Hey ya'll. I've got several chapters waiting in the wing for me to post here, but they're all super short. So, instead of wasting my points, I have just decided to post them all together! I hope you all like what the ending is. You may not, but we shall see.- Cate.
Rey was sitting up by the time another month passed and his chest was healing pink and healthily. The doctors marveled at his recovery, it shocked them. But, he knew that the secret was Ara's "super power", she could heal anything with that smile and personality of hers. He was alerted when the door opened and Ara stood in the doorway with two cups of steaming liquid in her hands," Hey you, I got you something." She said and walked in. Sitting on the side of the bed, she gave the cup of broth to the young man. He thanked her and gratefully took it in both hands, blowing on the hot mixture of medicine and chicken broth.
"You feeling any better?" She asked, looking at him softly. Rey nodded," Yeah, the doctor said I could leave in the next week." Ara sighed softly, not saying anything. Rey raised an eyebrow at her silence and questioned it," What's wrong, Ara?"
She gave him a smile," I love when you say my name." Then she frowned," No, I'm just worried..."
" About?" He coaxed, taking a sip of the soup and allowing the soothing liquid warm his stomach. Rey grimaced, the bandages were irritable and itchy.
" You're about to be able to do things on your own, soon enough, you'll be heading out to the front lines... AGAIN. I almost lost you when you were shot. I don't want you actually missing luck and get killed." She ran her finger along the rim of her mug," I'm scared I'll lose you... I- I don't want that."
Rey frowned, he had never known Ara's fear, only because either time they were alone, they were either wounded or sleeping. He put his mug down on the metal nightstand beside him and gestured for her to come closer. At first, she refused, saying it would muss his bandages, but he didn't care about his bandages," Come here. Don't worry about the dressings, you can fix them if they get messy."
Finally, she gave in and crawled to him and allowed him to pull her close in his arms. The feeling of his now boney arms around her, made her feel like it was okay. It slowed her down, like slow motion and made her feel warm on the inside of her throat on the way down to her lungs. She gave a quiet sigh. Rey rested his chin on her hair, today it was down and loose, something that he liked.
" Ara, you know that I'm careful and I know what I'm doing. I'm nineteen now, I can take care of myself."
" I can't let you die, Rey. You're the only family that I have, if I lost you-" She cleared her throat. Rey squeezed his hands over her shoulders and tightened his grip around her," I promise, do you hear me? I SWEAR that I will never leave you. It won't really be my choice if I take another bullet, it's my line of work." He looked down at her and lifted her chin up so their eyes met," But, if I do take another bullet and heaven forbid it's a fatal one, I'll do it protecting you."
Ara closed her eyes and a fat tear rolled down her cheek. Rey bent down and gingerly kissed her forehead and pushed her down onto his chest," I'll be fine." He whispered. Ara didn't say anything, only nodded, closing her arms closer around Rey. He felt pain shoot through his ribs, but he stayed silent, he wanted to know she felt safe. He wanted to think that she was holding to him for safety, but he knew that she was holding to him so that he wouldn't disappear into the thin air that she was so petrified of.
Rey's military issued apartment contained only three rooms: bed room, bathroom, and kitchen/living area. It was small, but doable for someone his age. Ara had cleaned it and made it ready for the invalid resident who would be returning any minute. She fluffed the pillow on the single bed, scrubbed the shower with zeal and made a pot of soup and potatoes that she had found somewhere in the cupboard. By four in the afternoon, everything was completely spotless and free of infectious diseases if there had even been any. She replaited her hair and placed it in a loose bun and awaited Rey's arrival. She fiddled with her thumbs, then jumping when the door suddenly opened. Rey was being carried by two of his closest friends: Dane and Brix. Two of the finest soldiers in Rey's platoon. Brix was lanky and tall, laid back but a heck of a fighter when his men were in trouble. Dane on the other hand, was like an American Bulldog. His sharp and edged buzz cut made him appear rough, his rolling biceps showed that he could beat anyone in a wrestling match. His face was chapped and straight, but he was the best joker around and had the most beautiful smile in Ara's opinion.
