|Alice Kennedy (rosemary_thyme) wrote in paxletalelogs,|
@ 2017-07-24 07:58:00
|Entry tags:||freyr, uke mochi|
Dance in the dark of night
Who: Alice and Rafe
What: Alice transforms and all secrets are exposed
Where: Alice’s apartment
When: The middle of the night, Sunday, July 23
Alice hadn’t been sleeping very well for the past few weeks. She assumed it was due to the feeling of regret in regard to Gus, or perhaps the sadness she felt that their weekly dinners had been cancelled following their romp in the bedroom, but if she were honest it was likely due to her dreams. They were frequently unsettling; dreams where she was being watched and brushed by something small and hip-height. No matter the dream, it always darkened and she was assaulted by this feeling of these creatures and she found herself waking in the middle of the night covered in sweat and breathing heavily.
Beside mentioning that she had nightmares to Rafael, she had otherwise kept the majority of the dream details to herself. He had enough to deal with and she felt awful for continuously dropping her own stresses and drama—most of which were self created—onto his lap. He was always ready to pick her up though and get her set right, but she still held back with dumping more on his shoulders. With only a handful of days left of having Rafael in her apartment, she found herself excited that he was near continuing on with his life, but also heartbroken to see him go. She enjoyed having him there and not being completely alone on her floor, particularly since the nightmare started.
Yet, despite not wanting to bring any other negativity into Rafael’s life, she still found herself going to him when she was woken by the worst nightmare yet that seemed to follow her into the waking world. She couldn’t pinpoint what it was that was looking at her, rushing at her, pushing her, but she was certain when she woke from her dream it was still there.
“Rafe?” she called, sitting up in bed and reaching for her robe. She was donning a tank top and shorts, but felt the need for her bathrobe all the same. The dream was quickly receding from her mind and yet she couldn’t shake it.
Slipping out of bed she quietly slipped to her bedroom door and opened it fully to peer into the living room at her friend’s sleeping form on the couch. “Rafael? Are… are you awake?”
Rafael had indeed been awake, and for some time. For the better part of an hour he had been desperately pretending to sleep, his eyes squeezed shut even as he faced the back of the sofa, trying every method within his means to ignore the child that wasn't a child standing at his back. But doing so had proved impossible, and even when sleep had finally claimed him—for no more than ten minutes, or so it had seemed to him—he had had nightmares sufficient to wake him.
This restless sleep, coupled with the unusual occurrence of Alice waking him at all, ensured he rose quickly from his makeshift bed. "I'm up," he said, one arm already outstretched to motion toward her. "Is everything all right?"
“Yeah,” Alice replied, not at all sounding truthful as she shuffled across the floor and slipped onto the couch beside Rafael. “I’m just having these awful nightmares and I can’t shake the one I just had.” She leaned forward and placed her face in her hands, her red hair fell over her shoulders and hung like a sheet over her face. “Sometimes I feel like this place is driving me insane.” She sat up, shaking her hair out of her face and looked at Rafael with sympathy. “I’m sorry if I woke you.”
"You didn't," he admitted. "I kind of feel the same. More lately than before." He chewed the full swell of his lower lip. "I don't think it's your apartment, please don't think that… but there's something really wrong, lately." He leaned down, peering over at her, a silent plea in his eyes. He was too run down, too tired, to pretend he had not experienced the very same things; it showed stark on his face, as plain as if he'd confessed the details aloud.
"Your nightmares… um. Can I ask what they're about? Or who?"
Alice rubbed at one eye and tilted her head in thought. “The dreams are weird and not about anyone I actually know. Not that I think. But there are these… children? Or little people who look old. I don’t know, it must be something from a horror movie or something.” She closed her eyes, rubbing at them steadily. “The last dream I had, I think I was turning into Uke Mochi and the little people were there. When I woke up, I felt like they still were.”
She lowered her hands, her gaze falling on the doorway of her room, and rolled her shoulders with discomfort. “God, even now I feel like I have goosebumps all over.”
He let his hand rest against her leg, grounding her there with him. "I understand," he said, sincerely. "And I'm kind of relieved. I was having similar dreams. And I think... I'm seeing them in the halls. Sometimes they look like they're going to run toward me…" He shook his head, dismissing that ludicrous thought. "I don't know, Alice. With everything else that's happened here, nightmares aren't too surprising. It's actually kind of nice to know I haven't just been hallucinating them all by myself."
