Bridling Fire:8Mature

When people change, you expect it to be dramatically slow and require a lot experiences to happen.  Not for me, apparently; my change came just like that.  A little click inside of me.


I was someone else, it felt like.  I still felt powerful and aggressive and stubborn and fierce, but I no longer felt the light-hearted need to be sarcastic and witty.  I felt... Tired.  Emotionally tired.  Too tired to laugh or speak.  The feeling did not leave as I turned Momentum around, did not leave as I walked him back to that clearing, which was now full of tense people readying tense horses.  Certainly did not leave when I saw Gage talking to Rae, who gave me her most practiced smirk.  Gage looked physically as tired as I was mentally.

Felix noticed something was up immediately, but I ignored him as he approached me, Crossfire following curiously.

"Riders," I barked, dismounting.  I walked slowly through the pretty significant crowd of horses and teenagers.  I spoke slowly and clearly.  "This territory is evidently not ours.  At least our rivals have the same goals as we do, if I guess correctly, or at least they're not out trying to get us and bring in our heads for bounty."  I let my gaze wander.  As I expected, it found Gage; he looked surprised at the fury and borderline loathing that must have shown through my eyes.

"Riders," I said again.  My voice was normal, almost quiet; it was completely silent in the clearing.  I did not look away from the boy who had so suddenly ended my childhood views.  "Move out."

Momentum was behind me, of course.  Again, I had no problem mounting up independantly.  I would have been proud, if I had been capable of feeling anything positive right then.  Instead, I dully noted my victory and nudged Momo into a run.

At first we took our original trail, going back down the mountain, but we eventually found other deer trails and started traveling roughly West.  Alex and I discussed in detail where we would go when we camped that night; we both agreed on continuing toward the ocean, to see if the ports marked on his map were real and what treasures we could get from that sort of place.  We talked late into the night, and when I finally returned to my tent, I was not terribly pleased to find Felix waiting for me by the entrance.

"I'm going to sleep.  If you talk I'm going to ignore you, and if you don't go away I'm going to shoot you."

He raised his eyebrows as I passed him into my tent.  He followed me, but my only concern was that the flap was closed as I peeled off my shirt and riding pants and tossed them aside.  I had underwear on, and Felix and I had known each other for a significant amount of time.  I did not expect him to do anything, nor did I care at all that he saw.

So, for the third time that day, I was surprised when he put his hand on my bare shoulder.  I tensed.

"I told you I'm going to sleep.  I don't care what you want," I growled.

"Something happened," he said quietly.  "I want to know what happened.  I haven't heard a sarcastic remark out of your trap for almost half a day, let alone a shocking ten minutes."

I did not react.  "I didn't hear anything that required a stupid comment."

"Lyric, everything to you requires a stupid comment -"

"Get out."

"I'm not letting this go.  I'm wor-"

I turned around and slapped him.

Felix's eyes widened, then hardened.  He turned and left without a word.  I felt the strong urge to call him back, but did not act on it; he had not listened to me and I had to myself clear.

That was all.

I collapsed into bed but lay awake, cursing Felix for stealing away my ability to sleep by putting more unneeded thoughts into my already feuding mind.

When the sky began to grey, I still had not slept.  I was furious at myself.  This is not some stupid teenager's game, I told myself.  You do not get to stay up all night just because you can.  You should have at least tried.

But I hadn't, and I found that I didn't care as I got up, dressed, and left my tent.

Momentum was still dozing, but I noticed that Crossfire was gone.  I didn't wonder for long, however; seconds after it had crossed my mind, the mare appeared around one of the larger trees, Felix on her back.  She was walking.  Even if he was angry, Felix was smart enough not to run his horse in the middle of the night while the team had a significant amount of ground to cover the next day.  He probably hadn't even been gone long.

I pretended he wasn't there and busied myself weaving my fingers into the sleepy Momentum's mane.  After a minute, I looked up; the camp was too silent, and I hadn't heard Felix move past and into the ring of tents.  I turned around.

