The Walls Of Jericho
Tremendous thanks to Kim for letting me do this RP with her - you rock, Kim! And the title is so perfect.
Wednesday, 24 Sep 2521
Yan Wo Station, Yan Wo
Fury, Blue Sun (Qing Long) system
1630hrs, ship's time
It had been too gorram long. Two and a half days to be precise. Joshua understood needing some time. Prompted by his friendly offer to talk, something dark and hidden had surfaced from Kiera's past. And Kiera had made it crystal clear to him it should stay buried. Fine. But he wasn't about to let her starve to death. What kind of lousy steward would that make him? More importantly, what kind of lousy friend would that make him. And he considered himself Kiera's friend...even if she didn't.
His footsteps echoed hollowly in the corridor leading to Kiera's container. He had dosed himself with Flomoxipan early today, but even so, he could feel emotions roiling in the room ahead. The drugs kept them at a distance, making it impossible to tell what exactly she was feeling, but it was strong. And as if to reflect the inner mood of the woman inside, even the lights in the corridor in front of her door were dimmed and almost dark. As he stood there in front of the door, a small plate of food from lunch in his hands, Joshua took a deep breath. Kiera could be hard to deal with under the best of circumstances - this was not the best of circumstances. He had a battle plan mapped out, but what did Rina always say?
A battle plan never survives first contact with the enemy.
He hated to think of Kiera as the enemy, but he wasn't sure how much of an ally she considered him at the moment. He let the breath go, held the plate with one hand and knocked on the door with a firm rap. "Kiera, it's Joshua. Let me in please. I've brought food."
The wall was rapping. In the dim light of her container, Kiera stirred, her bleary eyes swollen from alternately crying and then staring into the darkness trying to will her ghosts away. She had already emptied three bottles. There were four more to go before she would even try to do more than alternately drink and then lie in a tight ball of misery. No, she told herself. Hallucinate, dream, scream into her pillow, and vitamin shot and then drink and pass out again. She twisted to find the fourth bottle, already opened, already waiting for her. Her palms burned where she had driven her fingernails into them; it made the coolness of the bottle as pleasant as the burn of the liquid against her raw throat. Her befuddled brain remarked about the rap and the voice that followed it. A curse broke her lips. Food?! Who needed gorram food? She started to laugh, softly at first, and then maniacally. "Go the hell away!" she finally managed.
Joshua was first startled and then more than a little scared by Kiera's reply. The laughter sent a dark shiver down his spine. It wasn't quite like anything he had ever heard before. Then came her words and his heart broke at the sound of her voice. Dear God of Faria, what had he opened up here? He pushed the concern down - it wouldn't help here...at least not on the outside. The concern would be his heart's armor, but his friend needed something different here.
Firmly, raising his voice slightly, he called through the door. "You know I'm not going to. You can bury your head in the sand all you want, but I'm not leaving you alone until I know you're not killing yourself in there."
"Ain't dead yet." She twisted herself upright into the corner and gave a fond glance to the revolver on the floor at her side. Five bullets in it still. One gone. The one in Allan's head. A shudder ran through her, causing her to sway back into the wall and cabinet. "I don't need food. Got B-12 shots. Get gone and piss in someone else's ear, Joshua." She swallowed hard. "I'll be fine."
"The hell you will. If I can tell from outside the door, without Reading you, what kind of bei bi shiou ren (pathetic wretch) you've turned into at the moment, then you ain't going to be fine." As with all his high moments of stress, Joshua had started peppering his speech with Mandarin and border slang. B-12 shots and that plentiful supply of alcohol equaled bad news. "Wuo jai jeong yi chi (Let me repeat myself), Kiera. I'm not leaving until you open that gorram door or I'm forced to open it for you."
She was glad she was sitting down. The shrill and helpless laugh made her weak and she was certain that she would have fallen were she standing. Wiping away tears, her voice raspy and harsh, she managed, "You gonna wrestle my door, hero? It's open, it won't fight back much. Be careful of its teeth tho'." She broke into helpless laughter again after another swill of drink.
He got the door open with his free hand but Joshua almost dropped the plate when he saw Kiera. "Jao gao," he murmured under his breath. The circles under her eyes had their own circles and her hair was a stringy mess. The 2...no... 3 empty bottles strewn around suggested she had made a small dent in her liquor cabinet. The way she was drinking from the fourth one in her hands suggested she intended to empty the whole gorram cabinet. And was that a revolver just lying loose on the floor?
Firearms, alcohol, and depression. Joshua hadn't exactly felt on strong footing up to this point, but he felt way out of his league. But he felt responsible for this in some way, although he wasn't sure what he could have done differently.
He walked over towards her and put the plate down nearby her. "B-12 ain't no substitute for real food. Let's get some of this cleaned up and then you can eat. After you eat, if you want to go back to drinking your few remaining brain cells into a stupor, power to you." He started picking up the bottles, on his way toward the revolver. He could at least put that away somewhere out of her sight. He didn't think...that...was her style. Then again, he had thought Kiera was above and beyond this kind of maudlin display. If it had been him in her spot, she would have called him out for weeping his eyes out...for being soft in the middle. As much as he hated seeing her like this, at least it meant she had her own soft middle still left, despite her attempts to pretend it wasn't there.
