Broken Armor

By Seniya

Even the heavens seemed to be mourning. No. Weeping was a more suitable verb. The sky wouldn't grieve, but it would cry. Its tears would take on the form of rain drops, and they would fall, hard and unforgiving onto the awaiting earth. The skies would moan, in a voice that was cold and empty, in a tone that would echo across the lands and be called thunder by all those who tremblingly listened for it. This sorrow would heard by all, and this same sadness would cause many to quake in fear of it—primarily those who were too young to know the true meaning of pain, who could not identify with the distress of the heavens.

But worst of all were the screams. Eerie and silent; they came without warning; illuminated chaos vivid across the face of night. The jagged fingers of lightning were conceivably the only true window into the mind of the canopy of midnight that hung above the earth. They whispered of a pain too great to endure, of rampaging emotions that were too horrible to keep contained. They were silent, yes; but what else could one call the lightning but screams?

Or, perhaps, he had been wrong—perhaps the heavens did mourn, and perhaps they did it in a way that was so similar to those who would quiver at the sights and sounds of its grief, that it was truly frightening.

Aldarn was dead. There was no use in trying to decorate the cold, hard facts with pretty words and elaborate prose, for the truth always remained in the end—once all of the trappings had fallen away. The reality was that he was gone, never to return from the romanticized land of Nirvana.

Aldarn wouldn't like Nirvana, Caleb thought with a grim smile. It had always been described by the elders as a land overflowing with milk and honey; it had always been drawn with the palest of pastels. He knew that his best friend detested honey, oh yes; he would much prefer a leg of roasted ox any day. And even now he could easily picture Aldarn, with his face contorted in pure disgust as those pinks and blues floated about him.

He would do anything to return, Caleb imagined, curtly swallowing the lump that had lodged itself in his throat; anything.

Another crooked bolt of lightning cut across the midnight blue sky, and next to him Caleb felt Taranee jump. She was obviously inwardly cursing the Meridian tradition to have burials at night.

It was a useless ritual, started during the reign of Phobos when solders would attack during the day, leaving families to weep for the dead after the dusk. As time had passed the practice had continued; he suspected it was because it had been so hard to forget the misery of those times. That was the thing about people; they always tried so hard to remember.

Next to her stood three of the other Guardians, carefully arranged in a straight line; currently they reminded Caleb of the porcelain dolls that his grand mother had collected during her lifetime. Their backs were unnaturally straight and their faces seemed painted on, each in an identical expression of somberness that seemed almost laughable given the situation; standing outside in the freezing rain, in the darkness, listening to the cries of the children and the gruff tone of Aldarn's father as he bravely read the eulogy from a platform at the front of the crowd.

Their presence was all for show, he thought; as were their reactions. He no longer believed in their sadness—not when they could stare up at Aldarn's casket with dry eyes. They were girls—women, they were supposed to cry. But they never did, not once during the numerous funerals that they had been forced to endure recently. And that fact disgusted him—when it was killing him to keep a straight face, when the emotions that were knotted inside of his chest threatened to explode at any second…

And to see them, still silent, still unaffected, the only tears creeping along their faces belonging to the heavens.

Behind him thunder roared, and this time Taranee emitted the tiniest of shrieks, before a hand swept through the darkness to caress her slim shoulders. She muttered something incoherent to her comforter—Irma, he had identified her as, before they were both shushed by Cornelia.

Oh yes, the façade must be kept up, he found himself thinking. Never mind the sadness; never mind how much it hurt those who actually knew the deceased to see you all gaze upon the proceedings with those dead eyes—never mind that…

He found himself wishing that they would leave. He had had quite enough of their artificial emotions. So what if they were some of his closest allies? So what? It was their leader's fault that Aldarn was dead—and now, at his funeral, all they could offer his memory was the same blank look as they had given the nameless old woman who had been cremated last week.

He had managed to take an odd sense of comfort in knowing that at least their leader wasn't there. In fact she had disappeared long before the rains had even started. He had watched her go, knowing the feeling of exasperation crawling along his skin was wrong, but willing himself not to care or to even try to repress it.