" Hey Ary." Said Brix with a lopsided grin, one of Rey's arms draped over his shoulder. Ara stood and walked over to them," Hey Brix, Dane." She replied, nodding in greeting. Rey looked much better, some rosiness had made its way back to his cheeks and navy blue eyes had regained some of their splendor.
" Place looks great." He said as he observed that his many papers had been collected and placed in practical order and his guns lined up against the wall. Ara grinned in pride at his compliment and turned to the other guys," Thank you for bringing him here, it was so nice of you." She said," I made some soup if you want to stay."
They waved her off," Nah, we have to go, but thanks for the invite." Dane said with a wink," If you need anything give us a holler, we're right down the hall."
"Thanks guys, I really appreciate it." Rey answered from the couch. Brix saluted him," Thanks for saving us. We owe you one." Dane and Brix headed out the door and said their goodbyes. When the door was closed, Ara stepped towards the stove," You want something?" She asked, eyeing her charge. He shook his head, pain had started to come around again and he was tired and ready to sleep a bit. Ara read this in his eyes and understood; she knew the feeling. Ara walked over to him a knelt down in worry," Are you alright?" She asked, feeling his forehead. He pushed her hand away and gave her a smile," I'm fine, Ara. The pain medicine is just wearing off is all." Rey eyed the small darkness under her usually vibrant eyes and frowned," You need to rest, Ara. You're working yourself incredibly too-" He stopped and a hand went to his chest. A coughing fit seized him and The tightening from the stitches and the contracting of the muscles made the pricking pain unbearable.
Ara grabbed his hand and told him to calm down and take a few deep breaths. Seeing him in this state still scared her. She was used to the soldier boy who was always the strong one and bounced back without a hitch. But seeing him bent over, shaking and groaning in pain showed her that even some guardian angels are mortal.
" Do you need me to get a doctor?" She asked as he finished his spell. Rey violently shook his head," I've had enough of doctors."
" Alright then, I'm getting you to your bed." She decided and placed one of his arms around her neck. Rey felt the room spin as he was slowly and weakly lifted from the couch. He felt like he needed to say something, but his words only came out in a slur of language. All he felt was her warmth against him, radiating through him. It made the pain lessen to something of a tolerable threshold. Rey fell forwards slowly, groping for the mattress and he mumbled under his breath that beds were a gift from above. His vision was clearing and Ara came into view once more. Her smile looked down upon him in a motherly fashion and the blanket that was in her hands was thrown gingerly over him.
" Thank you." He whispered hoarsely, truly grateful that she was there. Then he realized that she had no where to sleep for the night," Here," he said drowsily, raising himself up from the bed; only to be pushed firmly yet gently back into the mattress.
" Quiet, and rest. I'll be fine." Ara assured him. Rey nodded and closed his eyes. Ara walked out of the room towards the kitchen where the couch was so she could rest too. But, one thing stopped her dead in her tracks.
" I'm glad you're here." She heard Rey mumble. Ara felt tears come to her eyes, what he said was unexpected, she had never had anyone say that to her before and definitely not under the circumstances. She bit her lip before replying:
" So am I."
With that, Ara grabbed a flimsy extra blanket and plopped down on the couch. She didn't exactly go to sleep that night. Instead, she stared at the leaky ceiling for hours, wondering what would happen if the Democracy would find her. What they would do her as well as Rey. Harboring a fugitive child of a Supersoldier was something that did not bode well for people- especially not rebels. Ara fought back a sob, because of her, Rey was in the biggest danger he could ever be in. And that night, one single word ran and ran through her mind as it was chased by the thought of Rey dying because of her:
Two choices plagued Ara unbeknownst to Rey. In fact, he couldn't tell. All he knew was that he was healing nicely and that Ara was safe and she was sound. She was always in his sight, either she was cleaning his wound or cleaning up. He wished to help her, but she was always making him lay down on the couch or on the bed. He loved to watch her move around. She was light on her feet and moved gracefully from place to place as if she had the gift of flight. Her hair had gotten longer and flowed to her hips now, her figure was healthier and her complexion glowed a healthy rose pink. It was like she wasn't human, he shook his head with a knowing chuckle, they had figured that out by now. That day was unnaturally sunny and warm for the month of January and feeling the warm that radiated through the only window in the apartment made Rey feel like he was a new man. Ara was already up, sewing a few holes up in the few shirts Rey possessed. He turned to the clock on the wall: 7:00 am.
