He left the thoughts for a moment, allowing a rare moment of peace to settle over him as the chords washed about the room, filling every empty corner with droplets of sound. Jasper was just about sure that he'd never felt so at ease as he did right now, knowing that he was in the company of people unlike those he'd known before, people who seemed intent, for whatever strange reason, on looking after him and his brother. It was almost, almost, enough to make him relinquish his guard and give her the answers he knew she was seeking. Still, he found that he was reluctant to do so. If they knew who he really was, underneath the general courtesy brought about by strange circumstance, knew the manipulative, violent soul... surely then, he would be done for.
So when the second song came to an end, he glanced over at the strange girl at the grand piano, and shook his head to himself. You almost had me there, for a second... "You play well," he commented simply, and turned to leave. This was perhaps the biggest understatement he had ever uttered, but it mattered not.
He waited for no response, choosing instead to flee the room like the coward he was. Belligerent he could be, and in the face of a fight, he would not run. But he knew not how to deal with kindness, and to say that he was afraid of facing it was quite true. Jasper didn't wish to deal with this fact right now, though, and so he took the stairs two at a time, seeking refuge in his borrowed room for the moment.
Brushing her hair back, she headed for the door, whistling to Storm, who had sat beside Scarlett, his head on the cushion beside her. He stood slowly and trotted after Mia, who was now outside. Pressing the button on the keys, she watched for the flashing lights. To her left, a black car's lights flashed on the street. She smiled as she recognised the car as tidy Clio. It was small, but it would be effective to get them around. Once her bag was stashed in the boot, she walked down the street a way with Storm, so that he could do his business before they had a car journey. All thoughts of the baby had been pushed from her mind and she was trying desperately trying not to think about it. Storm kept her mind off it, by chasing a butterfly up and down the road. Laughing, Mia leant against the car, watching. A soft thud made her jump, spinning on the spot. On the grassy verge beside the car, a bird had fallen, limp and lifeless. Frowning, she glanced up, looking at the tree from which it had fallen. She put it down to an unlucky fall, turning back to Storm. But something in the back of her mind screamed at her to listen.
Better than she was, anyway. The small girl sighed to herself, replacing the cover over the keys to her piano and standing. She wondered what she should do now. There wasn't really much to do; she held no job, and study had become a thing of the past. They may go back into Exodar later today, or perhaps tomorrow, but... she was beginning to feel an itch, a desire to do something productive. Playing had helped for a while, but now she needed to do something else. Norman and Amunet were a few rooms over; she'd be able to hear what they were saying if she wanted to. The way their emotions were shifting around, though, made her uncertain she wanted to know. Did that make her a coward?
Maybe, but either way, she knew that Norman would tell her if it was something important. She had at least that much trust in him. In fact, she trusted him the whole world over, and was sure he knew that. He had never once given her cause to doubt that her faith was correctly-placed, and she wasn't about to start doubting now, so best to do something else and leave them be for the moment. Jasper and Derris were both upstairs in Amunet's room and one of the guest suites (which she supposed was now Jasper's) respectively. Best to leave them be, too, perhaps.
So what to do? They wouldn't need to eat again for hours, and there was enough stir fry, quiche, and salad left over that they might not even have to cook anything new. Cleaning was done... perhaps she should go for a walk. the grounds were quite expansive, and she and Liz used to love wandering the gardens together... yes, that sounded like a good idea.
Norman was rather impressed with how well Amunet was taking this. She still had the presence of mind to ask a very relevant question, and he was glad of it. She would need that strength if she truly intended to do what she spoke of. "They don't have the organization pinned down yet," he informed her with just the barest hint of anger. Not at her, of course, but at whatever group of people thought themselves so mighty that they might manipulate the entire world this way.
"Master Wilson did a fair amount of business in Korea, however, and I've instructed them to look into corporations operating globally, but specifically in Seoul. It was his belief that he brought the disease back with him. Until now, I had dismissed it as unnecessary guilt, but... he may indeed have been one of a number of carriers infected initially." His baritone was grim, laced with the heaviness of responsibility. "It would not have been his fault, of course, but I wish I had known at the time."
Regarding the woman before him, he seemed to take her measure for a moment, and then continued. "I can get you to Korea, and I would go with you. But, I think it important that you be prepared for as much as possible. Let my connections work on this for a while, see what they can come up with. In the meantime, if you wish, I can give you the short course in how to do what it is you wish to do." The implications of the statement he allowed to sink in for a moment. It would likely require some serious contemplation, but they had time.