The click of the revolver cocking was soft. She had drawn her knees to her chest and the well-oiled, well-cared for gun now sat on in her hands, loosely held, but held nonetheless. Her eyes glittered in the dim light, cool and impassive. "Don't want food. Not wild about the stupor either. Just trying to rebuild what wall was torn down. You can clean up and then you can go." Narrowed, her eyes were predatory, appraising. The large man's shirt she wore covered her to her knees, but her legs and feet were bare. "I'm gonna fix it the way I did before. I still got bottle to go, tho'." She gestured towards the door with the weapon. "You tell 'em to leave me be. I'll be out when I'm good n' ready." Her words were slurred, not horribly, but the clear voice was ravaged.
Now what? If it had been anyone else, he might have made an attempt for the gun. But Kiera would shoot him. She might care for him (and he thought she did) but Joshua knew that right now, she didn't want to care for him. Their Botany Bay conversation had made that brilliantly clear. Shooting him would certainly give her a point in the Not Caring column. But he couldn't leave her here armed and drunk. Could he? Maybe a different tack. Of course, this tack might get him shot just as quickly as grabbing for the gun, but he owed Kiera. Taking a chance on getting shot was the least he could do.
She had a trash container and he threw the bottles in there, slowly, one at a time. As each one went in, the loud sound of glass clanking but not shattering echoed through the dim light of the container. "Well, Mi Tian Gohn (shit), I had thought Kiera Sullivan was stronger than this. A problem pops out of her past and instead of facing it head on, she's looking to drown it in a quick flowing stream of liquor. And ignoring the people on board that she could be using to help." He looked her up and down, the smell of whiskey almost as strong as the dark emotions radiating off of her into his brain. "Who knew," he asked disparagingly, "that the person you're meanest to is yourself?"
That earned a smile as dark and cruel as he had ever seen her give. "You can Read people," she said slowly, flavoring each word with exquisite bitterness. "You ever kill anybody you loved, Reader? Kill them with the certain knowledge that you could have just as well wounded them and gotten the same result? Killed 'em because you were young, stupid, and more worried that you had been hurt than caring that dead is dead and you can't take it back?" She watched him with jaundiced eyes, searched his face with a raw question that went far beyond what she had asked. "If you did, could ya ride their soul to hell with your abilities? I know and you know that they never really leave, tho'."
She was messed up, Joshua thought, well beyond his abilities to fix. Christian's presence as a Companion would have been greatly appreciated here, but he was a million miles away. Joshua was on his own.
"Looks to me," he replied sadly, his eyes tightening as they focused in on her face, "that you've not learned anything. Killed instead of wounded? Look at what you're doing to yourself and tell me that you're not aiming to kill your target here too."
Her answer to him was a gentle and mirthless laugh. But the muzzle of the gun lowered a bit. She stared at him when she finished and then threw the gun to the far end of the container before putting her face into her arms on her knees. "Stop standing there and feeling sorry for me! Quit staring at me with those damn puppy-dog eyes like I've wounded you to the quick like a pissant child. Hell, either close the damn door and yell at me or get the hell out and leave me alone!"
Yelling at her wouldn't solve anything. He knew that much. In fact, he was pretty sure it would just make things, since it would just give her another way to punish herself. So that only left him the "Get the hell out" option. But first...
He walked past her towards the back of the container, making sure not to stare at her. When he got there, he picked up the revolver and uncocked it. "I'll get the hell out, but this is coming with me," he said, with a dark calmness in his voice. "I don't want it, but I can't let you have it until you're done doing whatever it is that you think you're doing." He was angry at her. Not for yelling at him but for being so gorram stupid. "Like building walls ever really helps. They always crumble. They always fall. One day maybe you'll stop acting like a buhn dahn (idiot) and let someone help you figure out how to live outside the wall." His voice had raised up without his realizing it, starting to approach yelling.
She just raised her head and watched him. As he began to speak, she struggled to her feet to study him, pulling herself up by sheer will so that she could see him face to face. Ashen and swaying, she leaned against the counter, her lips pulled tight by a cruel, pleased smile as his words flowed over her. "Your words inspire me," she announced once he had finished. "Now you can go back to your dangerously impulsive twit of a girlfriend and your everloving, soft-hearted idiot shipmates and all of you can just have a great big love-in and they can comfort you when you bemourn that you've not been able to fix poor Kiera. But you were able to tear down her walls and save her from her own mistakes. Kindness, you all kill with kindness. I'll be dead saving the Universe out of the last bits of generosity of my heart." Green and cool, her eyes never broke from his face and she shrugged gracefully despite her drunkenness. "But I'll won't be behind walls. My heart and soul will be in my hands for you and everybody else to see." She sighed, giving her head a slight shake. "If you go bug nuts when what in your head breaks free, be happy that Rina and all the others are so soft-hearted. You will be able to enjoy the hurt in their faces as you destroy them. Mine too, if I'm still here." Her words seemed to take the last of her energy; she slumped to the floor like a rag doll.
Her words stung, as they were meant to. But there didn't seem to be anything left to say. She wasn't going to change, at least not right now. He had taken the obvious weapon out of reach, given her some food (if she chose to eat), and cleaned up the room as best he could. He stepped past her near prone body towards the door, the revolver still in his hands, warm from where she had been holding it. When he reached the door frame, he turned around. "Gorram if I'm not the biggest idiot in the Verse because I thought you were worth giving time to!" He started to pull the door shut. As it closed, he left her with a few final words. "And the worse part is that I still think you're worth it!" And the door slammed on Kiera with a solid chunk.
"Jing-tzahng mei yong-duh! (consistently useless)," came the muted, but audible shout from behind the door and then there was silence.