I repeatedly slammed my revolver against the table top. "Stupid. Unwieldy. Mechanism!" I yelled throwing it across the room, just as someone entered.
We were on the Jem's friend's ship, or, more accurately, Jem's acquaintance who was being bribed to let us use his ship. We had been on the vessel for a little more than a week and the weather has stayed pretty consistent, partly cloudy with a steady breeze. I was in the captain's quarters, which Jem had managed to more or less rent for me and Willow, while the others slept below deck.
I glared up at the ceiling. "Not now Willow." I sighed, bringing my eyes back down. "Your not Willow."
"Afraid not." Jem said, a slight smile touching his lips as he watched me. I knew he was smiling at the fact that I was sitting cross legged on top of the table, instead of in a chair at the table. Why was he so annoying?
"Shut up." I told myself.
"Excuse me?" Jem asked , confused.
I shook my head, dismissing the comment.
"Ok. Well, anyway...What's this?" He picked the revolver off the ground. "Is this a gun?" He shook his head. "Macai, Macai, who knew you had it in you?"
I ignored him.
"You made this all by yourself?" He glanced at me. "This isn't bad, I mean, your triggers a little touchy...and your barrel over there," Jem pointed at the barrel next to me. "Is a little too-"
"Did I ask you?" I snapped.
"Well, no, but-"
"Do you even remember how to make one?" I interrupted.
"No, but still-"
"Then you have no right to comment. Besides, it's just a prototype, it's going to have flaws."
"I'm just trying-" Jem attempted to explain.
"I don't need your help."
He opened his mouth to respond, but thought better of it and just nodded. "Alright." He set the weapon in front of me, on the table. "Well I just stopped in to tell you the captain said that, if the weather holds up, well be in the shores of Jachi in no time." Jem reported, smiling.
"Good." I grumbled.
"I thought you'd be excited." He said disappointed.
Sarcastically I said: "Oh, I'm bursting with joy, trust me."
" I do. " Jem replied.
My head shot up. "What?"
He sensed he had made a mistake. "Ah, oh, I-I meant I can tell...I mean you-your clearly just overflowing with -"
"James, stop." I commanded.
"Yeah, yep. Ok. I'll just...yeah. Bye."
He stepped out the door.
I stared after him, then suddenly realized I was holding my breath. I quickly let it out. I glanced down at my revolver and picked it up, examining it, playing with it...distracting myself.
I sighed. This was going to be harder then I thought.
I stepped out of Macai's room and immediately kicked the wall. I was an idiot. I mean stuttering? Really? Since when did I stutter?
I turned to face the wall. I was so stupid! I completely freaked her out, why did I have to say that?
I banged my head against the wall.
"Whaaaat are you doing?" A voice questioned me from behind.
I stopped hitting my head. "Just checking the density of the wood." I answered, turning around to face Chase. "It's still up to standards." I gave him a thumbs up.
He eyed me suspiciously, then shrugged. "Ok. Is Macai in there? Willow wants her." He said, peeking through the window. "Why's she on top of the table?"
"Macai has this thing about heights, used to say it helped her think. She was always on top of something." I smiled, remembering.
"No one asked you Spike." I said as he knocked on, then opened the door.
"Oh, hi Spike." Macai greeted.
"I wish you guys would stop calling me that." Chase mumbled entering.
I smirked. "Not gonna happen."
Jem's PoV. (A few days later)
I can't believe it! Another fight. Another one! After weeks on the sea we were still fighting! This is ridiculous!
"Hand me that mug!" I demanded.
Startled, Willow fumbled with one of the dirty mugs sitting to one side.
"C'mon! How hard is it to hand me a mug?" I fumed.
"Jem." She said softly.
Seriously! I go though all this trouble to make her a decent meal, not a great meal, we are on a ship, but a decent one. And what does she do? She complains.
"Hand me that plate Willow!" I barked, irritated at her incompetence in handing me dishes.
"Jem, are you alright?" Willow asked tentatively.
Ha! Jem. That was another thing. Every time she goes on one of her insulting rages she never calls me Jem.
Oh, no, she calls me James. James. James. James. Ugh!
"She's so ornery, like this disgusting, awful..."
"Jem stop. Your going to brake it!"
"...Stubborn food, that won't come off THIS STUPID PLATE!" I yelled, scrubbing vigorously.
"JEM!" Willow screamed.
"WHAT!?" I boomed.
She seemed about to say something, until she suddenly realized something else. "Did you just call Macai a disgusting, stubborn plate?" Willow asked a bit horrified.
I began scrubbing again, more vehemently then before.
"No, wait. Jem stop, your going to break it, just let it soak in the tub over night." She advised.
"No. I can do it."
"I've fought beasts, conquered mazes, survived an entire ship falling on me," I turned to Willow and held the plate up to her face. "Do you really think I'm going to let some silly plate beat me?" I whipped back around to finish scrubbing and, just as luck would have it, the plate slipped out of my hand.
"Agh." I clenched my fists in frustration.
"I'll grab something to help clean that up." Willow offered.
