Hullo, my dearies. Thank you so very much for the reviews, it got me writing lots faster. Funny how those can give you a special kind of drive, eh?
This chapter is the fighting scene, so it might not be as essentially Morgead as I would've liked. It's hard to write down thoughts when they're practically killing each other, you know. Either way, the next chapter up will be the one where they discover they're soulmates! I can't wait to write that one, but it'll probably take some time before it's up. I'm sorry. I just have a lot going on here in the summer, but I'll do what I can!
Read and enjoy, please!
Chapter 2 – Hurting
About a year later
Morgead collapsed on his futon, fully clothed, not even bothering to pull of his boots. He had been out with the gang, and it had been fun. Exhilerating even, in a way it rarely was to him anymore, not since… but he wouldn't think of that, wouldn't think of her.
Still, the night had been fun, but there had been an odd feel to it. Finality, Morgead thought, it felt like something was ending. He yawned into the soft pillows, and drifted off, pushing all unwelcome thoughts out of his mind.
A flashing smile. Wild silver-blue eyes. Long, red hair.
Jez was standing in front of him, as she had been the last time he'd seen her, with red hair flying around her beautiful face and blue eyes dancing. She nudged him with the tip of her booted foot, then threw her head back and laughed again, her face wild and dangerous and so beautiful that it almost made Morgead's throat hurt.
To his embarrassment her name came out as a disbelieving croak. She just rolled her eyes and gave him one of her looks, one of those that clearly said 'you're-so-slow-Morgead'.
"Who else?" And she laughed again, and Morgead thought that he'd never heard anything so amazing in his whole life. Sudden fury mixed with the joy, and he sat up with a jolt, glaring at her.
"Where have you been?"
She gave him an incredulous look and moved to stand right in front of him, lifting her hand and placing it on his chest, right over his wildly beating lamia-heart.
"Right here" she said, and looked up at him trough dark lashes, an emotion in her eyes he'd never thought he'd see on her, "I'll always be right here."
A quick thought flittered trough his head; just a dream, it seemed to say, she isn't here. But his eyes flew open and he shot upright, staring at the girl – woman – in front of him. Silvery-blue eyes with more pain and determination than he had seen in any person beside himself, beautiful red hair that was right now tied into a bun on top of her head. She's here, a part of him sang, the part that focused on the light that had suddenly slipped back into his life, instead of… the darker part of him assessed her quickly from head to toe – and found nothing. She had grown, yes, and filled in nicely in all the right placed, but she was healthy and well, aside from the pain in her eyes. Morgead's own heart contracted painfully.
"You came back"
Suddenly he was overcome by anger, and he stood up in one fluid motion, his eyes burning into hers, his mind seething with anger at this… this girl, who'd caused him so much pain, so much worry and hurt, for no apparent reason.
"Where the hell have you been?"
He was staring at her furiously, scarcely noticing the fighting stick in her hand.
"I can't tell you"
She can't… His fury rose at those words, she couldn't tell him? After everything she put the gang trough, put him trough, and she couldn't tell him? He wanted to shake her. He wanted to grab her and smack her and make her tell him. He deserved to know, damn it!
"You can't tell me? You disappear one day without any kind of warning, without even leaving a note… You leave the gang and me and just completely vanish and nobody knows where to find you, not even your uncle… and now you reappear again and you can't tell me where you were?"
Dimly, he noticed the surprise on her face, the quiet uncertainty by his demeanour.
"What did you think you were doing, just cutting out on everybody? Did it ever occur to you that people would be worried about you?" – that I would worry about you, he thought.
"That people would think you were dead?" – that I would think you were dead.
She looked startled, he noticed vaguely, like what he'd said actually hadn't occurred to her. Stupid girl, his mind raged, stupid, selfish girl. He was so caught up in his own fury, that he almost missed her words.
"Look, I didn't mean to hurt anybody. And I can't talk about why I went. But I'm back now- "
He cut her off. Back? She thought she could just come back, after everything, as if nothing had happened. Well, he would teach her differently.
"You can't just come back!"
She was loosing her temper, he knew her well enough to see that. Some distinct part of him was surprised that it had taken her this long. Hotheaded Jez Redfern was even easier to rile up than Morgead himself.
"I know I can't just come back-"
No, apparently she didn't. She didn't understand. Morgead was so angry; he was surprised he hadn't attacked her yet. Instead he'd started pacing, racking a hand trough his black hair every now and then, and desperately trying to find a way to explain, to make her see. He turned to glare at her.
"Because it doesn't work that way. Blood in, blood out. Since you're apparently not death, you abandoned us-"
A part of him cringed away from those words, even as he said them, and the same part, the part that was weirdly dethatched from the rest of him, realized that she had abandoned them. Abandoned him.
"- You're not allowed to do that! And you certainly can't expect to walk back in and be my second again- "
The yell startled him, and he realized he's almost forgotten she was in the room, right there next to him. A jolt went trough him at the thought, but he pushed it away, refusing blank-out to feel anything but anger and betrayal.
"I have no intention of becoming your second-in-command. I came to challenge you as a leader".
Morgead's jaw dropped. He stared at her incredulously, shock, confusion and, though he tried to deny it, a little bit of hurt coursing trough him.
"I was leader when I left, remember".
Morgead had to fight the urge to shake his head, half in angry shock and half in endearing amusement. Only Jez, he though, only Jez would be crazy enough to challenge him for the leadership now.
"You… have got to be… joking" he pressed out each word, still sufficiently baffled and also still hoping against hope that she'd laugh it off and tell him that, yes, she had indeed been joking, "you expect to waltz back in here as leader?"
