The celebration began when darkness settled over the sky like a black blanket. A many torches were lit across the main courtyard filled with people sitting to the side lines. A great feast was served; large fatty pigs roasting on a stick slathered with a rich sweet sauce burned over a fire, soft warm rice served with potatoes and green beans and many a more delicious combinations.
Where Citra sat, among the Chief and his second and the healer, they were served delicacies not for the common folk. Monkey brain was served with the actual monkey head as a plate as well as freshly caught salty oysters and cooked shark meat and a plethora of seafood. For drinks they had sweet alcohol that went down her throat nicely. She particularly had a fondness for the sea coral wine and perhaps drank a bit too much. When the first bout of dizziness hit her head she set aside the drink and asked for water only.
Before them, performers with painted bodies and costumes danced around to the beat of the drums, scaring the little kids and entertaining the adults with their splendid fire juggling. Many a people would approach the table she sat at and leave gifts of food or jewelry or simply greet her. Citra would smile at them since it was the polite thing to do, even though in the inside she felt rather odd and out of place receiving such attention. One thing- one person can ease this anxiety.
She turned to Chief Rognuak to her left and asked, "Where is my brother?"
"Sitting amongst the people."
Citra frowned. "Shouldn't he be here sitting with us?"
Sitting with me?
Chief Rognuak sighed wearily as if she were an ignorant child. "You are special Citra. He is not. He does not deserve to sit where you sit. It will be disrespectful."
"He is my brother." She replied sternly, disliking the tone in the old man's voice. "If he cannot sit with me then I will go sit with him."
It must have been the alcohol in her system giving her the bravery of an idiot but she moved to get up and the Chief raised his hand, halting her. "If it is what you desire then it shall be done." He sent someone down to the people and they came back with Vaas in tow. Citra greeted him with a smile. They glanced to the left of her where the Chief sat and knew it was out of the question to make him scoot over so the second in command, Zarak to her right became the better alternative. If looks could kill, then the look Zarak gave them would have killed them ten times over. The huge warrior grumbled but moved to make room for Vaas to sit down.
Vaas chanced a glance at the grumpy man and whispered lowly so no one could hear,"If I get stabbed, it's your fault." And then promptly received a playful punch and a giggle from his little sister. "You okay?" He then asked, his hand snaking behind her back to play with the tips of her hair.
"Yeah. How's Kalai?"
"She's going to be ok. She's with Zuraidah. Turns out she's becoming really popular among the warriors. They're all trying to get her to teach them Tane's trick."
Citra chuckled at that. Good luck learning that quickly. It takes a certain amount of strength and the right degree of precision to execute the technique perfectly. Especially considering that the technique is performed during combat where your opponent is in constant movement.
They ate and drank, albeit only Vaas, and watched the wondrous performances down below. Citra felt easier now, more relaxed with her brother at her side. She was happy that he was having a good time. She feared he would be sour having to stay at the temple for longer than they intended. She knows he doesn't like these people, the tribals. It was nice of him to act civil.
A group of young men adorned with bright bird feathers flocked to the center. Zuraidah was among them, standing right in the middle front. He gave her a smile she could see all the way up there. They began a traditional dance, stomping their feet and slapping their wide chests, yelling chants.
"Ah, the young warriors in our tribe has put together a performance for you." Chief Rognuak said.
"Why are they wearing so many feathers?"
"To catch your eye. The brightest ones attract more attention. It is loud and the man wearing it must be louder than the rest."
They were very pretty, she had to admit but no matter how many feathers they wore none could compare to the green in Vaas' eyes. Why would she want feathers when she could have emeralds.
She observed him as he watched the performance. He appeared displeased although she couldn't fathom why. It was a beautiful dance.
The way the light of the fire washed over his skin, bathing him in a rich warm glow, made him look ethereal. She traced the contour of the side of his face with her eyes, trailing them down his forehead and his sloped nose she loved so much; his lips thin as the petals on flowers and ten times softer, her own lips tingled at the ghost of how they felt on hers; and finally his strong jawline, having grown more pronounced over the years as he aged. If she tried, she could still visualize him as the young boy he once was. Sometimes, she missed those days.
Sometimes, she wished they can go back to being little kids.
Vaas took a sip from his cup and happened to glance at her, their eyes locking. He set down the cup and gave her a questioning smile. "What?"
She smiled back, wanting to reach out and touch him but remember they were out in the open and refrained from doing so. "Nothing."
They both resumed watching the performance. The young men had stopped dancing now and stood in a wide square shaped form. One by one, a pair of two would enter the middle and fight each other with their bare hands, blades or spears. When the other man was defeated he would walk off stage and the victor would meet his next opponent and so on forth until only five were left, Zuraidah among them.
"Zuraidah is the top student in Zarak's class." Chief Rognuak's voice pulled her attention away. "He shows much promise for one so young. He far surpasses his peers in the art of the blade and the spear and his skill with a bow is unmatched." Zuraidah battled against his opponents, defeating them one by one. "He has the strength of five buffalo and he wrestled with the great lizards in the water." Zuraidah fought against the other man still standing and defeated him. The crowd roared when he was the last one standing and the victorious man raised his hands in the air and faced Citra and kneeled. "A worthy prospect, is he not?"
