Sing Me to Sleep – 2

This is another part of “Sing Me to Sleep”, which answers another WriYe DreamWidth Prompt, but there’s a gap between this section and the previous one.  The prompt answered was the word, Jewel.

**

Gilbert stopped and picked up a large white stone that was carved in the shape of a bear.  He held it out to Taurys.  “This is a bit harder than the stones we were using last time,” he said.  “It should be harder to crush.”

“That’s… a symbol of the Snow Father, Gilbert,” Taurys said, hesitant to take the stone bear from him.  He didn’t want to break a religious symbol.  That was so much worse than crushing simple garden stones.

A faint smile touched Gilbert’s lips.  “Think of it as added incentive,” he said, shrugging.  He nodded when Taurys held out his hand, palm up.  He set the stone bear in Taurys’s hand.

At first, Taurys simply let the bear rest on his palm.  Then, after a bit of coaxing from Gilbert, he began turning it over in his hand.  He blinked as he managed to hold it with just enough force to keep from dropping it, without breaking it.  “I’m doing it,” he breathed, tears welling in his eyes.

“How are you feeling right now?” Gilbert asked, his voice soft.

Taurys blinked and wiped away a tear from his eye.  “Happy,” he said, shrugging.  “Surprised.  Why?”

“Part of getting a handle on your emotions is identifying them,” Gilbert said.  He leaned down to look into Taurys’s eyes.  “Take a deep breath and let it out slowly.  It’s all right to be happy and surprised, but… you don’t want to cry about it.  Right?”

“Right,” Taurys said.  He took a few deep breaths and, after a few moments, he felt calmer.  He was still happy that he could hold the stone bear without crushing it.  He didn’t feel the pricking of tears at his eyelids anymore.

Gilbert smiled at him.  “If you start to feel your emotions overwhelm you, take a moment to think about why you’re feeling that way,” he said.  “Take a breath and try to relax.  It’ll take time, but you’ll get there.”

“Thank you,” Taurys said.  He set the stone bear back in its place in the garden.  Then, he brushed off his hands.  “Do you have any more of those stones with words on them?”

“I’ve got little ornamental jewels inside,” Gilbert said.  As they headed back inside, he said, “While you practice picking them up and holding them – roll them over in your hands, switch them from one hand to the other – I’ll boil some eggs for our lunch.”

“Hard boiled eggs should be easier than raw ones,” Taurys said, nodding.  He grimaced.  “I need to stop at the market on the way home to get more eggs.  I had a disaster preparing breakfast.”

Gilbert chuckled softly.  “When we’re making lunch, the trick will be to break the eggs without crushing them,” he said, nodding.

Taurys sat down at the dining room table.  As he began playing with the jewels that were in the bowl, making up the centerpiece, Gilbert headed into the kitchen to boil some eggs.  “Why did you make this body so strong?” he asked.

Shrugging, Gilbert said, “I was ordered to – so that they could use you as a field agent.”  He heaved a sigh and shook his head.  “People keep saying they want peace, but… that’s not going to happen until we stop thinking in terms of making better weapons than our enemies.”

“So, that’s all I am to them?” Taurys said, frowning.  “A weapon?”  He felt the jewel in his hand crack and took a steadying breath.  As he released the frustration that had been growing, it was easier to grip the jewel without breaking it further.

Gilbert shrugged.  “To them, maybe,” he said.  Then, he gave Taurys a weak smile.  “To me, you’re a person and a friend.  You’re a father to Milda and a husband to Daina.  You are so much more than just a weapon, Taurys.  Keep that in mind.”

Sighing, Taurys nodded.  “I will,” he said.  By the time lunch was ready, Taurys could manage to hold the jewels without crushing them.  Gilbert had been exactly right when he said it would be tricky to break the eggs without crushing them.

He made a mess of the first two eggs he tried to peal.  By the third, he’d figured out how much force it took to break the shell without ruining the egg inside.  When the girls came inside, he was happily breaking the shells off the eggs, while Gilbert mixed them into a salad.

“Do you want help, Papa?” Gretchen asked, as she went to the sink to wash her hands.

Gilbert smiled faintly.  “Why don’t you make some toast and then set the table?” he asked.  “This is part of Taurys’s therapy.”

“Therapy?” Milda repeated.

Nodding, Gilbert said, “That’s what they call it when someone has to re-learn different life skills, Milda.  Your father is learning how to break eggshells without destroying the egg.”

