OOC: Jam between Vezok's Friend and myself.
IC: Tuara Drigton - Ta-Koro
"We can stop by the healers, get your wrist treated properly and then find someplace nicer. What do you think?"
Tuara glanced at Jaller again, but as quickly as their eyes met, Tuara turned away. This shame was not one she would soon forget. "Yeah." She sniffed. "That sounds good." As she stood up, she stopped at the door. Still not quite ready to look at Jaller again. "Thanks."
"You're welcome. Talk again soon, alright?"
* * * * * *
I followed her to the door. Jaller and I exchanged another look, then he took a step back and Tuara and I left the cell. We didn’t speak as we made our way down the corridors to the infirmary, though I had plenty of questions. Dorian had taken off while I’d been at the morgue, I hadn’t seen Merror since before returning to the Koro, Joske has been absent even longer and I felt very much out of the loop in general. But I didn’t say anything. Everything I wanted to ask felt like it would be opening up too much, too fast all at once. Right here right now was way more important. Questions could wait.
Tuara still knew the place like the back of her hand and a few minutes later we got to the infirmary. The healer on duty was an old Turaga I remembered even from my Matoran days in the guard. The old torch eyed us quizzically, immediately drawn to the scarf-turned-sling. We went through the usual pleasantries and for her medical report I improvised a story about some unruly inmate crushing her wrist with a table - which wasn’t even a lie. Guess it was good enough for her too–the old healer took it at face value, then asked Tuara to take a seat. She gently took of the sling and examined her wrist, harrumphing as she went about her work. Then she used her mask of healing to fix the worst of the break and made a splint for the rest, secured in place in tight wrapping.
I watched, leaning against a table. As the Turaga put the wrapping on, I finally broke the silence again. “Will you be fine if we go back to your place?” I knew she and Dor had lived together for some time. She must’ve had a lot of memories in that place. But if that was the right thing right now, I couldn’t tell. “If not I’m still at the barracks. Would be no trouble finding you an extra spot there. Or we can skip town altogether. Go to...I dunno. Wherever is good for you.”
Tuara looked on with a blank stare as the doctor made the final preparations for her splint, securing the wrapping with a small pin so it would stay in place. She gave Tuara a half-hearted wave, mumbling some message. Likely to not look for anymore fights in the near future. Tuara didn't feel much like answering, she had been lost in thought at Agni's question. The doctor waited for a response at first, but before too long she let out one last huff, turned around, and began cleaning her hands in a nearby basin instead. With a deep sigh, Tuara finally spoke. "I -" but she trailed off as slowly as she began. Her eyes narrowed, focusing on the other side of the table, carefully choosing her next words. With a sharp intake she started again, taking each word like a slow step, "I used to think that somehow, coming home to Ta-Koro was going to help me. I spent years mourning in Le-Koro, thinking that eventually I'd move on and finally come home. But when that day never came, I thought I could just force the issue, that I could just... change the scenery."
Tuara finally looked back up at Agni, watching her carefully, listening intently. "Then after the Rahkshi attack, I told Dor that Ta-Koro was going to kill me too." She shook her head, biting down on her lip. "But I think what I'm finally starting to realize, is that no matter where I go, I've still got me: This... -" Her face twisted, and with her hand she gestured some wicked half-open fist, fingers warped and curled. "- this husk of a person. This corpse. I thought I could prop it up in some village somewhere, make it play house, or give it a job." She calmed down again, her posture softening once more, laying her hand on the table gently. "But it's dragging me through the filth and the #####, trying to choke me in it."
"I don't think it matters where I go, Agni." Her eyes became suddenly very focused, her crown stern. "But if you'll let me, I'd like to go to the house. There's something I want to do."
“Yeah. I mean yeah of course.” I replied. The words came a little slower as something clicked in my brain. The way she talked about herself- if someone else had done all that to her I sure would want to burn them to ashes...
I was starting to get the picture. At least a glimpse of it. I nodded.
“We done here?” I asked the healer. The Turaga nodded.
“Yes, but take it easy, alright?”
“That’s the plan.”
* * * * * *
Tuara was back on her feet and we left the infirmary and soon after the headquarters, stepping into Ta-Koro’s streets. “Don’t think I ever saw your place from the inside. Always too busy to visit.”
That was my attempt at conversation.
