Near-Death Experience - FE3H Fic
So if the title doesn’t give it away, things get dark. If gore isn’t your thing, I’d give this one a pass.
“Ok, so this is going to sound...crazy.”
“My Love, there have been so many ‘crazy’ things from you in the past, that very little fazes me anymore.”
Byleth drew a deep breath. “Ok, so... You know how Rhea... My heart wasn’t...my heart until after Fhirdiad, and...” She paused. Why was this so hard? “It meant that for a time I could... Talk to the goddess. Erm, Sothis, to be exact.”
Edelgard blinked. “Sothis. The goddess,” she repeated, mulling the thought over, “What was she like?”
“Small.” Byleth winced. Though she hadn’t been able to hear Sothis for years, she could still imagine her insulted gasp at the thought. “Nothing like what the Church depicted her as. She had long green hair, pointed ears, and a tongue sharper than anyone’s. Even Claude.”
Edelgard said nothing, and at first Byleth thought she had lost her. But she had that look on her face. That haunted expression that crept up into her beautiful features every time a long-buried memory was dredged up. “Was she a child?” Edelgard uttered, staring off into oblivion in a manner that was beginning to worry Byleth, “Gentle, but mischievous? Acted immature, but had these moments that hinted at her being far wiser than her appearance suggested?”
“I... Yeah. How do you know that?”
“I...I think I met her, once.”
Darkness had become a welcome thing. Before, it hid all kinds of terrors that waited to do who knows what, but now... Now it hid all the gruesome sights her psyche could not bear to witness anymore. She knew it was all still there around her. She could smell it. She could hear it. Sometimes she could even taste it. The rot. The blood. The mold and mildew and stagnant water and the bugs and rats. She started closing her eyes when they entered the cell, carrying a small flame so they could pick out the few still alive from the corpses. Just a little bit of light, her soul craved it. But the light showed her what had become of them and she just... She couldn’t bear it.
She knew she would be joining them soon.
She no longer had the energy to move, to fight. The iron shackles around her wrists had cut so deep she could feel her bones grinding against them. So she tried her hardest not to squirm. She couldn’t remember a time when her body didn’t ache, when there wasn’t some part of her in searing pain, while another throbbed with a continuous agony. Every cut they made had been left to fester, stitched haphazardly and left exposed to the filth in the cell.
Every breath came weak and raspy, her lungs burning as if the air was on fire.
Her heart sputtered and lurched, stopping and starting at an odd and painful rhythm. Like a horse that had been shot by a poisoned arrow.
She laid on the ground, in the darkness. About an inch of stagnant water and goddess knew what else surrounded her. It must be raining - if it rained a lot the cell would flood just a little.
She used to love playing in the rain.
She had no way to tell if her vision was going black, but slowly, everything went numb, and the unpleasantness of the cell disappeared.
“Oh you poor thing. Rise, my Child. You’re safe now.”
A voice. She’d never heard that voice before. She blinked, realizing that the darkness was giving way to a strange, ethereal green light. Slowly, she pushed herself up - only then realizing that she had the strength to do so.
And the chains were gone. So was the cell.
She lifted her eyes further, and she saw her. Another child. She didn’t look that much older than her, but...she felt older.
“Another one, I see,” this strange child muttered, a disgusted look flashing across her features, “When will this suffering end?”
“Who...who are you?”
The strange child tilted her head. “Is it not obvious?” she said. Then she sighed. “I apologize. You’ve clearly been through a lot. My name is Sothis.”
Sothis. That’s when she noticed the ears - long and pointy. And the ceremonial robes. And the aura surrounding her.
“You’re the goddess,” Edelgard breathed.
“Ah, you’re one of the smart ones!” Sothis observed with a smile, “Figured it out in no time! I like you, Child.”
“I’m afraid so,” Sothis interrupted, her voice quiet and comforting, “But fear not. You will not feel any pain, ever again.” She reached out a hand, and smiled a warm smile. “Come, Child. I’ll take you to the others.”
Edelgard reached, but something caught her arm before she could touch those slender fingers. Metal against bone. Searing pain shot down her arm. Both arms. Then her chest. Then her head.
She reared back, curling in on herself, screaming as white hot fire coursed through her veins.
“Dammit, those bastards,” Sothis hissed. But then her voice turned urgent, almost desperate, as she dropped to her knees before the Princess. “Listen to me: your fight is not over. I wish I could do more for you, I do. But your strength comes from within your heart, not from me. Live, Edelgard, you must. I’ll do my best to watch over you, I promise.”