He grabbed his cane and rose from the sheets and walked out, smiling as he saw the creature in front of him. She was calm, quiet and focused. Her hair draped in a tail along her arm and her eyes bent on the needle in her fragile hand.
" Morning." He said quietly. Ara lifted her head, her eyes bathed in the morning light. She grinned," Good morning."
He limped over to her and sat on the couch, watching her hands stick the needle into the cotton with sharp and effecient precision.
" How come you do that so well?" He asked.
" Mom taught me.'' She answered quietly. Rey lost his smile slowly as he could hear the greif in her voice drip onto him. He placed an arm over her slightly trembling shoulders. He had forgotten that Ara hadn't been there forever, he forgot that she had a family at the beginning of the year. She was susceptible to grief and fear, but he was there and Ara knew it.
Ara leaned against Rey carefully as thoughts about her dark haired mother came into view. Her smile and laugh was what stood out the most, she reminded her of Rey in a way. The fierce love that they both had for her made her feel safe, but then she was reminded that fierce love wasn't always invincible.
" You know," she began," you remind me a lot of my mom."
Rey raised an eye brow," How so?"
" Well, her eyes were your color eyes, and her nose was squinted when she laughed," she poked his nose," just like yours. She was dark haired, but it was straight as a board and frizzed up in the summer time. Momma hated that." Then Ara laughed, remembering the day her sisters played a trick," One time, my sisters pulled one of mom's plugs in her bathroom for her flat iron and filled the room with helium. Mom couldn't talk for days without us laughing our heads off, and dad....." She broke off as her giggle ceased and lips lowered to a frown. She felt Rey close another arm around her," It's okay," he said in a whisper," you don't need to talk."
Ara cleared her throat and continued," No, I need to talk about this."
Rey thought for a second," Alright. What was your dad like?"
The girl gave a small nostalgic smile," He was tall, smart. H-he was strong." She mumbled," He made mom laugh until her sides hurt. He could run like heck where ever he went." She sighed," And he was brave, insanely brave. No one was braver than my dad. I always wanted to be like him."
" You kinda are like him- in a way." Rey interjected. Ara looked at him confused," How?" He tugged at her blonde locks," You certainly didn't get this from your mother."
Ara chuckled," You're right. He did have blonde hair like mine."
" You're brave." Rey said quietly, looking at his hands.
Ara stopped, facing him, she gave him a look of awe," Brave?"
Rey nodded," Yeah, you're brave. I mean, what fourteen year old girl has the bravery to bind up a bleeding and sphycotic soldier who was screaming hailmary? Or crawl fifty feet with a slug lodged in her intestines away from a burning ranch. Ara, I don't think you know how brave you really are." He pursed his lips," You're like a supersoldier in yourself."
Ara stood," You saw me?"
" I-I did. I saw you laying there in the woods, I didn't think I would find anyone alive. They demolished that place, it was like they wanted it comepletely destroyed or something." He stood next to her," But I found you and I am sure as heck happy I did."
"Why were you happy, Rey? I could have cost you your life. Maybe you should have left me for dead..." Ara answered, rubbing her arms sadly.
He pulled her chin up gently so her beautiful eyes would be looking into his," I did it because....because-" He had no clue this was going to be hard to get out, but he took a breath and said it more calmly than he thought he would," I love you, Ara."
The words startled her. Ara didn't know what to say at first, she just became rigid in his arms like stone and lips drawn into a straight line.