For the umpteenth time his eyes swept through the shadows for her face, the never-ending downpour was making it an increasingly difficult task; his narrowed eyes sought the shock of wild crimson hair that would undoubtedly stir the anger boiling in the bottom of his stomach. He wasn't entirely sure exactly when his feelings towards Will had changed from camaraderie to infuriation, it had been sometime before Aldarn's death, but his passing had only intensified the feelings. Oh, it had been a rapid transformation, and it was one that he had, admittedly done nothing to stop.

She was the worst of them all, he knew, for she never broke; not when those around her fell down dead, not when her teammates questioned her; never. He supposed it was admirable— truly, he had thought it so once, it was after all, a trait that he himself had tried desperately to achieve.

But then, that it was it—he had had to try to obtain that level of indifference. For her it was so easy…so damned easy. Now, he no longer saw it as anything to be accepted, he saw it as unnatural, as something to be feared.

She was cold, and manipulative, a heartless maiden who had her feelings under such severe control that it was difficult to know what she was ever really thinking. And he had watched as she had become like this. Now, he could barely recall the small red haired girl who had fallen into his arms all those years ago, the same girl who had watched and listened as he had explained to them battle strategies, who would for some time come to him with questions on her decisions.

She was gone now, he chided, there was no use trying to remember her. Four years had done a lot. Now, Will would stare at him with eyes that were hardened due to the years of battle, she listen to him only to ignore his instruction and the only questions she had were ones on directions. That, of course had been part of the reason that Aldarn had died…because she hadn't listened to him.

Perhaps that was why she had refused to remain at the funeral; maybe she hadn't lost the ability to feel guilt—yet. Or maybe she had realized that no one here was impressed by her little trick any more. Yes, that was probably it, knowing her; she had more than likely gone off to rearrange that mask of apathy on her face, she would return soon enough to watch the lowering of the box beside her friends.

Caleb now had to shift his head to further his attempts of locating her in the crowd of indistinguishable faces, all the while telling himself that it was just so that he would be able to get her off of his mind. Once he knew where she was, he would definitely stop thinking about her.

She still wasn't there; his brow furrowed; an action that caused the droplets of water that clung to his eyelashes to blur his vision. Well, it wasn't as though he missed Will—after all he had four other girls who were quickly becoming just like her standing next to him. Yes, that was another thing he had against her, how she had managed to get the others to behave just like her in a matter of months.

Obviously Taranee didn't want to be here, and Hay Lin hated funerals, she had confided that to him years ago and even now he could see it in her eyes, the urge to leave—to run away. She couldn't hide it. And of course why would Cornelia happily and wordlessly stand for hours on end in the frigid rain?

She was making them do this, she had probably described to each of them just how silently to stand, exactly how sad to look. She had probably preached to them on the importance of being brave, because the people needed them to be strong.

As if she knew anything about the people…as if she could ever understand anything about his people. And of course he knew that he was being unfair, even as the anger in his chest scalded his insides, something within his mind scolded his thoughts. It was a voice that told him that he should be grateful, because even if she didn't understand, she at the very least, despite all that he might think of her and her heartless ways, cared.

"Where's Will?" Giving into the curiosity and ignoring the pride that would have generally forbidden him to ask that question, Caleb turned to Irma. She looked almost perplexed to see him speak and he noticed that Taranee shot her an awkward look before she answered that she didn't know.

"I'm going to look for her." He prayed that the look that he sent their way squashed any questions that they may have been formulating to ask him. The most powerful and unwanted of which would have been: Why?

He needed to get away, he decided. "Caleb?" It was Hay Lin's voice, but he refused to look at her. "I-I'm sorry." She stammered.

The anger in his chest subsided, if only momentarily, and he nodded in acknowledgment.

Landslides, he told himself only minutes afterwards, the rain would cause landslides—and she shouldn't be out here alone. It struck him as comical almost, just how he still thought that he should protect her, that he could, even though she was one of those legendary Guardians.

