Tinkerpunk music plays on the radio in the background at low volume. “So… I really need to make something clear… When I said ‘If I can survive getting soul burned for a day and a half straight, I can survive anything’…That uh. That really wasn’t a challenge.”
“Fuck where do I start… First off, I’m not telling Pryn. She has enough to deal with right now without worrying about me getting shot.
And well, I guess that’s what happened. I got shot. Sometimes I feel like a wimp for making such a big deal out of it. But then other times Kae nags me to go back to bed and I don’t feel so bad.
So here’s what happened. I come downstairs a few days ago to start my shift, like normal. I was actually standing outside reading a note from Ash that said that she and Jiira were really proud of me and stuff –” there’s a soft rustling of paper as he picks up the note and sets it back down “– and I turn around and there’s Tao.” His voice darkens.
“I’ve been going over and over the conversations in my head, trying to figure out what actually caused it. Tao has always been… interesting with me. From the first day we met, she was manipulative. I didn’t mind her flirting with me, or trying to swindle money off of me, even when I didn’t have it. Now that I’m a bit distanced from the situation, I also am pretty sure she was trying to get into my bed. I mean… She broke into my room a few times, that’s not normal.
So anyhow, Tao has never been a good friend. She tried to keep me from telling Pryn my past, and flat out told me a few times that I shouldn’t talk about my problems, because no one can help so don’t talk about it. Don’t think about it. Suffer alone, basically. Well. That’s what I heard. It took me to a real dark place for a while. I’m really lucky I have good friends here it uh. It could have gotten messy. Well… messier.
So that sort of killed our friendship, as tenuous as it was. She tried to talk to me the first time, and I laid it out for her. She invalidated my feelings. She treated my like shit and she made me feel like less of a person. And…
Trying to talk to her about it was so weird. Every time, I would tell her how I felt, how I didn’t like how she made me feel, so I wasn’t going to be treated like that anymore. And every time, her response was… Similar.
She kept saying ‘But you’re so nice.’ It didn’t really dawn on me until today. I don’t get it. Being nice is a crime? Being nice makes me an easy target? I mean, probably. But I come from a family that is distinctly not-nice. I’m not going to contribute to that disease anymore…”
A shift in the wrong direction, a grunt of pain.
“Ow. Anyhow, so… This was take three of that damn conversation. She follows me inside and round and round we go. She doesn’t like that when her weird-ass friends showed up and grilled me about her, I told them how I actually felt instead of making shit up about how wonderful she was. But she doesn’t control me, as much as she likes to think she does. She kept saying she was sorry, but in this weird, demanding way. She wasn’t sorry. She was sorry I wasn’t kowtowing to her.
So the Keg starts to fill up, I told her that when she figured out what she was actually apologizing for, instead of just groping around trying to make me not angry anymore, we could try again. So she left.
I go back to work, only mildly annoyed, and she comes back in with a big fuckoff Draenei dude in tow and a bag of money. She tells me the gold is to pay back everything I ever did for her, every kindness. I told her that my friendship didn’t have a price tag on it, nothing I did for her ever came with the expectation of being repaid, I’m not taking your money. Big Draenei dude leans over the bar, tells me that I will do anything the woman asks, and throws a bag of gold at me.
Now I’m pissed. I’m not property. My days of doing ‘anything that someone asks’ for money are long over. No one owns me and I’m not for fucking sale.” Anger starts to rise in his voice.
“So I tell him to keep his damn money and leave me the hell alone. They both persist. He threatens me, shovel comes out, I’m on top of the bar, white hot with rage, telling him to get the fuck out. Both of them.
Tao starts to leave, dragging the big guy behind her, and just as they get to the steps BAM!
I’m going backwards off the bar and wondering why I’m moving. I see the flash and the smoke and then my vision is turned to the ceiling. It came so fast, it wasn’t like being stabbed. There was no momentary sensation of the resistance of skin before the metal slid through. It was just… Brutal. It was… A violation. Forceful, uncaring, punching its way through my gut and into my organs and…”
He pauses to calm his breathing.
“It’s really weird where your mind goes in emergencies like that. I could hear yelling and screaming and I thought ‘Crap, I ruined their lunches’. I felt the blood pumping out of me and I thought ‘Shit, I don’t think I’m going to be able to clean this up. They’re gonna be so mad.’
At some point I was on my back on the bar again, staring up at… I think it was Veil. My vision was going in and out, I just remember frantic voices around me and she was holding my head, telling me it would be alright. I didn’t believe her. And all I could think was ‘I broke the contract. Pryn’s gonna be so pissed at me that I broke the contract.’”
A low sigh, a few heartbeats of silence.
“But I didn’t. And she won’t either, no matter how much of a racist shithead her Sergeant is. I just… I want her to come home. This would be so much easier if I could just… just talk to her face to face… Just hold her hand and…” Jax’s voice starts to tremble slightly then as gasp as the sound of the door opens.
“Oi, bruvah. Wot you doin’ awake, eh?” Thick, growling Gilnean accent, loud but distant, coming closer.
“Wot’s that then? Ah, a picture o’yer girl, aye?” The voice is closer now, the loudness of his growling breaths can be heard even at the distance. “Aye, she’s a beaut’. Type’a girl ye can really take ‘ome ta mum.”
“Give it back, Daff.”
Daff ignores him, there’s the momentary sound of scrambling and a grunt as Jax tries and fails to rescue something. “Yeh. She’s the type y’jest wanna respect all over. Just take her up t’yer room and talk about yer feelings with.”
“Fuck’s sake, Daff.”
There’s a lecherous laugh that doesn’t suit the context. “I bet she’s the type ye can really open up to, tell her all yer ‘opes and dreams.”
“Give it back.” There’s a soft rustle as Daffyd relents, but unfortunately doesn’t shut up.
“Treat that one like ‘omework, yeh? With lots of thought and care, learnin’ as much as ye can so as to only improve on the future.”
“Why. Are. You. Here.”
“T’check on you, stupid. Make sure yer takin’ yer meds and walk yer mutt for yeh.”
“Thanks. Sera’s volunteered to take Oshu from now on but –”
“Wait wait wait one more.”
“She got a lot of beautiful curves on ‘er. Wanna know which one’s my favorite?”
Jax’s glare can be heard through the silence.
“…Fuck. I’m stealing that on–” The crystal clicks off.