The loud slam of Vaas' cup hitting the table interrupted them. Her brother stood up, drawing everyone's attention. "He has one more challenger!" He announced loud enough for his voice to reach the crowd below, silencing them.
"Vaas! Sit back down." She hissed, while trying to come up with some kind of apology to give to the Chief. She scrambled to her feet, her face growing warm. "You're drunk."
"Not yet." He corrected, and swooped down to finish his drink. "Maybe now."
Citra opened and closed her mouth flabbergasted. "Sit. Down."
"What are you so afraid of Citra?" Vaas said. "Do you think I'll lose?"
"No-" Of course not. How could he ever lose? He was her brother. He always wins.
"Bah, let the boy fight! It'll teach him a lesson of his ignorant ways." Zarak said gruffly.
They then looked to the Chief. "I approve. I too would like to see the son of Anaru fight." Rognuak spoke, eyeing Vaas. Even though he was given two permissions by the second and the Chief himself, Vaas waited for her approval.
"Fine." She bit out.
She sat back down as Vaas made his way down the steps and onto the courtyard where a hush fell upon the crowd. They whispered as he stood in position across Zuraidah. With the beating of the drums, the fight began.
There was something different about this fight than the others. Everyone seemed to be watching every move Vaas made, judging his decisions and skill.
Citra has seen Vaas fight before, but never like this. He was uncharacteristically focused, utilizing the techniques Tane taught him with precise precision and power. It seemed all those times Vaas was goofing around in class, he was actually paying close attention to Tane's lessons. If their uncle were here, he would have been proud.
She gasped along with the crowd when Vaas took a blade from one of the warriors. Zuraidah did the same and they clashed together, a sharp ping sounded when the two metals met. Alarm bells rang in her head. She wanted them to stop. Someone was going to get hurt and she didn't want it to be her brother.
"What are you so afraid of Citra? Do you think I'll lose?"
No, he won't lose but she didn't want him to get hurt. What was he doing anyways? What was he trying to prove?
They were moving quickly now. Springing attacks and drawing back in defense. This was serious. They clashed together again, straining their blades against the others to break down his shield. They broke apart but not for long. With a war cry from the two young warriors they lunged at each other, blades raised ready to strike.
"Stop!" Citra cried springing to her feet.
Vaas and Zuraidah froze, blades poised against the others necks. Nervousness filled her when they didn't move their weapons away. Finally, Zuraidah withdrew his blade and stuck out his hand.
Vaas stared at the offered hand and glanced at Citra.
He was mad. She can see it. He's not yelling or screaming, but she knows when she looks into his eyes that he is fuming. There was a rage hidden underneath that calm facade.
A giant hidden underneath the pond's calm surface.
Citra wants him to accept the hand. Cause no more trouble and let it go. She tries to convey all this through her eyes alone.
She sighed inwardly in relief when Vaas grasped Zuraidah's offered hand in good nature. The crowd cheered for the wonderful performance.
"Your brother is very loyal to you." She heard Chief Rognuak say in a tone that didn't settle well with her.
"We're family." She replied firmly. "We are loyal to each other."
"The Rakyat is your family. Your true family. Do not forget that, child. That is why we are celebrating tonight. To welcome home you Citra, a lost sister of the Rakyat." The Chief stood up with the help of his cane. When he raised his hand, the laughter, conversations and celebrating ceased. "Bring out the offerings!" He bellowed and then addressed her. "Come with me, child. We have brought you gifts." So she, the Chief, Zarak and Jebiya went to the courtyard. They stood and waited for who knows what.
Eventually, the gifts arrived.
The privateers were worse for wear since the last time she saw them. All who were captured were brought out before her,including Jack himself The helmets and face coverings they wore were removed. She could see all their weary faces.
"These are the men who attacked your village. They slaughtered your brothers and wanted to invade your homes and lives." Chief Rognuak spoke. "There must be retribution for these demon foreigners. We offer you, Citra Talugmai, your right to avenge your fallen brothers and have your revenge!"
The crowd roared like a beast in the jungle. From somewhere in the mass of people, someone threw a rock that hit one of the privateers.
They were scared. All of them. And they all looked at her, wondering- fearing what she may do. Their fate rests in her hands.
"I get to decide?"
"It is your right." Chief Rognuak answered. "Your birthright. They will fear the wraith of Talugmai."
Citra has never before once been the one to make choices. They were all chosen for her, by her tribe, her father or her uncle and sometimes... even by Vaas.
This time, it was her turn.
"I want them all dead." She said, her gaze sweeping over each and everyone of their faces. She paused on one of them, whose face stuck out from the rest. "Except for him."
"You fucking cunt." Jack said when she pointed at the man who wanted to save their lives. Vaas stormed over to Jack and hit him hard.
"You ever call my sister that again and I will kill you myself!" He growled.
Jack spat out blood and grinned. "Look at you, kid! All fucking brave and macho man now, are you?" He lowered his voice so as only Vaas can hear what he was saying. Whatever he must have said to her brother, it set him off. Vaas began wailing on him; his knuckles staining red. A particularly hard punch sent Jack to the ground. "Fuck you!" Vaas cursed at the withering man on the floor and kicked his stomach.
"Vaas, that is enough!" Citra said. What must the man had said to get Vaas so riled up? She made a mental note to ask him later.