Edelgard could only let out a choked sob in reply, and her vision began to cloud and fade as more fire consumed her from within. Sothis and the green light dissolved into nothingness.
And with a sudden jolt and a strangled scream, she awoke on that horrid metal table, ribcage torn open and copious amounts of magic pumping into her exposed heart.
When they threw her back in that cell, her body too weak and sore to move once again, she knew this time was different. Whatever fever dream she had before this most recent operation was gone, her memory such a fractured mess it was likely lost forever. But now, despite the pain in her lungs and the lurch of her heart, something felt different. Strength. Stamina... Something was keeping her alive.
She felt it flicker, move inside of her, and she managed to reach one hand out before her to allow it to gather in her palm, whatever it was.
Delicate little tendrils of purple magic swirled around her hand and mangled fingers. Funny...she never used to be able to do that...
She passed out again, but this time her heart kept beating.
“I’m surprised I remembered,” she admitted, “It all feels like a dream, but...” She looked to her wife, the woman who once was the vessel for the Progenitor God and while merged with her saved her life more than she could count.
El smiled. “She kept her word.”
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Chapter 9: Broken Trust
Warnings: alcohol consumption
If you want to be added to the taglist comment, reblog or DM me.
Word Count: 3555
Other parts of the story can be found here.
"As firefighters try to contain the scene it looks as though the blaze was set deliberately. Who started the fire remains largely unknown but eyewitnesses say that they thought they saw Soar in the area. Was this an act of the criminal underground or just your run of the mill arson. Only time will tell. Back to you Bob." the news woman said. Her back was illuminated by the large building ablaze behind her. Ryan had been working late and he often streamed the news on his computer to cut through the eerie silence of the empty building. Some people thought it was weird and some days he agreed with them. Today however he was thankful for his weird habit.
The mention of Soar had instantly pulled him out of his work. Cleo had been alot better at keeping him in the loop about her superheroing but there was still plenty of things he wasn't privy to. Like when she went out especially if she was going out with Sword. So Ryan really had no idea if Cleo was superheroing tonight or not. But the news had put enough concern into him to find out.
After the fourth unanswered phone call Ryan was on the edge of pure panic. Last time this had happened he had found his little girl almost beatened to death. He just couldn't get those images out of his head. He considered checking Cleo's apartment but something told him to check the tracking device right away.
As it came to life Ryan could see Cleo's tracking device pinging at a sidewalk not too far from his work. It wasn't moving however and this made Ryan's stomach drop. He hurriedly ran to his car and drove to where Cleo's tracking device was pinging. There he found her lying on the sidewalk with raspy breathes. Her whole body was covered in ash and her skin was so pale that it had Ryan worried.
He grabbed Cleo's to go bag from his car and quickly changed her. Then he rushed her to the hospital. He half considered not changing her but he knew Cleo would be furious if he didn't. Besides he wanted Cleo to live her dream even if it meant almost giving him a heart attack every now and again.
Ryan took her to her work place of San Oswaldo General Hospital. As they pulled in Ryan hoped that Dr. Halloway was working tonight. He was Cleo's friend at the hospital and for some reason thought Cleo was the most amazing person ever. He took everything Cleo said as the truth without question. Ryan had even once witnessed Cleo telling him that the patient needed more time to recover and then watched him tell the nurse to change the file because the patient actually wasn't ready to be released. It astonished Ryan that Dr. Halloway had so much trust in Cleo. And for that reason Ryan was hoping that Dr. Halloway would believe that Cleo had innocently inhaled smoke and not call the cops.
As Ryan carried Cleo in he noticed Dr. Halloway and he thanked his lucky stars. Dr. Halloway quickly rushed over to them as yelled for a gurney. "What happened!" he asked.
"Cleo was out for a walk when she saw that building on fire. She ran inside to see if there was anyone to rescue but the smoke was too thick to see. She managed to get out but inhaled alot of smoke. She managed to call me. I wasn't thinking and just went to see if she was okay. When I found her she was barely conscious and passed out as soon as I got her in the car. Please won't you help her. She was just trying to help." Ryan said in a quick pace. His desperation and final plea sold Dr. Halloway on the story. With a quick assurance Dr. Halloway took Cleo away for better treatment.
