Chapter Five: Keeper
There was something about being served a platter of delicately cut sandwiches by a blood consuming creature that struck Saya as strange. Then again, a case also could have been made against her affinity for human food, whereas it should have been natural for her to prefer freshly procured blood instead of the foodstuffs that fattened her would be prey.
"Thank you," Saya said, trying not to let her appreciation be affected by the sudden timidity she felt creeping into her. Solomon smiled down at her before setting the dish of bite-sized goods upon the table. He took a seat opposite to her, and to the right of Haji. The elder queen's chevalier was maintaining a cool and composed visage. She supposed that—while she might have wished for him to be less aloof and cold—for Haji, it was good he wasn't fighting the transition more fervently.
She swept a few wandering locks of hair from her eyes before picking up one of the sandwiches from the salver. Saya had long since reckoned with her hunger—a thing that usually didn't fit the stereotypic image of a svelte girl—and therefore didn't find it embarrassing to be the only one eating. However, she did find it a bit awkward when both chevaliers kept watching her.
She'd taken just two bites before lowering the food from her lips slowly. She could practically feel the suspicion in her face, heavy and weighing her eyelids down to a narrowed look.
"Where's Diva, Solomon?" Saya asked, voicing a question that had pricking at her mind since earlier that morning, when she'd discovered the grandiose house void of any other inhabitants, save for herself, Haji, and Solomon. While it was possible that one or two of the other chiropterans were still on the property, just in a building in a far-off and more secreted sector, she found it hard to believe her sister was still there. Saya had begun to realize she could almost sense Diva's presence. The notion wasn't startling or odd to her at all. In fact, she was beginning to take it as a sign that this had been the right decision. Her instincts were tuning themselves to catch the silent, yet ever melodic frequency from her younger sister.
"She's off doing business in her usual way," Solomon replied. His tone was almost too smooth and casual, as though he'd been preparing and practicing for such an inquiry since the beginning of time. She couldn't help but arch a brow at him, and in return he gave her a smile. It was tiny and thin, pressured from the truths he was undoubtedly masking.
Saya wasn't pleased with the fact her sister still appeared to remain unwaveringly mistrustful of her. She didn't know how she was ever going to prove her loyalties; however, that word wasn't an accurate portrayal of how she felt. She wasn't merely a citizen of some great, blue-eyed country. Saya was linked through blood and DNA to the singsong, immortal woman, and it was through that that she felt the draw to be trustworthy.
"Is this about the Red Shield? Because if it is—"
"You don't need to concern yourself over it," Solomon cut her off, swiftly and smoothly, like he were merely cutting into a dance. Even with his lips pulled upward in their usual, positive way, the serious tone that emanated from both his eyes and voice were enough to keep her from arguing impetuously. "Diva has certain things she wants done in certain ways. She's like a child, proudly claiming everything as her toys and then demanding to be in control. I'm not keeping information from you because I like to, Saya. It's because I know that by telling you, it'll put you in greater risk of getting in the way of danger."
"What do you think is going to put her in danger?" Haji asked. The softness Saya had come to expect from Solomon left his expression as he turned his head to the black-haired man. Both looked at each other with a similar look of mistrust and derision.
"Nothing, if I'm successful in protecting her. Just because she's agreed to join her sister's cause doesn't mean that she's guaranteed total amnesty. Even if Diva doesn't want to cause her harm, I know not all of my brothers are keen on having Saya around. We've been at war for years, so I can't blame them entirely; however, I'm not going to stop trying to convince them. One way or another, I'm going to make it safe here for Saya."
"You don't have any right to place yourself in such a position of control. As Saya's true chevalier, her wellbeing is my responsibility," Haji declared, still sitting calm. His body language gave nothing away, with his perfect posture almost up to par with his pokerfaced countenance. "Anything you do could interfere with me, and I don't think that I need to explain why I'm against such a thing."
"Please, share with us, then, how you plan on integrating Saya into Diva's realm? Do you think Karl will listen to you? Do you think Amshel will hesitate to kill you? I think you're overreaching your boundaries when you say you're the sole protector of Saya, now," As Solomon spoke, he could not keep his eyes from wandering to the queen in question. Saya's body couldn't decide whether to blush or feed the fires of her irritation, so she settled on focusing on setting her sandwich down on the plate before her, gathering her wits as she did so. She'd just opened her mouth to speak, but Solomon continued, even though she knew he'd been aware of her readiness to speak her mind. "You're in Diva's world, and by association, my world. Put down your cold pride for a moment and recognize that I could be your ally. I'm willing to help Saya. I'm not a threat. The very moment I saw her and knew her for what she was, I put away all aversion to the thought of the "enemy". If you continue to act in such a manner, you're only going to prove to be a hindrance."
"Solomon, Haji is only looking out for me. Please try and understand that," Saya requested. She tried to meet Haji's eyes, but he wouldn't turn enough to make that possible. She took in the gauntness of his cheeks and the sallow coloration of his skin. She noted how his gaze remained down, dragging across the floor. Saya felt a fierce connection to this man, and she knew that everything he did, he did for her good. Not once in her life—however hazy it was—could she recall a time where she had felt as if she had been cheated by his actions.
