Disclaimer: I'm currently on a quest to own both Kingdom Hearts and, ultimately, Germany. If you wish to help me with this devious plot, I suggest giving money to me. Lots and lots of money. That's a marvelous idea, you should do it.
Anyway, all joking aside, here's the next chapter of MotB! Things begin to get a bit better for Aramuil, although we'll see how long that lasts considering my sadistic tendencies towards my favorite characters...
Also, I'm trying out a slightly different border. Tell me what you think, won't you? I'm still getting used to 's formatting and such.
Beat grow beat grow beat-
"Lay down, Aramuil, lay down, just rest, or so help me-" Bridgette's voice, sharp and commanding and tempered by worry and he wants to open his eyes but when he does he sees nothing but black and-
Grow beat grow beat together-
Nothing has ever been so important to remember, nothing but the beating of his heart, the growing of the plants, he can feel it in his bones, and the voices are rising around him and he just wants to open his eyes-
"What do you mean, we have to move!?"
"Don't take that tone with me. You are a useful tool, Tenenbaum, but you are also expendable. Either your filthy faggot friend gets up for the march or the soldiers take the… preferred method of shooting him."
"…I will not let you do that."
"Ha! And you think you have a choice, child?"
It feels like years later when he finally wakes up again, and something is sticking his eyelids together. Stubbornness has always been a trait of his, however, and after a while, Aramuil finally pries his eyes open. Even before he spots Bridgette serenely sitting besides his bed, something inside, something instinctual, tells him the world has changed… Even if it's only his world.
The entire room blurs together, and Aramuil doesn't even know if it's really Bridgette sitting besides him. That all changes when he finally hears her voice. "Well! It took you long enough, didn't it, Aramuil?" Her voice surprises him, because he's sure he's never heard her this so relaxed before. Then the figure next to him leans over him, and her image sharpens to his blurry vision.
Aramuil blinks, and it feels as if there's a tremendous heat throughout his entire body. It burns so badly, but that's quickly remedied when Bridgette places a cold cloth on his head. A relieved sigh slips out of his throat and Aramuil closes his eyes again. It occurs to him that he should ask what's going on, why isn't he dead yet-
But then he slips back into unconsciousness.
"Jesus Christ, do I really look like that?"
Ages ago, or so it now seems, Aramuil would look in the mirror and see a healthy young man with a splash of red-brown hair upon his head and something glorious in his future. Now, as he pokes and prods at his own face, he can barely believe the sheer amount of change that's taken him. Underneath all the dirt, his skin has taken a sickly hue and his bones can always be seen somewhere, no matter how he moves. His hair, formerly bright and making him known no matter where he was, is now dull and looks more brown than red. Aramuil makes a face at the mirror, and his reflection twists grotesquely. "I'm a sorry sight."
"I've seen worse," Bridgette says decisively and glares at him. "Now, are you quite done preening? I have better ways to waste my time than holding up a mirror."
Innocently, Aramuil grins at her. "None of them have my charm," he laughs, and bounds away. Energy seems to fill his every limb, or at least recently. At a physical glance, the camp is pretty much the same. It's still dirty, and the people there are still in a pathetic state while soldiers roam around. However, now it's not the Nazis, anymore. Now, it's American and British soldiers who populate the camp. The only real improvement is that now they're no longer yelled at or beaten. Besides that…
It's still the same.
However, Aramuil has never been happier.
"Come on, Bri!" He bounces back, his body shaking with joy and exhaustion that's held at bay by his surge of adrenaline. "Cheer up, we're finally-" Aramuil's words are cut off as his legs suddenly go on strike. He crumples to the ground with a yelp, and lies there for a moment. The fall jostled his poor broken arm, and Aramuil can only wince while Bridgette sets down the mirror. She seems perfectly content to take her own sweet time before she finally walks over to Aramuil with a smug smirk and her hands on her hips.
"So." Bridgette is enjoying this far too much. "I think we both know that running around while sick and tired is a terrible idea." Then, for good measure, she adds, "Idiot."
"Your concern is touching," Aramuil grumbles, sourly rubbing his rear. "Now, help me up and tell me everything that's happened since I've been sick."
When they're finally situated on her bed, Bridgette does just that.
Apparently, the United Nations came sooner than the camp had expected. This gave them something of an advantage, although the Nazis had put up a good fight. Despite that, in the end, they didn't have a chance.
"I don't suppose you'd remember," Bridgette says with a shrug. "They wanted all the prisoners to move on foot and everything. Still, you can be excused. After all, you were unconscious most of that time."
There's really nothing he can say to that, so Aramuil just asks, "And what about the soldiers? The scientists? Do you know what happened to them?"
