Behind the Waterfall
Summary: Days pass and winds change and she does not know why she is there. Behind the waterfall, there is silence. OneShot.
Warning: Hmmm. Plot-less. A bit angsty. Very descriptive. Strange. No explanation for this one.
Set: Story-unrelated, future-fic
Disclaimer: Standards apply.
Teresa isn't sure whether this is a test or a punishment.
The strange silence-that-is-not-exactly-silence surrounds her: sounds she seldom heard before, noises she cannot place though she knows what they are. The harsh calls of the birds outside. The rustling of the wind in the short, stout bushes and the long grass. Everything out here is strange: strange to her sight, strange to her listening, strange to her perception. A child born and raised in the wilderness feels alien and lost in a city. And Teresa, born and grown in the city, feels lost and insecure out here in the wilderness.
Mar would just love this.
The endlessly green and grey, curved planes, carved valleys and edged mountain ranges. There is snow at the tops of the mountains, grass and mountain flowers on the meadows and sharp stones and grey rubble on the sides of the valley. A rushing, falling river takes with it all the water coming down from the glaciers. The beauty of it is breathtaking but she cannot look at it without feeling pain. The variety of animals which have adopted to this harsh environment is amazing, as well. Marmots and chamois and ibex, and birds of prey as well as tiny, lightning-fast little singing birds. A huge number of strange-looking, fascinating flowers and plants surround her, carrying within their tiny blossoms all the wonders of the world and all the secrets of life. Every flower, every insect, every dew-drop on the grass is precious in its alien-ness. And she sees them – notices them, those little wonders at the side of the thin, curved pathway that climbs higher and higher and up into the endlessness of the landscape around her. She sees her surroundings with astounding clarity while she follows the path, hard on Teacher's heels, that leads up to the front door of an abandoned, little house. Every edge, every cut is sharp in her vision, as clear as crystal. She focuses on them as hard as she can. Maybe she just wasn't able to interpret Teacher's intentions correctly. Maybe she was wrong. Maybe this is a dream, a nightmare, and she will wake up as soon as she finds the fault in the image of the world surrounding her, like in one of those children's' games.
The little house is small and simple.
It consists of two rooms, a tiny kitchen and a surprisingly modern bathroom though she has to turn on a gas heater every time she needs hot water. One room contains a bed, an armchair, a cabinet and a drawer. The walls are painted in a light green streak, making it look calm and serene. The lamp is covered with a dark-red veil. There are no pictures in it and yet it seems welcoming and warm. The other room contains a desk, a chair, a small table and a few bookshelves. And books, many books, old and worn and read. The kitchen is small and tidy, though the same layer of dust that lays over all the furniture indicates at the fact that it has been quite some time since anyone had come here. In its own way the place is – as Ten would call it – cozy and sweet, comfortable even. And Teresa likes it, she really does. Standing in the middle of nowhere, the little house seemingly grows from the landscape that resembles a description from a fairy-tale. People pay a lot to be able to live like this for a while and she gets it for free. A beautiful landscape, a beautiful little house. But something isn't right. She shouldn't be here, shouldn't wonder at all the things around her. She is restless because she still cannot find the missing piece, because something still eludes her. The question is simple but the answer covers worlds and she struggles desperately to see it.
And the silence drowns her.
She never would have thought she would miss them so much. Although she curses Jay and Ten multiple times a week, although she worries for Jaq and Mar far too much, relies on Terrance far too much and is irritated by Cassidy far too much. But maybe it isn't as much the absence of people but the fact that she feels like she shouldn't be here, shouldn't miss them. Shouldn't be missing them at all. Her restlessness could be due to the fact that she still does not understand why this has happened but also that she is angry with herself. It seems like a vicious circle: she feels restless because she is angry with herself, and she is angry with herself because she feels restless. Teresa isn't a person that needs constant company. She likes to be alone, to have nobody except herself for company. Or, at least, that was before she was dropped here, with nobody to be angry at but herself. She could be angry with Teacher but he is gone, as well, and only the silent and yet noisy landscape around her remains: the towering, snow-capped mountains, the gray granite and the green and brown endlessness make her feel insignificantly small. And she does not like this feeling. Absolutely not.
Teacher gave no explanation, no reason at all.