Alice slipped her hand onto Rafe’s and gave it a squeeze. “Yeah, maybe just with everything going on we’re prone to emails. And since we’re already sharing dreams of Freyr and Uke Mochi, why not of creepy children things?” She tried to smile at Rafael before leaning against him and resting her head on his shoulder, her red hair spooling over his shoulder and down his chest and back. “But they are creepy. I wish they’d go away.”
Rafe held her for a moment, one hand stroking idly through her hair. It was soothing for a time, almost lulling him back to sleep. Then, by slow degrees, something changed.
He leaned back, peering over the soft slope of her shoulders. His hand stilled against her. He blinked, as though he might clear his vision, but every sense he possessed was telling him the truth. "Your hair."
Alice looked at Rafael and reached for her hair, her fingers immediately tangling with the red locks and pausing as they touched thicker strands...wheat. Her breath caught in her throat for a moment before she seemed released from the spell and more quickly ran her hands through her hair. “Oh god, it’s a lot of wheat,” she murmured, her voice sounding far away and filled with disbelief. How was it that they were even having this conversation. “Is there a lot? It feels like a lot.”
And more and more coming in, with each stroke of her hand and her fingers brushing through the strands of her hair, it felt like there was less hair, but more wheat. Her eyes widened and her breathing sped up. “This didn’t happen before. It didn’t come in so fast or so much.”
He shifted on the couch, moving to where he could better see her. His lips pursed; the gesture did not hide the concern in his expression. "It's…" He cleared his throat. His fingers threaded through the long, flowing strands of wheat. He drew one blade through his fingers, wrapping it around them, slowly letting this new reality sink in. "There's a lot. But how do you feel? Are you okay otherwise?"
“Um, kind of freaked,” Alice admitted as she pulled her hair over her shoulder and into her line of sight. “But I don’t feel sick or anything…”
Her lips parted and her hair-turned-wheat fell from her fingers as she outstretched her hands. Her lips moved as she tried to say something but all she could manage was a panicked noise as the words were caught in her throat. Turning her hands front to back, the thinnest strands of what looked like grass were protruding from the skin of her fingers, reaching outward before knitting together in a perfect criss-cross and settling over her fingers to cover her skin. It began at her fingertips, but as the strands of grass-like grain grew out and criss crossed, it moved down her fingers and onto her hands.
A cry finally escaped her throat as Alice jumped to her feet and rubbed at her hands, desperately trying to brush off the grains as her breathing came faster with her rising panic. Rafael's worry fed off of hers. He rose along with her, his hands still outstretched toward her. His hands wrapped loosely around her upper arms, holding her as his gaze swept over her rapidly changing body.
"Alice…" There was a tremor in his voice he did not want to be there. He worked to ease it, with questionable success. "Alice, what's happening."
“I don't know,” Alice gasped, her eyes quickly filling with tears but what eased out of the corner of her eyes weren't tears at all, but seeds. She didn't notice, her focus on her hands that were now fully grain and the line that traveled up her arm. “I don't know!”
She moved away from the couch and spun on her feet as the wheat of her head—her hair now fully gone—swung heavily. “My feet!” Alice cried, noticing that what had happened to her hands was now occurring to her feet. “Rafe…” she cried, her voice breaking just as her heart was. She was scared, down to her core, and she suddenly wasn't sure if she would live out the night. What if she turned to wheat and just became nothing? “I'm scared,” she cried reaching for him then pulling her grass covered hands away with a mix of disgust and dismay.
Rafael felt no such compunction. He reached for her, grasping her slender waist as though a tight grip might be enough to keep her safe. "Alice, it's okay, I'm right here." As if that, he thought, was doing either of them any good. His mind raced, but he could think of no-one to call, no-one who would remotely understand what was occurring. He raised one hand to her cheek; seed-tears spilled over his skin. "It's okay. Just… focus on me, okay? Just look at me. Everything's going to be okay—"
Alice tried to pull her gaze up to Rafael, she attempted desperately to focus her attention onto him, but it was hard as her body slowly lost the pink skin that made her human. The grains that crisscrossed over her skin, forcing it to disappear, completely covered her arms and legs and now worked at her torso. The pink skin of her chest, exposed by the tank top she wore to bed, fell under the knitted work of the greenery and it wrapped steadily around her neck, choking out what final words Alice could say.