A few hours later Cleo awoke to the sounds of a heart monitor and the oxygen tank. She went to move but was stopped by the taunt oxygen mask. Confusion set in as she tried to recall what happened. Her movement alerted the staff to her consciousness and they called Dr. Halloway over.
"Hello Cleo." Dr. Halloway greeted as he entered. Cleo's panick subsided as she saw him. In the short time she had worked at San Oswaldo General Hospital she had become close friends with Dr. Halloway. He was kind, understanding, and overall great doctor. Unfortunately Cleo didn't have time to explore a friendship with him outside the hospital. A part of her was glad because she had a slight crush on the handsome doctor. It was going to be weird being his patient instead of his colleague. However this did answer the question of where she was.
"Hi" Cleo croaked out.
"Try not to speak." Dr. Halloway answered, "Do you remember what happened?"
"No" Cleo replied.
"That's okay. It's very normal in cases like yours." Dr. Halloway reassured her, "You were very brave and ran into a burning building to save people. You didn't find anyone but it was a true moment of heroism. You have a heart of gold Cleo."
Cleo nodded. Dr. Halloway then told her to get some rest and left. Cleo felt bad. As Dr. Halloway had been telling of her bravery the memories of what really happened came back. Obviously whoever had brought her in had told quite the tale. None of it was true though. She had failed her mission, let the evidence get destroyed, let criminals get away, and was no better than a small child. She felt like a complete failure.
Fortunately Cleo didn't have long to sit in her self deprecating thoughts as her father came in to see how she was doing. He quietly explained to her what had happened and Cleo thanked him. She felt even worse for bringing her father into this. However his warming presence and soft spoken words lulled her to sleep.
Over the next few days Cleo recovered. By the end of the week Dr. Halloway gave her a clean bill of health and sent her home. Once Cleo got home she noticed the many messages left on her phone by Sword. Whether out of concern or just the need to explain Cleo felt that she had no right to know. So she deleted them all without a second thought.
Shortly after Cleo returned to work. However she didn't feel herself. She was second guessing herself at every turn and just felt so lost. The last little while had been tough but nothing had prepared her for the truth. She wasn't as good as she thought. In fact she was so bad that she needed a constant babysitter. It was heartbreaking and honestly Cleo felt like she could do no right. Dr. Halloway noticed her downbeat behavior and told her, "Don'tto feel bad, everyone has difficulties getting back into the swing of things, especially after a hospital visit." All Cleo could give in response was a weak smile. She knew his heart was in the right place but for some reason it only made the sting of reality hurt even more.
For the next few weeks Cleo tried to get her life back into order. She avoided all of Sword's calls and texts. She even successfully managed to avoid her the few times she tried to visit. Cleo also tried to go back out as Soar. However it felt so wrong. It was like she wasn't suppose to be there. Like she didn't have the skills and the only reason people liked her was because Sword was tricking them.
After a few days of that Cleo just felt deflated. Nothing in her life was going right. So she decided to take the next few days off. It was not like she was doing any good. She was stuck being an useless person watching the news for no reason. As the next story came on it only hurt her more. The story was about the fire. The news had decided that it was Dusk's fault for the fire and the police should double their efforts to catch him. Cleo felt bad for him. For once he wasn't at the core of her problems. She knew from their short conversation that Dusk really respected Sword that was probably why he did as she asked. Sword however had no excuse whatsoever. That said Dusk wasn't innocent just less to blame. Cleo honestly could live without seeing either of them ever again.
Just as Cleo thought that there was a knock on the door. Cleo pulled herself up and over to the peephole to see who it was. She had been avoiding Sword by not answering the door and the peephole had been essential in that. However today it was of no use. Whoever it was was so tall that Cleo could not see their face clearly.
Hesitantly Cleo opened the door. Waiting for her was what she should have expected. The tall man with short brown hair and welcoming green eyes was not a stranger to Cleo. As Sword's best friend it was only a matter of time before Oliver got involved.
His mouth curved up into a soft smile before he said, "I don't mean to intrude but I was told that you might be dead."
Cleo let out a sigh and said, "I'm not in the mood Oliver."
Oliver's smile disappeared replacing it with his normal neutral face. "I figured you take a joke better than me telling you Sword was worried about you." Oliver explained, "but I'm pretty sure you already knew that."
"So what are you her messenger now?" Cleo asked.
"More like your understanding cohort." Oliver replied.
"I haven't the faintest clue what that means." Cleo deadpanned, "but I really don't care. Tell Sword to leave me alone."
