I could hear someone yelling, but it was so far away, like the sound was underwater. I just couldn't make out the words.
"No... Don't you dare die on me... Aretha!"
There was something of a vast, dark emptiness in my mind, and it was so inviting... I was alredy sinking in, and I could practically feel my body relaxing- all the aches were melting away. It was just like going to sleep. I seeped into the soothing black abyss almost too slowly for my liking.
"If you don't drag yourself back here right now I swear I'll kill your whole family!"
One step deeper into the calm, into the end... And now it covered my shoulders. I left one hand outside; I wanted my fingers to dissapear last. Somehow it was more relaxing that way.
"Aretha! Aretha, please!"
Another moment of beautiful temptation- no more stuggle, no more pain, no more suffering... I allowed my head to slip under. That dull voice faded away... I couldn't hear anymore, and that was nice. I couldn't see, either. Or speak. But that was okay. Why should I need to anyway? I didn't need my senses if I could have true peace. Only my arm was left out of the water. The darkness slid over my elbow, up to my extended wrist... And then stopped. Something was wrong. Why would it stop? Whatever was interfering, I wished it would just go away.
Niccolo didn't bother denying it; he didn't want Aretha to go. He just cared too much. The fact that he cared at all to begin with made it too much- but... How could he explain it? He just couldn't let her die. He wouldn't. Especially not in front of him- not like this. All of it was happening because he wouldn't step in sooner; he was too afraid to start caring, so he forced himself to watch her get hurt, and pretended it didn't bother him. As long as she lived, really, it would be fine. But now he wasn't sure she would. If he had fought by her side to begin with, none of this would be happening. If he hadn't taken the time to get some form of revenge before taking her to safety... If he had been more like her, she wouldn't be choking on her own blood right now.
"Aretha!" He shouted, desperate to reach her. He was healing her as quickly as he possibly could- and he had to admit, this injury was exhausting him much more than he would've liked- but it still wasn't fast enough.
"No... Don't you dare die on me... Aretha!" All this from some ametur assasin off the street. If he had stopped Mevolent from hurting her so badly... If he hadn't made her live through it again... She wouldn't have welcomed the laughter. He knew how easily amused she could be- but despite that, she never would've let it get so out of hand... She was desperate for an escape from the pain, and he knew it. She had let the laughter in, because she wanted to be happy for a moment, no matter the cost.
She wasn't responding. Come on, he scolded himself, think! What's something she would never stop fighting for? "If you don't drag yourself back here right now I swear I'll kill your whole family!" Still nothing. He was still trying to heal her, and he could literally feel her heart faltering, failing, shutting down. He couldn't let this happen... The one person in the world he actually cared about, and he had to let her die? He was never forgiving himself for this one.
Her pulse slowed down. This was it. A few more seconds, and it would be over. She would be dead... "Aretha!" He yelled again. "Aretha, please!" And he was begging. Because what the Hell else could he do? It was like she had forgotten how to fight... Like she had forgotten why she ever did in the first place... And suddently he had an idea. He moved his hand from her shoulder and let it rest on her head. If she couldn't remember why she had to live, he would get inside her head and remind her himself. He leaned forward, brushing his forehead against hers, and forced his way inside her mind...
Not only had the darkness stopped growing around me- someone had actually grabbed my hand. Was that even possible? It shouldn't be. Not unless they were sinking like I was... And then I was being pulled up. How could that be...?
I was dragged out so slowly, it felt like being pulled out of quicksand; first my arm came back up, then, after a considerable effort, my head... And now I was really irritated. I came in here to rest- to finally have releif, and didn't I deserve it? Why couldn't I have a break, just for once? Hadn't I done enough fighting?
The first thing I saw was a black leather coat; if it wasn't so worn out it would have blended in perfectly with the abyss. For some reason it looked familiar... Smelled familiar, too... But I couldn't put my finger on why.
"Aretha," said a dark chocolate voice, "Come on. Climb out. I know you can do it if you want to." It was a soothing sound, also familiar, but I still didn't like it. It wanted me to leave this calm place, and wander back out into chaos.
"Why should I?" I asked stubbornly. At least, it sounded like my voice. I couldn't be sure.
"Because you have people to fight for. Think for a moment. Try to remember. You have parents, and a little brother, and lots of friends." The low, melty voice continued. "There are people doing evil things in the world, and unless you stop them, everyone you love will die." I still didn't want to leave, but it was starting to make more sense; images flashed in my head. Was that what my little brother looked like? It was! He was even more adorable than I remembered. I remembered the cuts on my friend Maralie's face, and the blood in her hair. I had to stop that from happening again.
Now I was trying to drag herself out of the water, but each footstep seemed so heavy. I still couldn't remember who that rich voice belonged to, but whoever it was, he was being incredibly helpful, pulling me up with him every step of the way. And the more I remembered, the harder I tried to escape, the more the edges of the darkness retreated. Eventually, it vanished completely, along with the person who pulled me up. I took a long, deep breath... I had forgotten that I was supposed to breathe. Somehow, the simple function made me feel so free. But I was still tired, so I didn't bother to open my eyes- just drifted off to sleep.