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2015-05-26 04:39 am (UTC)
i know there's better brothers but you're the only one that's mine
Chinese food. Undoubtedly a recent favorite. The restaurant bustled during the lunch hours with workers on breaks, friends mingling, families collating. The businesses of the Chicago streets were the very reason Rey was never normally permitted to leave the townhouse alone. But she was better now, and hungry.
Different as Rey’s body was, it still required nourishment. To some it would be detrimental. To her, it was one of the few things she genuinely enjoyed.
Rey learned many things about taste these last few years. She found that she had a liking for spring rolls and Hawaiian sweet bread. She also had a particular liking for German beer, with a surprising brand of dark lager that her favored Chinese restaurant served. The darker the brew, the better.
In the past, Rey’s body had excelled in certain senses where others she lacked. She had heightened speed and reflexes, keen sense of sight and hearing. But she never felt much pain, and she never knew the delight of savory cooked duck or pork sausage. Lucas Coffey, however, claimed he had never intended this for her. That it was Gregory Tremond who altered her sensory perceptions. Not out of necessity, but out of hatred. Perhaps even jealousy.
A man in a red suit pushed a cart full of steamer baskets and other trays of goods to Rey’s booth, where he opened up one lid after another to reveal the contents of each basket. After choosing a hearty lunch, the man poured a hot cup of oolong tea, checked off her orders in a flashing screen on the round table, and continued to the family at the next booth.
Before Rey was a meal of steamer baskets full of pork shumai, pot stickers, shrimp dumplings, barbecue-beef buns, steamed rice wrapped in a lotus leaf (also called lo mai gai), three flaky sou pastries, and a dan tat — an egg tart. Her stomach did leaps of which Rey had rarely ever experienced as she started to dig in.
She didn’t even give pause when the seat on the other side of her booth became occupied by a face she knew well. He wore the colors of the Auxiliary Unit, with a black collared shirt under a bulletproof vest that bore the Marchmen’s insignia. His head of ash brown hair poked out from under a scarlet beret.
“Hello, Orion,” Rey said with a mouthful of dumplings.
Her brother, however, did not come to her with an equally amiable greeting. “I thought I told you to wait until I got off work.”
Rey downed her shumai with a gulp of hot tea. After, she wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, her eyes meeting her brother’s over her fortune of food. “Best service is at lunchtime. Gets busy. Didn’t want to lose a seat.”
“I had to tell my captain that I had another family emergency when Lucas called and told me you weren’t home. What gives?” Orion glowered.
Mouth stuffed with dumplings, Rey pushed the steamer basket of buns towards Orion.
Orion blinked, his brows scrunched together. “How—?”
You’d like it.” She lifted one of the buns off the basket and handed it to Orion. “It’s hot.”
Reluctant, he carried the bottom of the bun in the palm of his hand. He muttered a thanks under his breath before taking a bite into the bun. A surprised glint sparked in his pale green eyes, and he took another bite, before wolfing the whole thing down.
Seemed that Rey was not the only one to walk in with an appetite. Though Orion’s table manners were somewhat more appropriate than her own.
“Knew you’d like this place. Much better than the Big Crush,” Rey pressed, gesturing for one of the waitresses to come by to pour a cup of tea for her brother.
Once the waitress had gone, Orion accepted his tea, lifting the brim of the cup to his lips with a certain air of satisfaction similar to what he expressed before.
Orion cleared his throat, setting the tea back down on the flashing table between them. “You had us worried. If Lucas hadn’t told me that you’d be here...”
“You’d have found me, anyway,” she said. “Because that is what you do, Orion.”
“Am no child in need of supervision. Not anymore.” She tapped her temple. “We’re all in tact up here.”
Orion paused, eyebrows raised. “We?”
Shouldn’t it be obvious?
“The old lives,” Rey told him matter-of-factly. “Can’t deny them any more than you can, though you’ve tried. Repeatedly. Spending half of your time with men you hate, who wouldn’t try?”
“I’m not anything like those guys.” Orion hid his mouth behind his cup of tea, as if the cup were a shield.
“Never said you were, but you do it because you want to keep your enemies close. It’s your choice to keep them close.” Rey gestured to the food settled between them. “Like how this is a choice. Did not go from being Gregory’s pawn simply to become another man’s prisoner.”
Orion frowned, setting his tea down after a sip. “Is that how you feel? Like you’re being imprisoned?”
“Can’t seem to leave the house without either one of you sounding alarms,” Rey retorted.
“I wasn’t sure if you were... well, safe.”
“You mean you weren’t sure if everyone else would be safe.” She lifted a finger before Orion could interject. “Haven’t harmed anyone in over a year now. Not since the machete incident, at least.”
Orion snorted at the reminder. “Only yourself.” He gestured to the scars on her face.
A hand on her cheek, the deep cuts under her fingers still twinge, red and inflamed. Orion’s expression twisted with hurt as she lowered her hand.
“Better than the alternative, wouldn’t you agree?”
“Not really sure what I’d be agreeing to.”
No, he wouldn’t know.
Guilt panged Rey’s chest as she sees Orion on the Argus Tower of Old Wayfair. The gun to her head. Her finger on the trigger. She doesn’t need to pull it. But she needs to be certain. Certain that this will be a death where there will be no coming back. Hope that perhaps she could damage her memories beyond repair in the process.
No more soldiers waking up with memories of families of alcoholics, fuse jackers, murderers and pedophiles and rapists... no more. She can’t go back to that life. She won’t.
Instead, the lives become whole. Bit by bit, all of those fragments complete her. In a flash, all of those women become a blessing.
We are alive.
She pulls the trigger. Sees red blood. And falls forever.
“Hey, you okay?” Orion leaned over to touch her forehead. “You’re not getting sick, are you?”
“Apologies,” Rey replied, waving off her brother’s hand.
Plummeting into the chasms of Old Wayfair one instant, and then sitting at a table in a Chicago Chinese restaurant the next. It was a difficult transition to get used to, but by now it was as normal as blinking.
It wasn’t the first time she had experienced these shifts. She’d gotten a better handle of it since her more recent breakdown last New Year’s Eve.
Although Rey couldn’t remember the specifics, Orion had given his firsthand account that she had left home for several hours. It was her first time out alone, and she had promised to call every ninety minutes. Except she didn’t.
By the time she returned to the townhouse, it was three in the morning. Somehow, she had procured a bloodstained machete, then broke her brother’s nose and threatened to slit Lucas’ throat. She had collapsed with little effort on Orion’s part. As far as he could tell, she was blackout drunk with a life-threatening blood alcohol content that would have killed a normal human being.
Where she had gotten the machete and the alcohol in the first place, exactly, was still mystery. The fact that she had survived, however, was not.
“For what?” Orion had moved in, leaning closer to take her hand that was on the table, which Rey slid away before his fingers could come any closer.
He didn’t understand, and neither would her father. They were her keepers and nothing more, always expecting her to lose her mind all over again.
“Time for you to go back, Orion. If one of the minutemen sees you with me, they’ll start to ask questions. We don’t want that.” Rey canted her head, her lips thinned as Orion shot her a reluctant, pleading look. “Don’t worry. Am okay now.”
It was futile to hold out any hope that he would ever believe anything she said.
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