"Not nearly as enough. They all deserve worse." Kalai said, appearing from the crowd. "They killed my friend, our brothers. They were injured. Defenseless! They shot them in cold blood, like animals! These men have no honor! Let them all die a dishonorable death!"
"This man tried to save our lives." Citra argued, pointing at the unnamed privateer, who so far has remained silent. "He doesn't deserve to die."
"He still killed all our other brothers. Don't they deserve to be avenged?"
"I agree. They all must die!" Zarak said.
"I understand this man may have helped you but he is still one of them. He is still an outsider who has spilled the blood of our brothers. Our dead demand justice." Chief Rognuak said.
"Death to them all!" Zarak howled and the crowd whooped and cheered.
"Kill them all!"
"Make them suffer!"
Kill them all!
Kill them all!
The growing roar of the crowd swallowed her thoughts up. They wanted them all dead. But how could she condemn the man who had tried to save them? Just like she did to Niko.
Her brother. Did her brother want them all dead, too?
She searched for him, searching for the rock to keep her steady in a storm, to find he was right there beside her. He wasn't calling out for blood. Instead, the rage in his eyes were gone and when their eyes locked she knew.
He was on her side. No matter the odds, he stands with her. And that was all she needed to have her confidence returned to her because with him by her side, nothing can stand in their way.
"I said I wanted him alive." She yelled over the noise, and faced the Chief. "It's my decision, isn't it? So I decide whether he lives or not and I decide that he be spared."
"We cannot simply let him go. He has seen our temple. Our holy grounds." The Chief said.
"We should let him go." Zuraidah spoke up. "If it's what Citra wants then we must obey her command."
Citra gave a surprised yet grateful look to him. She didn't expect him to side with her. His loyalty was unexpected but welcomed nevertheless. He is proving himself to be quite trustworthy to her, if only slightly.
Chief Rognuak wanted to protest but he thinned his lips and tapped his staff. "If it is what you want, Citra."
"It is what I want. Set him free." The guards went over to the unnamed privateer and cut the binds tying his wrists together. The man stood up, rubbing his sore wrists. "Come here." She commanded. The man did so and stood before them, glancing wearily at the Chief and Zarak. "What is your name?"
The man cleared his throat, "Dennis Rogers."
"Dennis, I have spared your life today because you decided to spare ours. You could have had us killed but you didn't. You were threatened with harm on yourself but you went on anyways. For that, you are free to leave with your life."
"Thank you," Dennis said, eyes wide in awe. "Thank you."
A potato bag was shoved over his head and he was taken away.
"As for the rest of you, you have all committed unforgivable acts of violence on our people. Our dead demand justice and we shall give them it!"
The crowd roared in agreement.
Vaas took her arm and whispered into her ear, "Citra, are you sure? I don't want.. I don't want you to do.. to do something you will regret."
Citra stared at him with wide, faraway eyes. "I know what I'm doing. They deserve to die."
"Motherfuckers!" Jack screamed, blood trailing from an open cut in his head. "Savage fucking pricks!" He cried out in anger, his face tomato red; veins popping from his neck. He whipped his head around wildly until his eyes landed on Citra. "Please, please I'll give you whatever you fucking want. Money? You want money? I can give it to you! All the fucking money in the fucking world!" He babbled as he approached her and was promptly shoved to the floor by Vaas.
"We don't want your money." Citra sneered, disgusted at how pathetic he was acting. Even Rakyat warriors, beaten and at the verge of death, wouldn't bargain for their lives like lowly cowards. This is no man. He has no honor.
Jack scrambled to his knees, laughing like a crazed man. He turned his attention to Vaas. "Kid! Hey kid come on! Help me out here. Come on. Fucking help me!"
"Shut the fuck up!" Vaas kicked him solidly in the chest, knocking him down.
Jack got to his knees again, pure malice in his eyes. "Look at you. Is this how you treat me, kid? Is this how you treat good ole Uncle Jack now? Ha, ha! You fucking piece of shit, you're going to get me out of here, or else..." The privateer grinned toothily, his teeth stained red like he was luckiest man in the world.
Citra frowned and looked to her brother, wondering what in the world was the man talking about. Why was this man talking to her brother like he knew him?
Vaas was silent as approached Jack.
"That's right. I'm getting out of here alive." Jack said, laughing in relief. "You can't fucking kill me. You can't kill me."
Citra watched in awe at her brother's stark brutality as he shifted behind Jack, jerked his head back by the hair and sliced open his throat; never once looking away from Citra as he did it.
The only person who looked surprised was Jack himself.
"Kill them!" She heard herself say in a voice that didn't sound quite like hers. Something was wearing her skin. Or maybe she was wearing the wrong one.
The rest of the prisoners cried out in fear of their lives as the guards slit their throats and cracked their skulls in with their blunt, round edged weapons.
Vaas let the dead man slump onto the ground face first where a puddle of blood formed, dropped his blade and walked away.
It was then she heard the cheering of the crowd, so distant and hollow, the shadows from the fire distorting their image, making them look like angry shadow monsters.
As Citra watched the carnage taking place in front of her, she felt a fear that stole her breath but along with that... deep down... she felt adrenalized.
She did this.
She commanded it.
And they did what she wanted.
Citra stared at her hands, remembering how they plunged the knife into the privateer's throat. Remembering how it felt to take his life.