He just dropped her off here like a piece of unwanted meat, like someone who dumps something that isn't useful enough and therefore can be disposed off. Like an unwanted piece of luggage, left at the baggage claim. Forgotten and useless. Uselessness is something she hates, with every fiber of her being, and she hates herself for feeling useless even more. Daemon deposited her here without a message, without a reason. Strange as he was he might even have thought about giving her a few days off, he was like that sometimes. Or, maybe, he did want to get rid of her and the thought hurt. His suggestion wasn't an offer to be declined. Knowing him, it could still be a test. But Teresa does not know what he expected from her, so she cannot act accordingly. And if this is supposed to be a punishment – well, then, at least, she does not know what she has done to earn it. No matter what, even if it isn't one it feels like one, like a punishment imposed on her for being childish and annoying. And though she knows she is prone to outbursts (she knows her own faults, after all) she still does not know what she has done to deserve this. But Daemon's thoughts are a closed and sealed book to everyone so she, of all, will never know unless he tells her.
In his quiet voice, he told her.
Told her to pack some stuff and follow him, barely exchanging one glance with her as she bombarded him with questions. And he left her there without a glance backward, vanishing into the cool night air like the shadow he was. Teresa spent a day and a night in front of the house, huddled in her thin jacket, her bag beside her, and refused to believe. Refused to grasp the implications of him leaving her there. The house behind her was easy to ignore because she hadn't cast a single glance at it while she waited, freezing in her thin summer clothes. Waited, refusing to give in to the tears that threatened (you're not a child anymore, get a grip on yourself) to overflow. And they finally did, leaving two trails of wetness on her cheeks that felt cold in the night wind. Daemon did not return. Finally she stretched her tired arms and legs, turned around to enter the house and did not look back.
The next day, she buries herself in work.
Teresa has learned to live by herself. The food she finds in the house will suffice for weeks (she tries not to think about the fact that is implied) and she isn't hungry at all anyway. Even now, more than 36 hours since she left the only place she'd ever have called her home, she is far past hunger. She inspects the bedroom, the kitchen, the bathroom, too cold and numb to feel anything. Instead, her mind works rapid-fire, because she has to do something. The rooms are neat but dusty, unused, and cobwebs grow in the corner of the bathroom. The cabinets are filled with useful and yet useless things. Spare socks, tools, toys, games, old books, cooking pots and pans and cutlery. Helter-skelter, the things give off the aura of having been used repeatedly, of having been treasured. Some part of a greater picture, one that she is unable to see. But they also seem lost, left behind, too old to be of use today. Still, Teresa notices the thought of order in which it was supposed to be organized but isn't anymore, as if someone had a place for everything but the things just got misplaced somehow. It is not before she is actually dusting off her sweaty, dirty palms on her jeans that she notices she has started cleaning up.
For the first time since Daemon had left, the numbness retreats into the background of her mind. Still there, but rather like a constant humming, white noise, than the scream of agony it had been before. On her knees already, she gives in. Everything is there, somewhere, begging for her to be used. She finds a brook in the cupboard under the stairs and some towels she cuts into pieces with her dagger in order to use them as cleaning rags. She starts in the kitchen and jumps to the bathroom, returns, continues, without a certain order but with an insane need to finish. And she does so, late the next night, and does not even pause to look at her work. Instead, she falls asleep, just the way she is: in her T-shirt and jeans on the old, worn bed. She sleeps for more than twelve hours, without ever waking once, and she hears and sees nothing. The next day, she tackles the outside of the house.
Every night, she falls asleep as soon as her head touches the pillow.
She eats little and works hard, does everything to distract herself from the never-ending, drowning silence that engulfs her. It is like physical work stops the voices in her head from screaming. She finds an axe outside and cuts wood for the fire place. She cleans the windows, polishes them until they gleam. She weeds the little garden behind the house, even though she isn't sure which plants are weeds and which ones useful herbs. She even goes for long walks and gathers more fire wood, dry and scratchy, and her hands soon show the tell-tale signs of hard work. Strange that wielding weapons hurts in an entirely different way than holding an axe or getting cut on broken glass, she thinks, but quickly dismisses the thought again. She polishes all the tiny, tiny little crystal animals the former owner seems to have collected, the precious little animals that are her only company save for the wild world outside her windows. And she falls asleep immediately every night, too exhausted to even think straight (and that was her intention, really, wasn't it), too tired to even dream. She sleeps from nightfall to dawn, restless and yet entirely oblivious, and wakes with the burning need to continue on with whatever she can think of. She doesn't even care what it is as long as it is something she can do.
