~ As Jaden settled to the pace that Takyle was setting, he allowed himself to relax just enough that he was able to block out most of the throbbing pain radiating from various points on his body. Behind him Andrew quietly hummed unknown melodies, the stanzas interspersed with an occasional observation about their immediate surroundings. The group walked on through the day, pausing only briefly for lunch and a short break before moving on again. The path continued on a downhill trend, with brief stints upwards over smaller rises, though the scenery remained similarly uneventful.
As the hours passed, Jaden found himself slipping into a melancholy that he couldn't shake. With each step he felt himself sink a little deeper still. In the back of his mind a constant nagging voice threatened to tell him the reason for it and he continually shoved the thought away, only to have it return again and again, pressing against his defenses, pushing through the cracks.
A mantra set itself up in his mind, chanting over and over, "Just keep walking, just keep walking."
After the sun slipped behind the horizon and the slopes had faded to black Takyle finally called a halt to their long march.
"Alright, we're going to eat, sleep for a couple of hours and then head out again. I want to get off of this stupid mountain."
Jaden and Andrew both nodded and silently went about pitching their impromptu camp and fixing something nondescript for dinner. The meal was eaten for the most part in silence and in the dark each member of Team 6 crawled into their sleeping bag for a fleeting bit of rest.
Jaden lay staring up at the stars far above and the deeper blackness surrounding each point of light, wishing for sleep and lying in continual disappointment. Eventually Jaden's vision blurred and he gave into the thoughts that were screaming to be heard, until he was startled by Andrew's voice.
"Jay, why are you still awake?" he murmured. Jaden sat up and looked over to where he knew Andrew was supposed to be sleeping.
"How did you know?"
"We've been rooming together for nearly a year dude. Your breathing changes."
"So what's wrong?"
Jaden sat for a long moment in silence, staring out into the dark. Finally he spoke.
"Are you scared to be around me, Andy?"
"If I was would I be sitting here in the dark with you, knowing that you're armed?" asked Andrew, his voice carrying his smile. "But um... What would make you say something like that Jay?" The quiet that surrounded them was heavy while Jaden thought about his response.
"Well... What happened with Kathleen... I don't... I didn't really think-" Jaden's failing speech ground to a halt when Andrew interrupted his stammering.
"You mean because of the fact that you fully intended to kill that woman before I stopped you?"
"What did she do to you, Jaden?"
"How does he know?"
"Because he can read you like a book."
"I want to tell him everything."
"I don't know how."
"Just say it. Say it now."
"Just say it!"
"Kathleen tried to rape me." The words spilled out quickly and Jaden regretted them immediately. Inexplicably he felt a rush of shame.
"What's wrong with you? You didn't do anything."
Andrew was silent for a long time and for a moment Jaden imagined that his friend was judging him. Surely Andrew would think that he had brought it on himself somehow.
"Don't be such an idiot. He's on your side," Jaden reminded himself harshly.
When Andrew did finally speak his voice was edged with icy anger.
"What happened? What did she do?"
Jaden drew a deep and somewhat shaky breath, allowing himself a moment of relief over Andrew's response, and then he began to describe what had happened. He left nothing out and Andrew was silent through the entire narrative, though Jaden could feel his eyes on him through the darkness. When Jaden had finished pouring his heart out the stillness of the night settled itself around them once again. Eventually Jaden heard Andrew sigh.
"Andrew... What are you thinking?"
"I'm thinking that I was an idiot for getting you into this." ~