"No. I've got it." I said grinding my teeth as I crouched down to pick the glass up off the floor.
Willow insisted. "Let me at least go and find some gloves, or something so you don't cut your hands."
"Ahhg!" I glared at the blood trickling down my hand, a cut sliced down the middle of my palm at an angle. In my last fit of rage I threw the remaining glass in my hand down, shattering it further. Then placed my head in my now bloody hand in defeat.
I heard Willow leave the room.
Good. I thought.
It wasn't but a few moments later, though, that she reentered the room.
"Alright, get up." She said.
I looked up at her, blood streaked on my face, courtesy of my hand. "Why?" I challenged, noticing a kit in her hand.
"Because I said so, now get up." She said a bit more sternly.
I stood up. "Happy?"
She pointed to a bench near the wall. "Now go sit on that bench."
"Why?" I questioned walking over to it.
"Just sit down,"
"Sit!" Willow commanded.
I complied, despite myself.
"That's better." She remarked, sitting next to me. " Now, give me your hand...that's it. " Willow soothed as I hesitantly held out my hand to her. "Very good. Now tell me how you and Macai met."
I pulled my hand away. "I don't do backstorys." I informed her.
She beckoned me with her hand to give her my palm back. "I didn't ask for your backstory, I asked how you meet Macai." Willow clarified.
I studied her suspiciously for a second.
"C'mon, it's time I know what's going on around here, and since Macai won't tell me I figured you could." She explained, cleaning my wound.
I took a deep breath. "What do you want to know?" I gave in.
"Where did you two meet?"
"Uterpian dungeon." I answered.
Huh, that wasn't so bad. I thought. I mean, a hole didn't open up and swallow me whole, so...
Willow's head shot up. "What? Why?"
She shook her head. "I mean, why were you guys in prison?"
"Well, she was there due to... We'll say unfortunate circumstances, and I was brought there as a souvenir from a village Ubel raided."
"Your home?" Willow hypothesized, starting to clean the drying blood off my face.
"No, more like my first prison." I winced as she touched my face with the cloth...I really didn't like people touching my face.
"How so?" She wondered.
"Well, I was basically the town slave." I stated.
Her hand slipped as I said the last word, right into my eye.
"Ahh! Hey!" I complained.
"Slave! Sorry. Are you sure you aren't exaggerating?"
"Maybe a little," I confessed. "But not by much. I did everything and anything they wanted done, but didn't want to do themselves, and in return received minimum food, clothing, and shelter. Ow! Give me that!" I demanded, snatching the cloth out of her hand.
"Sorry," Willow apologized for a second time. "Where were your parents?" She asked, taking a bandage out of her kit.
"My Mom died when I was still a toddler, and my Dad was killed out hunting for monsters when I was about eight." I explained.
"Oh, how sad."
"Eh, I guess. My Dad wasn't really that great of a parent, and I didn't know my Mom so it wasn't that big of a deal." I half lied.
"And no one would take you in?" Willow said as she carefully wrapped my hand in the bandage.
I snorted. "No. The village we lived in wasn't the best to begin with, and was on a steady downhill desend. Nobody wanted a eight year old boy to feed and deal with," I paused, lost in the past. "But everyone wanted a laborer. It didn't start out so bad, a job here, a job there, nothing significant, but I worked hard and made it by. Then business started picking up, I would work all day, early to late, but I didn't mind because I would have a full stomach and shelter by the end of each day. Life was good," I smiled, remembering. Willow had transferred herself to the floor and begin putting her supplies away.
My smile faded. "Until it wasn't." I stared at my bandaged hand. "I kept getting the same amount of work, but the payments for the tasks slowly diminished. Suddenly I was only getting to eat their leftovers, wear their worn out clothes, and stay in their stables. It was a nightmare..." My voice trailed off.
Willow finished putting the supplies away, and stared at me,
patiently waiting for me to continue.
"So when Ubel raided the village and took me captive, for whatever reason, I didn't see it as being kidnapped...I saw it as being rescued. He swooped in, destroyed those awful people, and whisked me away. And, I don't know, to a twelve year old boy with nothing...it seemed pretty cool.
"I always looked up to him, even though he had his scientists experiment on me and didn't always treated me the best, I at least had plenty of food and a warm shelter...that is when he moved us to the second facility. I guess that's why it was so hard for me to believe that Macai thought he was evil, that I was on the wrong side. From my point of view Ubel was a hero, the Rebels were the ones in the wrong. But..."
I brought myself out of my thoughts, and looked at Willow. "You tricked me." I accused.
"What ever do you mean?" Willow asked innocently.
"Yeah, yeah, right, I'm on to you. You got me to talk, by asking me in a roundabout way. I didn't realize you were so devious."
"Well, I wouldn't go as far as devious, but I can be pretty sneaky when I want to be." Willow laughed. "But I really do want to know about your relationship with Macai. I have the very basics of why it's so strained, but I want the details. I wanna know why she will barely speak to you, and why she seems to hate you so much."