And almost screamed; Felix's dark figure was right friggin' being me, standing unmoving and expressionless.

"Don't do that," I snarled.

"I told you I wasn't going to let it go."

"What the hell do you care, anyway?  Why is this so important to you?  So I'm depressed, big deal, it tends to happen when you're sixteen and a girl and completely alone in this stupid world."

I involuntarily touched my face, scaring myself when I realized it was wet.  I swore.  I hadn't cried since That Night, and I certainly hadn't been planning on breaking my streak any time soon.  What the hell was wrong with me?

Felix definitely looked confused as he reached out and touched my face as well; he looked kind of uncomfortable.  

"You're not alone, Lyric..." he started.

"Just leave me alone," I said.  "I never showed that I cared for you, did I?  What do you owe me that makes you so interested in why I can't smile anymore?"

"You saved my life, kept me alive since, lead me, respected me, trusted me and treated my like I was sane."

Wow.  Was not expecting that.

"I want to know what happened because I want you to feel like you have choices.  You can't deal with problems when they're only inside your head, you know.  They tangle themselves up and lead you to a dead end."  He paused.  He was standing really close and I had to admit I felt a little bit comforted and the tiniest bit flattered.  "There are no choices when you're at a dead end.  You have no willpower against yourself.  I know perfectly well how a teenager's mind works."

Holy shit, he was right.  So, maybe my sense of humor had been pretty noticably absent.  That didn't mean I had to feel like I wanted to die.  It would just be kind of boring.  A lot boring, actually.  Things would be black and white and shades of gray, and...

There it was again.  Dead end.  

"Intelligence is the most torturous binding a human has to endure.  That, and society's stupid unspoken rules."  I last part was more audible and less serious, but I still barely heard myself saying the words.

"That should be quoted," said Felix, and without warning he wrapped his arms around me in a bear-hug.
I almost fell asleep right then and there, both from knowing that Felix actually cared and also the fact that his arms were really friggin' comfortable.  Neither of us moved, and I must have actually fallen asleep because when I next opened my eyes, I was in my tent and there was light and it smelled like food and morning.

My conversation with Felix had not actually changed anything much.  I still seemed to have lost all hope in the bright side of being human in this time period, and my thoughts were only slightly less jumbled than the night before.  However, as long as I kept reminding myself that when I came to a dead end, it was all just a tangled mess, it was a little easier to bear.  

But Felix still didn't know what the hell was on my mind.

Over the next few days, as we climbed at an angle over the mountains and towards the ocean that the map promised us, Felix and I stayed up late talking.  We talked about everything; how he, at age ten, had found his brother drunkenly beating his seven-year-old  sister near the frozen river and flung himself furiously into the fight.  His brother was seventeen, and while Felix was very close to being able to beat him while he was in his drunken state, it hadn't been much of a struggle to force the boy to the edge of the water where the ice was thin and push him under.  It hadn't been a dangerously long time that Felix had been in the water, but obviously it wasn't pleasant, either.  He told me he didn't remember exactly how he had gotten out of that scrap, but did know for sure that his brother had managed to go under as well and either drown or freeze to death.  It was doubtless a very painful topic, but he didn't seem too uncomfortable discussing it with me.

I, in turn, told him about my events with Jacie and following escape on That Night.  Felix listened silently as I described my mother's broken rage and tear-ravaged face.  He could tell that I remembered every detail.
We never seemed to run out of things to talk about, but I knew I had a limited amount of time before the subject came to Gage and his unintentional crushing of my optimism.  

It was the sixth night of travel that I finally told him about it.  It was dark, and for the past day we had finally begun the descent down the mountain.  That morning, standing on the highest point we could find, Kylar and I had been able to glimpse the glistening blue-gray flatness of the ocean.