“That makes sense,” Milda said, then, she washed her own hands and began helping Gretchen with the bread.

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Sing Me to Sleep – 1

This is the beginning of my second August NaNo project.  It also answers two of the prompts from WriYe’s DreamWidth.  One is a picture prompt and the other is a word prompt: Tissue.

**

Inspirational-Words-of-Wisdom-211It was a beautiful day in Berlyn.  The sun was shining and birds were singing in the trees.  The air was becoming crisp as the season turned from summer to autumn.  Taurys sighed softly as he glanced around the field.  He couldn’t help but smile when he saw his daughter.  There was a time he’d feared that he might never see her again.

She plucked a fluffy blowball out of the grass and blew against it.  In an instant, the tiny white fluffs flew away, carrying the seeds of the dandelion.  Milda giggled and watched the seeds, turning in place to follow them as they swirled around her, carried by the wind.  As soon as she spotted Taurys, a sunny smile touched her features.  “Papa,” Milda said, bouncing forward.  She threw her arms around Taurys’s waist.

Chuckling, Taurys wrapped his arms around her.  “Hello, Daughter,” he said.  He blinked when she pulled away.  “Milda?” he said, blinking.

“That hurt,” she said, tears coming to her eyes.  She rubbed at her arm and shook her head.  “Why did you hurt me?”

Scowling, Taurys crouched down and looked at her arm.  There was a mark, the shape of his hand there.  He gasped and looked down at his hands.  He was so much stronger now, he had trouble controlling it.  “I’m sorry, Milda,” he said, reaching out to her.

Milda pulled away from him.  “No,” she said, her voice firm.  “You’re not my papa.  I don’t know what you are, but Papa would never hurt me.”

Taurys felt as though something in his chest snapped.  He stood, watching in sadness as Milda ran across the field, away from him.  Then, his gaze was drawn upward, beyond her.  Petrov was smiling, holding his arms out to Milda.  “No,” Taurys cried, “get away from her!”

“Taurys,” a voice called.  Daina’s voice!

Gasping, Taurys turned and the scene faded.  He was standing in the middle of his dimly lit bedroom.  Daina was sitting on the bed, frowning at him.  “Daina?” he said, blinking.  He looked around.  “I – I was in a field,” he said, trying to make sense of what was going on.

“It was a dream, Taurys,” Daina said, her tone gentle.  She held up the blankets and smiled.  “Come back to bed, Taurys.  It’s all right.”

Taurys shivered and nodded.  “I just… I’ll check on Milda,” he said.  He stepped over to Daina and kissed her mouth lightly.  “I’ll be right back.”

Daina nodded and then leaned back against the pillows.  “When you get back, you’ll tell me what you were dreaming?” she said.

“I will,” Taurys assured her.  Then, he pulled on his robe and padded out of the room.  Milda’s bedroom was just down the corridor from theirs.  He eased the door opened and sighed.  Milda was curled up under her blankets, looking as sweet and peaceful as he remembered.

He tugged the door closed, being careful not to pull too hard.  Then, he returned to the room he shared with Daina.  He slipped under the blankets and stretched out beside her.  As she curled against him, he wrapped an arm around her shoulder.  “I can crush rocks with these hands,” he whispered.

“Is that what you were dreaming about?” Daina asked.

Taurys shook his head.  “I dreamed that… I hugged Milda and accidentally hurt her,” he said.  Tears welled in his eyes, because he knew that was possible.  He still wasn’t quite used to how strong he was now.  “She… ran away from me – to Petrov.”  His heart clenched at the memory and he released a shuddering breath.

Daina kissed him lightly.  “That would never happen, Taurys,” she said, her voice soft.  “If our Milda ever ran from you, she’d run to me.  You know that.”

Sniffling, Taurys nodded.  “I don’t want her to run from me,” he breathed.  “I don’t want to hurt her, ever – not even emotionally.”

“Sweet husband,” Daina said, sitting up to look into his eyes.  She kissed his eyelids and then nodded.  “That’s what makes me so certain it’s you in there.”  She patted his cheek.  “Such the worrier.”

She rolled away from him then and tugged a tissue free of the box on the nightstand.  Handing it to him, she said, “Dry your eyes, Taurys.  Then, drink some water to replace the fluids you’re losing.”