"I will" Oliver promised, "I just wanted you to know that I know how you feel. Sword has the best intentions but not the greatest executions."
For the first time since Oliver got there Cleo's face showed emotion. It went from passive neutral to quisitive interest. "If I don't slam the door on your face will you tell me what you meant by that?" Cleo asked.
"Of course." Oliver replied, the soft smile returning.
"Well" Cleo prodded.
"Well once Sword froze my bank accounts." Oliver explained, "I was pissed especially after I couldn't pay for anything."
"What!?" Cleo said, shocked, "Why?"
"That is a story for another time." Oliver slyly replied.
"What happened after that?" Cleo asked, "How did you stay friends?"
"With much effort." Oliver said plainly, like it answered all Cleo's questions.
"Did Sword ever tell you what I think of cryptic answers?" Cleo inquired.
"I believe her exact words were 'hates them with a passion'." Oliver replied, "But as a solider who was on taught to never reveal any secrets and who never stopped following those orders,well you're just going to have to get use to it."
"You could try." Cleo suggested.
"I can tell you this. Sword means well. Someday down the line you're going to see it. But for now you just in to put your trust in her. She wouldn't put you in a situation she isn't willing to get you out of. She came and saved you from the drug dealers. She paid for everything I needed until my bank accounts became unfrozen. She is here to help you not hurt you." Oliver explained.
"I'm not sure I can believe you." Cleo replied.
"I know what you mean." Oliver said, "If you change your mind or feel like chatting again you can find me or Sword at Club Dao. We practically live there."
"Okay, I'll think about it." Cleo said truthfully. What Oliver had said had made her think. Up until recently she had seen Sword as someone who was looking out for her. Perhaps that hadn't changed. Still there would need to be boundaries made and Cleo wasn't ready just yet to forgive her. Also despite being super cryptic for some reason Cleo found herself always interested in unraveling the mystery that was Oliver Hall. It also helped that he was very handsome, a good listener, and a great mixologist. It was like the perfect combo. If stuff didn't pan out between her and Sword at least she could gain a 'friend' that owned a nightclub and might give out extras for 'friends'.
"I'm glad to hear that." Oliver replied, seeming to see her honesty, "I'm going to go and leave to your thoughts. I hope to see you soon." With that Oliver down the hallway back to the elevator.
Cleo quietly shut the door behind her. She returned to her seat in front of the tv but turned it off. She had a lot to think about. Sword had always been a mystery to her but with a little bit of info Oliver had given her she seemed far more human than she had five minutes ago. Sword must have been really worried if she had sent Oliver. But Cleo wasn't ready to forgive her just yet. First Cleo needed to decide what boundaries she needed and how far she was willing to follow Sword without explanation or the complete picture. It was going to take some time before Cleo trusted Sword again but she wasn't entirely opposed to the idea of giving Sword another chance. After all Sword had given Cleo a chance it was only fair to do the same for her.
By the end of the week Cleo was feeling ready to face Sword once more. So she headed to Oliver's nightclub, Club Dao, and went on a search for Sword. However she only saw Oliver who waved her over. "Didn't think I would see you here so soon." he remarked.
"You're more convincing than you think." Cleo replied.
That got a chuckle out of him. A soft smile formed on his lips as he began making a drink. It wasn't until he put it in front of Cleo that she realized it was for her. "I haven't even ordered anything. Why did you make me a drink?" Cleo asked.
"Don't worry it's on the house." Oliver replied, "Besides you looked thirsty."
"Well I won't say no to a free drink." Cleo said as she went to take a sip. Once she had her sip she realized it was a Blackberry Gin and Tonic which so happened to be one of her favourites. "Wait how did you know I like this drink?" Cleo asked.
"You've ordered it before." Oliver replied like it was the most simple thing in the world. Cleo however was surprised to say the least. It had been quite awhile since she had last been here and she had no idea how he remembered.
"Do you have some sort of super memory or something?" Cleo asked.
"No" Oliver replied non-chalantly, "I'm just good at remembering people with interesting drink choices. Yours definitely matches your sweet, bright, and somewhat zesty personality."
"Oh you think I'm zesty." Cleo said as she laughed.
"Nice to see you enjoying yourself. I hope I don't put you in a foul mood." Sword said coming up behind Cleo.
"I'll try but it all depends on how you handle our next conversation." Cleo replied trying to be serious but still smiling from her conversation with Oliver.