" But not like you think." He began, he sat back down on the couch and eyed her," It's not a fleeting emotion, it's more like something complex that has many folds and creases to it. I respect you, you're like one of my guys- except that you're..."
" A girl." She suggested, not fully understanding. He nodded," Yeah. You're my friend- more like a sister really and I'd do anything for you. I-I don't know to explain it well. I just know that I love...you."
He watched her start to pace around the small fifteen foot room and think about what he said. Rey had no idea that what he said was tearing Ara apart like bear claws pulling at her skin. She groaned inwardly, what he said made her decision harder, but so much clearer. Before Rey could get another word out, Ara had flung herself onto him with her arms gripping him desparately.
" I love you too, Rey. I... love you too." She whimpered, feeling his forehead sink into her shoulder. Time had seemed to stop as they sat in that apartment with arms entangled. it was nice, soothing and calming for both survivors, but in the inward turmoil that raged on in Ara did not cease, it only grew stronger as the clock's second arm ticked away slowly. She nodded, Ara knew what she had to do in order to keep Rey exactly where he was: safe.
It was dark the night that Ara had picked for her devised plan to take action, and Rey was sleeping silently beside her. In the weeks since their little moment, they had opted to share a bed because it had gotten colder and Ara had been having night terrors for the past few nights. She lay quiet with eyes glued open and staring at the doorway that led to the kitchen. Ara moved the covers from her body to display Rey's borrowed apparel that she was able to get the afternoon prior. Calmly, Ara stood and left the room, closing the door behind her. She flipped the light switch on a dim, buzzing light flickered to life. Out of one of the drawers Ara drew the knub of a pencil and a scrapped piece of paper and began to write her reason for leaving. It took a few sighs, tears, and several minutes to write and rewrite, but soon enough the deed was complete. She rose from the counter and folded the paper and returned to where the sleeping boy lay. He was on his side, shaggy hair swept on the pillow underneath his head. His eyes covered by his pale eyelids, flitted and fluttered while he dreamed. Ara smiled, taking it in because she knew that this was the last time she would ever see him... her angel. She bent over him and placed a small kiss on his cheek, almost venturing for his lips but dared not to wake him. His cheek was rough with stubble, but it calmed her racing heart greatly. Ara placed the letter in an opening in the mattress and left the room as quickly as she could before she felt the hot acidic tears drain from her honey colored eyes. It was freezing out there as she stepped outside the military compound and the night was cloudy with snow filled clouds. She knew exactly where she was headed and placed her feet in the direction of her old home.
" They're out there." Ara thought, making her feet race back to the ranch," They're looking for me."
Yes, they were looking for her. They had let one supersoldier out and this is what happened, not just one offspring, but several! All dead, except for one, the smallest and the easiest to kill, but Ara had evaded them for months now. How? They had no clue, but they were set on finding her- and destroying her. Ara was a threat, though now- they guessed- she was only fifteen. But even a small lick of flame can cause a massive explosion. Ara rubbed her hands together as the frost bit at her lips, the Democracy would have their way, but they couldn't have her angel. She didn't know what they would do to her, but she expected to die. But she didn't really care, even though she was terrifed.
" I don't want to die." Said a voice in her head," Go back to Rey, no one can find you with him."
" But what if I am found? They'll kill them all and torture Rey. I know that they will. What I am doing is for the best."
" You are rare, Ara. You could win this rebellion, but you think you must be a martyr for the cause."
" I'm protecting who I love." She answered, wind and snow flurries screaming at her through the pine forest. She was only half a mile from home now and the sun was just peaking over the edges of the horizon. The voice sighed, " You try too hard to be-"
" Brave." She mouthed," I am brave." This quieted the voice and said no more. Then she heard voices, but they were not in her head. They were soldiers- and not the nice ones.
" Keep looking! She must have come back, you stop and I'll shoot every last one of you!" Spat a gruff and rancid voice. The sound of mumbling and shouting came to her ears and light from lamps and fires stung her eyes as they attempted to get used to it. Ara hid behind a few trees for another moment before stepping out and gaining their attention," I'm right here." She called out through the snow. They stopped and looked in her direction. Her hair had come loose and shown like gold in the light of the fire. She walked forward slowly and gaining more and more confidence that she had no idea that she had.