Taurys took the tissues and did as she’d said.  Then, he reached over to the nightstand on his side and lifted the water glass to his lips.  He took a sip and set the glass back.  “I should talk to Gilbert about… my strength.  Yeah?”

“You should practice the exercises he gave you until they become second nature,” Daina said, shaking her head.  She frowned and brushed tears from his eyes.  “I’ll have a word with him about this,” she said.  “I think he’s gone a bit overboard with how real things are.  You never used to cry so easily and you’ve never sleepwalked before.”

Taurys chuckled and wiped away the last of his tears.  “I’m just having trouble adjusting,” he said, shaking his head.  “Everything is about learning control.  It’s like… when someone comes out of a coma.  They have to learn how to control their emotions, yeah?”

Daina looked thoughtful for a moment.  Then, she nodded.  “I will have a word with him about the sleepwalking, though,” she said, her tone one of determination.  Then, she kissed his cheek again and said, “Now, try to go back to sleep.”

“Yes, dear,” Taurys said, as he lay back down.  He curled on his side, gently drawing Daina close.  As she snuggled into his embrace, he closed his eyes.  He was determined to learn better control, now.  It wasn’t just about what Gilbert wanted or being embarrassed about destroying the stones.  Now, it was about his family.

A Little Death

The prompt for today’s story, “If” came from the NaNoWriYe DreamWidth.  At this point, I’m completely caught up, so I’m answering the prompts as they come out.  The title for this story came from a quote that I found on the internet.

“Each day is a little life: every waking and rising a little birth, every fresh morning a little youth, every going to rest and sleep a little death.”

Arthur Schopenhauer

**

Taurys stood in the corridor and watched Milda sleep.  She looked so peaceful, snuggled under her blankets and hugging her favorite doll close.  There were times when he wondered if he’d made the right decision in staying alive the way he had.  Gilbert had offered to let him go when they’d defeated RX-9.  However, he wondered: what would have happened?

He would have gone to sleep, that much he knew.  Gilbert would have waited until he was asleep and then disconnected the circuit that connected his brain to the artificial body.  He would have died.  Unlike his first death, it would have been completely painless.  He would have gone on to heaven, the way he should have from the start.  There would have been nothing to keep him in that world anymore.

It would have been so easy to make that decision.  If he had, though… What would have happened to Daina and Milda?  If he was gone, Daina – his wife – would have remained under Ivan’s power.  Milda – his little girl – would have become a ward of the state.

He shook his head slightly.  He’d made the right choice in remaining with the program.  It had opened so many doors.  Daina and Milda were there now, safe from Ivan’s dark plans.  Ilya and Valdis wouldn’t have joined the program if he hadn’t been there.  They would have remained trapped for… how long?  Would it have been forever?

Ilya had said that Valdis was nearly unrecognizable to him, until Madeline had called them.  His anger and hurt at Ivan’s betrayal was changing his spirit.  He was becoming dark – a creature of evil.

The more he thought it over, the more certain Taurys was that he’d done the right thing.  However, he was also afraid.  Every time he closed his eyes to sleep now, he worried.  What if he never woke?  What if the new body – artificial as it was – wasn’t as stable as Gilbert thought it was?  Each night, he felt as though sleeping was a little like death.

“Taurys?”  He turned to find Daina standing in the corridor.  She crossed her arms over her chest.  “Come to bed, dear.”

“Do I… sleep the way I used to?” he whispered as he followed her back to their room.  “Am I… completely still or do I move in my sleep?”  He knew Daina moved in her sleep, but he wasn’t sure whether he did or not.

Daina stifled a laugh.  “You move more now that you ever did, Husband,” she said.  She leaned in, catching his hand in hers.  “I used to lie beside you and watch closely – straining to see each breath.  Now, you murmur in your sleep and shift, rolling from one side to the other.  Often, you will curl against me, as if seeking warmth.”

Taurys smiled at her, tilting his head to one side.  “Really?”  She nodded and he kissed her cheek.  “I love you, Daina.”

“I love you too,” Daina said.  Then, she drew him to the bed.  They curled against each other and Taurys found comfort in having her so near.  He closed his eyes and slept.  His dreams were filled with swirling lights and colors, but he seldom remembered those.

Sunshine Daydreams

I had a lot of fun with this prompt.  Just imagining the situation my character finds himself in was fun.  At the same time, I could totally see it happening.