To his disappointment, Bridgette shrugs her shoulders. "I believe the soldiers have been captured. However, we're not exactly kept informed of what they plan on doing. Besides." Her eyes narrow, almost accusingly. "I've been in here taking care of you." Aramuil is subjected to that withering glare until he finally looks sheepish and mutters an apology.
Honestly. An apology for being sick! Sometimes, he really can't believe Bridgette.
At least it gets her talking again. This is definitely a good thing, for her eyes gleam conspiratorially as she leans closer to him. "However, I managed to… hear something quite interesting. Apparently, Vogel got… caught in the crossfire." Aramuil's eyes widen as his mind tries to process that simple sentence. "He's dead."
Pure savage joy spreads through his veins at the news, and Aramuil feels his nails digging into the palms of his hands. Dead. The bastard's dead. A sharp, triumphant laugh erupts from his mouth, and Aramuil hunches over, shaking. "Damn," he says under his breath, between the laughter. "Damn!"
Even without looking up, Aramuil can already imagine the look of confusion on Bridgette's face. "What on earth is wrong with you?" she demands.
At last, Aramuil sits straight again, and runs his hands through his hair. The grin on his face hurts, but he just can't stop. "Of all the times not to be shoveling bodies into the incinerator," he says wistfully.
"I didn't know we were allowed letters."
Aramuil barely acknowledges Bridgette's questioning statement, or even her presence in the room. Instead, he concentrates solely on the piece of paper in his hands. Its cleanliness doesn't seem to belong with his tanned, dirty skin. The envelope the letter came in lies, discarded, on the gray floor. It's only when she goes to pick it up does Aramuil look up with a jerk. "What?" he asks, giving off the impression that he'd just snapped out of a dream. "I mean, well, we can, I suppose. Just not many people know where we are." His voice trails off, and Bridgette frowns. Suddenly, out of nowhere- "Are your parents alive, Bridgette?"
Never before has either of them spoken about the past. It was a subject more dream-like than all their talks of a beautiful future. Oh, there's always been hints of it… A chance to talk about their families and old friends. Yet in an unspoken agreement, they've always danced skillfully around and away from it. For Aramuil to bring it up so blatantly…
Well, even he's startled. Feeling surprisingly numb, Aramuil stares down at the letter until black and white blur together. Finally, he feels the mattress give way slightly as Bridgette sits on the opposite end. "I don't know," she answers honestly. "I imagine not. They were Jewish."
Earth and fire… "I see," Aramuil says.
"Why did you ask?"
The paper crackles as Aramuil folds it up again. This level of silence is uncharacteristic, but he doesn't know what else to do. What can he possibly say? Nothing. Really. But he has to say something… "My mother's alive."
In the back of her throat, Bridgette makes a curious sound. It's clearly a sign to go on, yet for the first time in a long while, Aramuil can't find the words. Odd… Even when he was forced to be an obedient little slave, there was always something he wanted to say, some barbed insult or snide comment. Now? Now, nothing. Perhaps Bridgette can sense this somehow, because she's the one to move things along. "Well? Did she say where she is?"
"America." Aramuil gives a dry smile. "Apparently, she managed to escape to there not long after Father and I were taken away." Even he can sense the dark tone his voice has taken. That coward… Contempt flowers inside of him, and he doesn't even notice the white of his knuckles until Bridgette places a calm hand over his shaking fist.
"Don't get angry at her," she admonishes. "After all, unlike you, some people actually have a sense of self-preservation."
The words are just so… Aramuil doesn't know, and they should be making him angry. They don't. Instead, Aramuil just gives a crooked little grin at the insult slipped into her words. "I suppose you have a point," he chuckles, and the thorn-riddled plant inside shrinks just slightly. "Anyway…" He makes a gesture with the folded up letter. "Apparently, she managed to get cozy with some important official over there and, with a few pulled strings, found me. Or so I assume. She's somewhat vague in this whole thing." He pauses. "…She wants me to go to America. In a week from now, I'll be on a train, then boat."
An almost awkward silence falls over them. Aramuil carefully watches Bridgette's hands, unable to look up at her face. They don't twitch, or freeze over his fist. Just as before, they lie comfortably on his curled fingers, a reassuring presence. Finally, they curl just the slightest bit over his skin.
"In just a week, hm?"
"Well, it's the 'Land of Opportunities'. Don't screw it up."
Seven days pass by too quickly.
A sickening sense of déjà vu seems to have taken over him for some reason. Aramuil closes his eyes and breathes in deep, welcoming the filthy air of the train station. He holds no suitcase, no possessions. The only thing he has are the clothes on his back and a sparse amount of money, and even those aren't really his. They're stolen from the bunks and trunks of those who used to work at the camp. Aramuil feels dirty wearing them.