Her brain could comprehend the logic in Solomon's words, but her heart ached in offense for Haji's sake.
"Of course this is difficult. I'm not so callous that I can't understand the gravity of the situation, so please don't mistake me," Solomon replied to Saya. "It may be a lot to ask of you, Haji, but there isn't time for you to warm up to me. I hope that by relying on your good judgment, you'll see that."
The mood had shifted drastically, and Saya wasn't surprised when—after a few insufferable moments of pregnant silence—Solomon rose from his seat. He'd repaired his good natured façade by then, and looked over at the sole queen.
"I think I'll leave you two to eat. I've just got a few minor things to tend to before the day is over, and I may as well get them over with now. But you're always welcome to join me, Saya."
"Thank you, but I…I think I'll just stay here. With Haji," She responded, and Solomon nodded in such a way that made her think he'd already assumed as much. After watching him walk out, Saya was confronted with the fact that now she was alone with her chevalier, and a strange feeling accompanied it. It felt tense, and even the faintest bit awkward. She was unsure of what to say, and was thankfully surprised when Haji was the one to start off the conversation.
"You've truly changed your mind, then…"
He trailed off, his words like a bird dying in midair and then falling to the dusty ground below. Saya was suddenly desperate for him to look at her. She was desperate for whatever they had had before to return undamaged. She reached out a hand and rested it along his arm, finally succeeding in drawing his steel gaze to her own brown one.
"I've changed my mind, but not who I am, Haji. I know it's not going to be easy at first, but I hope someday soon that you'll see that this is what I truly want," She spoke softly, nearly in a whisper. Her head tilted ever so slightly, attention still focused entirely upon him. "All those years ago, if Joel hadn't raised us so differently, we could have had this. Diva and I could have been true sisters all along."
"Being enemies did not remove your blood ties as sisters, Saya. The only thing that separated you two was your perspectives on humanity," Haji replied coolly—too coolly, in fact, because Saya needed more than just that. He was a smooth, blank surface, and she was scrambling for something—anything—to grip onto to keep her from falling into oblivion.
Saya tightened her grip on his arm, willing him to feel every thought and feeling she could not properly articulate. "You wouldn't be acting the way you are if I had never opposed her, and if I had been good to her since Joel. I would give anything to go back and erase what happened."
"I would not have erased a single moment we spent together, Saya."
She felt like recoiling from him now. Haji's words hadn't been malicious, but they'd still stung her in a way he probably hadn't intended. Even though she was touching him, it felt like there was some sort of gap still obstinately keeping them apart. Saya had a panicking fear that it hadn't been Diva who had done this to them.
It was me.
"I was selfish," She said, and there was anger in her where there should have been penance. Even as she was lamenting about previous self-centered times, she couldn't force herself to identify with Haji altruistically. "You can't tell me I wasn't. I swore revenge for a moment that, in retrospect, was probably the best thing that could have happened. She would have still been tested on and abused, and I would have lived in the lap of luxury, naïvely picking flowers and listening to you play the cello."
"I don't think you remember yourself entirely, if you think everything you've done has been out of selfishness, Saya. Before you've gone too far, you should try to recall your past memories. If this is what you truly wish…then I cannot go against you," stated Haji, bringing his bandaged claw a bit closer to the hand Saya had laid upon him. It was close, but no close enough to create contact. Saya inhaled deeply through her nose before exhale quietly, stretching out her fingers just far enough so that the tips of them could brush the sterile white wraps.
Haji broke the gaze they'd shared and instead watched her hand for a moment. Saya was happy and grateful for the hope she felt again. It was humbling, to know that a relationship could affect her as much as it did. Besides her sister, Haji was truly the only person with whom she was bound to.
Now, Saya felt that there was no need for words to pass between them. She was content to simply sit in his presence, as she imagined they used to do many a time. Her stomach ignored the food and the worrying butterflies that had accosted her minutes before. The balance was right in the world, and that was the only thing she was aware of.
1. Merry early Christmas. A cute, slight fluffy scene to warm your hearts by as you nestle amongst your families with snuggies and cups of hot chocolate.
2. FLORENCE + THE MACHINE. You have her to thank for this chapter.
3. Ignore numero tres. Actually, she had no part in the writing of this chapter. I was listening to her music a lot, but I don't think she could really claim any credit. She can only claim being an amazing artist with a voice sent from God.
4. I don't have a lot to say, other than I'm super nervous about applying to some liberal arts school (I know, SUCH a smart degree in these wonderful economic times, eh?) and I hope my portfolio will impress them enough to say "Whattheheck? Why not? Come on in~. :)".
5. I love you. Yes, you. No, not you, the other reader. Yeah…..hey there, how's it goin'? ;) Do you like long walks on the beach and chocolate covered strawberries and mistletoe? (TOOBAD. IDON'T.)
7. This chapter is a good 600 words less than last one? WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY?
8. Whatevs. (read: bipolar)
9. Have a little R&R! Read and review! ...And I guess relax. So...R&R&R? Yeah, read and review and relax. That's our code word from now on, guys. It's just like an inside joke, but different. Different as in not funny. But it's ours so that's all that matters.