She did that.
There was no need to feel bad. They deserved to have their lives taken from them. All of them.
The celebration continued afterwards.
Their heads were propped up on sticks and were waved around for everyone to jeer at.
Citra searched for Vaas but found Kalai instead.
"I'm not going to bed without someone tonight!" The girl proclaimed, slinging an arm around Citra. "Nope. Nope. I'm going to... I'm going to take him-" She squinted and pointed at Zuraidah. "And...." She twirled her finger and it landed on an unsuspecting pretty girl. "...her."
"Have you seen my brother?" Citra huffed, having to hold herself up because Kalai was leaning all her weight on her.
"Vaas? Mmmmmno... Your brother is cute but I wouldn't want to.. to sleep with him. It'll be like.. like sleeping with a brother..." Kalai took a hold of her cheeks and mushed them together. "You know, your brother is a really, really, really good friend. He lost his mom. I lost my mom. Oh! I'm sho sorry, you lost your mom, too!" She giggled, her eyes shiny with tears or intoxication. Citra had a sneaking suspicion it was by both. "We're all losing things aren't we? And we can't get them back."
Citra's face darkened. "I don't want to lose things anymore. I won't let anyone leave me."
"What?" Kalai yelled into her ear.
Citra grimaced and managed to untangle herself from the older girl. "I said I'm going to look for my brother."
"Okay, good luck! I'll see youuu later. Or maybe not..." She grinned devilishly and left to go talk to the pretty girl.
No matter where she looked, she couldn't catch a glimpse of him. It didn't help that people wanted to stop her and talk to her. She tried not to be rude, so she managed to keep the conversations short and light. It was when she circled the courtyard for the third time did she give up and head back to her table. She sat unhappily, watching the crowd in case she might spot him.
The night grew darker. She excused herself when her eyes began to droop.
"Do you mind if I walk with you for a little while?" Chief Rognuak asked.
Citra thought it wouldn't hurt and said yes. It would be rude to decline a Chief and she was curious as to what he may want. Their footsteps grew louder as they walked farther from the party; Hana and Rui trailing behind them quietly. They strolled down an open corridor, vine leaves blowing in the breeze and fire from the torches crackling, casting shadows that danced on the walls.
Chief Rognuak stopped at the edge to look at the moon. "It is good that you stood by what you wanted. You wanted that man alive and you made that happen."
"I just didn't want him to die. He didn't deserve it."
"Because you thought he didn't. Many thought otherwise but you went against the masses and did what you wanted."
Citra looked at him wearily. "Is that bad?"
The Chief chuckled, "No, it's not bad. It was the right thing to do. You showed your strength when it was being tested. The right to command are for the ones who are not afraid to do so."
I was afraid, she wanted to confess. She was so, so very much afraid and confused and overwhelmed! But then... but then there was Vaas and he gave her the strength she so desperately needed.
"Your mother was very much the same." Rognuak reminisce.
Citra perked up. "You knew my mother?"
Before the Chief could answer, a haunting wail traveled through the quiet night. It came from the farthest area inward of the temple. If Citra squinted, she could make out someone far away. The longer she looked, she realized that the person was moving on all fours and looked to be naked. The person let out another wail and moved in jerky, inhuman movements.
"What is that?" Citra whispered, feeling a shiver going down her spine.
"A sad woman who has given her mind to the demons in the jungle." Rognuak said thickly, gripping his walking stick tighter. "I must go and take care of this. Sleep well, Citra." He left in a rush. Another terrible wail echoed into the night, reverberating in her mind, bouncing against the inside of her skull.
Growing louder and louder...
Citra blinked, "What?"
"Would you like to return to your room?" Hana repeated.
It took Citra a while to answer. She still felt spaced out, like the world she lived in shifted and became something else. Something... horrible.
She nodded, unable to speak. She thought something was trying to pry open her head and scoop out her brain. Citra patted the top of her head to make sure it was closed. Just in case.
The cold water woke up her numb body. She dove underwater and stayed there, letting it block out the noise in her mind. It was so peaceful down here. Was this how baby's felt when inside their mother's wombs?
Quiet... floating in space feeling weightless.
She wished she could stay down there forever but the living needed to breath. Citra swam up to the surface and floated on her back.
She was still calm and she tried, she tried to keep it that way but there was a heat prickling at her skin and a rage brewing in her chest.
She thought of killing them again. Bloody hands, how satisfying it would feel to pound a knife into their bodies again and again and again- make them scream, make them screammakethemscream!
Stop! Stop, stop she's not supposed to be thinking this way! She's not supposed to be! Just don't think about it. Don't think about it. Don't think about it.
Citra screwed up her face and slammed her hands over her ears. But now she was scared because she won't be able to hear if something comes for her, reaching out for her under the deep.
LET IT GO. Calm down. Calm down.
Everything's fine. She's still here. This is still the same world. She is still herself.
Calm... calm... easy now. She's fine. It's going to be ok.
Citra almost had a heart attack when her brother came striding into the bathing room.
"Vaas!" She cried out in surprise, hiding her naked body underneath the the surface of the pond. Vaas paused and looked around the room.
"What the fuck... This is where you're staying?" He waved around a bottle in his hand. "They have me sleeping near the pig pen. Fuckers." He took a swig from his bottle and did a little twirl, a silly little smile on his lips meanwhile she tensed up fearing he would trip and fall.