He just didn't know exactly how much.
"I would be incredibly grateful if you could get me to Korea..." she began, "But I agree. I am not yet ready to do what I've set out to do. Don't mistake me. I will do it, but I want to be absolutely sure my own cowardice won't get in the way. I will do whatever it takes, Norman, anything I must to, I will do it." Having spoken her piece, Amunet sat back and pondered a new thought that suddenly popped into her head. Jasper and Derris. When they had originally agreed to work together, it had just been Kit, Norman, and herself, but now, there were two more people staying with them. She couldn't honestly believe that their intentions wouldn't eventually involve somebody staying under the same roof as them, and she didn't think it fair that they be left in the dark as to what was going on with their housemates.
"Are we going to tell Jasper or Derris?" she said aloud, "I think...I think they should be told what we are up to. It's not exactly innocent play." It was true. It's possible this venture would cost her life, or Kit or Norman's. She had been perfectly willing to risk her own life and more reluctant to accept that Norman and Kit would do the same, but now that these two boys were here, their lives would be at risk as well. As much as she wished that wasn't true, especially for her precious Derris, it was. A chill went up Amunet's spine as she pulled herself out of her reverie to focus on Norman, glad to have him to rely on. He would be a strength to her.
Madeline turned, and looked at Scarlett who was asleep beside that bloody dog, she cursed. It made both Mia and Scarlett happy, but a wolf for Christ sake. Not just some fluffy puppy, which she could have dealt with. Mia whistled for the dog and Madeline made a rude gesture at its back, she knew it was childish but this dog was clearly mocking her. Forcing herself to remember her pledge to grow up, she hoisted the bag onto her back, and lifted Scarlett into her comforting arms. The dog was just getting into the car when Madeline left the front door after having a final glance around the comforting flat.
Scarlett was laid on the back seat beside Storm, the bags stowed in the boot and they were ready to go. Madeline hoped that Scarlett would not wake and want to look out of the window because it was an awful sight. Dead bodies were still scattered across the streets, but many of them no longer looked like a body. Madeline could not give a detailed description of them as she dared not look for too long. There were also bodies of animals, the forgotten pets starved. It sent a chill down Madeline’s spine to see the once congested main road completely deserted. She glanced at Mia, the poor woman was so emotional at the moment. Madeline closed her eyes and said a silent prayer that they would be soon safe once more and this hellish journey would be completed without a problem.
Scarlett twitched as she dreamt; she was running the sea lapped at the ankles invitingly. Her mother had forbid her to swim, saying it was too dangerous. So she continued to run across the beach, and a beautiful beach it was. The white sand rolled out endlessly before her, completely devoid of any life except herself. Her mother had long since faded from the dream. It felt nice to be alone, calm. She was happy and completely cares free. Just a quick swim she decided, she would not go too deep. So in she waded, surprised to find the water as warm as a bath. She floated on her back, staring at the blue sky. Then suddenly a huge wave hit her, and she was drowning, her feet could not find the floor, and she did know what direction the surface was. She could not breathe, and everything was going black...
Scarlett awoke coughing and spluttering, and fighting for breath, tears poured down her face...
Amunet just looked like she was on a crusade. There was nothing to substantiate this suspicion, of course, just a feeling he had. Then again, if Jasper hadn't learned to trust his gut feelings, he'd be dead by now. In the face of determination like that, a person with so little purpose as he was best off just standing clear. Even so, he could not deny that the woman was friendly enough, and were it not for his general wariness, he supposed she would be the one he related to most readily.
Derris looked... weak. Scared. Neither one of these things was exactly foreign to his brother, but it had never been this bad, back when the two of them had lived in that shoddy apartment in Exodar. Hell, this was worse than the time they'd had to run from their birth town in America. He hated it, seeing his brother this way, almost as much as he hated not being able to do anything about it.
Exhaling softly, Jasper rolled over on his bed so that he was staring up at the ceiling. Kit... he didn't understand a thing about. He could figure out where Norman was coming from, he was pretty sure he and Amunet had more in common than either of them knew, and he understood his brother better than anyone else. But the doll-like girl was simply beyond his comprehension, so different was she both from himself and from what he'd come to understand of other people. It was something of a problem, really. Jasper was well-used to knowing more about others than they did about him, but at times he was fairly certain she was reading him like a book, and he cast himself the blind one.