His boots squelched in the mud as he wandered through the empty village searching for the missing girl. Never mind that there weren't any mountains near here—never mind that there had never been a natural landslide to his knowledge in the history of Meridian…it wasn't safe for her to be out her by herself with the Heart Of Kandrakar waving around.

Oh yes, that was better, their enemies would gladly jump at the chance to seize the Guardian leader. Yes, it had been a good idea that he had gone looking for her.

Stubborn as she was, he doubted that she would see it that way. She would probably fight him on his decision, no, fighting was more of Cornelia's specialty, staring was Will's. As he had discovered when he had yelled at her for what had to have been hours due to the soreness of his throat when he was finished, on her decision to neglect his orders.

Her silence had been his undoing, for the majority of the episode he had wanted to strangle her, after that he had wanted to break down and allow some of the emotion trapped inside of his chest to escape into the open. But instead he had argued and she had watched…and they hadn't had much of a conversation since.

He had been glad to shout at her then actually, just as he would be glad to shout at her now. It helped to dissipate some of the mounting irritation in his being, pathetic as that admission sounded—his only way to relieve stress was to shout at a seventeen year old girl.

She was just so damned infuriating! And she apparently wasn't hiding in the village, he decided as he stalked past the last house, a particularly lopsided two story structure, on the stretch of muddy land. She had probably gone back to earth, probably into the arms of her boyfriend what's-his-teeth, while he was out here looking for her in the bloody rain because he was worried, well concerned, about…the safety of the Heart.

The thunder laughed ominously overhead and somewhere else lightning decorated the night sky once again. It was then that he heard it…a girl's voice, still too soft to be distinguished, punctuated by long gasps for air; it was obscured by the sounds of the storm, yet, it was still recognizable; if only barely. Instantaneously the adrenaline surged through his limbs as he moved towards the noise. Some girl was probably in trouble…maybe she had been attacked, molested even; assaults had been on the rise as of late, he rounded the side an identical lopsided building before pressing his back against the sodden wooden wall and craning his neck to see around the corner. His eye caught the outline of…someone—and something in his chest froze before it sunk…

He squinted into the darkness of the alleyway, but he already knew what he had seen. The red hair was unmistakable.

Will was crying.

Something seized his heart; it was as though a hand had reached up from inside of him to squeeze the air from his lungs. The sounds ensuing from her throat were…disturbing to be honest, or more accurately, the effect that these sounds had on him were disturbing. For a moment he couldn't recall why he had wanted to see her cry for so long; seeing her now, with her face buried in her hands, and her body shaking with uncontrollable sobs, it made him feel…dirty.

The sensation that he was witnessing something that by all means he shouldn't be, washed over him as though it were being carried by the rain. It clung to his skin, and chilled him to the bones. He had to repress the sudden urge to run. No, he wouldn't run, so what if she cried…it didn't change anything, he reminded himself…it didn't change a damn thing.

Out of the corner of his eye Caleb spotted the blurred shape of a stack of cast iron pots—of course, this must be the local pub. Without really thinking about his course of action, he stepped to the side, a move which caused the stack of cutlery to topple over. That got her attention. The sobbing stopped almost immediately, as he knew that it would.

And slowly, with a practiced type of motion, he walked into the alleyway. She had obviously used the time to violently cleanse her face of any mark of her tears. The rain had helped, he imagined, now the only sign that she had been crying came from the redness that decorated the edges of her unusual brown eyes.

They stood there for a long moment, in near silence, with only the sounds being the rain beating against the roofs and the occasional thunderclap. There was nothing to say, was there? He couldn't even remember what he wanted to tell her…

"What is it?" her voice sounded strained, and hoarse.

"I—we didn't know where you were." He managed. "The others were worried about you."

She shook her head, and he found himself transfixed by the movement of her damp hair, the familiar spark of annoyance roared in his gut. "I told Cornelia that I was coming back." She walked towards him, in that slow, taunting way that she had perfected with age. Somewhere in his mind, a voice, in all probability his conscience, muttered something about his girlfriend, it then went on to command him not to concentrate on the way her sodden skirt clung to her slim legs, it said something else too—but he had stopped listening by now.

