WHO: Cara & Nephthys WHEN: the middle of Sunday night WHERE: Set's house, Death Valley WHAT: Cara can't sleep WARNINGS: mentions of murder
Cara woke with a start and a half-strangled cry, and she struggled to sit and find the bedside lamp. The room lit up in golds and Cara - squinting against the sudden brightness - looked down at her hands quickly.
Cara slumped forward as she took a few shuddering breaths and willed her heart to slow its pace in her chest as she reminded herself that everything was okay. She wasn't with Apep. She was safe and far from him and he couldn't make her doing anything anymore. How long did it take to get over killing an innocent person? Or two? Five months since all that had happened but Cara still had dreams where she was slitting some crying girl's throat and laughing.
That hadn't been her. It had been Apep inside of her, but she remembered it all. She remembered enjoying it.
Cara threw her legs over the side of the bed and climbed out, her skin sticky and warm with sweat. It was almost four in the morning by the clock on the wall and there was no way she was sleeping again tonight. So instead she made her way out of the bedroom and crept through the house.
Outside the desert was vast and cold and the night sky above was flung with stars for as far as Cara could see. At this hour Cara felt like watching the desert was like watching the sea, the both of them endless and unknowable. She found that comforting in a way she couldn't articulate.
She moved a little way from the house before sitting down and quietly watching the sky and the wind through what sparse trees there were.
Then she made the first prayer in her life that wasn't directed to the God she now loved.
"Almighty Ra," she whispered into the darkness, closing her eyes. "He who made all and sees all, please hear me. I'm a humble servant of the one who stood on your barge and fought off the serpent and I pray to you now for guidance." she paused to looked up at the stars with a sigh, trying to think of what to say. "I'm lost. I've lost the purpose that I had before. I've got blood on my hands now and I-" she swallowed. "I don't know who I am anymore."
She fell silent, shaking her head. Ra - if he was even listening - didn't care about her crisis of faith. The other gods couldn't even get him to appear to them and they were his family, so why did Cara think that he'd come down and offer her some sort of special guidance just because she'd asked? She wasn't even devoted to him.
In her singlet and pajama bottoms Cara shivered.
"Nobody truly does," came a soft voice from behind her. Cara turned quickly, feeling like she'd practically jumped out of her skin at the sudden appearance of Nephthys, but the night goddess herself was calm and Cara watched each of the easy, subtle movements that she made as she came to stand beside her. Cara stood up, brushing sand off herself and trying not to look awkward. But the fact was that Nephthys intimidated the hell out of her. Not because she was a goddess, and not because she had certain powers, but because Set loved her unendingly and even Cara could see that. This stunning woman beside her was everything to him and Cara, even if she lived forever, would never ever be that.
She took a deep breath and tried to remember that Nephthys couldn't read her thoughts. And then, realising she hadn't understood Nephthys' words, Cara asked, "what?"
"Very few truly know themselves at all times," Nephthys said, looking towards the horizon. "Even the gods can doubt their actions and place."
Cara followed Nephthys' gaze so she didn't have to look at her. The goddess' skin was covered but Cara had already glanced the injuries there. She wanted to pretend they didn't exist because that weakness in the Egyptians only made her uneasy. She'd carried the heads of Set and Osiris across the country and now she'd seen Nephthys' arms and chest cut open. There was death all around these beings even if they returned to the world.
"I never used to doubt," Cara admitted quietly. "I used to think I knew everything."
Even out of the corner of her eye Cara could see the small smile that touched Nephthys' lips. "As do all those with more youth than experience, and you've only just began to learn the lessons of your life. You will doubt and you will weep and both these things will be without end."
Cara dropped her head and watched the sand between her toes. For a long time no one said anything, but when Cara finally did speak her voice was very quiet. "The serpent in Set made me kill people. I can't sleep when I see their faces." Nephthys hadn't asked but Cara needed to say it.
"And well you shouldn't," Nephthys told her simply. "That is a burden that you must now carry, cruel as it is." She turned to look at Cara, lifting her chin. "This is why you pray to Ra and not to your patron?"
Cara didn't know the right answer, just the only one that she started to say: "Sometimes... I try not to think it, but sometimes he..."
"Sometimes he scares you," Nephthys supplied when Cara trailed off. Cara closed her eyes and looked down again, feeling like she had so deeply betrayed Set with her words. "Cara," Nephthys said (and Cara thought her name sounded different and exotic from the goddess). "Your fear is not of Set and you have committed no crime in speaking it. There is a darkness within him that will not always be contained and you are right to fear that, for it will rise unbidden and destroy all that Set holds dear. It is not his fault, nor anyone's but Apep's, but still it is truth."
"I want to be loyal," Cara told her, "but I'm so scared of it all happening again. How am I supposed to know what to do?"
Nephthys' expression was quiet and a little sad. "That is not an answer that I can supply you with."
Another long silence while Cara lamented her own lack of knowledge and tried to understand what Nephthys was thinking as well. (She couldn't unravel her own thoughts; how did she expect that she could decipher those of a god?) Cara sighed very quietly and then nodded, as though she'd taken in all that she could. "I should go inside." No reply from Nephthys but a silent and gentle nod of her own.
Cara turned and she was a few steps away when Nephthys voice caught her.
"I know that you lie with my husband."
Cara was frozen to the spot, holding her breath now. She somewhat expected a lightning bolt to come shooting down from the sky towards her, or at the very least to suddenly find Nephthys' hands wrapped around her throat. She'd deserve it, wouldn't she? Nephthys was saying nothing else but Cara couldn't make herself turn back around. She just kept standing there and when Nephthys finally did speak Cara could hear a sadness there or a veiled coldness, or perhaps it was just her own guilt that imagined that.
"Know that I bear you no ill feelings."
Footsteps on the sand receded from Cara and when she dared to glance over her shoulder she could see the shadowy figure of Nephthys walking away the house and further into the star-swept desert night.