As the pair stepped out into the hot open air, Tuara took a deep breath and looked around. Matoran at work, travelers in the market, and the ever-watchful eye of the Guard watching over them all. However, something was different now. News among some of the guard had surely spread now, since the usual nods or half-smiles were now accompanied by tighter lips and sterner eyes. "We should have invited you." She turned her face to his as they walked, giving him a soft smile. "Never seemed to be a good time, I guess. Sorry this isn't any better."
"It's alright." I returned a glare coming our way with one of my own. I wasn't in the mood for rumors.
We soon reached the residential areas and not long after the house. In my mind I was still debating if this was the best thing to do right now. But she'd wanted to come here and that meant it was worth doing, even if it might be painful. I tried to suppress my uncertainty but some probably showed through. "Well then...here we are."
Tuara paused for a moment, staring at the wooden door. "Here we are." She repeated coldly. With a shaky breath out, she reached forward and gripped the knob, twisting it in her hand before giving it a shove open. They stepped through the door-way inside. The hot air seemed much stiller in here than usual, and Tuara moved to the living room to open the shutters and let in some air-flow. Behind her was Dorian's piano, keys torn apart from his fight weeks earlier. Just beyond the grand was the couch, a pillow and blanket lazily pushed into the corner: Kitea's sleeping arrangements. To the right of the entrance was the kitchen, an open bottle of rum from that very morning on the counter, some other bottles shoved against the wall behind it from days before.
Tuara looked back at Agni, putting her hands together and picking at her fingertips. He was still in the doorway. She could tell by his expression that he wasn't totally convinced it was the right call to come here. He was a little tense and unsure. Avoiding the subject she awkwardly entered host mode, stammering a little as she asked, "Are you hungry? Can I get you something to drink?"
"Just water, thanks." I said. One of the stupid things about doing this job for so long was that it was really hard to switch off the detective mode. I'd immediately taken note of the cot in the corner and the state and details in the room, as if looking at a crime scene. Technically it was, considering we'd just put her brother in the slammer. But I really didn't want to deal with that case any more today than needed. So I made a mental note for later and ignored as much as possible, making sure not to disturb the place too much. "But please, don't let me get in the way. I can find a glass. You do what you have to. I'll be right here if you need me."
Tuara stepped past the piano and into the kitchen anyways, pulling a glass from the cupboard and filling it. She handed it to him before turning her own attention to the counter-top. She picked up the empty rum bottle, staring at it intently. Her hand started to shake. "Do you believe I can change, Agni?"
I was quiet for a few seconds. Scenes started playing before my mind's eye. A certain fateful attempt at making pancakes together with some other young and unruly Toa that had undergone their own transformations since, and a very strong exit by Tuara. Her question hit as hard as the elbows she'd thrown that day. I doubted the word softball was in her vocabulary. #####. The smile forced its way onto my face as inevitably as the next sunrise.
"Yeah. I do." I said. And I meant it. "Who knows. You might have already started."
I held out a hand, inclining my head slightly to signal her to pass me the bottle.
"Don't need to tell you it's not gonna be easy. In fact, it's probably gonna suck. But that's when you dig in and keep moving, right?"
I tried to look encouraging, but that last bit...my hand and the smile dropped somewhat. "Sorry...that was about as useful as those motivational posters Jaller plastered all over the office." I sighed, frustrated at the blanks I kept drawing when it came to actually being helpful.
Tuara looked at outstretched hand grimly, then back up at Agni's eyes. He wasn't the easiest read in the Guard - or on the island even - but the years they had spent together had given her enough experience to know he was being earnest. "You're right." She nodded as if to herself and handed him the bottle. "It's going to be heII."
"But I'm glad you're here with me Agni." She crouched down, kneeling in front of the liquor cabinet, gingerly pulling it open. Her hand curled into a fist as she looked at the contents, reaching for the nearest bottle of bourbon. "I don't think I could do this if you weren't." She stared at the drink, swishing the liquid inside around, watching it splash into itself. Tuara felt her heart rise up into her throat, and the shaking got worse. Just when Agni seemed about to speak, she acted.