Something that keeps her occupied.
She is thankful she does not dream. Sometimes, she lets her thoughts linger, usually when she is doing one thing that does not require enough concentration to blend out everything else besides it. And then they stray. She sees her home, her Clave siblings (Cassidy), her family, and tears burn in her eyes but she refuses to shed them. Traitors, she thinks, but it is not like they betrayed her. She just cannot say whether she blames them for not being here or for always being on her mind. There was a time when she laid awake night after night, too tired to think and yet unable to fall asleep. But those times are so far gone she barely remembers them. Instead, she pushes herself into the bone-wearing routine she has developed, the rhythm of work she keeps up day by day, again and again. Because… because.
And the days trickle by like water.
Like a waterfall they rush by her, too fast to hold on to its liquid body. The world around her is a veil between her and the life she has known before, separates her from who she is and who she never wanted to be. Days move by too fast and too slow and she has no means to count them, so she quickly loses track. She has her cell phone but no reception. Its symbolism represents a pattern she encounters here. There is time and yet isn't, there is peace and yet she feels restless. She longs to return to her old life and yet cannot. Behind the waterfall, there is silence, a silence that scares her and exhilarates her at the same time. Her days are measured by the rise and fall of the sun and as the moon wanders across the sky and slowly turns full, the work diminishes from day to day. Since long, the little house is clean and has gained back its old splendor of worn homeliness. A tiny feeling of pride trickles into her numbness as she stands and looks at her accomplishments. Only later, after some food and a long, hot shower, she realizes that the end to her self-imposed work means the end to her mind's exile.
That night, for the first time, she sees the stars.
Teresa would never have believed there were so many ones of them in the sky. At home there had been some, some brighter, some barely visible, and on some nights she had looked up and seen them. But here, they are a million ones. Like a blanket threaded with golden sparks they cover the sky, close enough to create the illusion she just has to reach out to touch them. And when she raises her hand, breathless in amazement, they retreat back out of her reach but not from her view. They shine down on her softly and gently and there are no words to describe their beauty. The rushing sound of wind colors the silence in which the stars seem to sing: a silent, heartbreakingly beautiful song so sweet she fares not to compare it to anything she knows (Mar's hand in hers as she falls asleep smiling, Terrance's warm glance of encouragement before the Scoring, Nadia's warm laugh as she repeats a joke, Jay's sparkling eyes whenever he played a prank on her, Jaq's silent nod of understanding, Cassidy's…). She can just stand there, everything she had thought and planned beforehand entirely slipped from her mind, and look. And look. And as a shooting star passes by, too fast to even follow it with her eyes, she only wishes for one thing. For the first time since Teacher dropped her off at the mountain house, she does not fall asleep immediately that night. And she dreams.
She brought neither pen nor paper.
Actually, she brought nothing that she didn't deem absolutely necessary whenever she was on a short trip: a few spare clothes, her toiletries, her cell phone, now useless. And her weapons, of course. While she keeps her two silver daggers with her wherever she goes, her gear is not forgotten but carefully placed away. Her bag remains packed, ready to take off, right next to the door. Just in case. Every time she lays her eyes on it she fights the feeling that she has been forgotten here (no mobile phone, no internet, no TV). And, in return, she starts to forget the world: Politics don't matter up here, neither Hunters' nor Humans', neither sport nor weather nor gossip are a part of her day. Time has no meaning whatsoever up here, as little as anything besides her memory and her environment. It is strange. Teresa was, except for her love for books, never the literary type. But the lack of company and the longing for her family make her start. She writes letters in her head. They all begin similar and then branch off, ramble on, are interrupted and, in the end, never finished. Never sent. Hey, Mar. I saw a marmot today – You won't believe how big they are. Ten, don't forget to water the flowers, okay? Jay, you idiot, did you remember to report in to the Council about your little happening last month? You'd like the silence up here, Terrance, but it's scary. Nadia, how was your date?
I want to go home.
And, one morning, she wakes up and knows the time has come.
Teacher sits on a wobbly chair in the small kitchen. His gaze is as level as always as he watches her carefully, like she is a deficient good and has to be treated carefully. Breakable. Broken. He appears weary, she notes, and swallows. She does not ask. Instead, he tells her that she is finished and will be leaving. All he says is "Come", and the scurrility of the situation makes her act without even thinking. Five minutes later she is on the way down to the car, three hours later in the car and on the way back. The mountain range dissolves into sunlight, clouds and shadows.
