((Warning, chapter may be found depressing without killing anyone off.))
He had never tried so hard to scrub blood off his hands before. He could feel the skin on his knuckles burn with how hard he was scrubbing. Tears mixed with the scalding water from the tap. Everything warm always had to be scalding for him. To remind him he was alive. It had been a burn to remind him of life in the fight that had killed all but one of his friends. A burn that had him fighting still. The burn was always a good burn. Not that he would ever hurt himself on purpose, mind you. At least, he thought he would never hurt himself on purpose. He just needed the burn. Another thing he hated was when his chest felt that tight. He didn't mind a little discomfort now and then, but this was ridiculous. Two people stood in the doorway. They had been there for a while, but they didn't think he had noticed them. They were probably just concerned, and he didn't blame them. Well, he didn't know Perseus, he knew Moineau wouldn't be concerned though. Moineau had a habit of looking out for number one. Charles was constantly concerned for him though. In a way it was both flattering and annoying. "How long before we have to go back to France?"
Charles jumped. "Uh...as soon as possible..."
"Am I allowed to define that as I wish?"
"Mevolent's men know we're still in Australia. They almost certainly know which hotel we're in. Dressed like that, you're not exactly the most inconspicuous person in the world."
Jasmin grunted. His friend came over and tutted, shutting off the water. "Hey!"
"Jasmin, that was too hot."
"Shut up, you don't know."
"If it blisters the skin like that, it's too hot."
He mumbled something morosely as he cradled his burnt hands. Charles turned and shut Perseus out, bolting the door and returning to his friend's side. "Jas. Look at me."
"Emeveiller's disappeared now..."
"She's gone home. She's taken Alice's body to avoid any awkward questions. It's hard enough on her. On both of you...it will be hard on Cadence too, when she finds out..."
"Cadence?" He gave a slight laugh. "I haven't spoken to her in an age...she might be dead. After the vampire thing, I mean. More than likely. Anyone I get attached to dies."
"That's part of why I'm detached...everyone but you died when we faced Vehemence and Repine and McMooney...You weren't even my best friend back then. You were just the one who acted bodyguard to anyone who needed it. Jalousie was my best friend back then. You became the best because you were the only one left, and you're just as annoying as ever!"
"I'm not going to take anything you say here personally."
"Oh, that will be a first. When I decided I liked your sister, you took that personally. When we split, you took that personally, I made a damn comment about my taxes that you took offence to once...you take everything personally!" He pressed his back to the wall and sort of slid down onto his bottom. Charles waited for a minute or so, hoping it would give his friend a chance to cool down a little, and sat beside him, drawing him in for a hug.
"You're not the only one who has suffered losses."
"I know. They were your friends too. Alice was your niece. I know, I get it, I'm aware...but this wouldn't have happened to her if I wasn't such a reckless idiot! If...she was only seven, for God's sake!" He curled up, keeping his arms out in front of him as his hands began to really hurt.
"Your reckless ways were put in place to save lives. Besides, taking you made them think they had an upper hand. It made them think they had a power over France that you insisted they didn't give. You saved plenty of others at the Sanctuary, there are always casualties of war...not that that was all Alice was...Alice was just as stubborn as you are. That's why she refused to leave. Her own stubborn ways...and the rest of us left her alone with those psychopaths...we were separated by a few of the guards. It isn't just your fault. You didn't strike the killing blow."
Jasmin sniffled and looked up at his friend with those wet amber eyes. "We don't have to take a plane back to France, do we?"
"That's the plan. Bring tissues...I'll go ask at the front desk, see if the hotel has burn ointment or something."
"I don't want to go home, but at the same time I do...I just want to collapse in my own bed and scream until my lungs explode..."
"I would not advise it." Charles gave a little laugh and left his friend to his brooding and mourning.