There was a small noise, and the door, which he had left cracked, moved aside to admit a black cat that was probably more fur than flesh. It stood in the doorway for a second, staring him down with unblinking gold-green eyes, which he met with equally intent gray ones. The cat blinked first, then padded over to where one hand dangled absently off the side of the bed, nudging the limb with its head. Half-smiling, Jasper gave in and ran a hand down the furry back, somewhat unsurprised when it jumped onto his chest. Settling back onto the pillow behind him, he resumed petting it absently. Cats, he understood. They knew what they wanted, and just went ahead and did what they had to do to get it, without much regard for others. There was an affected haughtiness to most of them. He rather thought that he might have more in common with this feline than the human being named for one.
Cats, though, however solitary they might be, did acknowledge something he refused to: that every once in a while, they needed to be in the company of others.
For now, though, she inhaled deeply of the sweet fragrances, smiling as she recognized the roses and oleander, hibiscus and orchids. Fingers traced along velvety petals absently as her ears drank in the drone of insects and the song of birds. Odd, how there didn't seem to be as many as she had remembered... had the disease affected wildlife as well, perhaps?
The proposition was grim enough that she did not wish to spoil her newfound contentment by dwelling upon it overmuch, and so instead she selected a sunny spot just a few feet from the shade of an imported cherry tree, stretching out on the grass without consideration for whether or not to do so would stain her clothes. Some things were just too nice to pass up, and a nap i the sun was one of those things.
Slowly, slowly, Kit loosed her hold on consciousness, drifting into the world of dream.
Norman nodded as the young woman spoke. Her strength was welcome. It was not as though Kitty was weak, exactly; in some ways he was certain she was stronger than any of them, himself most certainly included. But... those ways were not the ones conducive to what Amunet and now he wished to do.
"So be it," he replied evenly, stopping short of saying anything else when she brought up the two newest additions to the household. A valid question, he supposed. If they were really to form the nexus of some kind of resistance, they would most certainly need more manpower than he and his contacts plus Amunet and possibly Kit, though he was reluctant to include the last in their ranks for a number of reasons, his own protectiveness not the least among them.
He rubbed at the gray stubble on his chin, almost surprised to discover how scratchy it had become. It would seem he needed to shave. "I question the wisdom of involving the child any more than is strictly necessary; I do not know if one his age would fully understand anyway. However, I shall leave that to your discretion. As for Jasper..." he pondered for a moment. The youth seemed impulsive, self-interested; not the sort that would work well with any organized effort, assuming he would even wish to. Norman had not, however, missed the way he moved. Either the boy was a martial artist, and an accomplished one, or the old man was giving way to senility long before he had expected to.
"I think I might have a solution for that, if you would permit a few days." In fact, Norman was pretty sure that he knew the way to convince him, but it would hinge on getting him to fall into the group more completely, and hence, would take some time. Additionally, he would have to determine who would best convince him of the necessity of what they were doing.
"There's no need hurry," she replied grimly, "I'm in no great rush, and the greatest events generally come about from time and careful planning. We will move when the timing is perfect, I suppose." Amunet stood and stretched, looking down at the older man with a smile. "I'm very sorry to cut the conversation off so quickly, but the boy was having nightmares when I left. I would like to check on him again...And thank you, Norman" Amunet flashed a sincere smile at him once more before turning to leave. She moved to head back to her room, giving the house a sensory sweep as she walked. Kit, strangely, seemed to be outside of the house, maybe in a yard of some sort, and Jasper was in his room with Bastet. She smiled as she thought of the little black cat. It probably was a world of comfort to a boy who didn't seem to like people overly much. She reached her room soon after that and carefully opened the door so as not to disturb Derris. He lay in the bed, his relaxed position and soft breathing suggesting his nightmares were over. Smiling, she sat on the edge of the bed and placed a hand on his cheek, stroking it softly.