Tuara stood up, brought the bottle up to her head and threw it across the kitchen into the stone wall. It shattered, glass and liquor flying everywhere. Her shoulders shuddered as she choked back something, but she quickly bent down to find another one. She spoke through grit teeth, her voice soft but hoarse. “I survived the Mark Bearers.” With another great swing, the next bottle crashed against the same wall. “I survived torture.” Tuara made a noise and despite her teary eyes she sent it flying too. “I survived the Rahkshi!” Glass rained down, the smell of alcohol filled the room, and she continued. She indiscriminately was reaching for the swill now, grabbing the closest one and sending it to a wasteful fate one at a time. A few short violent moments later, and all that could be heard was the sound of liquid running down her wall into the sink, and her heavy labored breathing. She held the final bottle, the shaking in her hand getting stronger and stronger. Her shoulders were hunched over, and in her chest her heart yearned to escape, thoom-thooming off her rib-cage. She was spinning, something inside of her swirling, her head pounding harder than her heart. "I'll. Survive. Me. Too!" Tuara wound up again, and with a sudden burst of fire and fury she put it to the floor.
Shards flew to the kitchen walls, vodka splashed against her feet and legs, Agni covered his eyes as not to be hurt by the flying debris, but Tuara watched, eyes wide open. Every drop was gone, and she was still there. A husk in a mess, but there nonetheless.
Maybe my being here helped, but this push - that had all been her. I ached thinking about how long she'd been carrying the weight of her struggles on her shoulders. And it had been just her. Sure we were all friends or more. I knew Dor had tried, but the baggage he carried probably outweighed most of ours combined. Joske on some spirit-given scavenger hunt all over the island, expected to take on whatever prime henchman was leading the bad guys at the moment. Cael one step behind, picking up after him and willing to take on death itself. Me, Merror and Jaller, three duty-bound grumpy old men playing by a rule book I wasn't sure was even in print anymore. All our other friends - between destiny-ordained quests and our own troubles, how much had we lost sight of each other?
"You've been fighting your battles alone for a long time now. I'm sorry I -we- weren't there for you sooner."
When first bottle shattered. I watched the carnage unfold with relief. The tension that had built up somewhere around my diaphragm dissolved, as if witnessing the end of a tense Kolhii match with your team making the winning score in the last second. Except this felt much better. It wasn't just the bottles breaking, something else had finally given way as well for her. That's the spirit - was the spirits? I thought, looking at the liquid splattered across the kitchen wall.
I grabbed a drying rag from the counter for her to clean her hands and stepped up beside her, placing my right across her shoulders. "I'm proud of you."
Tuara took the rag and wiped her hands with it, still shaking. "I never knew to ask for help." She shook her head, looking down at her feet. After a moment of breathing, Tuara looked over to the wall and the floor and stepped over to clean it up. "I don't know I would have if I did."
"Well...all I'm saying is: Maybe we could all do with a little change for the better." I commented, moving up to help with the cleanup. "Broom?" I asked. She nodded, indicating a closet. I found the broom and got to work. We spent the next couple of minutes quietly, with just the rattle of broken glass as we swept up her efforts. In the end we had amassed a sizable pile of the stuff. I twirled the broom in my hand and harrumphed. "What?" Tuara asked.
"What a waste..." I said. Her eyes widened at that, as if I was lamenting the liquid that had seeped into the floor. "Not the drinks." I said, pointing at the pile. "The glass."
I picked up the shard she was now eyeing and took it in my hand, careful not to cut myself on the sharp edges. Then, I began to heat it up, gradually, until the clear material began to melt, glowing orange hot. The temperature wasn't an issue for the likes of us. As the shard became soft, I started to flex my fingers, shaping the previously rigid material into a lump. I looked at Tuara, then pointed my chin at the pile. "How about it?"
Tuara looked back at the lump in Agni's hand carefully. She reached for it and took it herself, feeling the hot putty in her palm. She began to add her own heat, using her own fingertips to flatten it out. It took considerable force at first, but as the temperature continued to rise it became much more malleable. She rounded out the thinner edges carefully, kneading the flat edge turning it into a small disc, no bigger than a widget. As she began to absorb the heat, the pair watched as it cooled, a smooth sheen returning to its surface. She held it out, in her bruised palm, the light blue glass reflected off the lights of the room.
I nodding approvingly, watching the reflected light dance across the room. Now she had a reminder, something to mark the occasion. "Good."
We watched the reflections a little longer, then I gently cupped her hands in mine and pushed them close around the disk.
"You hang on to that."
Tuara hoped that she could.
“Listen, why don’t you leave the rest of the cleaning to me, hm? It’s been one of a day. Go get some rest.” There was a hint of uncertainty in her eyes. “No worries, I’ll stick around. I’m not going anywhere.”
* * * * * *