She paused in front him, far enough away for him to have to really focus to see her features through the torrent, but near enough for her presence to still bother him. "You didn't have to come looking for me." She stated plainly.

He looked away, refusing to meet her gaze for fear of becoming lost in the secrets of those unusual red-brown eyes. The fact that he had been forced to do something so humbling angered him even more and suddenly the speech he had created on his journey came prancing back into his mind.

"No one knew where you were! You could have been kidnapped or attacked," he found the sudden daring to look at her face, "were we just supposed to be happy with—I'm coming back?"

Her expression remained fathomless, but she had folded her arms across her chest, a sure sign that she was listening. Lightning danced across the black theater of the sky, inadvertently illuminating the contours of her face, the dull sound of thunder followed, as did her silence. She seemed to be waiting for him to continue…all right.

"When are you going to realize that you can't be this reckless?" He wished that she would say something; anything; call him an ass, an idiot, or at least do something other than just looking at him. It was hard to punch a bag that didn't punch back.

But she didn't, she never did…Oh Gods, he wished that he could simply reach across the space that separated them and shake her, to make her feel something where he was concerned. But he could never, for he knew, or rather he had learnt, that touching her was never a good idea. The feel of her skin underneath his fingers had damn near driven him to insanity once—and he didn't trust his self control enough to allow himself to do it again.

But of course, Will knew all of this; she had to by now, in fact he had wondered several times in the past if she was just laughing at him, pulling him along for this little ride because she liked to watch him suffer with these feelings.

This was the girl who was more responsible for his best friend's death than anyone, he told himself in a stern voice, and all you can think about is how you'd like to touch her. It was sick. He was sick; this thing was sick; indeed when this thing had first grown into such a distraction Caleb had wondered if she had cast some sort of spell on him, for that had had to be the explanation for why he lost his mind whenever she was near; a spell would explain everything. Even now he still wondered; still wondered alone, since he had been too afraid to share his conclusion with anyone else because he was even warier that their answer might be a negative.

And then he wouldn't have an excuse anymore.

Through the shattered light of the moon, he could see her hand gliding upward to brush something from the side of her face. No, please no, he could hear himself pleading, please don't cry.

"I'm sorry Caleb." The silence was broken; the pandemonium of the rainstorm seemed to quell, to quiet. He questioned for a long moment if he had imagined it all, but when he felt her hand rest against his arm, in the smallest of gestures that still managed to set his flesh alight, he knew that this, as bizarre as it all seemed, was the reality.

"I-I know that…" she sighed, she sniffled, "…it doesn't begin to h-help fix w-what I've done…" her other hand wiped something away from her cheek, and he watched, fascinated by the movement, "…but I don't," as her grip on his arm tightened, he held his breath, "please, C-Caleb," he felt his pulse quicken, "please d-don't hate me anymore."

If she had wanted him then, she could have taken him, for he was lost; overwhelmed; by what she was showing him. She was beautiful even when she cried, and although each sob that came from her lips felt like a dagger being thrust into his being, the significance of the gesture wasn't lost on him.

As though in a trance, with all of his displeasure now forgotten, Caleb moved forward, closing the space between them with each heavy step he took. His arms drifted forward to enclose her trembling frame, and then with one final stride, he dragged her body onto his, pressing her into him, deliberately ignoring the stirrings of desire that tempted his mind.

The madness was worse than ever, as he had expected; she sobbed helplessly into his chest, apparently glad for the meager reassurance that he was offering to her. Her hands gripped his wet shirt, pulling him nearer to her, causing him to lose his mind in her presence; her scent; her body. Slowly a picture erupted in his psyche, a familiar one, since he had imagined this entire situation before. It was the one of him looking down at her, still shuddering in his grasp, the one where he would wipe away the evidence of her pain and then lower his mouth onto hers, and lose himself in the sensation of the kiss. He had imagined that her lips would be like velvet, and she would taste of something sweet, rather than of the bitter torment that he had been forced to endure because of his infatuation with her. Hell, in his fantasy, he would shower her neck with kisses and if left alone with her long enough he would make love to her right there in the gloom of the alleyway, with the rain acting as their blanket.

