[Cecily]Twenty Four: "Drawing the Line"

       "What do you see when you look in the mirror, Cecily?" His voice was soft, quiet, yet seemed to echo loudly in the stone chamber. I spun the oval mirror past a thousand scenes until I could see my face. I scrutinized the flushed cheeks, bloodshot eyes. "I see someone who's on the wrong end of the bottle."
       "Beyond that."
       I didn't want to look beyond that. Not one bit. His words insisted, though, and I found myself looking into my own eyes despite my reservations. "...a little girl. A little girl who was always too stupid to be afraid. And behind her," No not back there... "A woman who... who can't stand to be." I leaned closer to the mirror, peering past my reflection. "What are you doing here, Jasper?"
       He came up to stand at my shoulder. "Nudging."
       He nodded sagely. "You occasionaly need... a metaphysical boot in the right direction." I stuck my tongue out at him and the little bastard grinned.
       "I'll give you a metaphysical boot," I muttered mostly to my image in the glass. I stuck out my tongue again, but this time to examine it; I swear I could feel the hair growing on it. Then a sudden thought. "Wait. Are you talking like you're my conscience?"
       Sweeping a slight bow, his impudent smile brightened. "Just call me Jiminy Cricket."
        I was all set to call him something when I realized the eyes in the mirror weren't mine. Neither was the face. I blinked, rubbing the sleep from my eyes as Harry lifted my chin from my desk, scowling a black storm.
       Not an auspicious start to the day, which proceeded to pass as a tragic comedy of errors, with me playing the fool. Harry's little lecture and injuring Fletcher in a moment of overzealous irritation left me in a piss-poor mood, and I found myself retreating to the solace of the bottle.
       I Haven't had the desire for a good drunken stupor in a long while, which told me just how not well I was dealing with all of this. Yet I couldn't let go the way I wanted to. I couldn't drink enough to dull the edge.
       That's about when Fletcher found me. I'd expected some sort of scathing dressing-down, but he stepped out of his usual mode of dark sarcasm and thanked me for helping give him the chance to do be a part of something greater than the carnage we were both used to.
       It was enough to replace the comfort of the alcoholic buzz for a little while.

       When I left the infirmary a little while later, after a gentle admonition from Stark (and agreeing to water her plants while she was gone), and a haunted apology from Syrana, who'd paled to ice-white when I told her of Matthias. I think we were both somewhat reassured by the conversation, but I htink it's going to take a lot of time and will for Syrana to exorcise whateer deamons she brought back with her. And Matthias... I firmly pushed the thought away as I headed down to the kitchens. There was no telling if he'd even want anyone coming after him. If anyone, maybe Gerard. He'd survived the Pattern. He'd be okay.
       He had to be.
       Luke was making pancakes. With chocolate chips. After scaring him yet again, things settled down for a little while, into something resembling a normal afternoon. Shen and Griffin were there, and I was able to forget, for a few minutes, just hwere I was.
       Then Griffin said he was going to go into Shadow for a few days to escort Syrana home, and all hell broke loose. When we'd put together that Syrana and Stark had already left, Griffin laid the blame at my feet and stormed off.
       There was a moment of stunned silence. For a moment, I didn't feel anything. Then it hit. "Fuck this," I snarled, shoving my plate away with a clatter and following Griffin's example.
       I was so furious I was shaking. I didn't have what it took to do this. Hell, I hadn't even wanted it. They volunteered me from the first, and now...
       I slammed open my office door, and threw it shut, but the expected thud never came. I turned to find Luke standing in the doorway. I was equally relieved and pissed he'd followed me.
       He started to talk me down, and was actually managing some success, until he brought up Matthias. "Take a week, go after him."
       "I can't, damn it. My responsibility is here."
       "If you're having such a hard time with it, let one of the other's take over."
       "Who? Fletcher? None of the others would follow him. Stark? She's been through an emotional wringer. Griffin? He's in knots about Syrana." I shook my head. "No. I agreed, and I'll do this. I don't go back on my word."
       He watched me for a long moment. "Why did you say yes?"
       "Because I look in the mirror and I see someone who has ducked responsibility at every turn. Because I know a lot about killing, and very little about living. Because I died, and that made me realize I'm not invincible, and that I don't have a hell of a lot to show for my life so far. Because I don't want to wake up one day and find that nothing matters but that rush you get when you kill something. Because there was a boy who died a horrible death because I took some stupid risks, and I can't seem to get his blood off my hands."
       But it all died on my tongue, because before I could get up the nerve to start, a frantic page stuck his head in the door and announced there were pirates on the high seas, coming our way.
       I was out the door before Luke could say anything more. He followed quietly as I sent runners off to summon Fletcher, Gerda and Brennig, and Ilie's second. My rage settled to a cold, hard knot in my stomach. It was a comfortable, familiar sensation. However I felt about it, death is what I knew, and did, best. It was time to draw the line, for myself and the future, to prove I was up to the task at hand. It was time to let the universe know Amber was under my protection.
       And nobody fucks with Cecily Greyfalcon.