I took a deep breath. "Well, as I said we met in the Uterpian dungeon and became instant friends, mostly because neither of us had had someone our age to hang out with for awhile, Macai had already been there for about three years. Anyway, a short time after I arrived they moved us in to a another facility. It was bigger, we had bunks to sleep on, tables to eat on, and lots of ground to train on...that is, when they started training us. We were both still being experimented on-"
"For Ubel's army of freaks?" Willow interrupted.
"Gee, thanks." I said sarcastically. "Yes, Ubel's army of 'freaks'"
"I knew it." She mumbled.
"How'd it work?" Willow questioned.
I glared at her, I hated being interrupted. "If the formula is done correctly it gives you extra strenth, speed, and draws out whatever half-ling you happen to be. There is one main ingredient that makes, or brakes, the entire formula. Too much, it kills you, too little it gives you a small health boost. For the testing they started high on me, while starting low Macai, hoping to meet in the middle somewhere.
"Since the one ingredient is so potent, I ended up sick most of the time, while Macai was perfectly healthy. To get the serum through our system faster, they trained us in various fighting styles with varying weapons. It was ridiculously hard, especially for an eleven and twelve year old, and there was no slacking."
"Harsh." Willow commented. "How'd you guys cope?"
"We competed. Made it a game. You know, I can do push-ups faster, and lower than you, type of stuff. By the end of the day I would be sick, while she would only be sore and worn out. Both due to the serum of course."
"But you said if they put to much of that one ingredient in it would kill you, how are you still alive?" Willow inquired.
"There was a cure, and anyways it was gradual. I wouldn't fall over dead as soon as they injected me. That was part of the reason for the training, to get our blood moving for faster results."
"Anywho. As time went on the relationship between Macai and I grew, despite all the obstacles."
"What obstacles?" Willow asked.
"New trainees for one. The success of the serum was looking bleak so Ubel snatched up a few more kids to train, determined he would get his army one way or another. But the more trainees, the closer eye they kept in us, not wanting us to conspire against them, or even just to keep us from forming solid friendships."
I continued. "Another obstacle was that Macai and I's friendly competitions...weren't so friendly anymore. The longer we were there, the higher the stakes were raised, the harder we fought to be the best. We did everything from cheating, to outright sabotaging each other."
"That's awful." Willow said, looking slightly disgusted.
"Maybe. But it worked for us, we both knew the other would be there for the other one when we needed it most. It was part of this weird trust we shared and, like I said, it worked for us... That is, until it didn't."
"Macai told me how you betrayed her, it was the only thing she would tell me, but what I don't get now is, if you were always betraying each other...Why was it such a big deal?" Willow inquired.
I sighed, laying down on the bench. "Macai has always been looking for her family, in one way or another, first she thought she found it in the army, Uterp, Ubel, and me, but that thought was shut down. Then she found her little rebel group, and thought that was her family. So at the time when I made her look like the bad guy, I don't know...I guess she felt like I was turning her family against her. Which is ridiculous! I mean they barely even know each other, let alone trust each other, but...I -I don't know."
I nodded. "And now she's on the search again."
"Yep. And I'm left here lying in the dust." Jem concluded, staring at the ceiling. "I need to just face it, I'm too late. She hates me."
"But you still like her."
He shot up on the bench, proving my suspicons. "What makes you think that?"
"Um, why else would you be here? Plus, I've seen the way you look at her from afar, and the hurt in your eyes when she says she doesn't 'need you James'."
"Yeah, like I said, she hates me. " Jem repeated.
I smiled. "But I've also seen the way she looks at you from afar, and the hurt in her eyes when she realizes how much she misses you, but refuses to let you in because she's stubborn." I looked him in the eyes. "She doesn't hate you Jem, she just needs time to process what she's feeling. She'll come around." I assured him.
"I'm not so sure, maybe this whole trust thing isn't worth it."
"Maybe it's not, but is she?" I pressed. "Is she worth all this trouble?"
"Yes." He responded unheisetantly.
"Then keep going." I encouraged. "And be patient, like I said, it takes time."
"And that happens to be the one thing I don't have." He mumbled.
"What do you mean?"
I sensed I was losing him. "If your talking about when we land, don't worry, I'll find an excuse so you can come with us still."
"No, it's...nothing." He caught himself.
He still didn't trust me. I sighed. He was crawling back into his protective covering and doubling it up, it will be ten times harder to get him to ever open up again. I guess I had probed a little too far into his shell. It was too bad, I liked getting to know him.
Jem stood up suddenly, knocking me out of my thoughts. He headed toward the glass still lying on the floor.
"Leave it." I commanded.
"No buts. I'll take care of it. Besides it's getting late, you go on off to bed and we'll worry about the dishes in the morning, they could use a good soak anyways."
I shoed him with my hands. "Go! To bed with you, I've got it."
"Um, ok. Well... good- yeah."
And with that he left me alone with my thoughts.
Ok. So some serious character building here. Also, as you can see, I changed when Macai was kidnapped... Again. Hopefully this will be the last time because I think I finally figured out the timeline. YAY!! And, as always, MORE TO COME!!