“You just had to come here, didn’t you?” Without the benefit of a solid body, Amethyst Cat couldn’t turn up the heat in the room. She gave Johan a distraught look. Even through all the blankets, she could still see how the fever made him shiver. Juudai, asleep next to him, was faring a bit better, but he too was clearly sick. Topaz Tiger was lying between the two of them, making what could’ve been an imposing guardian if he hadn’t been fast asleep.
“It wasn’t my idea,” Yubel said, doing what Amethyst Cat couldn’t and turning up the heat in the room. She crouched down next to Juudai and pulled the blankets back over his shoulders. “He insisted.”
“And got Johan sick at the same time,” Amethyst Cat hissed. Yubel kissed Juudai on the forehead and turned to leave the room. Ruby, curled up next to Johan, made a distressed noise and Amethyst Cat looked at Yubel. “Since you’re the only one of us who has hands, could you please help him out?”
Johan had managed to kick off some of the blankets during the night, and it wasn’t doing him any good. Whereas Juudai had already passed the worst stage, Johan was right in the middle of it. Yubel sighed, but stepped over Topaz Tiger and obligingly tucked the blankets around Johan. She hesitated for a second, then brushed the hair out of his face, with a look that almost resembled fondness. Johan didn’t wake up, but Ruby made a contented noise and snuggled closer to him. Amethyst looked away. It had been over five years since Yubel had possessed Johan, and the two were on fairly good terms these days, but still…
“I haven’t forgiven you,” she said softly. She hadn’t really intended for Yubel to hear it, but Yubel did anyway.
“I didn’t expect you to.”
“You hurt Johan.” It made no sense to keep whispering, so Amethyst didn’t bother. “None of us will ever forgive you for that.”
“I understand,” Yubel said. “I wouldn’t forgive anyone who hurt Juudai either.”
“I used to hate Juudai, y’know,” Amethyst said, and one look at Yubel’s expression told her she’d better come up with a good explanation fast. “Don’t throw a fit. If Johan hadn’t met him, he never would’ve ended up possessed by you.”
Yubel seemed to think it over. Apparently someone hating Juudai bothered her more than someone hating her.
“If Juudai hadn’t been there, it wouldn’t have happened,” Amethyst said, walking into the living room. Yubel carefully closed the door of the bedroom behind her and followed. “I couldn’t forgive him for that, even though Johan wanted me to.”
Amethyst stretched out in front of the sofa and looked out of the window. She thought she caught a glimpse of Cobalt Eagle up in the sky. Sapphire Pegasus was probably with him. “I got over it. Johan likes Juudai and that’s enough.”
Yubel didn’t reply, so Amethyst continued talking. “I haven’t forgiven you, though.”
“So you said.”
Amethyst contemplated her next words for a second, then shrugged. If they were being honest anyway… “I haven’t forgiven myself either.”
That earned her a curious look, and Amethyst smiled. “Don’t tell me you don’t understand. Johan is my little brother. We’d sworn to protect him and we failed. Do you have any idea how that feels?”
“All too well,” Yubel muttered. She didn’t look like she wanted to elaborate, and Amethyst didn’t have anything left to say anyway, so she rested her head on her paws. It’d been a long three days. Johan had been fine when Yubel showed up with a feverish Juudai, but by the next day he’d been showing the same symptoms, and despite his insistence that it would pass, it soon became all too clear that he was in no condition to do anything. Not for the first time, Amethyst Cat was frustrated at her lack of hands – or physical form. With Juudai and Yubel’s powers, life would be far easier.
“What?” Amethyst rested her head on her paws. She was worried and not particularly interested in more conversation.
“I lied. It was my idea to come here.”
Now that got her interested. Amethyst shifted until she was sitting up. “You brought Juudai here on purpose. Why?” Her eyes narrowed. “I hope that this wasn’t some trick to get Johan infected, ‘cause-”
“No, it wasn’t,” Yubel interrupted. “I wish that hadn’t happened.”