"It will be a long trip," Bridgette observes from her place at his side. Her arms are wrapped tightly around a book, undoubtedly stolen from some scientist's old lab. With no Nazis, they've gotten into places they've never been allowed, such as the bookshelves. "Are you sure you'll survive?"
"You make it sound as if I'm walking on knives," Aramuil says, and opens his eyes. "You know, Bridgette, you didn't have to come all this way with me. After all, now you have to wait until the soldiers are done with the rest of their business."
"Just shut up and be thankful," Bridgette says right back. She looks vaguely annoyed and ruffled, like an irritated bird. He'd offer a retort, but a train's whistle cuts through the conversation. It's somewhat nostalgic. Aramuil sighs and gives a small wave to her, along with a half-assed attempt at a confident smile. He's not quite sure what he expects in return, perhaps another insult regarding his intelligence. She doesn't do that. What she does do, however, is shove her book into his hands. "In case you get bored," she says simply as she steps back, arms crossed. Bewildered, Aramuil flips through the book, and discovers that the pages are filled with various things about plants.
"Hell, way to make me feel guilty. I don't have anything for you."
"As if there's anything you could give me. Now, hurry up or you'll miss your train."
"No, no, there has to be something…"
"Idiot, do you not want to go to-"
"Ah ha! I got it!"
"Got what- MMPH!"
It's clumsy and awkward, this little farewell kiss, but Aramuil doesn't mind. He just grins against Bridgette's mouth, amused at how wide her eyes are. Quickly, he pulls back, the perfect shit-eating grin on his face. "There. Try and forget that."
This seems to be the perfect wake up call, for Bridgette sputters in rage. "You sonova-!" Aramuil laughs as she begins to pound on his arms. "Get going, you bastard! You're going to miss your train!"
"Alright, alright!" Grinning, he bolts for it, and calls over his shoulder, "Now you'll always remember me!"
Bridgette stands there for a moment, red-faced in her mixed feelings of fury at Aramuil's insolence and sadness at his departure. As the train gives a groan and finally begins to move, she suddenly notices something stuffed into the pocket of her dress. Curious, she pulls out the rag, and inspects it. It's a torn piece of cloth with dirt practically merged with the fabric. The only thing that makes it different from a well-used washcloth is the faded pink triangle right in the middle.
Memories resurface. Memories of how ridiculously stubborn he was. The other prisoners who wore pink triangles were ashamed of this fact, terrified of the ridicule and pain they were forced to go through. Aramuil wore his as a badge of pride. Bridgette's mouth twitches into a smile. No matter how much trouble it got him into.
And yet he survived.
He survived through torture, through endless labor, starvation, sickness… All while holding onto what was him, all while refusing to be ashamed of his identity. Hubris? The word doesn't fit, Bridgette realizes as she runs her fingers over the faded pink. It's not an excess of something that Aramuil has, but just the right amount…
Strength. Such a simple word with such a simple meaning. Yet it fits perfectly where 'hubris' does not.
The fabric is rough and unpleasant to her skin, but it doesn't matter. The more she stares at the scrap of cloth, she realizes that's not all it is. It's more than that. It's a symbol of strength, a part of Aramuil… With a smirk, she closes her eyes and asks the air, "Who could forget you, idiot?"
Alone on a train station. Bridgette Tenenbaum holds a piece of Aramuil's heart and listens as the train fades away into the sunset.
And there goes the rest of his lunch.
Looking terribly green and aggravated, Aramuil wipes his mouth with the back of his sleeve. In the long journey from Germany, his 'borrowed' clothes have since lost whatever cleanliness they used to have. Of course, brown is brown, in his opinion, so he's not exactly concerned about that… No, what's really on his mind is how the hell he's supposed to get to his mother. With a scowl, Aramuil leans against some large crate and pulls out her letter from his pants pocket. 'Someone will be there to guide you…' Someone. His mother's tendency for vague instructions knows no bounds.
Suddenly, a light cough erupts from his left and Aramuil looks up. A rather plain girl with dirty blonde hair stands there. However, she becomes quite pretty as she smiles at him. In English, she begins talking. "Hello there! You must be Aramuil Schafer, right? Your mother sent me to bring you to the hospital-"
He only knows a bit of English, picked up from home and the United Nation's solders, along with other travelers. The word 'hospital' instantly bring up alarm bells and his stare becomes sharp as he demands in German, "What are you talking about? What hospital?"
The young woman begins to get flustered. Clearly, she doesn't know the language. "I'm sorry, but-" She takes a shot in the dark and luckily, hits. "Didn't you know? I would have assumed she told you in the letters…" She trails off at seeing Aramuil's face. "..Oh. I suppose she didn't." She shuffles in place for a moment, lost in thought before she speaks up again. "Why don't we get going? I have some clean clothes in the car, and I'll even buy you lunch. How about that?"