Citra swam to the edge of the pond and rested her arms on the ledge. "What are you doing here? How did you find me?"
Vaas hummed, "I don't know. I asked one of the.. those girls, Anna or something..." He stood by the edge of the pond and precariously walked along it placing one foot in front of the other, his arms outstretched to keep him balanced. Citra had a bad feeling but before she could tell him to stop Vaas began to wobble and she let out a little yelp and reached out her arms to catch him when he stumbled and fell; thankfully on his side and not into the water. He laid on his back defeated and grinned at her.
Huffing in annoyance that he gave her such a fright, Citra plucked the bottle from his hand. It was hanging above the water, its bottom half already submerged. She was afraid he might accidentally drop it in the pond. She set it aside and rested her cheek on top of her folded arms.
They gazed at each other, green against green. Vaas ran two fingers delicately along her hairline. His face twisted with pain. He sat at the edge of the pond, getting his feet and the bottom half of his pants wet. He hunched in on himself and pressed his knuckles into his forehead. "I'm sorry, Citra." He said gravelly, "I'm supposed to protect you from.. from this, this fucking violence. I never wanted you to see all this. You shouldn't have seen me do all those fucked up things." He shook his head, his breath coming out in shaky patterns. "I'm a failure. I failed you. I failed Dad. I'm a fucking failure."
Citra swam between his legs and grasped his hands firmly and tugged them away, revealing shiny red eyes and wet cheeks. He looked so vulnerable, so broken that it broke her own heart to see him this way.
She held his hands tighter, afraid that he may slip away somewhere she can't protect him. "You are not a failure." She declared, staring into his eyes. "You are the best brother I could ever have. You are the best thing I could ever have in my life. You are not a failure."
Vaas laughed brokenly, "I couldn't save Dad. I couldn't protect you from killing Niko. I should have. I should have done something. I should have known. I'm supposed to protect you even if it's from yourself. But I failed and I had to watch you be fucking scared because you did something you didn't mean to do but who the fuck is going to understand that? They won't but I do. They don't fucking understand but I do. I do! I won't let them hurt you because they don't understand us."
"I know you won't." She said. "They don't know anything. I hate them all."
"Don't say that. You don't hate Tane."
"He hasn't been the best lately." Citra muttered. What has their Uncle ever done for her? He loves her, to an extent, but it wasn't unconditional. Not like Vaas. If she gets into an argument with Tane, he'll leave her. If she does anything that crosses the line she's finished and he won't love her anymore. He can leave her, just like anybody else. Tane had his uses but his usefulness was being used up. Why should she invest in someone that might leave her?
She hates him. He is useless.
But she is glad she haves him because Tane is family and families loves each other, even when she doesn't deserve it.
Vaas bowed his head in shame, "I'm sorry, Citra."
"There is nothing to be sorry about. What's in the past is in the past. You did what you had to do and you are stronger because of it."
"I don't feel strong." Vaas clenched and unclenched his hand, his face framed in shadows. "I killed them. I've never killed anyone before and I killed my friend and I shot all those people. Fuck they couldn't- they couldn't even fight back." His eyebrows twisted up in distress. "What kind of man does that?"
Citra's face turned stony, a cold look in her eyes. "Do you regret it?"
"No." He said quickly, "I would do it again. For you."
"Then why did you do it?" She said, kicking off the wall and swimming backwards, strands of her hair slipping through his fingers.
"I had to."
"That's not answer." Her back bumped against the other side of the pond and she rested her elbows on it, her long wet hair covering her breasts. "No one forced you to. Niko was going to keep it a secret."
"And you believed him?" Vaas waved his hand incredulously. "He wasn't going to keep it a secret! He was probably going to use it against you!"
"Maybe. I wouldn't know. He was your friend. Do you think he would've used it against me?"
"N-" Vaas shut his mouth and looked away in anger.
"Then why?" She waited patiently for his answer. She had a feeling there was something he wasn't telling her. There was a reason he shot Niko but he didn't want to say why.
He shook his head, "Why did you tell the truth? You could've lied but you didn't."
"Don't try to change the subject."
"I'm not!" He exclaimed, raising his voice. Citra gave him a look and he thinned his lips. The next time he spoke he kept his voice restrained. "You could have lied."
Citra raised her eyebrows in mock surprise. "You wanted me to lie to you?"
"No! I just..." He stood up and began pacing back and forth. "You knew I would have killed him if you did."
"You killed him anyways."
"Because you told the truth!" He had stopped pacing and was now facing her, his body tense and fists clenched. "You think you are the only one who is afraid of losing someone? When you told the truth you wanted to save him. I thought you were fucking around but I didn't know you were serious. I didn't know..." He plopped down, covering his face with his hand. Concerned, she swam over to him. Vaas chuckled sadly, "When you told the truth, I imagined you two marrying and having kids and having the perfect fucking lives and I... I would still be there by your side because even if you stopped loving me I can't stop loving you. I can't stop..."
He sounded so broken it tugged at her heart, compelling her to lift herself out of the water. She was dripping wet and she was sure she was going to get him soaked too, but she could care less about that. Right now he needed her and she needed to be there for him.