For the first time in the five years Amethyst had known her, Yubel actually looked uncomfortable. When she spoke, it was in the slow voice of someone carefully considering every word: “You may not like me, but you understand. I don’t need to pretend to be just a monster, or not show myself at all so I don’t scare people.”
It didn’t take long for Amethyst to understand what Yubel was trying to say. “You think we understand because Johan’s our brother and knows that not being human doesn’t matter when it comes to loving someone. He understands what you mean to Juudai because he has us.”
“Yes.” Yubel looked somewhat relieved. “Juudai’s parents are good people, but they never got it.”
Amethyst understood far too well. Johan still called them his family in public, but they’d all stopped expecting people to believe it. Most people assumed it was just a joke. At least those people tended to laugh it off and leave them alone, but then there were others…
“A few years ago Johan won some regional tournament. It wasn’t very important and he only participated because some of his old classmates were there. After the tournament, some reporter asked him when he was going to drop the ‘family’ joke.” Amethyst’s face twisted in disgust, and Yubel made an annoyed noise. “Johan… He wasn’t in a very good mood that day. He lashed out at the reporter. Said he had no idea what we meant to him and that he’d never be able to understand either.”
“Must’ve been a pretty bad day,” Yubel said.
“You have no idea,” Amethyst muttered. That day, one of the final opponents had spent most of the time before the duel mocking Johan for not having any family. The duel hadn’t lasted very long.
She took a deep breath and resumed her story. “It was all over the news. Some people just ignored it, but you should’ve seen the internet. People saying he’d gone crazy, that he was mentally unstable and needed therapy… There were a few people who believed him, but they were lucky if they just got ignored.”
“When did that happen?” Yubel asked.
“Two or three years ago?” Amethyst Cat shrugged. “You and Juudai were in some other dimension, I believe. Either way, the hype died down after a while, but Johan was still hurt.”
“People don’t understand.”
“They don’t.” Amethyst dropped her head on her paws. Something occurred to her and she grinned. “So really you’re telling me that out of all of Juudai’s friends, you like Johan best?”
Yubel grimaced. “Apparently.”
“And you’re not even gonna be jealous?”
This time, Yubel’s smile was serene. “I have no need anymore. Juudai will never like Johan best.”
Amethyst recognized the bait, but didn’t rise to it. “That’s fine. Johan will never like Juudai best either.”
“I cannot fathom why,” Yubel said, and Amethyst had to smile when she realized Yubel was at least partly serious. For a while, they sat in a silence that didn’t quite reach comfortable, but wasn’t entirely awkward either. Amethyst thought she could hear her brothers outside. Good thing only Johan was susceptible to human viruses. She didn’t know what she’d do if more than one of them got sick.
“It’s just flu. They’ll get better,” Yubel said.
“I know,” Amethyst said. This was something she could cope with, at least. She rolled over and studied one paw absently, before giving it a few quick licks and brushing it over her head. “So where are you guys going when Juudai gets better?”
“Juudai mentioned going to America.” Yubel said, then, carefully, added: “I’m sure he’d like for you to come along some day.”
Amethyst grinned. It was probably the most overt offer of friendship either of them was going to make. “Promise me nothing’ll happen to my family and I might consider it.”
“With Juudai? I don’t make promises I can’t keep.”
That was true, Amethyst admitted. “Alright then. You take care of Juudai and we’ll take care of each other.” She nonchalantly unsheathed her claws. “Unless you find that too hard to do? After all, you have no attack points.”
Yubel looked insulted for a second, but got the joke soon enough. “Just try it, Cat. I won’t be responsible for the consequences.”
“I’ll pass.” Amethyst Cat sheathed her claws again. “I’d rather keep my attacks for someone who actually deserves it.”
A couple of years ago, Yubel would’ve been that someone, and Amethyst knew they both knew that. But fighting would only make Johan and Juudai sad, and she’d do anything to keep her family happy.
Besides, good conversation partners were so hard to come by.