"Jasper..." the boy murmured in his sleep. Amunet faintly remembered him doing the same before and raised an eyebrow in surprise. Jasper had said Derris didn't remember, but he called Jasper's name in his sleep. Somewhere deep in his subconscious, the boy still knew his brother. Amunet bit her lip in a moment of indecision. Jasper had seemed so distraught before. Should she tell him? It might be a great comfort for him. Deciding that the worst that could happen is that Jasper would not want to speak to her, maybe get angry, Amunet stood and left the room as quietly as she came, heading quickly up the stairs to Jasper's door. She hesitated a bit, nervous for a small moment, but in the end, she threw her shoulders back and knocked confidently on the slightly ajar door. If she bothered to, she might even be able to look inside, but she didn't dare be so rude twice in the same time.
"Jasper?" she called softly, "I was wondering if I might speak with you for a moment."
There was a pause, and Jasper sat up, holding onto the cat so as not to receive the business end of a set of claws in punishment for his disregard. The thing was so docile, however, that it merely adjusted itself and lay contentedly against his chest. He absently ran a thumb along the thickly-furred shouler as he quickly contemplated his options.
He could refuse. Rude as it was, he was still seriously considering it. He wasn't in the best of moods at the moment; and he honestly didn't want anyone around here to be on the wrong end of his temper, but... he probably owed it to her for looking after his brother. After a moment of fierce internal struggle in which his rationality was forced to do battle with his instincts, the reason won out. "Yeah, sure. Come in if you want." The door was still ajar, and he could see part of his guest through it. Assuming that the same was or soon would be the same for her, he placed the cat on the floor. It mewed plaintively in protest, and he glared. The last thing he needed was people thinking him sentimental or something, and there was no faster way to get there than being found holding a kitten, for goodness' sake.
He moved to the seating area and took the same chair he had earlier. It actually offered him a nice vantage point to the rest of the room, and the door. Pointlessly strategic, but it wasn't as though one day with nobody trying to punch him or shoot him or steal something from him was enough to make him abandon his cautious habits entirely, and it was in his nature to be wary, always on the lookout for a threat. He doubted that one would come to him on the third floor of what appeared to be a very secure mansion property, but you could never be too careful, could you?
"Thank you," Amunet murmured politely, "I came to talk to you about Derris..." Now that she was there, Amunet stopped, wondering what exactly she was supposed to say. Hey. He hasn't forgotten you completely. He says your name in his sleep...or, That must really suck. Don't worry. It might get better. Though she was exaggerating in her own mind, she still couldn't form a proper way to say it.
"My sister and I only had each other, nobody else...," Amunet stopped, shocked. The words came out of nowhere. She wasn't in the habit of telling strangers about herself, and she had already spilled everything to Kit, and she didn't like so many people knowing...well, about her, but...once she said it aloud, it just felt right. "I won't bore you with stories designed to pity me or to show that I can sympathize with you, but I will say that when she died, part of me died with her. Derris...he won't ever truly forget you. People like us...we don't forget things like that so easily, because it's all we have left. I know with absolute certainty that he'll regain his memories. Until then,...well,...I'll help any way I can." Amunet leaned against the wall and folded her arms across her chest, looking at Jasper with raised eyebrows.
"And I do it because I like Derris, and because I have the potential of liking you, so don't ever, for one moment, think I help out of pity," she said with a small grin, easily hiding her embarrassment at speaking so openly and honestly. Amunet chuckled to herself. She was pretty sure Kit was rubbing off on her.
She overqualified. Making sure to tell him that there was no need for pity and she felt none. True, he might have jumped to that conclusion on her words alone, but there was nothing in her body language that indicated pity or self-pity, really. Of course there was grief, but he recognized that this was a perfectly normal reaction.
So Amunet understood what it was to have nobody but a sibling. There was common ground, there, but Jasper was not sure what he wished to do with the knowledge. There was a potentiality for sympathy, if he would allow himself to feel such a thing. If she would even accept the gesture as anything but useless sentiment. No, for now, he would leave that be. "Take care of him," he requested simply instead. "My brother seems fond of you; I don't want to take him anywhere with me before he remembers who I am, anyway." It hurt him a bit to admit it, that Derris was somewhat attached to Amunet already. He honestly couldn't decide which was worse: that his brother had grown so swiftly close to another, or that Jasper himself was virtually incapable of doing the same. Perhaps he was envious of the both of them.
"I would have, of course, taken care of him without your direction. You don't need to worry about that," Amunet replied smoothly, "I also think it's only right to tell you that Derris calls your name in his sleep. I don't think he's forgotten you, but I think there is something else he doesn't want to remember blocking the way of his memories of you. Still, that means he hasn't truly forgotten about you. I thought that might be something you wanted to know." Amunet leaned forward to run her hand gently across Bastet's head then turned to leave.