And then…they would return to the funeral, and he would return to Cornelia that night, and she to her boyfriend and then—what…

The dream shattered, collapsed around the reality of her still crying in his arms. This was the manipulation he suspected, how she could still manage to make him do all of this, to think of these things…

It wasn't fair—the power that she held over him, and of course she knew of it…of course she knew that he would do anything for her. Of course she knew that he had been dying for the past hour worrying about where she was, and she had to have know that he had managed to turn his anger over his friend's passing onto her, just so he wouldn't have to feel so vulnerable around her anymore.

Because it had been going on for years, so of course she understood that he had ignored her when she had ignored him—that he had run off and found a girl who was impressed by him, one that he could have, never mind that it hadn't been the one that he had wanted, never mind that.

He could remember how he had told himself that it was because she was so cold, and so impassive; that it hadn't been because of him, rather, it had been because of her; and then had come the final blow, when he had seen her for the first time with her boyfriend, the one that she had chosen, oh how her face had lit up, how her eyes had glowed with a life that he had never known her to have. So she had been manipulative then, because he had been tricked…by her…and he couldn't stop it…he hadn't wanted to.

Now it was frustration, he had lied before, he knew exactly when it had started, and now it had gotten to the point where he could always find some way to blame everything on her, now, he constantly told himself that this was all her fault, because, really, it couldn't be his. And of course she knew all of this—she just didn't care—after all, how could she possibly not know?

So she thought that he hated her? Well then that was fantastic; maybe this was all for the best. Yes, he realized that he could be rid of her now, that all he needed to do was to discard her plea for forgiveness.

"Will," a cold wind slapped the back of his neck; the words in his mouth felt heavy on his tongue, "I never hated you." I love you. But it wouldn't come, blocked by the bit of stubborn male pride. Rejection was not something that he needed to deal with tonight.

Her hands dug into his shoulder blades, but at least now the cries echoing in her throat seemed significantly less violent. "But it was my fault," she muttered, "I should have waited for you…I should have listened." Her speech of remorse was obstructed by his body, yet, he knew every word that she was going to say; these were the same words that he had screamed at her upon learning of Aldarn's death, words that at the time had been spoken so as to hurt her—to make her feel the same pain that she inflicted on him.

"No," he whispered into her hair, long ribbons colored like the petals of a rose, "It was a mistake; it wasn't your fault."

Behind them the mourners at the funeral began a particularly low song, the body was being lowered, he realized. He should be getting back, but he couldn't bring himself to release her.

You don't deserve to call Aldarn your friend…

A mistake, the description reverberated inside of his mind, he had called Aldarn's death a mistake, all so that he could please her—although, a mistake was no worse than an excuse.

I'm sorry Aldarn.

"Everything is going to be fine." He managed to peel his arms away. "You don't need to worry." He turned to leave, to return to the seriousness of the funeral and then perhaps meet with the one of the elders for a confession. He needed some kind of counseling that was certain.

"Caleb." She had followed him, grabbing his arm in an effort to stop him from walking away. "I—thank you." She rose onto the tips of her toes so as to press her tender lips against the side of his face; a kiss. "I hope Cornelia doesn't mind." She laughed.

She laughed.

"I won't tell."



Author: I have been trying to upload this for DAYS! But never mind, it's here now. Wow, another one shot. Quite frankly I only write these to annoy the hell out of the Cornelia x Caleb fans, who have gotten even more excited with Season two. BLEH, I say, it's enough to make a girl return to Will x Phobos.

Oh well, the story is just one of those things that you can't get out of your head so you know you just write down. This actually came into my head during my Math exam. HA!

I don't know how good it is, but I'm pretty proud of it. If you're confused about anything just drop me a line with your email, I'll clear it up for you!

The only thing I can say that you would be confused about is Caleb's spell thing. Nah, he isn't under a spell, he just says so to make himself feel better. Err, that's it I suppose.