "She doesn't have to listen to you!" He'd taken out his knife again, and Cort felt a pang of fear—from now on, he was not leaving the apartment unarmed even to pick up a gallon of milk—and he had to leave, he had to leave, but he couldn't just let the situation be, he had to fix this. He had to let her know he really did care about her.
"And maybe I've changed! She's changed, maybe you've changed, I just need to—"
"Get out or I'll kill you!" Gi yelled, and Cort couldn't help but wonder if any of the other hotel patrons would hear this and worry and maybe call for help, but he couldn't just let it be…
"Please, just let me talk to her!"
"So you can lie to her again?" asked Lu, still sitting next to Zora and providing some semblance of comfort, if Lu was the kind of person who could mean it, if she wasn't just like Key, a hollow shell who couldn't really feel or care or love at all… and Cort caught himself thinking the word "love", and as cheesy and trite as it was, it somehow seemed to fit the way he couldn't just give up his friendship with Zora and whatever else had been about to happen without a chance to explain.
"Zora!" he yelled. "Please, just let me talk to you! Say that you'll let me talk to you!" Gi was approaching him, ready to grab him and shove him out of the room, or perhaps kill him and hide the body, either way seemed about equally likely, and if she didn't say something he wouldn't be able to stay, but she loved him, right? She'd listen to him…
"No," she said, in a whisper like something broken. "Please, just go."