"I, myself, am exhausted. It's been a long day, so I'm going to bed," Amunet politely explained before she turned to walk out the door, "I suggest you do the same. It would be better for your recuperation to rest more." That last bit was called over Amunet's shoulder, but she knew he had heard her. Taking the stairs in a brisk walk, Amunet made her way back to her room and crawled quietly in the bed beside Derris. She resisted the urge to snuggle, though, and maintained an arm's length distance, suddenly guilty about being so close to the boy. Before she slipped into sleep, Amunet watched the boy's sleeping face as she put her thoughts together. The boy missed his brother, and his brother missed the boy. The only thing that got in the way was memories, and Amunet was determined to help Derris remember. Amunet frowned, wondering why she was so concerned. Before the disease, before her life had changed completely, Amunet never would have wanted to try so hard for a complete stranger, but now...It was no matter. She didn't mind this new feeling of concern and protection. In fact, it made her feel the most human she had felt in her entire life. Satisfied, Amunet finally allowed herself to fall into the darkness of slumber.
Yet... how much did he really want his brother to remember? Their lives had been hard, and painful. There were nights when they gone to sleep next to dumpsters, the gnawing pain in their stomachs a constant reminder of their poverty. Jasper had lost count of the number of times he'd gone without to see his brother fed, but never had it been enough.True, before the disease struck, they were living relatively stable lives in Exodar, but did he want Derris to remember what he'd had to do to secure that? Jasper was a thug, pure and simple. Not in the sense that he extorted from people or did anyone's dirty work, but it would be impossible to believe that there wasn't blood on his hands all the same. Blood, mixed with the filth of underground dealings and illegal fights.
He'd kept as much of it from the frail little boy as possible, but Derris wasn't stupid. What was he supposed to think, when Jasper came home bloodied and bruised more often than not? That just couldn't and didn't add up to anything savory, end of story. He hoped the dreams in which his little brother cried his name were not nightmares, but he knew deep down that they could not be otherwise.
For a moment, the young man lost his poise, and closed his eyes against inescapable memory. Running a hand through his thick black hair with a frustrated noise, he stood, desperate to be anywhere, doing anything but all this damn thinking. Whether or not he wanted Derris to remember was irrelevant. He would or he wouldn't irrespective of that.Which meant that Jasper would just have to take things as they came, and cross these bridges when they came to him. Would Derris despise him when all was said and done? Maybe, but that wouldn't stop him from protecting his brother. Not now, not ever.
Checking to make sure the door was, in fact, closed, Jasper headed for the shower. Amunet was right about one thing at the very least: he needed rest. Maybe the hot water and some sleep would help him forget these troubling thoughts for the moment. He knew not what would become of any of them tomorrow, but then, he never had, and he was still alive anyhow.
The water was too far away for him to hear the shower itself, meaning that it was on the third floor, and thus Jasper. Which left Miss Katherine. He'd heard her exit the house earlier, but never come back in. At the time, it had been little cause for concern; she was given to wandering the gardens of the estate, but it was growing quite dark outside now. The old man's mouth set in a determined line as he took the back door out, scanning the area with sharp eyes to try and spot any sign of her.
It took a few minutes, but he did find her, nestled comfortably in a patch of grass beside a tree. The small girl was curled about herself like a feline, chin tucked into her chest, arms bent at the elbow and legs at the knee, making her seem even more petite than she was. In the repose of sleep, he decided, she looked even less a girl of seventeen and even more the fragile child she had once been.
Sighing slightly, the old man stooped to collect her in his arms, and she stirred. "Hn... Daddy?"
He shook his head and shushed her. "No, Kitty, it is only me. Go back to sleep." His heart broke for the slight frown that creased her face, but it soon settled into dreamy contentment once again.
"Okay. I'm glad you're here, Norman." She smiled then, and slipped back into slumber. The old man stood stock-still for a moment, inexplicably warmed by a few simple words, uttered as they were in half-consciousness. His lips quirked slightly upwards, and he carried his charge back to her room with sure, steady strides, laying her atop her four-poster bed before pulling the duvet up about her shoulders. Patting her head gently, he closed the door softly behind him. Now, he ought to get some rest as well. There would be much to do in the coming days, after all.