Prompt: Sparkle

“Uncle?”

Marian looked up from his newspaper and hid a smile.  Camelia was wearing one of her party dresses.  It made sense.  After all, she was having a party.  However, it still caught him a bit off guard.  “Yes, Camelia,” he said, his voice soft.

When she hesitated, he folded the newspaper and set it aside.  “Is there something wrong?” he asked.  He glanced at the clock.  Her friends would probably be arriving in about thirty minutes.  He frowned at her.  “You’re not worried because they’re not here yet, are you?”

“No,” she said, flushing.  She gave him a weak smile.  “It’s early yet, but… I wondered if you might… like to join us.”

For a moment, Marian just stared at her.  The last couple months hadn’t been easy for either of them.  Marian knew that he wasn’t the ideal father figure.  He could be scary at times, especially to a little girl.  He also tended to be horribly overprotective.

He was trained to protect people.  That didn’t always mean that whoever he had been assigned to protect got to do what they wanted.  In fact, it was often quite the opposite.  When his niece wanted to do things, he treated her the way he did people he had protected in the past.  He assessed the situation and, too often deemed it too dangerous.

It had led to arguments.  Why couldn’t she go to the soda fountain with her friends?  Why did she need to stay close by him when they were in public?  Worse, too often, he couldn’t find a reason beyond, “because I said so”.

So, when Camelia asked him if she could have the other girls in her class over for a tea party, he couldn’t say no.  She would be in their backyard.  He could watch her from the kitchen window.  What could be safer?

This, however, was something he hadn’t anticipated.  He was torn from his reverie when Camelia flushed and shook her head.  “You don’t have to,” she said, a bit too quickly.  “I just figured that – that it…”

“I’d love to come,” he said, smiling.  Her eyes widened and, for the first time in quite a while, she smiled at him.  He gave a nervous chuckle and stood.  “Let me get changed,” he said.

By the time her friends were arriving, he was ready to join them.  He couldn’t help but chuckle at the girls – none of them older than twelve – arriving at his home dressed in their Sunday best, which hats and gloves and jewelry.  “They look so grown up,” he murmured at Gilbert.

Chuckling softly, Gilbert nodded.  He waved at Gretchen and said, “Have fun, sweetie.”  As she nodded and scampered out to the garden with Camelia, he turned to Marian.  “What are you going to do?”

“Camelia invited me to join them,” he said, shrugging.

Gilbert grinned and nodded.  “Have fun with that,” he said.  “I’m taking the boys out for ice cream, in the meantime.”

Felicja arrived at that moment with Zofia, also dressed in a lovely party dress.  “Henryk’s looking forward to that nearly as much as she’s been looking forward to their tea party,” she said.  Giving Marian a playful wink, she said, “Have fun, Marian.”

Marian nodded and offered Zofia his arm.  “The other girls are in the garden,” he said.  When she blushed, he added, “I’ll show you the way.”

“All right,” she said, taking his arm.  She waved absently at her mother as she and Gilbert left with the boys.

Outside, Marian was confronted with the reality of attending a tea party with four pre-teen girls.  They had their dolls in their laps.  Their gowns and jewelry seemed to twinkle in the sunlit garden.  There were sugar sprinkles on their cupcakes.  Even the teapot seemed to shine.  He’d never seen anything so sparkly in his life, but there was no escaping now.

He straightened and then poured tea for each of the girls.  Then, he took a seat between Camelia and Milda.  He was uncertain at first.  However, soon, he was chatting with the girls and, occasionally, their dolls as if he were at any afternoon tea.

When the time came for the girls to leave, he saw them out with Camelia by his side.  Then, he turned to her and smiled.  “Did you have a good time?” he asked, his voice soft.

Camelia nodded.  “Next weekend, can we do it again at Zofia’s house?” she asked.

“I don’t see why not,” Marian said, nodding.

Laughing, Camelia hugged him.  Then, she scampered off to change into her play clothes.  As she reached the upper landing, she said, “And, of course, you’ll come too.  It won’t be the same without you.”

“Of course?” Marian said, blinking.  He was certain, somehow, that he would be going above and beyond the call to attend another tea party.  After all, none of the other parents had stayed for this one.  He heaved a sigh and shook his head.  He knew that he’d been trapped, now.  He’d be attending tea parties with Camelia for the rest of the season.  “God, save me from little girls.”