" I am the daughter of 869215." She stopped before the largest man," I am the one you're looking for." She was knocked off her feet and bound with tight chains. Her vision doubled and pain seeped behind her eyes, but she didn't cry out, only let them carry her away towards a truck. She thought of Brix, Dane and Rey and how much they meant to her, but especially Rey.
" I love you, Ara." She heard Rey whisper in the back of her mind as she was thrown roughly into the bed of a truck and carted away. The blood dripped into her eyelashes as everything began swim.
" I love you, Rey.."
Rey jumped from the bed in finding that Ara was no longer sleeping beside him," Ara? " He called, running into the hall. He felt his heart drop, she was no where be found, not even Brix and Dane knew where the girl had gone. He pushed past his buddies and out into the freshly fallen snow and groaned. Ara's footsteps were seen clearly on the path to the woods," No, Ara, no!" He yelled out, falling to his knees. Brix caught him," Go inside, Rey. We have the whole compound looking for her. She'll be fine. " He assured his stricken friend. Rey went back inside and rung his shirt, he shook his head. Rey knew that something wasn't right, Ara was in trouble.
" God please let her be okay..."
Brix, Dane and the rest of the men searched for Ara, but found no trace, except for one. Dane had stepped on it as he searched for her in the remains of the old ranch and saw the footsteps and blood on the ice crystals. He felt anger come to his lips as he picked up a single emerald ribbon from the muddy snow; it was a gift Rey had given to Ara for her birthday only a few weeks ago. The older boy cursed as he held the ribbon tightly in his hand," What is it, Dane?" Asked Brix, running up to his comrade. Dane gritted his teeth, ribbon flying in his hand," It's Ara, she's not coming home..."
" You don't mean-"
" That's exactly what I mean, Brix!" He shouted," The girl is dead! She's not coming back." He fell to his knees as he shook his head," Ara is gone..."
" I am afraid I can confirm that, sir." Said a shaky voice. Both men looked up as a one of the younger soldiers pointed to a pile of rubble just at the edge of trees. Dane ran over to it and felt a wave of nausea hit him hard. It was her, the lovely little girl that had brightened up his buddies' lives. He groaned as he placed a hand over his mouth, " The bastards..."
Ara had felt pain, scorching hot pain as they mangled her, but the fatal wound was a knife to the chest, now frozen in her thoracic cavity. She was burned, hair pulled out, leaving scrapes and holes in her delicate skull. Lips were busted, but her eyes were still intact and staring into heaven," My gosh..." He muttered, taking her severed hand in his. She was gone, minutes before the rebels had found her. The Democracy had won the game, they got what they wanted. Ara was dead. To Dane, her eyes were filled with fire, power and hope- something he didn't have.
" We'll finish this, Ara." He whispered to the body," We'll get them for what they did to you." Dane turned to Brix, " Tell the men to carry her home, I have to tell Rey." He said, choking on the lump in his throat. Brix only nodded and turned to his men, rolling out dazed orders for them to complete and follow.
Dane was the one to give the ribbon back to Rey. At first, the black haired soldier couldn't belive it and demanded to see proof," You can't see her. I barely recognized her if it weren't for-"
" Her eyes... " Rey choked, " They were always different, made her who she was."
Dane nodded, placing a heavy hand on the young man's shoulder, then pulled out a small chain with a small piece of metal on it," She had your dogtag in her hand." he cleared his throat," You were on her mind the whole time." With that Dane left , leaving Rey alone. He forced his eyes down at the dog tag in his hand, it was bloody and blackened as if it were burnt with something. He raised his eyes to the now clear blue sky outside his window," Ara..." He couldn't say anything else if he didn't want to burst out into sobs. Soldiers didn't do that. But then again, he was human and humans have every right to cry. Rey cupped his head in hands, falling to the floor, he sobbed. His world had just crashed with the death of his little friend. Rey didn't know what to think, he didn't even want to think. He shook his fist," I want her back, God!" He yelled, " I want her back... I want... Ara back..."
