Disclaimer: See first story.
Author's Note: This story arch ended up being some what of a mini-story within the Connecting Strands series, The Trials. I would of seperated it from the series if I could have. But it is too much a part of Strands to do that, so there should be one more Trials story on the way soon. Fair warning, this story deals with a mental disorder called PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. So if you feel uncomfortable reading about it then I apologize, you know what to do.I would like to thank erinm4600 over at livejournal for being, once more, a wonderful editor for me.
The Connecting Strands: Trials and Tribulations
On the fourth night, DG was awoken by her sister's scream…
"Stay here," he said quickly, as he left the warmth of the bed to grab his gun.
"I'm coming with you," DG said as she untangled herself from the sheets with slightly less dash and winced upon her bare feet touching the cold floor.
"What? No!" Cain said, lifting his eyes to hers seriously, without breaking motion as he snapped the full pistol chamber closed. "The last thing I need, is you getting in the line of fire. You stay here and don't open this door for anyone but me. You understand?" Cain said before moving to the door.
On second thought, he quickly grabbed his shirt and haphazardly shrugged it on. It gave DG the necessary opening to go for the door.
"DG!" Cain growled out before grabbing her elbow to stop her, her stubborn blues eyes only clashing against his.
"My sister is in some kind of pain, or being attacked, and I am not going to stay here and sit on my hands until you get back," she hissed at Cain with angry determination. But he could still hear the small waver to her voice.
They were both jolted by Az screaming again. DG's eyes were glassy. "Cain, please."
"Fine," Cain sighed before moving past her to open the door, DG close behind. "Just stay behind me."
When they reached Azkadelia's room, the door was already open and the sound of struggling could be heard.
Cain cocked back the hammer of his gun. "Wait here."
But DG had enough of waiting and rushed in ahead of Cain before he could stop her. Upon entering, the scene in Az's room stopped DG cold.
Glitch had reached the room first. He was holding Az down on the bed, trying - but not succeeding - to keep the woman's hands away from her bleeding chest. But Az fought him like a wild cat, letting out strangled cries when she couldn't fight him off.
"Open your eyes, Azka-dee. Wake up!" the frightened advisor begged as he tried to shake Az awake and restrain her at the same time.
"What the…" Cain said under his breath as he came through the door and saw what was happening. It was enough to snap DG out of her trance.
She was at Azkadelia's side in a heartbeat, helping Glitch keep hold of Az as she kicked and thrashed at imaginary beings.
Glitch looked up at DG with wide eyes. " I… I found her like this. I can't wake her up."
"It's okay, Glitch," DG tried to say calmly over Az's next outburst of cries to keep Glitch calm.
But on closer inspection, DG could see where the blood on Az's chest was coming from. Numerous gashes were leaking blood across the patch of skin that once bore the Witch's tattoos. DG followed the trail of blood and felt a twisting in the pit of her stomach. They were self-inflicted by Az's nails.
DG's hands felt coated and sticky. She'd rung them so many times in the last few hours, that the feeling should have been gone by now. But she could still feel Azkadelia's slick blood between her fingers.
It had taken Cain's added weight to hold Az down until Ahamo and Lavender found them. Ahamo had immediately taken his daughter's legs from Cain and told the Tin Man to run for a healer. Lavender did what she could in the mean time, cradling her eldest daughter's head in her hands to work some magic on the troubled woman's mind.
Az's screams had reduced to small whimpers by the time Cain and the healer arrived, but even when they'd managed to wake her, Azkadelia had been lost to where she was or who had been with her for last ten minutes. It had scared DG, more then anything she'd faced, to see that blank, fearful look in her sister's eyes.
After cleaning her up, the healer had given Az something to help her sleep. And while the immediate danger may have passed, no one was willing to leave Azkadelia alone. So they took turns standing guard as she slept.
