Open Up Your Mind
Notes: The characters aren't mine, the story is, and friendship cuteness abounds! And I got a lot of the plot ideas from the X-Files, so yay X-Files.
Alister groaned, struggling to sit up. His pounding head immediately caused him to fall back to the floor, and he lay there for a time, trying to get his bearings. The fall had obviously hurt him worse than he had thought. He did not remember much about the events surrounding it; he only recalled waking up on the ground and realizing that he had tumbled down a steep ravine with his motorcycle.
A shadow fell over him and he blearily looked up to see Valon standing over him, his arms crossed as he smirked uncharacteristically. Alister felt a chill go down his spine. He tried to speak, but nothing would come out.
The Australian laughed. "Well, mate, looks like you're done for." His blue eyes glimmered in a way that Alister had never seen.
Alister stared at him, not comprehending. "Valon," he gasped, speaking only with great effort, ". . . I'm hurt." Desperately he tried to reach out, trying to grab onto his friend in order to pull himself up. Valon watched him with seeming amusement, not offering any help.
"Yeah," Valon grinned, "I know. Too bad, huh? Oh well. It's not like it's my problem. I only look out for myself, y'know." He turned to go. "I'll see ya around. Naw . . . guess I can't, coming to think about it. You'll be dead. And I won't care, either. I mean, you're just an unsocial jerk." He shrugged and was going to leave when Raphael suddenly appeared in his way.
Alister looked over, trembling. This was not reality. Valon would never treat him like this, would he? His heart raced as Raphael looked over at him, and then sank when what he had wanted to see was not there. It took him a moment to realize that what he had wanted to see was concern. Instead he saw only a cold, uncaring gaze staring back at him. Inwardly Alister shrank back. Silence seemed to fill the room.
"Raphael?" he said hesitantly, after the silence became too much. He received a grunt in reply as Raphael walked past him.
Alister felt dizzy. Raphael and Valon cared about him! This was not as it should be. He clenched a fist tightly, drawing blood, and suddenly had the strength to sit up. He felt anger now. Someone was toying with his mind! He was hallucinating, or delirious, or something similar. And he was not in the mood to suffer through it any longer.
"You're not Raphael and Valon," he said coldly, his gray eyes boring into the imposters'. "Just get out of my sight."
They both looked at him blankly, and then as he watched, they suddenly merged. A quiet, eerie laugh filled the area and Alister stared, watching as the pseudo Valon and Raphael became Alister himself. Only this . . . this was not Alister as he looks today. His eyes widened in realization as he saw the gleaming red eyes and the Seal of Orichalcos on his reflection's forehead. This was his dark soul.
Alister glared at him with contempt. "What do you want?" he demanded. "Why did you do that to me?" That was an insult to Valon and Raphael, and he was outraged. He was also disgusted with himself. He should not have entertained the thought that it was truly was them, not even for a moment. He knew better than that!
His dark self only smirked. "I didn't do that, at least not directly. That was the product of your own darkness, that youcreated. You created me, too." He pointed a forefinger at Alister in emphasis. "Remember, you wanted them to not like you! You've always thought it was a mistake that they started to think of you as their friend, and vice versa. For years you tried to stay closed off from them. You remember, don't you? Back then, didn't you want them to react the way you saw portrayed now?"
Alister was stunned. He took a step back, thoughts swirling over and over in his mind. He knew that his counterpart was speaking the truth. In his darkest moments, he had indeed wanted to keep Raphael and Valon away. He had wanted them to walk away from him in disgust, even if it meant that they would have to believe that he did not care about them or anyone else. And now he had seen and felt what it truly would have been like. He realized, too, that he did not like it one bit.
He paused. This bizarre experience had been created from his own mind, but . . . why now? That was something that he was still quite confused about. Things were different now. He cared about Valon and Raphael and had finally admitted that to himself. And he was certain that they cared about him in return. . . . Did they not? He swallowed a lump of doubt in his throat.
Dark Alister continued to smirk as he stepped forward and began circling the shaken Alister. "You did want it. You can't deny that. I can see in your eyes that you know it's true."
Alister gave him a gaze of pure steel. He would not give in to this. But he would also not stand here quietly. He wanted answers. "Why was this shown to me?" he asked again, rephrasing his question.
"Because," Dark Alister said slowly and calmly, pausing to look into Alister's gray orbs, "now, it's your worst nightmare. Secretly you always wanted to be loved, didn't you? After your family was killed, you said your heart had died. And yet there was still a part of you that wanted to continue knowing what it's like to come home and have someone who's glad you got there safely. You longed for a friendly, welcoming smile, even as you pushed people away from you. And even though you've always tried to be so strong, your soul is fragile. Your heart can be easily shattered. Now that you've found love again, in the form of those two fools who think of you as a brother, you can't bear to lose them."
Alister hated this. He hated having all of his deepest feelings laid bare before him, and he hated knowing that everything being said was true. He was being confronted by himself—his own worst enemy.