And the silence is lost.
There are people on the streets, cars on the roads, and suddenly the greenness of her surroundings is gone, the silence, the calm. The grey and black of the city swallows her up and makes it hard to breathe. Teresa sinks into the seat and wills herself to shrink, to become invisible. To disappear from this world. The noise and the colorlessness and the feeling of being surrounded sneak up on her and make her gag. There is no place to hide, no place to seek solitude. Nothing is the way she remembers it from the past months – wide and open and limited only by the sky and the jagged mountains. Pressing her eyes shut, she tries to remind herself that she has lived here before: she knows this. There is no danger in a city full of people, at least not from the city itself and from humans even less. And still she feels like she cannot breathe. And when the car turns onto the motorway it becomes worse because here she can see the flat, sharp landscape clearly. There are no mountains anymore, only slight slopes and soft hills and she can see the horizon, the sinking sun painting it in artful colors. There are trees and houses and power poles and cars and villages. There is a sudden, overwhelming openness. The landscape is empty, expands into infinity, and the pull she feels in her heart – the one she has felt since she saw Teacher in the morning – develops into pain. She is exposed here.
Somewhere along the way she started to associate silence with safety.
Teresa is quiet for the entire trip home. She never once catches Teacher look at her but she knows he does. Does he see what he wants to see? Does he see what he expected to see? What does he expect? Does it matter? To her, it doesn't, not anymore. When they pull into the achingly familiar driveway her heart is beating so fast she feels sick again. Teacher opens the trunk and takes her bag and she's too afraid to even care. Instead, she waits in the shadows of his tall stature until he has unlocked the front-door, typed in the code and disabled the alarm, and then she follows him into the dark hall. Light falls through the crack of the door that leads into the living-room. She didn't even notice it had become night. Suddenly, she is freezing. Rubbing her arms, she remains rooted to the spot in the dark corridor. Why is homecoming so difficult? It never was before, not as long as she can remember. And then she realizes something.
The waterfall is still there.
Like a veil, it falls between her and the world. Its harsh sound is like the rushing of blood in her ears but stronger. It drowns out everything else, everything, and she can hear the new song in it. She can hear so much suddenly, like a crystal clear voice that reaches her ears. The song of the world she is no longer part of. Whatever has happened there, high up in the mountains, it has changed her, has made her something she does not know whether it is good or bad. She has gained strength but she has lost something else, too, though she isn't sure what she has lost. She only knows the silence is still within her, deep down and drowning, and it feels like she is a thousand years older than she was when she left this place. The sound of water – melodious, harmonic and drowning – resounds in her head, cleans her of everything she was before. How strange, she thinks, in those few seconds before Marina opens the living-room door and throws herself at Teresa. How strange that she had to come home in order for the change to fully take effect. It is like returning shows her she won't ever be able to be a part of this anymore – a part of her Clave, of her siblings, of hunter society, even. It scares her. It scares her a lot. She left without knowing where she would go and now she returns only to realize this is not the place she will remain in. Teresa turns around to look at the person who had been there for her whole life.
Daemon's gaze says it all.
It is as if she suddenly can read him, suddenly has gained the ability to understand the silent voice of his eyes. I'm sorry, his eyes say. Welcome, they also whisper, and the welcome mixes with the pity and understanding that resonate with his aura. She can see it. Suddenly there is more to him than she always perceived. She can feel the power of his true nature. She can see his future, and his past, and everything that is to him and more. It is frightening, really, really frightening. And, at the same time, the most normal thing in life. Fate, she thinks and wants to cry. Fate is a bitch. And: I never asked for this! But Teacher – Daemon – most likely didn't, either, and neither did Sue and Roi and Clayre and James and Angel. And now there are seven of them again, as it always was, as it always would be. They are complete. It might have taken her a long time to awaken – perhaps she had buried herself too deep in the human form that was called Teresa? But finally, she has regained consciousness again. She has regained strength. And Teresa feels old. Very, very old.
The balance is restored, a voice whispers somewhere.
"Teacher?" Marina's voice is exited and so is the little seer when she pushes open the door. "Teacher, is that you?"
Without a word, Daemon strides into the light that falls into the dark corridor, passing the seer and tousling her hair while passing.
"We? Did you – RESE!"
Something small, light and agile launches herself at Teresa and she catches Marina and hugs her tightly. Time falls back into its normal pattern.