Now she looked at Rafael, suspecting this was the end, and she worked at her mouth as she tried to speak but found she couldn’t; after all, her lungs had become nothing but millet, barley and oats. The seed tears fell in earnest and she clung to Rafael, her grained fingers capable of grasping him in the final moments before the grains overtook her face, and with a blink, her eyes as well.
She grew motionless when she opened her eyes that were now made of solid chickpeas and seemed to stare at Rafael for a moment before, with a rush of sound, her form collapsed to the floor. The thicker strands of wheat and barley and oat sat in a pile that lingered with Alice’s once-worn pajamas, but the seeds—the chickpeas, the rice, the tears that had yet to fall—scattered across the hardwood floor.
Rafael could only stand there, blinking dumbly at the column of green that used to be his friend. He did not realize he was speaking, mumbling in a steady stream of Portuguese, until a faint curse he hadn't spoken in years fell from his dry, cold lips. He shook his head, biting down on his tongue until he had collected himself. At some point he had taken several steps backward, away from the being he had seen in his dreams.
"Uke Mochi." The name rolled too easily off his tongue; it startled him, and he blinked doeishly over at her. "Is that… is that who you are? Is Alice okay?"
The pile of grain didn’t reply, at least… not at first. It left Rafael standing there just long enough before it began to stir, just slightly, to gather together enough grain to form a mouth. “You’ve said my name,” the voice came softly, pleased, and entirely from the fallen vegetation. “I was Uke Mochi and I suppose I am again.”
Rafael staggered back another step. His heart was thudding in his chest. He raised a hand to his nose, swiping at a trickle of blood he only imagined; this was no coke-addled hallucination, and by slow degrees he was beginning to realize that much. "I think I met you in a dream," he said. "You were kind. You fed me. Fed… Freyr." Again he nipped at the end of his tongue, biting back admissions that could not possibly be true. And yet. He raked a hand through his hair.
"Is Alice okay? Do you know Alice? She's my friend. She's… you. I guess." He laughed, unsteady. The sound ended in a trembling fracture, a sound like madness barely contained. "Am I dreaming?"
“No, I don’t think you’re dreaming,” Uke Mochi said softly as the scattered grains spread across the floor twitched and began to roll towards the pile of wheat, oat, and barley. “And I remember Freyr; he seems like you, or you like him. Just as I was, so was he.”
The various scattered pieces settled onto the pile and it seemed to sigh. “It appears I’ve fallen to pieces, although that wasn’t quite me who fell apart, was it? Your Alice, the girl who is a part of me and I a part of her. I would not hurt her so please do not be worried. Although… if she was who fell to pieces she may be in need of some comfort.”
The pieces began to sew together to create a face, similar to Alice’s but still made of the grain, that smiled at Rafael from the pile. “I’m not quite sure why I have appeared but I’m quite happy to see you and this world of Alice’s.” The pieces grew, the face pulling free from the pile and producing a neck and wheat hair, the neck then went to slender shoulders and traveled downward until the form of Alice as a grain-made woman stood before Rafael. “I lost my body long ago and only have the grain to exist now,” Uke Mochi continued, lifting a green hand and looking at it. “But your Alice’s body is enough to keep me quite hidden as well.”
Rafe felt his knees go weak. He reached out toward her grown hand, only to draw it back an instant before making contact with it. His eyes watered, but he could not have said why. A leaden weight filled the pit of his stomach, heavy and cold. "Okay," he said. The tremor had not left his voice. "Okay. So she's safe. That's good. I… can I do something? To help you, or her? I don't know… I'm not sure I can help either of you, but…" He exhaled, as unsteadily as he had done everything else. He managed to sit on the couch, and immediately curled one hand around the armrest to steady himself.
"I'm sorry," he said, breathless. "I wasn't expecting this. It is good to see you again. So much happens here, and so little of it is good. A friendly face is always welcome."
“Oh, you’re so kind,” Uke Mochi said, the smile still on her strange face as she solidified completely and she stepped forward, a hand reaching out to touch Rafael’s shoulder gently. “Just like Freyr. I see why Alice loves you; you’re good to her and think so much of others, at least from what I see occasionally when I look from her eyes.”