"Respectfully I hope" Sword responded without missing a beat.
Meanwhile Oliver was preparing another drink and once he finished he placed it in front of Sword. "Now play nice you two. I'm going to go over and talk to the other patrons. I'll be back later. Try to work things out and definitely don't try to kill each other. I wouldn't hesitate to kick both of you out. No exceptions." He said firmly as he pointed at Sword.
Sword gave him a mischievous smile before she asked, "What if I use the I saved your life card?"
Oliver looked her straight in the eye and said, "No" and then proceeded to walk away.
"Well at least I know someone can put you in your place." Cleo joked. Sword just rolled her eyes.
"Shall we get down to business" she asked, "or should I ease into it?"
"I'm ready if you are." Cleo replied.
"Good" Sword said, "Firstly I would like to say I'm sorry. I was not my intention to make you upset or make you think that I thought you were incapable. I should have brought you to a similar situation and showed what to expect instead of throwing you literally into the fire."
"Well, um, thank you. It means alot to me to hear you admit fault. It was very poorly executed by all parties and so I'm willing to work with you to try and mend our partnership." Cleo replied.
"I'm glad to hear that." Sword responded, "I'm hoping to prove myself to you by being a better listener and role model when we go out on patrol and other harder missions."
"About that, the thing is I'm not sure I'm fully ready to just up and trust you. So I decided that I needed to make boundaries so that I don't fall back into the obedient follower instead of an active participant. This meeting is the first step. If I like what you have to say then I will consider training with you. If I training goes well for awhile I will consider doing smaller patrol duties like muggers or vandals. Then we will see from there. But one thing we are not doing is going straight back into crazy stuff like drug dealers. I don't trust you or Dusk enough for that. Maybe with time, we'll see." Cleo explained.
Sword seemed taken aback by this. For as long as they had worked together Cleo had pretty much accepted everything Sword had told her. This was anything from where to be at a certain time to who to fight, with the only exception being working with Dusk. Having Cleo blantantly tell her that she wasn't going to do that anymore had shocked Sword speechless. Once Sword finally found her voice she said, "I did not expect this."
Before she could continue Cleo shot back, "Well I didn't expect to be treated like a child."
Sword went to say something back but she stopped herself and took a deep breath. Then she said, "I suppose that I deserved that comment. I am willing to agree to your terms but you must be willing to try new situations."
"I don't trust you enough for that." Cleo replied firmly.
"I'm not saying that you have to do it now but you will have to do it sometime soon." Sword insisted.
"You don't have to push me so hard. I said I would think about it when I trusted you more." Cleo said, clearly irritated.
"You know my time is precious. If you are unwilling to do it within a timely manner I will be forced to move on." Sword explained.
"What if I only want to do the easier stuff?" Cleo asked.
"Then my time teaching you is done." Sword replied.
"What!? That's not fair!" Cleo said loudly before realizing her increase in volume she then continued in a quieter voice, "Sorry, its just that I don't understand why you are abandoning me."
"Abandoning you, no, not at all." Sword replied, "You have all the skills you need to do the easier stuff. There is nothing left to teach you so there is no reason to continue your training. However if you someday decided that you wanted to learn the harder stuff then I would return to train you then."
Cleo thought for a moment and then said, "Well I would like to continue training with you so I will be open to trying harder stuff soon but I need some time. You have a long way to go to earn back my trust. So don't push me right now and I will let you know when I'm ready."
"Alright" Sword agreed, "Just remember that it can't be too long. I don't want to push but I don't want to waste my time."
"Don't worry about it." Cleo replied, "If you keep being honest with me then everything will be fine."
"I hope so." Sword said.
Just then Oliver returned. "You two still alive?" he asked.
"No we're zombies." Cleo answered, jokingly.
"Well don't eat my brain." Oliver replied.
They laughed but all Sword could manage was a strained smile. Cleo however didn't notice. She begun a silly banter with Oliver and eventually Sword joined in. The rest of the evening was fun and Cleo went home with a smile. Things were finally going back to normal. With time things would get better, she could feel it. Even Sword seemed willing to cooperate. However Cleo was unsure about the harder stuff Sword was so insistent on. She wasn't sure if she would be ready fast enough that Sword would be happy. She wasn't sure she would ever be ready. But for now she was going to put those thoughts on the back burner. After all Sword needed to prove herself before she had to worry.
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