At that point, I didn't really care that Felix heard the stupid reason for my lack of immature wit.  We didn't much care what the other knew by then.  We were both aware that it wouldn't change anything, that we'd still be stuck together until who knows when or who knows what will happen to the Riders.  Or until one of dies or something.

"That was an impressive fight," Felix started.  "You finished him in a second.  I had a knife to my gut after a few minutes; I wasn't terribly proud."

"Yeah.  You've heard how long I've had to know how to do that."

"I know.  And... I know we're getting to that topic, but I really do want to know what happened.  You were fine, so completely you when you left to find the horses, and you came back, and you were... Different."

I sighed.  I really didn't want to cry again, but I figured it was kind of likely to happen.

"I know.  I just... The guy, Gage, the one I knocked out.  He brought to light something so completely innocent that it totally ruined what bright views I had of the world..."  I trailed off.

"He just said something, then?"

"Yes," I said.  "He found me and told me he was impressed by how I had taken him out.  I was surprised, and we exchanged a few words, and throughout it all I didn't smile because I was still kind of suspicious of him, you know?"  I paused.  "And then he said, 'you don't smile.  Isn't the world funny to you?' and for some reason that made me really mad.  I think it reminded me of my eye and how the world does things like that to you when you least expect it.  And then when I rode off after that, I kept thinking, 'well, what the hell is so funny about the world anyway?  What's the point of a sense of humor or lightness if the world doesn't have anything to...well, brace it against, you know? It's just a cruel and humorless place filled with cruel and humorless people.  What gives me the right to find it funny?"

There was a long silence after that.  We were looking out at the ocean from a rock jutting out from a very steep part of the mountain, quite a way from camp.  Felix was standing, leaned against the rock wall behind him, while I was perched on my haunches next to him.

It was a good ten minutes before he spoke.

"You know, I'm never going to think of the world the same way again.  Or women, for that matter."  When I looked up at him in confusion, he said, "I knew women could be tough, especially women like you.  You're powerful and wild and fierce and beautiful in a totally different way than any other girl in the world.  But I don't think that anyone, man or woman, can think the way you do, Lyric."

I totally blushed, but since it was dark it didn't count.  I also cursed my stupid trap for betraying me what the only thing I managed to say was, "you think I'm beautiful?"

"In your own way."  He seemed a little uncomfortable, almost like he regretted saying it.

"Oh.  Well... Thank you," I said.  "I think.  If I had ever dwelled on the possibility of me being attractive in any way, I would have come to the conclusion immediately that I don't have enough estrogen to be so.  Or motivation.  I'd think one would have to try to be pretty."

To my surprise, Felix burst out in a laugh that was swollowed up by the endless sky.  "Lyric, you'd have to try to manage not to be pretty.  I've never seen a girl pull off a mohawk that well."

I laughed a little bit, too.  "Hey, knock it off.  I'm starting to feel like a girl."

"But I made you laugh," he said.  He had slid down so that he was sitting next to me.  "What's wrong with being a girl?  What's standing in the way of you being a girl for at least one night?"

I immediately thought of all the things he could have been implying.  "Umm," I said.

"Oh."  I thought I could feel him blush.  "I didn't mean that."

"Bet you did.  Pervert."

"Did not!"  He stood up again, and I stood up too; I could feel the discomfort radiating off of him in waves.

"Alright!  Alright, I'm sorry.  I was kidding," I said, poking him in the arm.  It was almost too dark to see him smile, but I think he did.  I think he was still blushing, however.  I felt accomplished.  "I don't even know what you actually meant."

"I meant... Ugh, this is going to get really awkward really fast.  Never mind."

I surprised myself at how disappointed I was.  "It's only awkward if you make it awkward.  Come on, please?  I told you my depression thing.  I won't judge you that much.  I might bite you, though."

Without warning, though I guess I was sort of expecting it, he tilted his head down and kissed me.  His fingers brushed my neck, and, as promised, I bit his lip a little.

The End

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