Now, in the cold, harsh light of day, the stress of the night before was visible on everyone's faces. Glitch was the worst of them, especially since he'd been the first one to find Az. Even with the two halves of his brain together again, Glitch - and even Ambrose - still had his fragile moments. Seeing the woman he had publicly promised himself to no more then two weeks ago, in such pain, had left some sloppily-melded version of both men sitting in the Queen's study. Eyes sunken and bloodshot, his arms folded around himself as if he could hug the warmth back into his body.
"I thought she was getting better," DG said, flinching as her words broke the heavy silence.
"We all did," Ahamo said sadly.
"Is it possible someone was using magic on Azkadelia?" Cain asked carefully from where he stood next to DG, keeping as close to her as possible, without touching her to give what comfort he could. "I've seen some nasty things done to a person's mind when someone's set out to do damage."
"No," the Queen said assuredly. "There was no other presence in her mind but my own."
"It's PTSD," Glitch mumbled to himself, his eyes fixed on some point beyond the window.
Everyone turned to stare at the advisor carefully; it was the first thing Glitch had said all morning. The staring seemed to ware on Glitch's awareness, because he snapped out of his trance to look around.
Glitch swallowed. "Oh… uhm. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder… it happens to people who are victims of a traumatic incident," he said, switching to textbook-Ambrose for his own safety, it seemed, to shut out the emotion. "The person is forced to relive the trauma itself, in flashbacks, nightmares, panic attacks… violent outbursts. It's usually triggered by anything that reminds them of the trauma."
Lavender looked distressed; even with Ahamo by her side. "But Azkadelia has been fine for almost an annual now. Certainly, it must be something else, Ambrose."
Glitch gave a bitter snort in reply before he remembered himself, and the company. He smiled sympathetically at his oldest friend. "It doesn't always show up right away… It takes months; sometimes, even years. We should consider it a possibility. But…" Glitch sighed, looking at Lavender with disturbingly-clear eyes. "She lived in that hell for so long, I don't know why any of us didn't see it coming… why I didn't see it coming," Glitch trailed off miserably, his head bowing.
DG moved from the comfort of Cain's side to sit with Glitch. She wrapped her arms around him, and felt Glitch press his weight into her, without hesitation. It only made her hold him tighter.
It tore at Cain's insides that he wasn't allowed to give DG that kind of comfort right now. Because, of all of them, DG was putting up the biggest front. Trying to be strong for everyone else, as always, when it was so plain to see how much it pained her to.
"I've seen men, too long in service, go through it before," he said from the corner he'd claimed as his own. "If Glitch is right, it ain't gonna be easy for her to shake, without help."
It did nothing to help the mood of those in the room, but at least, now, they had some idea of what Az was facing.
DG rested her head on Glitch's shoulder. "Az will get better, Glitch," she said reassuringly.
The advisor laughed softly. "That's sweet, doll."
There was a hesitant knock on door. Cain detached himself from the wall to open it and let in a skittish-looking Raw. Cain couldn't blame him, it was probably like walking, willingly, into depression with the way everyone was on edge. Cain nodded to the Viewer and Raw smiled warmly at his friend.
"Raw, you came," DG said thickly as she stood to hug her friend. Raw embraced her back hard and she felt the small tug as he learned what he needed to without asking her to say it out loud. It was a welcome relief.
"Raw always come to help friends," the viewer said softly and DG squeezed him gently. He let her hold onto him a little longer before holding her at arm's length to look at her.
Raw sat beside Azkadelia's sleeping form, the perfect image of Sleeping Beauty if it wasn't for the bandages across her chest. It was a blessing that Az slept through the night, but it was not on her own power or the doctor's prescription. It was only her mother's magic that held the nightmares at bay, where not even DG's connection with her sister could.
"Must open mind," Raw said before even laying a hand on the eldest Princess, sensing the wall in her mind.
The Queen came forward, walking tall and strong for everyone's sake. She caressed Azkadelia's forehead before bending to kiss the same spot, making Az gasp softly as she fell from the place of dreamless sleep.
"Be well, my darling," Lavender whispered.
They all waited, with baited breath. At first, nothing happened; Az simply slept on. But it wasn't long before the peace was broken by Az's pained moans. She thrashed against the bed covers, eyes moving frantically under closed lids.