"Hey, squirt. It's good to see you again."
"How are you? Where were you? Did you have an extra mission? You were gone for three months! Why didn't you ever call? I almost used the Leylines to find you!"
"I'm sorry," Teresa says and smoothes the damage Daemon's caress has done to the spiky black hair. "I had no possibility whatsoever to call or to send you a message. Everything okay with you lot?"
Three months. She was up there for three damn months.
"Right as rain," Cassidy drawls as he leans onto the door frame, his figure blocking out the light so his face is in the shadows. She doesn't need the light to see him anymore. Looking at him, she drinks in his features, searches his face for anything familiar. He looks tired, she notices. As he silently answers her gaze, the whole lightheartedness that has lain in his words nonexistent on his face, she sees the same anxiety she has felt at the thought of meeting him again. She can still remember the closeness, the taste of his lips on hers, his hand on her face soft as a feather, and she isn't sure whether it should be like that any longer. How can human memories remain so strong when she isn't human anymore? There is worry written in his face, worry and something else. And suddenly Teresa sees him as what he is: a hunter, a powerful one, perhaps one of the most powerful ones of the new generation. Heir to an underground empire, clave leader, descendant of the angel. A hunter, not more and not less. But, in the end, a mortal man. For the first time in her life – or rather, in her new life, she should say – Teresa sees her own fate mirrored in a mortal's fate.
"I take it you didn't miss me, then," she answers, her answer seemingly light and yet heavy with meaning.
"Rese!" Ten pushes Cassidy to the side and gives her a hug. "Where the hell have you been?"
"Not there exactly, thanks to the angel."
Nobody even questions she has come to stay. But in Cassidy's eyes stands painful knowledge. Teresa forces herself to concentrate on the situation, greeting Nadya, as well, helping Ten and Mar throw together a late dinner while Cassidy watches her from the kitchen table. Jay and Jaq and Terrance come in half an hour later, smelling of night and hunt and mortality and Teresa wonders how it ever can be the same again. How nobody has noticed what has happened to her. She goes to the bathroom sometime in the evening and notices the black marks on her wrists, similar to the ones Daemon wore in his face when he revealed his true nature. Shocked by the physical evidence, she sits on the closed lid of the toilet, trying to grasp all the implications of what she has already known since she entered the house. Her mind comes up with several ways to cope, which, she assumes, are due to the fact that she now no longer is Teresa, hunter, slow-thinker and quick-actress. She is something old. Something ancient and dangerous.
She never was the one who wanted to save the world. Cassidy wanted to do that, not she. She had always been content to protect her Clave, her family. That responsibility had been enough for her. Why was it like this, now? Why had the weight of the world been placed on her shoulders, as well, when she didn't so much care for the world but for the people she loved?
The sisters of Fate don't answer.
She pulls down her sleeves and returns to the kitchen where Jay and Ten are holding an impromptu quiz challenge which – of course – Cassidy is winning. Mar is almost asleep, her head on the table. Everything seems so normal, so achingly familiar. It is impossible to believe something has changed at all. But it has. Teresa sits down on her chair again, sighs softly and finds Cassidy's eyes on her, again. He frowns. Knowing every smile would have given her away, she pretends not to notice but his gaze feels hot on her skin. She yearns to touch him, to feel him close, but she knows she will have to wait until everyone else has gone to bed. He is mortal, a voice says in her head and she knows what it implies but she refuses to listen. Instead she begins to stack the dishes; half listening to Jay for the questions, half to the discussion Nadya and Terrance are having, slowly soaking in the normalcy.
In her mind, the waterfall sings.
A/N: Oh, wow. This one sure has gotten out of control. Completely. The first half is old, written some time ago in summer 2011. The second half somehow wrote itself around the end of November 2011, completely changing the whole meaning of part one. Completely changing the end. Completely flooring me, to be honest. Of course I have no reason whatsoever to believe Teresa is a Nereshai. I don't know how those Night Lords are born/awakened/created, I don't know if there are seven of them (but since there are seven Sohrem I thought it a nice touch to the story) and I don't know their names, so James, Clayre and Angel are inventions of mine. This story builds on a halfway established Rese/Cass-relationship, as you will have noticed, which I love a lot. It seems until now it has been quite harmonic, which is rare for my stories. But of course, I don't know whether Svetlana planned anything for them and in which manner. So, as always, this story is based on one of my favorite fandoms but has no real link to the original story except for the characters.