His warm arms wrapped tight around her and the heat coming from his body was a stark contrast against the cold air. He let out a shaky breath and rested his head over her heart. Citra cradled him in her arms, stroking his head soothingly.
"You're all that matters to me." He confessed and gazed up at her in reverence. "I would do anything for you."
I would do anything for you.
I would do anything for you.
Do anything for you for you for you
Citra cupped his cheeks and rested her forehead against his, their noses touching. She shut her eyes and breathed him in. "Don't you ever think I will ever love somebody else." She whispered. "There is no one else. There will never be anyone else." She opened her eyes and lost herself in his. "You're all that I want. I love you."
He let out a small breath of air and drew his arms away from her. "How can you say that?" He stared at his hands, curling his fingers. "I'm a monster."
"You're not a monster." She took his chin and forced him look at her. "You are a warrior. You protected what was yours and defeated your enemies. You are a warrior. You are my brother."
Kissing him was bliss; like her head cracking wide open and yellow butterflies by the dozen pouring out kind of bliss.
Inconspicuously, she eased her way back into the pond leading him on with her lips until he was hanging off the edge. All she needed to do was let him fall.
He should have been more careful. The surface of the pond may look beautiful but there are giants hiding underneath waiting to devour him.
Curling her fingers around the necklace dangling around his neck, she gave it a light tug. He let out a small noise of surprise when he fell face first into the pond. She grinned at him devilishly when he resurfaced and then promptly squealed in delight as he splashed water at her in retaliation. Like a shark he advanced towards her sending a thrill down her spine. Citra retreated but swimming backwards was not as fast nor as effective as swimming forwards.
He caught her just as she felt the stairs behind her. Citra laid back, trapped underneath him. She was breathing hard, her chest rising and falling, half submerged in water; her legs spread apart with him in between. Vaas went still above her.
They stared silently into each other's eyes.
She always gets lost in those eyes. What she wouldn't give to have him look at her this way forever.
He caressed her cheek and although his touch made her eyes flutter it wasn't where she wanted him to touch her. She took his hand and guided it down to cup her breast. He stared at the sight and clenched his jaw, his Adam's apple bobbing as he swallowed hard.
He shook his head, taking away his hand.
"Don't." She whispered, placing a hand on his chest.
Pain filled those sad, tortured eyes. "I can't." He confessed brokenly, his voice weak.
Something flickered in his eyes, something she was all too familiar with. He was pulling away again. There was always something holding him back.
She was losing him again. He was slipping through her fingers. She would crush him in a fist if it will stop him from leaving her.
"He's not here anymore." She said. "It's just us."
She felt vulnerable waiting for his response: his rejection or acceptance. She didn't like it, it put her in a position to get hurt but for him she'll take the risk.
"It's just us." She repeated, hoping that if she said it a certain of times it'll make the fear she knew was in his heart go away. She teared down the walls protecting her, pried open the iron masks concealing her true self, and laid herself bare before him. She let the facade of control go and showed him how scared and uncertain she felt. She would have never showed this kind of weakness to anyone else but he wasn't anyone else. He was her brother, her family, her home. The only person she trusts wholly with every inch of her being. She knows he won't hurt her.
Don't go. Don't leave me. I love you.
She leaned in and his lips met her halfway. The world tilted diagonally and she had to grasp onto him to stop herself from falling. His hands were all over her, his body smothering hers. His forwardness caught Citra by surprise. Despite this, she let herself be swept away into his chaotic passion.
Her legs widened more to make room for his hips. A small gasp escaped her lips when he desperately grind himself against her and she could feel him.
Heat bloomed in the pit of her stomach, snatching her breath away. He did it again and again and again and then his lips attacked her neck and his fingers ran through her hair and Citra thought she might have died and went to the afterlife because nothing in this world could ever feel so good.
She didn't want it to ever stop but the edge of the stair was digging into her back painfully. Bringing herself back from the high he was giving her, Citra bit her lip and pushed weakly at his shoulders. He relented immediately, like pudding in her hands. She kissed him deeply while she maneuvered herself from underneath him. When he finally registered that she was gone, he looked at her with puppy dog eyes, a kind of childish hurt and confusion reflecting in his eyes. How was it that with one innocent look from him it melts her heart.
Citra paused and took a hold of some of the beaded curtains hanging from the doorway. She looked back. He was still in the same spot on his knees staring at her. She smiled coyly and continued into the room, letting the strands of beads slip from her fingers making a pleasant rattling sound. She crawled onto the bed, her wet body soaking the sheets.
She waited and he came for her.
He kept his shorts on but had stripped off his shirt, the fire bathing his skin in a warm glow that accentuated the grooves and curves of his muscles.
Vaas froze when his eyes fell on her. In a trance, he climbed onto the bed, never once looking away. Citra sat up and embraced him. Their lips moved like they were participating in a secret dance only they knew, tiny gasps and moans the steps they follow. She tightened her grip on the back of his neck when he pulled away.
She saw the uncertainty in his eyes, the fear. He wanted to run away but the only place he can run to is back to her.
"He's not here anymore." She reassured- she didn't know if it was more for him or for her.
"I know. It's not that." He gazed at her in mellow fondness and brushed a wet strand of hair behind her ear. "I... I don't want to hurt you."