She stared defiantly at him, "If I can beat you. I think I can. I did it once"
Twice. The thought flitted trough his head before he could stop it. She'd beaten him twice. Still, to think she could now, after all this time… Oh, she really was crazy. He threw his head back and laughed, though not because he found it amusing. It was a very emotional laugh, he thought, a bit disgusted by him self. A laugh that was anger and bitterness and hurt all in one. He stopped abruptly and looked at her, assessing her now, not as Jezebel Redfern his friend whom he might be furious with but who was nevertheless his friend, but as an opponent. And enemy.
"Yeah, you did. I've gotten better since then."
"So have I."
And then they were at it. Morgead shifted into a fighting stance, reaching behind him to snatch the fighting stick of Japanese oak, his favourite. He shifted it in his hand, immediately knowing that he wouldn't use the sharpness of the burned end, but instead disarm her. It was more humiliating that way anyway.
So he went for her wrist. And she blocked, tried for a trap and failed. He saw the startled, half-worried look on her face and smiled mockingly at her. He'd told her he'd gotten better.
But this is Jez. She won't go quietly. He swatted away the voice in the back of his mind, the same voice that was telling him not to hurt her.
"You're so predictable, Morgead" he almost grinned when she spoke. This was Jez, his Jez. The Jez who mocked him while they fought, riling him up even more, making everything intense and passionate. He was so caught up in his recognition, that he almost missed the leg-sweep, but he did block it, and then tried for a trap. Which didn't work. He looked at Jez with a brief searching glance. She had been right too; she'd gotten better.
"Oh yeah?" a taunt for a taunt, he thought, "and you hit like a four-year-old. You couldn't take me down if I stood here and let you."
They circled each other, their feet whispering across the worn floorboards. Morgead couldn't help but think of the many times they'd practiced together here, tried each other to become better, harder. He owed much of his fighting-skill to the hours he'd spend with Jez, preparing for exactly the kind of fight they were having now.
Jez grinned at me, though the expression was more similar to a predator baring its teeth at an enemy, than an actual smile.
"Next you're going to try for a head strike" her voice was cool, almost calculating, "because you always do."
"You think you know everything. But you don't know me anymore", he winched internally as he said this, because if she didn't know him, that meant he didn't know her, "I've changed."
He saw an opening and for a headstrike, only to be blocked by Jez, the wood clashing with a sharp whack as it connected.
"Psyche" he said.
"Wrong" Jez told him, and then, before he knew what she was doing, she'd twisted her stick and gotten control of his, holding against his thigh and grinning at him, "Trap."
Morgead swallowed. They were standing very close, their gazes locked. Her eyes were just as beautiful as he remembered them, though they somehow seemed more blue than silver. Then he blinked and twisted out of the trap.
"Don't try that stuff", he growled angrily.
"What stuff?" she asked, and thrust it towards his eyes. Morgead deflected it, putting all his anger into the hit, and staring at her with angry, green eyes.
"You know what stuff! That 'I'm Jez and I'm so wild and beautiful' stuff. That 'Why don't you just drop your stick and let me hit you because it'll be fun' stuff."
"Morgead" she thrust towards his throat, and he blocked "what are you" towards his temple, and he evaded "talking about?"
"That's the only way you won before. Trying to play on people's feelings for you. Well, it won't work anymore!"
He countered her strikes and thrust with what he knew, someplace in the back of his mind, was unnecessary force, force he should save instead of use up on a small series of counter-strikes and blocks. Then his back hit the corner, and he stared furiously into Jez's blue eyes.
"Hey, all's fair, right?" her voice was deadly soft, and it took all of Morgead's self-control to keep his eyes from widening, not with fear, but with a mix of anger and hurt. She really was cold-blooded. "And what do you mean, it won't work? I've got you haven't I?" He blocked a couple of attacks, but it was pure instinct. His attention was focused inward, on his Power, which he was gathering in a ball of anger.
"You're caught, and you're going to have to let down your guard sometime" she told him sweetly.
"Unless I do something unexpected"
"Nothing you do is unexpected"
He saw her eyes waver, as if she knew she'd made a mistake. He saw the determination there, as she shifted her grip on the wooden sword, preparing to strike again.
That was when he released the dart of Power he'd collected in his mind.
Jez was pushed back, as if by an invisible force. He could see her struggle for balance, as astonishment and confusion showed on her face.
"It's not that hard," he told her, even as he moved out of the corner, onto the open floor. Her eyes flickered to him, and he smiled coldly, "It's something I discovered after you left. All it takes is practice."
He saw some emotion flicker across her face, too quick to determine.
Whack. Their swords collided, but it was a week block on Jez's side. She was off balance and hurting.
"As you said, all's fair" he smiled at her, readying himself for another Power let-out, "you have your weapons, I have mine."
And then he let out the Power-dart, watching as she almost lost her balance, and – there. She'd let down her guard, and Morgead took the chance. He drove upward, catching her stick from below, then twisted and swept her stick in, forcing her off balance, trying to get her to fall. As she struggled to counter, he struck her elbow.
Jez let out a small gasp of pain. Don't hurt her! The words echoed trough his mind, and Morgead almost dropped his stick right then. Jez was clearly in pain, and something inside Morgead twisted as he watched her desperately struggle for control of her arm and – what the hell? His eyes widened furiously. He would not show mercy to this girl, who hadn't cared about him, who'd left him and used his feelings against him. Damn her for making him waver!
He advanced at her, deadly furious, at himself as well as her. He had her now, as much as she'd had him in the corner. He whacked his stick casually twice, and caught her in the ribs, watching as her face scrunched up with pain. This time he completely ignored the twisting of his heart and the dropping feeling in his stomach.
Whack-wham. Her knee. He was crowding her against the wall, and in her current state, there was nothing she could do to stop him. He smiled at her.
"You can give up anytime now" he told her, "because I'm going to win, and we both know it."