" It's been a decade." Rey sighed, standing before the marble tablet that marked Ara's grave," Ten years since you-" He put a fist to his lips, he still couldn't say the word," I miss you, ya know? Every night I still wonder what it would be like it you stayed. You would have been twenty four, I'm twenty eight now, married with a baby girl." He gave a small smile, " She's got your eyes, Ara. I didn't know that was possible, but in her, I see you." He looked up into the evening sky, it was plumb colored and the leaves had started to drop of the trees as small gusts of autmn wind blew past him. He looked at her name," We named her after you. Rose thought it would be a good idea since you were such a big part of my life back then. Don't get me wrong, you still are, just not in the way I thought." He cleared his throat," I might have married you when you were older, who knows, we could have been a couple." He stopped, then laughed," Nah, you wouldn't have been able to handle me, I'm too much nowadays." The wind pricked at his eyes as he blinked, small droplets formed under his eyes as he bit back sadness that welled up in his heart," Because of you we won. I uh... I never thanked you for that. You got the medal of courage once we figured out what happened. You could have told me that you were the daughter of a supersoldier. I could have done something about it." He hiccuped a sob, blinking in the setting light of the sun," I want you back, sweet girl. I would trade the world for you to be back with Rose, Ara... and me." He leaned forward and placed a quivering hand on the headstone and kissed it longingly," I love you Ara, I always have, I always will." He finished with placing a white rose on the grass before the stone. He stood and put his hands in his overcoat pockets. Rey's eyes traced the words that were engraved underneath her name:
Here lies the girl of hope and fire.
He gave a sad grin, that was her. His Ara, she would always be his no matter who came into his life or who left it. He left that day and remained on a steady routine of visiting her on the anniversary that he had found her so many years ago. She would always be his no matter who came into his life or who left it. Ara Bankston would never stop being his Angel.
" Dear Rey,
You don't know me well enough to know all my secrets and I'm glad you don't. For some reason though, you took a shine to me. I am forever grateful you did, you showed me that there can be life...even in death. Your friendship has meant a lifetime to me and I will forever be indebted to you for your love and kindness. I am sorry... so sorry that I am running off with now explanation. But I was afraid if I woke you, you would stop me and the brief amount of courage and selflessness I feel now would fail me. I didn't want to have to look you in the eyes and tell you I would never see you again. You'll probably see me when I'm gone, but I hope you don't. The Democracy will have no mercy on my body, making it unrecognizable. I do not fear death. That is why I have zero regrets in leaving you- though it saddens me to the deepest pits of my heart. I have a good reason as to why: I am protecting you. I love you, Rey. And watching you being tortured at the hands of the Democracy would kill me. I'd rather sacrifice myself in the stead of thousands than watch you and others die before my eyes as I await my own execution.
I have always wanted to tell you this, but I have come to find out that I am better at expressing myself through paper than my own voice. You are a hero, Rey... you're an absolute angel. Unearthly in every good way imaginable. Because you saved me that day, the Rebellion shall be won and peace will be created once more. I hold inside me a vital part of technology that the Democracy is terrified of. But, they do not know where it is. If I die, it detonates the self destruct button on the main manufacturing sight for DSS. Please understand, if I did not have this technology inside me, I would stay here with you. But since I do, it would be selfish of me not to win the war for the good people of the Revolution. That is why I must finish what my father started. Rey, do not cry or grieve over me. I am a soldier just like you. It's my line of work, to die in someone else's place. You told me that once. It's my job to protect you. Trust me... I know what I am doing. Move on, but please, do not forget me. Keep me alive- somehow. I want to live, but only in memory. Tell our story, Rey. Tell people about the time I was in the arms of an Angel... MY own Angel.
" You know..." Rey's old voice breathed as his arthritic hands folded the old and torn letter," I'm glad I was your angel ."