Dreamers – part 10

So… here’s the next part of the story.  It was inspired by a picture prompt from NaNoWriYe’s DreamWidth.  I like the idea of Taurys painting with Milda.  It’s obvious that he really cares for his family.

art inspiration

Daina stepped into the sitting room and frowned. “Taurys,” she said, setting her hands on her hips. “We have to go to that banquet and… you aren’t even dressed yet!”

Taurys blinked at her and then looked at Milda. Milda shrugged. “We’re painting, Mama,” she said, waving at the canvas in front of her.

Frowning even more, Daina stepped over to the pair. The canvas as covered with acrylic paints. The colors swirled and mixed in what seemed, to her, to be completely random. “It’s lovely,” she said, her voice soft. She certainly wasn’t going to tell Milda that she couldn’t tell what it was.

Biting back a chuckle, Taurys handed her the paintbrush. “It won’t take me but a moment,” he said. Then, to Milda, he added, “Clean up your paints, dearest. Then, you can take off your smock and get your shoes.”

“Yes, Papa,” Milda said. As Taurys hurried out of the room, Milda took the brush from her mother. “We were making a picture of what Papa sees when he sleeps. He wants to show it Dr. Schneider to see what it is.”

Daina heaved a sigh and then took the paintbrushes. “I’ll wash these,” she said. “Go and find your shoes and don’t get any paint from you smock on your dress.”

“All right, Mama,” Milda said. Then, she scampered off to take off her smock. “Will Johannes be there, Mama?”

“I expect he will be,” Daina said, as she headed for the kitchen. She had just finished rinsing the brushes when Taurys came out of the bedroom. He was wearing a smartly tailored tuxedo.

As he caught her hand, he said, “Did I mention how lovely you look this evening? That shade of blue is perfect on you.”

“Thank you,” Daina said. Then, she let him escort her to the door and settle her wrap over her shoulders. The clock on the wall over the mantle read ten minutes after five o’clock. “We’re going to be late.”

“Not unless we hit a lot of traffic,” Taurys said, shaking his head. He glanced around and then said, “Milda?” A moment later, she was at his side. He smoothed her hair with one hand and then tugged the door opened.

Taurys led the way to the car, tugging the door opened, so that they could get into the car ahead of him. Giving Daina a playful wink, he headed around to the driver’s side and turned the key in the ignition. As the engine roared to life, he said, “I’ll need to have a word with Felicja and Gilbert. Think you can handle the kids?”

Daina nodded. “Are you going to go on another mission so soon?” she asked, her voice soft. “You only just got home.”

“The last trip was for some testing,” he said, rather than answering the question. “This… shouldn’t take me away from home. Most of the work is going to be at the lab, here in town.” His brows furrowed and he gave her a sidelong glance. “It’s about Valdis and Ilya, but… I can’t say more than that.”

Daina frowned and nodded. “You don’t have to,” she assured him. She knew enough about what had happened to him to be able to guess what could possibly involve the two Veligradian agents now. “Dr. Alexandrova has a lot to answer for,” she added.

“You have no idea,” Taurys said. Daina wasn’t completely certain that he knew she’d heard the softly spoken words. However, she nodded and then looked out the car window at the passing scenery. As Taurys had said, they would be at the event just in time.

To Sleep

Another DreamWidth Prompt from NaNoWriYe.  My goal was to do one each day until I’ve caught up… I had a lot of fun with these, though.

Prompt: Enemies

Daina frowned as she returned home. She wasn’t sure what would happen now. Taurys was gone. The lab was gone, which meant she had no job. A part of her wanted to hate Gilbert. It was his fault that all of this had happened. At the same time, she knew him. He was a sweet man. He wouldn’t have done something with the intention of causing harm to her or her family.

She heaved a sigh and then glanced over at Milda. No, Gilbert wasn’t to blame for what had happened. Dr. Alexandrova was the one who had taken Taurys from her. Dr. Alexandrova was the driving force behind the project that Gilbert had come to Veligrad to stop. That meant it was Dr. Alexandrova who deserved her anger.

As she settled down to rest that night, Daina smiled. She knew what she should do. Dr. Alexandrova would pay for what she had done. Daina wouldn’t kill her. That would be too easy. Instead, she would see that the woman suffered the same pain and loss that Daina did. She would take away the thing that Dr. Alexandrova held most dear: her position in the government.