She tipped her head to the side and the wheat fell over her shoulder. “Alice is safe, at least I think. I have never done this before, you know. But you do not need to do anything.” Uke Mochi stood up straight, retreating her hand from Rafael’s shoulder, and rolled her own shoulders. “This form is unnerving to you though, is that it? Or are you frightened Alice will not return to her body?” She shook her head, tilting her chin up, and closed her eyes. The bits of grain and seed began to fall away from her face much as it had before when she fell to pieces, but Alice’s pale skin appeared from beneath the grain.
The pieces fell away to the floor, covering what pajamas had been left behind and scattering along the floor and nestling into the small carpet under the coffee table. It was quick work and much less dramatic than it had been when Alice lost herself to Uke Mochi, but before long it was Alice’s body standing nude before Rafael, yet it was still Uke Mochi who held court to her mind. “Is this form better? See? Alice isn’t lost, she only isn’t quite here right now.”
Rafe's mouth fell open; one hand raised to cover it, but could not fully catch his words. "Nossa Senhora… no, that isn't better, exactly… ai meu deus…" Too late he looked away, glancing toward a distant wall. A dusky flush crawled high over his cheekbones, picking out faint freckles buried beneath tanned skin. He scratched at his beard, clearly busying himself with whatever small movements and distractions came to mind. "I don't think Alice would like that," he said, when at last he found words again. His amber gaze darted to her again, looking pointedly at the goddess's eyes. "I think I'm a little… unnerved… by both, honestly. But I'll be okay. If she's okay."
He rubbed at his nape; it, too, was flushed with heat. He smiled sheepishly. "So, um. You don't know what brought you here? She'd had a nightmare earlier… do you think that was it? Or part of it?"
“I do not recall a nightmare,” Uke Mochi said with a sigh as she looked down at her newly human form with a frown. “You’re right, I don’t believe Alice would appreciate her body being in the nude. This was her clothing, no?” She stepped aside and brushed wheat and rice off of Alice’s pajamas, picking them up one at a time and holding them at arm’s length. “The one thing that baffles me with this day and age is the utter lack of clothing.” She began to slip the clothing over Alice’s thin frame as she continued to chatter, more than happy to be out in the open and able to speak.
“At times I see through Alice’s eyes. When she bakes at her bakery, or cooks with you, or is comforting a friend. Those are the moments I see most often. Otherwise there are only snippets and overwhelming emotion. I can feel when she’s sad or upset; she has been somewhat sad as of late. Or perhaps worried is a better word. Something about a boy—not you—and a man—which is you.” Clothed once more, Uke Mochi turned and looked at Rafael. “She has also been so scared by me and I mean her no harm, please understand that. I do not want to hurt her, I love her. She’s as much a part of me as I am of her.”
To Rafe's surprise, this did a great deal to comfort him. The hard line of his shoulders eased once she was dressed. He found himself able to look at her more easily now, to cast a curious eye over the body that was at once his friend's and not. He nodded.
"I believe you," he admitted. He had felt no malice from his own spiritual cohabitator, after all; if anything, Freyr's presence had a tendency to bring him soothing, pleasant dreams. His interactions with Gabe, and the being who seemed bound to him, had been equally welcome, if a little unexpectedly bloody at times. He wet his lips with the tip of his tongue. "And I'll help you both if I can. I don't want her to be sad, or stressed out, or afraid. Is she… is she worried about me? I… how can I help?"
Uke Mochi smiled and stepped lightly across the floor to close the distance between herself and Rafael. She looked up at him with a calm, pleasant smile, and reached to touch his cheek with the tips of her borrowed fingers. “I think she is a little worried for you,” Uke Mochi admitted, her red eyebrows rising slightly. “But she seems to worry about many things. You, her friend who is tied to Eris, that boy, another boy who is a man—she has mixed feelings for both the boy and the man—and a woman. I suppose these are all her friends, all the people who are here. But she does worry about other things, this place she lives in and her business.”
She pulled her hand away and turned from Rafael, moving through the apartment and inspecting the various items with a little smile on her face. “But she does worry about you, yes. You have not had much luck lately, have you?”
"That," Rafael said, "is an understatement." He frowned down at his folded hands. "But that doesn't mean I want her to worry about me. It sounds like she has more than enough going on without my adding to it. The others… Gus, BB, Lucas, I think she said..." Rafe shook his head. "She shouldn't worry about them, either. She puts too much pressure on herself. I wish we… you and I, I mean… could help her with that."