He had never tried so hard to scrub blood off his hands before. Normally he was happy to let it set. Unless he had to walk into public inconspicuously. Then he would be sure to scrub it off, but not as frantically as this. It was like he was trying to scrub away the guilt, but that wasn't going to happen. He splashed some of the water on his face and tried to think happy thoughts. Happy thoughts with nothing to do with killing. That wasn't easy. Garnet had precious few of those. He tried to remember what had once been his family. The sick grandfather, sick mother, the father, brothers and sister...that was right, wasn't it? He certainly remembered having one sister. The one who had gotten ill and tried to kill everyone else in the family...his first kill, she was. It had been immediately after seeing her kill a brother in cold blood. He had enjoyed the thrill. He focussed on the memory of that feeling, held onto it. He shut off the water, took a few deep, calming breaths and reached for his phone. He had a bit of a thing for B-J, but she seemed to be bringing him a lot of bad luck. If he was going to up and run, he would need somewhere to go. "Jayden? It's me, Garnet...we need to talk..."
Jasmin was asleep when Charles returned to the hotel room. He dragged his friend to a bed and applied some ointment to the burns on his hands.
Jasmin sat up on the bed. For a moment he wondered how he had gotten there, then he realised someone was sitting on the bed edge. The man had curly brown hair and a cleft chin. He was a nothing special kind of person, but he looked very familiar. "That looks painful, Jasmin." The man said. He had a nice voice. Melodic.
"It's not that bad, Poupee..." He froze. Where did that name come from? He knew a Poupee. Poupee Trahir, but that man was long dead. Thirteen years dead.
"It looks bad."
"How'd it happen?" came a separate voice. Higher, not quite French but with French elements to it. He turned to see a tall, tanned man with hip-length mousey-brown hair, maybe even very dark blonde. The man grinned, a flash of braces the same blue as his eyes. A little podgy.
"The burns didn't happen, Jasmin?"
"Yeah, Moyen. Your accent pisses us all off, you depressing sod."
"And you wonder why I'm depressing when you all treat me like that. It's no fair." His smile disappeared as a blonde man stepped forward, a cheeky grin on his face as he gathered his robes around him. A Necromancer.
"Quit whining." He jeered before turning to Jasmin. They were both quite short, but Jalousie was still a lot taller that Jasmin. Jalousie? Yes, that was Jalousie. "You hurt yourself. You have to be more careful. Querelle won't be able to fix everything for you. One day you'll turn up at his doorstep, bleeding to death, and he won't be able to fix you, or he'll be gone and he won't be able to do anything to help you. You know that. You shouldn't take advantage. We don't live forever and you certainly won't, Mr Reckless."
Definitely Jalousie. He was an even bigger know-it-all than Charles.
"His name isn't Mr Reckless, it's Mr Orage!"
"Benjamin." Jalousie gave a deep sigh and turned, tossing his shoulder-length hair out of his face to look at the fat man with wild brown hair in the corner. He was checking his reflection in a pocket mirror and looked quite bored. "I know that's not his name. It's a nickname. I thought you'd know that by now. Like how we call you Dumb Butt."
Benjamin let out a breath with a 'pff' and went back to checking his reflection.
"Vain git." Jalousie mumbled before turning back to Jasmin.
"Yeah, like you're any better." Came a strangely effeminate voice. Another man with shoulder-length blonde hair. The thin eyebrows on this man's face gave him a permanently surprised look. "You feel better yet, Orage?"
"I feel fine, Pierre!" The Elder snapped. The effeminate man held up his hands in defence with a chuckle.
"He was asking an innocent question." Moyen moaned, jumping straight to Pierre's defence as usual. "Why'd you have to snap at him? You got hurt, of course he's going to be concerned."
Suddenly Jasmin recognised the scene playing out. This was after he had been shot. Back when his group of friends had all been alive. Back when there were twelve rather than two. The others weren't going to turn up as Poupee insulted Pierre and Benjamin, causing Moyen to get violent, Pierre indignant and Benjamin very upset. "Stop!" Jasmin yelled. "Freeze! Cut it out! I don't want to relive this!" They all froze and flickered. It was kind of creepy. Moyen was about to punch Poupee out, Jalousie was trying to restrain him with shadows, the other two were just standing in the corner, impassive. They all flickered again and all of them but violent, dreary Moyen disappeared. He waved away the remnants of the shadows and stalked round the bed to Jasmin, grabbing a chunk of his hair and pulling. His breath smelled rotten, of death. "You don't want to relive this? We can't do anything but relive this! Relive old scenes like these! But fine, if you don't enjoy seeing us again." He took his face away but maintained a firm grip on his friend's hair. "We like seeing you. We miss you, Jasmin. We miss Charles as well, but not as much. We visit him too." The rest of the men appeared behind him. Pierre, Jalousie, Benjamin, Poupee, and all the rest. Portly Rasoir with his thinning sand-coloured hair and droopy moustache. Enrageant, a handsome man with short brown hair, braided. Rene with a tanned, pinched face, hooked nose and greasy grey hair. Trac Querelle, almost a match for Enrageant's looks, ebony skin, a strange tattoo between his mouth and nose, the sapphire earring glinting eerily in the misty room. Hiver-Horloge, round face and small nose, lank brown hair and one of the most muscular of the group. Jasmin's old friends. "Let him go, Moyen." Enrageant stated as respectfully as he could.