"That's why you pushed them away," Dark Alister continued. "You knew that if you became attached to them, you wouldn't be able to stand it if you lost them for whatever reason. You were a coward!" He smirked. "You really got attached to them a long time before you could even admit it to yourself. But the more you cared, the more you pushed them away. That was why you quickly left the hospital once your soul was restored at the end of the Doom era. You wanted to get away before you had the chance to meet them again. When you had talked to them both in the souls' holding area, you had realized that you cared about them, and you weren't willing to accept that. So you ran away. You've always been running from something!"
"That's not true!" Alister finally yelled. His gray eyes flashed. "I'm not running now. I finally accepted that I care about them, and then I went looking for them." And he had found them. Perhaps it would seem strange to anyone else, but he felt that Miruko had led him to them. He knew that his younger brother approved of Alister's friends and was happy for him. It made perfect sense to him that the child had been guiding him during his search.
"You're not running?" Dark Alister crossed his arms. "I think you're wrong." He laughed upon seeing Alister's angry and confused expression, and then quickly spoke again before Alister could retort. "But you'll have to figure that out yourself."
Alister started, his eyes flying open. He let out a shaky breath that he had not realized he had been holding, trying to adjust his eyes to the near-darkness all around him. Where was he? What had happened? Was . . . was he alone? Or would the demons of his mind suddenly appear again to haunt him? Perhaps he had only woken up in his dream, and the nightmare was still taking place.
Abruptly a hand came down on his shoulder and he jerked slightly, gasping in shock.
"Oy," came the sound of a thickly accented voice. "It's just me, chum." Valon leaned over into Alister's line of vision, appearing to be upsidedown from his point of view. Fluffy brown hair spread out in every direction, and the bangs were falling into Valon's eyes, but Alister could see that those eyes were normal. No longer were they harsh and unkind. Now they had regained their normal brightness.
Alister felt a certain relief wash over him. So everything was as it should be. Valon still cared about him, and that meant that Raphael did as well. This was reality, and not his nightmare. He was awake again, and it was an immeasurable alleviation.
"You okay?" Valon continued now, leaning back. "You took a pretty bad spill there." Alister now realized that he was laying in his bed, in his darkened room.
Alister grunted. "I did?" He did not remember any of it, but now that Valon had spoken of a fall, the redhead became aware that his head was throbbing. He reached up, finding a strip of gauze around his forehead.
Footsteps approached and he looked over, seeing Raphael. This time the older man's concern was obvious in his eyes, as well as his relief. "There was a blackout and you tripped and fell down the stairs," he reported, sitting down in a chair. "The lights still haven't come back on yet." He had briefly left the room to give Valon some time alone after the two of them had gotten into a rare argument, and seeing that Alister was now awake was an immense weight off his shoulders. Both he and Valon had worried over whether Alister had been seriously injured and if he would need to go to a hospital.
Valon poked his friend. "It was like you were trying to pull some kinda Olympic stunt!" he cried indignantly. "We thought you'd croaked at first." Or rather, Valon had thought it. He did not know if Raphael had as well, but he would not have been surprised if the older man had. Watching Alister fall had been alarming for both of them. And then he had crashed at the bottom and had lain so still. . . . Inadvertently, Valon shuddered.
Alister smirked weakly. "It would take more than that to kill me," he replied.
"Yeah? Well, good." Valon glared at him. "You can't go leavin' us, y'know."
Alister felt a certain sense of amusement. "I can't?" he said as he slowly started to sit up.
"Naw, you can't. It'd be boring without you." Valon continued to glare.
Raphael shook his head, listening to them as he petted Liu. They both seemed perfectly fine, much to his relief. He could tell that something was bothering Alister, but he doubted that the stubborn redhead would speak of it. Perhaps later, once he had had a chance to rest and recover, he would tell Raphael. But somehow, Raphael had the feeling that this was something that Alister would keep to himself. At any rate, he also certainly looked relieved. In fact, the blonde man mused to himself, Alister looked almost exactly as Valon and Raphael did. From his eyes, he looked as though a burden had been lifted from his heart. Raphael smiled slightly.
Alister relaxed into his pillows. This was as it should be. He was home with his family, and he knew they still cared about him. As he thought about his dark soul's words, he realized that the being had been right. If Valon and Raphael suddenly did not care about him, that would indeed be his worst nightmare. He would not be able to bear that happening now. Perhaps, he reflected, that would even be worse than death. He knew that Miruko had gone out of the world still loving his brother. But if Valon and Raphael had still been alive and had rejected him, Alister realized that he would be devastated. He did not know if he could stand to lose them in any way, shape, or form. Everything that his dark soul had said had been true.
Except that Alister did not know what it was that he was considered to be running from. He had opened his heart again, and had been willing to accept the possibility of heartbreak and pain . . . had he not? He frowned slightly to himself, wondering now if he truly had.
I care about them too much, he thought to himself, relaxing as Valon began to talk again. And vice versa. He often wondered what would come of their brotherly devotion to each other, especially if some disaster or another threatened to tear them apart, but it was too late to turn back now. Whatever happened, would happen. He could only hope that he would not lose his family. And, silently, Valon and Raphael were having similar thoughts. They had all been brought together during Doom—so different, and yet the same. And that would not change, no matter whatever else did.