“You do help in your own way,” Uke Mochi replied as she lifted Alice’s camera and held it upside down to peer through the front of the camera. She frowned at the object before sitting it on the table. “You’re sweet to her, you’ve shown her that she can trust men.” She lifted her gaze and settled it upon Rafael, her face stern. “And that’s an important thing. Men aren’t very trustworthy, I know this from my own experiences.” At this, Rafael could not help but nod.
Tilting her head to one side again, she appeared to be inspecting Rafael. “Freyr gave me that, you realize. He was kind and nonjudgmental of the food I provided or the form I appeared in. It’s fitting that you both are one and the same. He isn’t here though, is he? It’s only you right now.”
Rafe's small smile faded as he carefully considered this. He did not know how to call up Freyr, if such a thing was even possible outside of dream-space. It seemed he could feel a slight stirring deep within him at the contemplation of that name. But no other presence joined them, and he could not help the slight measure of disappointment he felt because of it.
"Only me," he agreed. "Is there a way to control this? To… I don't know. Talk with him? Or let him out, sometimes, if he wants to be?"
Uke Mochi pressed a finger to her chin and looked to the ceiling as she considered this while lazily wandering around the living room to pause in Alice’s bedroom doorway. She moved her hand to flick on the bedroom light, making a small sound of pleasure from the sight of the clean room filled with whites and bits of bright color. As she began to speak, she continued to poke her way through Alice’s belongings, lifting a scarf and then jewelry to inspect each thing. Rafe followed where she led, though he touched nothing of Alice's belongings. “You know, I am not entirely sure. I had no part in arriving today. It was as if I was suddenly pushed clear through a doorway and into this realm while before I was a passive viewer and only had my own mind and movement in Alice’s dreams. That’s where my realm is now, it seems, and I assume it’s the same for your Freyr. Although how we are able to visit one another I’m uncertain.
“At times Alice thinks of me, she talks to me in her mind and I hear her. So perhaps you can confer with Freyr through that? Maybe it will make him more at ease to appear. I would like to see him in this world.” The idea brought a smile to her lips but it quickly dissolved as she looked back at Rafael. “Not that seeing you is awful. I do appreciate seeing you.”
He nodded, the pleasant look on his face further conveying his agreement. He raised a hand to wave off her concerns. "Oh, I know," he said. "And I'm not sure I really want Freyr able to control me. No offense, of course. It's just… I'd like to get to know him, let him see more of the world, but still maintain what's me as well. And that seems like a lot to ask. I'd like to figure out how to hit that balance sooner or later, for all our sakes.
"But I'll try to talk to him. Maybe I can spur a dream or something. See what he has to say to me."
Uke Mochi smiled and turned to leave Alice’s room, moving closer to Rafael. “Yes, do that. Try to dream of him and if I see Freyr myself, I’ll tell him you want to know him. And if Alice does not remember this, of me here, tell her that I do have good intentions of her, please? Although… perhaps maybe not that her body was unclothed.” Her smile brightened for a moment before it quickly began to fade. “Oh…” she uttered softly, a hand reaching forward toward Rafael, as if she were about to grasp hold of him, but she was falling too the ground too quickly, her eyes rolling up into her head, as she seemed to faint.
Rafe opened his mouth to agree, but not a single syllable left his lips before his friend began to fall. His arms shot out, encircling her as she collapsed. He caught her, gathering her up against him, holding her tightly against his chest. His heart was beating too hard, fear coursing through him as he wondered what this new turn of events might mean. He whispered her name, then that of the goddess, praying for either of them to answer. Neither did, but her body remained intact, clothed, and in the familiar shape of his friend. And so he rose from the floor on unsteady legs, clutching her tightly as he carried her into her room.
He lay her down, as gently as he had done for his nieces and nephews in times past. He drew the covers up around her, tucking her in. He stood there in silence for a time, watching the steady rise and fall of her chest as though in need of reassurance she was still breathing. Then on silent steps he returned to the living room, calmly retrieved his duffel bag, and carried it with him into the bathroom. Without her weight to steady him, and with the immediate danger apparently gone, Rafael's hands began to shake. They shook even as his motions quickened, making the little bag in his hands tremble, the lines he drew in white powder on the bathroom counter noticeably uneven. But he leaned down and snorted one down all the same, straightening up as a jolt of energy and mind-numbing bliss hit him. He wiped at his nose and leaned down for the second sizable bump.