"You can never hurt me." She said with a smile, a gleam in her eye. She sat up on her knees, holding his face and forcing him to look up at her so she can look down at him. How pretty he looks from up here. So vulnerable. So weak in her hands and all hers. She lowered her head and brushed her lips against his, catching his breath. "I won't let you."
She kissed him with more force than usual, staking her claim on his lips and if he ever tried to leave her she would have to cut them off for her to keep.
"You're mine." She breathed, wrapping him in her arms and digging her nails into his back. She held him tighter and squeezed and squeezed in the hopes of merging his body with hers; their bones breaking and reconnecting together and their hearts bleeding as one.
Don't leave me.
He held her back gently and said softly, "I've always been yours."
Citra became lost in his lips and she barely registered being laid down on the soft sheets. She tugged at his shorts blindly and helped him take them off. Shuttering in excitement, she grasped his hips and pulled him in between her legs.
"Mmhno, no." Vaas pleaded, taking a hold of her wrist. "I want..." He swallowed thickly, unable to control himself from rubbing lightly against her. "I want to take things slow. Please... Let's just take it slow... Please..."
Citra bit her lip and giggled. "Like when we were little?" She ran her hands up and down her body groaning. "Do you want to check up on me? Do you want to play doctor?"
He scoffed, offended, and attacked her stomach. "I was an awesome doctor. Better than you!"
She laughed and pushed him off her. He plopped down on his back, a silly grin on his face.
"You poked at it." She reminded as she laid next to him, draping her leg over his thighs.
"Yeah, and you squeezed my balls. That hurt!"
She shrugged, "It was funny."
"You're mean." He pouted, crossing his arms and scooting away. Citra raised a brow and waited for a good five seconds before he cracked a grin and snuggled up to her. "I can't believe Dad put us in the same room. Do you think he separated us because he knew something was going on?"
She rolled her eyes, "No. He separated us because you started waking up with a tree in your pants."
"I swear I wasn't dreaming about fucking monkeys."
She scoffed and punched him playfully. "You're ridiculous."
"Yeah but you love it."
Citra couldn't say no to that. It was part of his charm. She relaxed into the bed and brushed her nose against his, her fingers dancing across the expanse of his chest. "Do you remember?" She whispered, "I touched you here..." She grazed his nipple. "...and here." She circled his belly button. His body felt so familiar, like a long ago dream. He was soft and pliable back then. Now, his soft edges were sharp and strong, a faint ghost of the boy who he used to be.
His fingers found her skin and his hands wandered her body, retracing the paths he used to know so well. Everywhere he touched set her on fire.
Her breath caught as he bent to place a chaste kiss on her collarbone. "I love you." He whispered into her skin like a tattoo; permanent and meaningful.
She responded by tilting his chin up and kissing him.
It was confirmed; this was heaven. He is her paradise.
Citra snaked her hand down and swallowed his surprised gasp. She took great pleasure stringing out the little grunts and moans he tried so hard to hold back. Her breath hitched when she felt his fingers touch her where no one else has been. Unconsciously she spread her legs, her body writhing under his touch. Her mind was going fuzzy and it was becoming harder and harder to think straight. Her world was reduced to the touch of his fingers and the puffs of air on her neck.
In a cloud of lust and desire, she grabbed his hand and guided his fingers in a circle, teaching him how to touch her the way she liked when she was alone in her bedroom at night. The new pace sent a jolt through her body and she reached out blindly, grasping at anything to keep her anchored. And then Vaas did something, quicken his fingers or change direction, and it sent a shockwave of pleasure through her veins. She threw her head back, lips parting and her hips lifting off the bed, the hand wrapped around him quickening to match the pace of her racing heartbeat.
She felt a pressure building in her lower abdomen, one she has felt many a times but she has always stopped by this point. It wasn't because she was scared, in part she was, but it was mostly because she would suddenly lose interest. Her body would shut down and she would go back to being bored and empty and all the excitement she felt would dissipate into thin air. Honestly, it was a rare occasion whenever she felt in the mood because most of the time she wouldn't think twice about it. The thought of it even put her off sometimes.
But now... Oh god now she didn't know whether to push him away or spread her legs wider and Vaas wasn't letting up and he was moaning into her ear and panting against her neck and-
She cried out his name, begging him to stop or keep going she did not know. She did not want to know. She wanted this decision out of her hands. She wanted him to strip her of any control she so desperately clinged to and take her life into his own hands. Kiss her or kill her; either way, what bliss.*
Her moans poured out loudly and uncontrollably, her body twisting and arching like a snake ready to strike. Her eyes fluttered open when she felt Vaas move and she had a second to see his head disappear between her legs before his mouth was on her and-
A jolt of electricity shot up her body, her muscles contracted and her legs shook. Her mind went stark white blank as intense waves of immeasurable pleasure coursed through her body. It was amazing and too intense at the same time and the thing was, he was still going. He stroked himself as he lapped up the last of her orgasm. Citra could not in a million years describe how it felt to watch the sight of him doing that.
He crawled back to lay beside her. She wanted to return the favor but his hand quickened and his breathing was coming out in short bursts. She felt just as excited, even more so, for his orgasm than she was for hers. Soothingly, she rubbed her hand up and down his stomach, hoping to encourage his end. His free hand held onto her shoulder as if he were falling and he needed her to support him. He opened his dazed eyes, his pupils blown wide at the sight of her. His back arched of the bed and he came on himself with her name on his lips.