With a grimace, Aramuil just nods, hoping that's enough even though he's only caught perhaps half of her proposal. Complicated… Things are just becoming too complicated. The camps, for all the horror, were at least simple, if nothing else. Still, he's not going to lament about that, of all things. He adjusts Bridgette's gift so that it rests comfortably in his other hand before he follows after his guide.
He's in America now. He's not going to screw up.
At other beds, other patients, the visitors are teary-eyed, either with happiness or dismay. Aramuil figure he's the only one who's neither. Instead of sobbing his eyes out in the crowded hospital room, he's taken an odd interest in his mother's sheets. An awkward, uncomfortable silence has fallen over them ever since the nurse-in-training guide girl (Langford, her name is) left. It's been ages since he's had a proper conversation with anyone, Bridgette not counting. Besides, it's not like he knows what to say.
"Miss Langford is a sweet girl, isn't she?" Aramuil's head snaps up and he stares at his mother. She's truly changed form the beautiful young woman he remembers form his adolescence. Her skin has more wrinkles than there should be, and is a sickly color similar to his own. For some reason, this disconcerts him.
"Er, yes, I suppose," he answers, fumbling with his words. Now that he's looked, he can't tear his eyes away from her. There's something old and terribly sad about her soft blue eyes…
She gives a small smile which matches her gaze perfectly. "You must hate me," she murmurs, "for leaving you and your father back there."
It's such a direct question, and Aramuil is thrown off balance. Thankfully, before he makes a further idiot of himself, Langford's cheery voice breaks through the gloom of the room. "Guess who came to visit!" Relieved, he turns around, than blinks in bemusement at the toddler that is stumbling ahead of Langford. For a moment, he doesn't quite understand, even as the little girl sways to a stop and stares up at him with eyes as blue as his own. Behind him, his mother makes a small noise of delight and worry. Langford helps the child up onto the bed with a laugh. While Aramuil silently stares, the little girl cheerfully crawls into his mother's arms.
Hesitantly, she introduces them, still speaking in German. "Aramuil, this is your sister… Rose Mary. You see, I… I was pregnant, when I… left Germany." Anxiously, she watches her two children, one silently stunned and the other blissfully unaware of the tension in the air. Finally, Aramuil slowly reaches over and runs a hand through his sister's red-brown hair. She laughs at the action and just like that, he pulls his hand away, sheepish.
"Oh" is all he has to say, and avoids looking at Rose Mary. "Um…"
Patiently, his mother simply sits there and gives her sad smile while she brushes her fingers through Rose Mary's hair. In the meanwhile, Langford stands there, out of place and knowing it. Finally, she excuses herself quickly and disappears to who knows where. With that presence gone, Aramuil relaxes somewhat. Unsure of this whole thing, he glances up again and slowly reaches out. "Is it alright if I…?"
Moonlight filters through the window, offering the only illumination in the hospital room. All of the patients are asleep, now, and most of the visitors have left for their own homes. He is the exception, sitting on the same stool since he came in. Aramuil winces as pins and needles race up his legs but he continues his careful maneuvering of Rose Mary from his lap onto their mother's bed. Every few seconds the child will murmur in her sleep, and he freezes until she becomes still once more. When she's finally curled up on the sheets, Aramuil sighs in relief. While his hand gently strokes his little sister's face, he looks up at his mother pensively. His hand moves to gently clasp a frail, wrinkled hand and he whispers, "Mother, are you awake?"
Aramuil leans over her, looking into her face, which is relaxed and peaceful. Taking a deep breath, he tries to start again. "Mother, I don't… I can't forgive you, but…" The words struggle against him, and refuse to leave his mouth. A son can't hate his mother, can he? It's not right. Seconds draw themselves out as he fights to forgive her, to say those simple words. I don't hate you. Four syllables, four words. It's not that hard, dammit! He squeezes his eyes shut in frustration, trying desperately to find some source of calm…
It comes to him as he shuffles his feet, and the tip of his toe hits the large plant book that's been through land and water with him. Slowly, he opens his eyes again and kneels down. The book is cool and heavy in his hand, and reminds him of a dozen different things: plant sprouts, affectionate insults, and an aurora of dreams. They soothe his anger, ply enough thorns away from his heart for him to whisper….
"I don't hate you."
Oh, yes, Aramuil definitely has something of a vengeful streak, and if he has a hard time forgiving his own family... Well, wait until you see what it's like when he finally (inevitably) makes some enemies.
As for the kissing scene between Aramuil and Bridgette... Make of that what you will, although it's always been my personal view that people can kiss and say 'I love you' without it having to be romantic. Not like full make-out session, but just a little peck. Of course, that could just be my own odd upbringing. Like I said. Make of it what you will.
As you well know by now, concrit and reviews are loved and appreciated! I hope you enjoyed the latest chapter! ^^