Jasper spent the rest of the day alone, dealing with the flashbacks that had been plaguing him all day. He'd been trying to avoid thoughts about Abby for nearly a year now, and had gotten pretty good about it, though he never could forget what happened to get him sentenced to a lifetime patrolling tunnels, never seeing the sunlight. Still, he couldnt imagine what would cause them to spring up so suddenly, and unbidden.
After hours of wandering restlessly, the camp quieted down, and Jasper decided that perhaps a bath would be good to clear his head. The bath cavern was always peaceful at night, with the moonlight filtering down through the crystals, dying the room blue and green. As Jasper stumbled down the hallway, suddenly exhausted, he noticed the symbol in the dirt floor, the triangle with the vertical line through it, his and Layla's symbol. Layla was inside. Avoiding thoughts about the first night he saw her inside, Jasper sat down to wait for her to be finished, as it had become their custom. It was no longer a surprise to see each other each night, just sitting beside the door, waiting for the other to be finished.
Jasper didnt have to wait long before he heard a terrible cry from inside.
"Layla!" He yelled, panicking, as he lurched to his feet to come to her rescue. "What happened?" She was laying on the floor, fully clothed, but scrabbling at her back, as if trying to rid herself of something. He put a hand on her shoulder gently, keeping her still. "Layla?" What had happened? Jasper moved around to see her face.
"My back..." She whispered. Jasper snatched his hand away from her shoulder, scanning the back of her shirt for signs of damage. There were none on the shirt, but there were specks of blood appearing on it now, along the line which her scars lay. Before he could talk himself out of it, Layla was in his arms. He carried her as carefully and quickly as he could to the hospital cavern. Silently, he loved how she unconsciously curled into him, resting her head on his shoulder as he carried her, but he shoved those thoughts to the back of his mind, she was in pain and getting that pain to stop was the important thing to consider.
He set her down gently on a hospital bed, ironically the same one Jasper had been patched up on just the night before. Layla looked around and her eyes said she recognized her surroundings, but she said nothing.
"I think you split one of your scars. There's blood." Jasper explained quickly, using a clipped, matter-of-fact tone he usually saved for Zane. "I'd patch it up myself, but I think it's if I get Sonja." Jasper knew how to mend cuts and bruises, like most of the resistance did, he could even give someone stitches if necessary, but Sonja was the best healer in the
camp and she'd know exactly what to do. Plus she had magic.
"Please..." Layla barely managed to get out the word. She was losing control, the bloodstain on her shirt was growing now. Jasper looked down at his own hands and saw blood there too. He did not pause long before running to get Sonja.
Ceri's cave was not too far from the medic cave, for good reason. Jasper barely paused to knock respectfully before charging in.
"Sonja, Layla's in danger. Her back, I--" Sonja was by his side in an instant. Ceri didnt argue, he barely woke up, and Jasper thought he heard him snoring once again as the door closed softly.
Jasper lead Sonja to Layla's bedside. Sonja was immediately awake as she spotted Layla.
"What happened?" She asked, all business.
"I think her scars ripped..." Jasper muttered. He knelt beside Layla, wanting to take her hand or something, but satisfied himself with staring at her, as she curled into a ball, her knees pulled protectively nearly up to her chest. Tears poured from her eyes, silently.
Sonja glanced at him, skeptically, but all she said was: "Layla, I'm going to take a look. Jasper, give us some privacy?" Blushing, Jasper left the room quickly, but took a station just outside the door. He stood with his feet braced, he took out his knife and began to fiddle with it, keeping an eye out for a non-existent enemy.
"Jasper, no!" Ceri hissed, trying to grab Jasper's clothes with one hand. Jasper avoided his grasping fingers and ran towards the man who threatened Abby. Within seconds, he was surrounded by soldiers on all sides, brandishing intensely sharp weapons.
"Let her go!" Jasper shouted, and the man just grinned, a horrible, deaths head grin.
"You're a strong one," He said, entering the circle of soldiers. "So she's yours is she?"
Jasper kept his mouth shut, trying to contain his anger. He reached for his knife, carried in its hidden sheath, but when he got it out, the man didnt bother to swing a blade, or order the soldiers to attack, instead, he kicked the knife out of Jasper's hand, and then aimed another one at his ribs. The steel toed boot made contact and all of Jasper's air came out of his lungs in whoosh. He couldnt take it back...
"Jasper?" Sonja called. "You can come back inside." Jasper shook his head to clear it, and entered the cave. He hovered near the entrance, nervous. "Jasper, make sure she gets back to her cave without fainting will you? I'll clear up here." Sonja said. Jasper nodded.
"Thank you, Sonja, I--" he began, but Sonja stopped him as Layla hugged her carefully, and walked out of the cave. Jasper followed, carefully keeping an eye on her, if there was any evidence of Layla losing her footing, he would be able to catch her before she fell. After passing through a few tunnels, Layla's footsteps got slower and she dragged her feet. Jasper kept pace with her, monitoring her gait, and watching her eyes blink slower and slower.
"Will Sonja's medicine work?" He asked, not particularly talking to Layla. He hoped it would.
"I don't want it.... to stop me... fighting." Layla managed to say mid-yawn.
"Fighting?" Jasper asked. So she had decided to accept Zane's offer.
"Zane... he told me he would train me. Ceri asked him to." Layla continued, she was barely awake now. Her eyes would not stay open for longer than a second. Suddenly she stopped, and Jasper almost bumped into her, he barely avoided the mishap as she smiled at him, opening her eyes for just a second. "Thank you..." She said quietly, Jasper could barely make it out. "Goodnight Jasper."
"Goodnight Layla," He whispered in reply, as she walked inside. Jasper could feel it coming as the door closed. This time he shoved the memory away, walking quickly down the hall, through tunnels and around corners, until, somehow, he found himself back in front of the bath cave.
"Might as well do what I came here to do." He muttered, entering the cave, leaving the mark on the floor where it remained from earlier. He undressed quickly, but left the bandages over the sword cut in place. He slipped into the water and sank in, sitting on the bottom so the water was up to his neck, letting the warmth undo his tense muscles and wash the blood of his hands, both literally, and figuratively.
Abby looked at Jasper. Her blood poured from several wounds. She wouldnt make it back to the resistance. Around them, four other members of the team lay, already gone. Ceri stood above the two, keeping an eye on the gates of the city, closed and dark. All the soldiers had retreated.
"Jasper, we need to go now if we're to make it back to the resistance." Ceri said.
"No!" Jasper said, grasping Abby's hand as her breathing grew fainter.
"Go, Jasper... We had a fun ride, now you have to live to beat the Emperor once and for all..." She dragged in a huge breath. "Give the report to the leader... Tell him we did good... Tell him, that its not your fault." With that last breath, she was gone, her eyes slowly shutting for the last time.
Jasper didnt move, for several seconds, before Ceri's hand came down and grabbed him by the collar, pulling him back to their horses. Ceri cut the other's loose, taking two, he pushed Jasper onto one, and tied him to the horse. Tying the reins to the other horse's saddle, Ceri led their small, defeated party back to the gates of the resistance...