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Stuck in a Moment

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Why had she asked to go into the tower with Ike and the others? Just remembering the grisly scene, the looks on everyone's faces...Mist had hidden behind her brother, looking pale, Ena had fainted, Nasir looked like he was going to be sick, Tibarn practically had to restrain Prince Reyson. And Ike...she'd never seen him look as angry as he did at that moment.

Jill shuddered, pulling her covers tightly around herself. How could anyone think this was okay? Even the most anti-Laguz propaganda she'd grown up with, would they condone this? Drugging and warping Laguz until they went mad, or worse? I used to be like these people. I thought the Laguz were less than human, and if I hadn't met the Crimean army, would I have... No, even the old Jill Fizzart wouldn't have wished this on her worst enemy.

A rustling sound caught her attention, and she glanced over her shoulder to see Lethe crawling into their tent. Normally so outspoken, Lethe hadn't said a word since they'd gotten back to camp. She'd gone for a walk, presumably to talk to Mordecai or Ranulf, and she hadn't said when she'd be back. But it wasn't just the quiet that worried Jill, it was Lethe's face. She didn't even look angry the way Ranulf had, only...empty.

But Jill knew Lethe didn't like to be bothered when she was upset, so she said nothing, and tried to go to sleep. Sleep wouldn't come, though, and every now and then she'd hear rustling or some other sounds from Lethe's side of the tent.

"Lethe?" No answer. Jill moved her bedroll next to the other girl's and placed a hand on her shoulder; Lethe immediately shrugged it off and inched away. "Did you want to-"

"No!" Lethe snapped. Even her voice sounded empty, Jill realized, no matter how angry she tried to sound. "I don't want to talk about anything, especially what we saw in there. J-just go to sleep, okay?"

"I can't," Jill said, "seeing you like this scares me. You get angry so easily, I'd think you'd be in an uproar over this." Lethe turned to face her, and Jill gasped at the wetness glistening on her cheeks. "Lethe, you-"

"Yeah, I know how to cry." Lethe swiped at her cheeks. "I'm more than just anger. Is that what you think, that since I'm a beast all I do is get angry?" Jill wrapped an arm around her and even though Lethe hissed, she didn't try to push her away.

"Of course not. I'm just..." She sighed. "Lethe, I'm sorry. If I'd known what was down there I would've suggested we go back to camp right away. I wish you and all the others hadn't had to see that."

"It's not like I didn't already know. Feral Ones exist, something had to make them that way. If not the drug, something else did." Lethe shook her head. "You beorc forget we Laguz have been through worse. So I saw the twisted corpses of my brethren! S-so what?"

"Lethe-"

"It could've been worse. I could've been one of them. So don't think you beorc have to protect us from the truth! This is just one more thing we've suffered at your hands and just because you and a bunch of others get it now doesn't mean the rest of the world does!" At a loss for what else to say, Jill only held Lethe closer and let her cry on her shoulder.

We understand. General Ike, Mist, most of the people in this army understand now. But compared to the rest of the world we're only a handful. Someone else, and probably many others, still think Laguz are beneath us. That it's okay to chain them up in a basement and drug them out of their minds. Every time they took a step closer to bridging the gap, they forgot just how big that gap was.

"Those bastards," Lethe muttered through her tears. "I wish we knew who did this so I could end them! Why don't I chain you up in a basement somewhere, feed you poison, laugh as you die in agony?! How many of my brethren spent their last moments suffering, Jill?! Mordecai, Prince Reyson, Ena, Nasir-how many of theirs went through the same thing?! And how many beorc know about it and turn a blind eye?" She was nearly hyperventilating now as she clutched Jill's nightshirt. "I just-ugh, I'm so angry, I hate feeling this way! So helpess, so-"

"Scared." Jill held her closer still, feeling tears welling up in her own eyes. "Knowing it could have been you. I felt that way every time one of the soldiers in my unit went off to battle and never came back. I know it's not the same, but-"

"It's not." Lethe's fingers loosened their grip slightly, but she refused to let go. "But it doesn't have to be. Fear's fear, right? I lose my brethren, you lose a fellow soldier, we both know it could've been us."

"Yeah." Jill sighed, gently rubbing behind Lethe's ears. That always seemed to calm her down a little. "I don't want to lose you."

"H-hey, don't go getting all sappy on me," Lethe warned.

"I'm not being sappy. I'm being honest."

"Jill..."

"We're facing Ashnard tomorrow. He'll be throwing everything he's got left at us, and you can be reckless sometimes," Jill said quietly. "Just...don't try to be a hero. Please." Lethe tensed slightly against her, but at least her tears had stopped.

"I'm not making any promises," she grumbled. "Now let's just go to sleep, okay? And don't tell anyone else about this! It's humiliating enough looking so weak in front of a beorc, especially-" She cut herself off. "Let's just go to sleep." She wriggled out of Jill's embrace and curled up under her covers again. Jill sighed, lying back down and closing her eyes.

"Good night, Lethe."