There was a moment when the only sounds in the room was their harsh breathing slowing down. Her heartbeat returned to normal and she could finally think clearly again, albeit her mind was muddled by a satisfyingly sweet exhaustion. They were both covered in a fine sheen of sweat that made their bodies glisten under the firelight.
Citra was basking in her afterglow when she spotted the product of his still on his stomach. Curious, she reached with the two fingers and scooped some up. She intended to give it a taste, know what he tasted like, but Vaas snatched her wrist and took her fingers into his mouth and didn't give it back until he licked them clean. All the while she watched in fascination. Again she slathered her fingers and Vaas let her slide them right into his mouth. She repeated it again and again until she scooped up the last of it. This time when she slid it in, she stared into his eyes as she moved her fingers in and out, imagining her fingers were something else... He swallowed and let out a little groan that vibrated around her fingers that sent a tingling in her nether regions. Citra slid her fingers out and grasped the back of his head and pulled him in for a kiss.
He tasted faintly of something salty, kind of like the ocean.
It felt like time no longer existed as they laid on the bed; the sweat on their bodies cooling down as they kissed softly, whispering sweet nothings into their skins. Vaas hugged her middle like a child and rested his ear over her heart while she caressed his head and hummed softly.
"I love you." She said, kissing the top of his forehead.
She felt him stiffen and wrap himself tighter around her.
"Oh god," He chocked out, his voice trembling. "I'm sorry Citra. I'm sorry." A violent sob racked his whole body. "I couldn't stop. I should've stopped! I'm disgusting. I'm fucking disgusting. I wronged you." He withdrew from her warmth as if it were fire and it was burning him. He sat at the edge of the bed and hid his face in his hands, his body trembling and the muscles on his back tensing. "Oh god, what have I done?"
He looked physically ill. His body lurched as a sound of vomit came from his throat but nothing came out. Citra flinched when he shot out of bed and began pacing back and forth, clutching his head, tears falling down his face. "I'm a monster." He breathed shakily, quickening his pace. Citra grew alarmed. She's seen all sides of her brother but this- this was something new. The way he was acting, it was scaring her. She's never seen him this way before.
"Fuck- fuck.." He was breathing erratically and his entire body was visibly shaking.
"Vaas," She said quietly, the sheets twisting in her fists.
"I can't-.. I can't.." He swayed in place. "What the fuck?.." He said, staring at his shaking hand. She flew out of the bed when he collapsed onto the floor. He curled his body into a tight knot, twitching and hyperventilating, his eyes wide staring at nothing.
"Vaas," She repeated, placing a hand on his arm.
He flinched violently. "Don't touch me!" He screamed but not at her. He wasn't even looking at her. He looked lost, like he was somewhere else. She retracted her hand quickly and stared at him. A pang filled her heart. She wanted to do something but she didn't know what to do. She wanted to hold him but she was afraid he would lash out. She didn't want to make things worse, but she couldn't just leave him.
In the end, she decided to stay with him through whatever he was going through; in case he needed her, she will be there. Citra scooted away, giving him space, and leaned against the bed, bringing her knees to her chest.
She stared at him quietly.
He hates you, she thought in an ugly voice. Look at what you made him do. Look at what you've done to him. He thinks you're disgusting. You are disgusting. You are despicable. How could he ever love you? HE HATES YOU. Wake up! He never loved you-
Stop! STOP. Don't think that way. DON'T think that way. That's not true. It's not real. None of this is real. Vaas doesn't hate her. He never has b ut but he doeshedoes-
Citra dug her nails into her arm and inhaled deeply. She needs to keep herself afloat. He needs her; she can't afford to drown in her own thoughts. Not this time!
Stay here. Stay with him. Focus, focus...
But the rage was too much. It was scratching underneath her skin.
And then, nothing. Her face relaxed and her eyes became blank.
Oh, the thoughts were still there but they can't reach her. It was happening again yet this time she welcomed the emptiness, the numbness. The world around her faded. She faded. No one lived inside this body anymore.
"No," A bodiless voice reached her ears. Something grabbed her wrist, but it took her a moment to register it. "Don't do that." The voice said, and she realized she was looking at Vaas, then at his hand wrapped around her wrist. Something clicked inside her brain, and she finally noticed that she was bleeding. Her nails had dug in so hard that it broke skin making streams of blood trail down her arm.
She felt the pain soon after. It woke up her body. She grit her teeth, prying her nails off. She almost jumped in fright when Vaas let out a shaky sigh of relief. Her brother wasn't shaking anymore but he twitched at odd times, his breath hitching and he still looked awfully sick but he was touching her again and that made all the difference. He exhaled and moved to sit beside her with much struggle.
Their hands found each other's; one trembling and the other bloody. Their fingers intertwined, locking together, promising never to let go.
"I love you." He shuddered, and when his body started convulsing he gripped her hand harder until it passed.
Her eyes welled up with tears that stung. "You don't have to."
If loving her meant he'll face so much pain then believe her, she will understand if he leaves one day. Who could ever love her, anyways?
With trembling fingers, he took a hold of her face and made her look at him.
"I'd die before I ever stop loving you."
His words were so sweet and it hurt even more when a small part of her didn't believe him.