Trac shook his head. "Pull a whole chunk out. See if he bleeds. He doesn't appreciate our visits? We only come because we're his friends."
"Don't be disgusting." Rene said in a bored tone.
"Perhaps it isn't that he doesn't like seeing us here. Perhaps it's just he's tired, and look, he hurt himself."
Jalousie frowned. "It looks self-inflicted...but that's not the Jasmin I know...he would never hurt himself on purpose..."
"So he's changed!" Moyen snapped, voice cracking, tears forming in his eyes. "He's not the Jasmin we know! He's a stranger. He's different. He's wrong. He's not worth our time!"
Rasoir tried to jump to Jasmin's defence but was blanked. Moyen pulled out a straight razor. "Let's see how different he is when he knows what it's like to be us!"
"No!" Jasmin shrieked, rolling over and almost tipping out the bed. "Moyen, no!" Charles, Moineau and Perseus came to see what the screaming was about. The amber-eyed Elder tried to calm his breathing down as tears spilled down his cheeks. Those stupid recurring nightmares. Charles dared step closer, tried to put a hand on his friend's shoulder, but it was knocked away.
"Moyen?" He asked curiously, face a mask of deep concern.
"I don't want him to hurt me." Jasmin sobbed. "In the dreams. I always upset him and he always threatens me."
Charles paused, not sure how to proceed. "Moyen is dead, Jasmin. Even if he were one to hurt his friends, he can't. He was violent and bad tempered, yes, but he was never strong and never did any more than start fist fights with Poupee and Trac, you know that." He sat beside him but didn't attempt to touch him again.
"I miss them."
"I know. So do I."
"I don't want to see them though. Not in the dreams. They aren't right in the dreams. They blame us. They want us dead. They think we've changed. It scares me. I hate it. I want it to stop." He took a deep, shuddering breath. Moineau and Perseus received a sharp glare from Charles and left pretty quickly. "And then I relive moments and I don't want to relive them because they're the worst moments. The fights, the rifts, the..." He swallowed, "The deaths..."
To this point, Charles had known nothing of the nightmares. He took off his glasses and sighed. "I think you need professional help. How long has this been going on for?"
"Since they all died..."
"Twelve years and a bit. Since before Lydie was born. And now Alice is going to join those ranks. The ranks of wrongness and blame and relived moments that cause nothing but pain. I really, really can't take it..."
"I'm only surprised that I've still been seeing you as this happy-go-lucky guy strong enough to brave anything. You're not. You're broken and in a lot of pain and I think you need help and you should stop bottling it all up."
"I can't help bottling it up. I don't want people to know."
"So you put on a mask to face the outside world. Does, say, Cadence know of these nightmares?"
"I thought not. She's okay, by the way. I called her on your phone when I went to get the ointment."
"She won't be for long. Everything I touch dies."
Charles looked at his friend with sorrow and pity. There was a lot about Jasmin he didn't know, he decided.
((So I wanted to write something outside of MC set in Jasmin's past, 12 and a bit years ago when all his friends were still alive, two months before Lydie was born, the night before the fight against Vehemence, Repine and McMooney. As a result I made 10 new Frenchmen which I managed to work into this chapter in a really depressing way...which was not preplanned...this was originally meant to be a happier chapter in which Cay and Jas were reunited...but then when I was writing the first bit it occurred to me that Jasmin's emotional need to physically burn himself is self-harming. He wasn't designed to be a self-harmer, but that's actually what he was from the very start. This is his non-happy-go-lucky side, I guess...))