And that was when Alice—truly Alice—appeared in the doorway.
It hadn’t taken her long to wake up with a gasp of breath and eyes wide to the ceiling of her room. The location confused her, because the last thing she remembered was the living nightmare of being taken over by grain in the living room. The lights were on in there, she could see, as were the familiar shadows cast from the bathroom when the light was on in there as well. But she was in her bed and she was whole but what had happened before—had it happened before?—was still too vivid.
So Alice did the same thing she had done an hour before, she got out of bed and went to find Rafael for the comfort he could provide. And she did find him, but he wasn’t at all in a position to provide comfort.
Alice stood for a moment in the doorway registering the sight before her, something of which she had only seen in movies and read in books, but it was all the same. Then she found her voice and his name rushed from her lips. “What are you doing?”
Rafael started at the sound of her voice, a small, sharp sound escaping him as he did. He stood up straight, sniffling. A deep flush began at the tips of his ears and moved quickly down his throat. "Alice," he said, his voice hoarse and rough. He looked down to the little baggie on the counter—not yet empty, he noted with some shame but more pleasure—and then to his host. The truth was clear; there was nothing he could possibly say to convince her otherwise.
"You are Alice now, right? I was just..." he answered weakly. He shifted his weight so that his body blocked her view of the countertop. "I was worried about you..."
“Of… Of course it’s me,” Alice stuttered, blinking at the sight before her. She stepped into the small bathroom and pushed into his side, her hands up and uncertain what to do. “What are you doing, Rafael?” she repeated.
She looked up at her friend and there was both hurt and confusion in her gaze. She was quivering, her body uncertain of how to react to the tumult of events that had gone on within the past matter of hours. The nightmares, the changes, the sight of the white powder on her bathroom counter. Blinking back the tears that were filling her eyes she couldn’t find any other words but one, “Why?”
His shoulders slumped. He sagged against the counter, his gaze falling away from hers. Shame burned on his cheeks. Rafe knew he had to speak, to say anything to defend himself or to simply explain, but he could find no words to encompass all he felt. This was the culmination of a long downward slide, one whose details he had long hoped to keep from his friends. His voice broke when he tried to speak, but he pushed onward regardless.
"I don't want to sleep," he admitted. "I need the energy, the…" Words eluded him. He shook his head and wiped at the tears beginning to form. He rushed ahead, words tumbling out over one another. "I need to stay awake. So I can check in on you, and not have these nightmares, and feel good for a little while. I'm sorry, Alice. I really am. I tried—" He cut off the excuse before it could fully form. "I'm sorry."
Alice stared at him for a moment then looked at the counter. Her lips worked as she tried to gather words but utterly failed. Sniffing, and with a rough wipe at her eyes, she stared at the counter and the fine white powder on it. With a lick of her lips, she finally gathered her words. “I didn’t know you felt so horrible,” she whispered, and it wasn’t an accusation but a statement filled with concern. “I thought you were doing okay. I thought…”
She let out a huff of air and looked at Rafael. For all that had happened since they met, she hadn’t really seen him cry. In all actuality, she had been the one who cried the most, but he looked broken and distraught and actually sorry. But Alice realized she had been too wrapped up in her own dramas. She had seen Rafael with bloodshot eyes, the wads of tissue with dots of blood, she had seen the signs but she hadn’t recognized them, hadn’t taken them seriously. Alice realized this was something that would otherwise be a mark on men for her, another reason to distrust them, and yet she found she couldn’t feel that way. “You don’t need to keep going constantly. You don’t have to be constantly on. This… this needs to stop. You need to not do this. I’ll help you, I’ll figure out a way, but you need to stop this.”
He nodded. He still could not look at her. "I know." He sounded tired, the kind of tired that weakened both body and soul. His hands curled around the edges of the bathroom counter. "I know. It's just too much, Alice. I don't know…" He shook his head. Rafe folded his arms across his chest, his hands grasping his upper arms as though he might make himself so small he could disappear completely. "This isn't your problem to deal with. I shouldn't have brought this into your house, or made you worry, or any of this."
