Title: Footstep Traps

Author: Tiamat's Child

Rating: PG-13

Fandom: Westmark

Summary: Underneath the shell of pseudo-sanity there's just not much left of Justin.

Disclaimers: Lloyd Alexander's pesky little creations, not mine.

Notes: A birthday present for Manon.

Footstep Traps

There are too many things inside him. He's full up and he's still young, where will he put the rest of it? There's no room left. He's stuffed full, stuffed so things are falling out the corners and tumbling to the ground, and he doesn't like it at all.

Justin hears stories, stories Stock tells – told – tells – told of people who loose their minds, whose memories are poured out and left gleaming on old stones in old temples, sacrifices to gods that died with the civilizations that spawned them (they're no great loss). But he thinks sometimes, how convenient, though it's meant – when other people tell it – to be a tragedy. Justin knows that, but he doesn't think it sounds awful at all. He think it sounds quite sensible. Quite wonderful. He would like that. He would like to throw away everything he remembers, toss it all to the winds and sob a bit for the loss and begin again, so much lighter and stronger and –

It's a silly story. A silly story. There is no such thing as magic or gods or dreams that tell the truth and lead the way, and all you are is alone in the world. It's silly.

And that makes him angry, that it's silly.

Everything makes him angry, these days. He can barely stand upright for it, for the ringing of fury in his head, so bright and clear and cold and overpowering like a grand town bell when you stand right next to it, the force of the sound smashing into you and sending you vibrating to its tune, its tone, its rhythm, not your own. He feels cut loose and caught at the same time. He's himself and not himself and who is he anyway? He's never been sure and he thought Rina knew, once. Rina made him feel as if he was himself, as he was coherent and whole.

But he hasn't seen Rina in ages, and without her he's a smashed teacup again, all his component parts too far apart from each other to ever stand a chance of reuniting. Maybe it was her looking that held him something like whole, even with the cracks. Maybe he doesn't exist if no one's looking at him.

He wants to scream. He wants to sob and shout and rage and hurt things and let go. He wants to boil over and quench the hearth fire, the way an untended teakettle does. He feels like an overfull, neglected tea kettle. But there's just too much, he'd explode instead, and he can't, he can't, he can't, he can't think about it. He can't find something he can't do anything he's stuck, and he's caught, and he's just got to keep moving, because –

He doesn't know why. Because Florian won't let him stop. Florian won't let him drop to the ground and curl in and curl in and make himself so small he disappears and can finally be quiet. Florian's never let him do that, no matter how much he tries. No matter how much he argues and how good his reasons are.

Justin hates Florian.

He hates him so much it hurts, sometimes. Because Florian's always pushing, always making him get back up, always forcing him to keep moving keep talking keep doing keep living and all Justin wants is to die. That's all he's ever wanted and the only thing Florian's never let him do, and Florian even knows why Justin's worthless and horrible and ought to die and he still won't let Justin kill himself and that makes Justin so angry

So angry.

Angry enough to love Florian for it. To love him and love him and love him, nearly worship him, because Florian is Florian, and Florian loves him. And even when he hates him –

Justin can't separate the two anymore. Or he can, but only barely, and only with Rina and only because – may anything holy left help him – he doesn't want to hate her. He doesn't want to hate her at all, not her, never her, even if he wishes he could grab her shoulders and shake her and shout at her and tell her what a fool she was to waste her life (her wonderful, vibrant, loving, hopeful life – was there ever anyone more beautiful than Rina?), to waste her life on him. And he can't he can't he can't because she did and she's gone and he tries not to think about it, not to think of her, to block it all out and forget that she made him feel like living –

He's never going to stop missing her, there's this gap, this awful gaping piece of himself that's missing, that's gone, he's hollow and there's something inside him eating him alive but it won't just kill him, why can't it just kill him? He's too tired of fighting it.

He thinks it would be easier if he were walking through a fog, through clouds, so everything was hidden, but he's not and he can see everything so clearly. Everything he has to do, everything that needs to be done, every way that Theo betrays the people and Florian lets him and every compromise Florian makes that he should never have made, and every way that girl, that aristocrat, will hurt Theo in the end. He can see it all, and he can stop it, they just have to listen to him. He'll make them listen to him and everything will be all right and there will be a republic and everyone will be free and maybe then Florian will stop pushing will stop shoving will let him fall.

And he can crumple, can wither, can drift down to the smallest parts of himself and everything will just stop.

Just stop.

Justin wants it.