DG tried to go to her sister, but Cain held her back. She fought, but Cain pulled her to his chest so his voice wouldn't carry. " You have to let Raw do this."
Raw didn't lift a hand to restrain Az. His fingertips barely touched the Princess's temples, but it was enough to make the connection. Az's back arched up off the bed and her head jerked against the pillow.
DG saw Glitch flinch, but she wasn't sure if it was because of Az's reaction or his own memories of being under Raw's probing powers.
Raw bowed his head, his lips moving wordlessly. And Az, as if she were simply under hypnosis, responded the same way. Her lips moved without sound, calming or thrashing depending on what the Viewer secretly said to her.
DG was thankful that Az's memories weren't being projected through a mirror as Glitch's had, but there was a sort of helplessness that came with not knowing. And her imagination could think of much worse things then the truth was capable of.
When it was obvious that DG was no longer foolhardy enough to interrupt what Raw was trying to do, Cain let his hand slip away from arm. He regretted it as he watched the muscles in her shoulders flex and coil. Stealing a glance at the Queen and her Consort, Cain moved to stand beside DG so he could lay the warm flat of his palm between her shoulders without being seen.
The muscles tensed and then began to slowly sooth under his hand as she shuddered, fingers curling into loose fists. DG accepted the comfort, with relief, but refused to let her emotions take over.
It felt like hours passed in the room, but it was only twenty minutes later that Az finally settled and Raw pulled away, shaken.
"Is that it?" Glitch asked anxiously from the end of Az's bed, where he'd fixed himself.
"Worst over," Raw said with a satisfied nod, gently readjusting the covers over Az's body. "But still need time to heal. Time and love," Raw finished, looking around at those in the room with a meaningful look.
Lavender nodded. "She'll have whatever she needs," she said with fiery-eyed determination as she and Ahamo took Raw's place by Az.
Ahamo took Azkadelia's hand, but she didn't stir.
"When will she wake?" Ahamo asked with concern.
Raw smiled sadly. "Azkadelia rest now. Need rest, then wake up."
Glitch put his hand on Raw's shoulder, a tired smile lighting the Advisor's face. "Good job, Raw."
Raw smiled at patted his closest friends hand in turn. "Good job, Glitch."
Everyone found some small relief in what Raw had done. Everyone, that is, except for DG.
As everyone gathered around Azkadelia's bed, Cain felt DG's body coil up under his hand again and she was starting to shake.
Not from the cold, not from fear; it was a shake Cain was all too familiar with. Which was why he immediately grabbed hold of her wrist and steered DG out of the room. She fought at first, but Cain was stronger and she didn't have the strength to keep it up for long.
DG began to shake worse then before and Cain pulled her into the nearest empty room before pulling her tightly into his arms.
"Okay, Kid, let it out."
Cain clenched his teeth as he felt DG's nails dig into his upper arms, still trying to keep it all in.
"It's just you and me, DG. No one's gonna see," Cain promised.
DG trembled in his arms and the tears finally came, but so did the bruising-hold she had on his arms. Cain winced, but made no move to stop her; instead, he tucked her head under his chin and rocked the crying woman.
"It's supposed to be over," DG managed to say between her tears. "We beat the Witch, I got Az back… It's supposed to be over!"
"I know, Kid," Cain said, stroking her hair the same way he used to soothe Adora. "I know."
The door opened so suddenly, that Cain heard his neck crack as he turned to see Ahamo standing in the doorway. DG tried to pull away like a skittish bird, but Cain didn't let her go. Cain narrowed his eyes at the old slider, his arms tightening around DG; almost daring Ahamo to say anything about it.
But Ahamo surprised Cain by looking relieved to find his daughter in the Tin Man's arms.
"Lavender and I would like to talk with you both."
"Can it wait?" Cain asked a little sharper then he'd meant, not sure DG was up for talking yet.But the look in Ahamo's eyes didn't give Cain the answer he wanted.
To be continued...