Alice eyed Rafael then pointed stated, “No.” It was simple, direct, and completely sincere. She reached for Rafael’s hand, pulling it away, and made him turn to face her. “You are my friend, one of my best friends. You’ve listened to me cry over stupid things like boys, you’ve comforted me from nightmares. That’s why I was coming to find you! Because I had a bad dream about Uke Mochi! And you’ve always, always have been here for me despite all that’s been happening to you.
“This… this isn’t good, you’re right. But it doesn’t mean you should deal with it alone. Now just… get rid of it, put it away, I don’t know. But let’s get out of this bathroom and try to go to sleep, okay? You can come stay in my room if it’ll help. My bed’s a lot more comfortable than the couch anyway. It’ll be like a sleepover and we’ll think of what we should do next in the morning.” She pulled at his hand and looked up at him, her eyes pleading for him to agree as her lip trembled.
He squeezed her hand too tightly, until the tips of her fingers grew pink in his grip. He nodded slowly, his lower lip drawn between his teeth, bitten almost to bleeding. "It wasn't a dream," he said, "and I probably won't sleep. But I'd like to stay close to you if I can? If that's okay."
He swallowed, but the lump in his throat would not dislodge. After another tight squeeze, he released her hand and turned back to face the sink. He turned the taps on. Wincing faintly, he brushed the remaining cocaine from the counter down the drain, watching it disappear in a thin white swirl. He hesitated, then, his hand hovering over the little baggie that held the remnants of his stash. Some weak-willed inner voice reassured him he could replenish his supply, but it would be wisest to save just a small portion. He bit down on his tongue and dumped the bag out, too, before that voice could win over the rest of him. He threw the bag in the nearby trash bin, and tried not to give it a second look as he turned back toward Alice. He twitched a small and altogether unconvincing smile.
"Let's go try to sleep, hm?"
Alice pulled her gaze up to Rafael’s, her mind having fallen back into what she had reasoned was a dream. It wasn’t a dream, he had said, and Alice’s reasoning had been let go--she knew the truth and the fear that she’d turn back into a woman of grain made her quiver. But seeing Rafael’s small smile that she knew he was trying hard to display gave her something else to focus on.
Nodding, she took his hand. “Even if you don’t fall asleep, you can stick by me and… and make sure I don’t turn into anything…” Her voice caught but she pretended it was nothing, turning away from the bathroom and tugging Rafael’s hand as she tried to recover her fear and convince her friend everything would be fine. “Do you need anything? Your pillow? I have extras on my bed. We’ll get you as comfy as we can in case you do fall asleep.”
He shook his head, mumbling a quiet "no" under his breath. His hand tightened on hers; he followed her quickly and quietly, close as a shadow. His thumb brushed light over the back of her hand. The thought of having someone beside him was a comfort; someone to hold him, to soothe him, to ground him in the dark and lonely night. And if he could turn their dwindling conversation away from himself, so much the better.
"She likes you, you know," he said, as they settled beneath the soft, warm sheets of her bed. He slid an arm beneath her shoulders, gathering her up against his chest. His heart still beat too fast, and so hard he worried she could feel it against her own skin. "Uke Mochi. She means well, and she wants good things for you. I know it's hard not to worry, but she really doesn't want you to."
Alice adjusted into her position beside Rafael, her mind spinning with the memory of her terror and the event in the bathroom. With one hand on Rafael’s belly, her cheek on his chest, she twisted to look up at Rafael quickly. “Really? So... she came here, she was here after I turned…” she couldn’t get the words out of her mouth though and dropped her head back onto Rafael’s chest, her ear pressed against him and hearing the thudding of his heart beneath. “You know, somehow I can feel you’re right. Like a little voice is agreeing with you in the back of my head. But let’s talk about everything tomorrow. Just don’t leave me, Rafael, even if I turn into grain again.”
Already her eyes were heavy and closing, her body relaxing to the close proximity to Rafael and the repetitive sound of his heart and the rise and fall of his chest beneath her head. “Just stay with me,” she murmured, her voice sounding drunk with the sleep her body so desperately needed after the physical and emotional efforts of the night.
He whispered a soft affirmation to her, keeping quiet as he felt her fall asleep. He dreaded the conversation the morning would bring, and he knew he would sleep little, if he slept at all. But he could not help but feel comforted by her presence, and glad that she felt the same of him. For now, that had to be enough.