Summary: When Aaeru first became a Sibylla, she often flew unauthorized flights. After that particular incident, she quit. She's harbored the secret of that flight, and had planned to always do so, but Neviril asks her about it one day...
“Where to tomorrow, Neviril?” asked Aaeru, stretching and sitting on the side of the bed.
“Well, we haven’t been pulled away in awhile. We could use the Emerald.” Neviril finished brushing her hair out and set the brush back on the vanity. She turned to look at Aaeru. “What do you think?”
“I’m not sure. I kinda like this place. The people aren’t so bad, and we have a place to stay that’s not outside.” Aaeru looked around at the simple room they shared, white and decorated with images of ships.
“It’s hard to gather any information though,” remarked Neviril. “There are no libraries nearby unless we head into town.”
“The walk’s not so bad though.”
“Aaeru, we need to study each place we visit,” reminded Neviril. She frowned. “We need to learn about their customs and cultures. There must be a reason Tempus Spatium is taking us to all of these places.”
Aaeru looked to the ceiling, hands behind her head. “Maybe, but can’t we just relax for once? We’re always looking for new information or working or something. I just want to stop that for a bit.” She looked to Neviril again. “We even have a place to stay because I do odd jobs for the woman. She doesn’t mind us staying as long I do what’s asked of me.”
After a few moments, Neviril sighed. “All right. We’ll stay here longer unless Tempus Spatium takes us elsewhere.”
Grinning, Aaeru replied, “Of course!”
“I’m surprised you don’t want to at least fly the Simoun.”
“Oh I always want to fly, Neviril. I can’t think of a time I wouldn’t want to fly. I always want to fly.”
Rising from her seat at the vanity, Neviril took a seat by Aaeru on the bed. Aaeru turned herself and laid her head the pillow. Neviril studied her love. “You used to take those unauthorized flights when you first arrived on the Arcus Prima. I heard about them. You stopped after that one with Limone though.”
Aaeru’s face changed, and she no longer appeared interested in the topic they were discussing. “I just didn’t want to do it anymore, that’s all,” she replied. “It was against the rules.” She looked away from Neviril.
Neviril chuckled. “Aaeru, you’ve never let that stop you before. Why did you stop? What happened on that mission?” It seemed strange to her that no one had ever found out from either Aaeru or Limone. She’d heard talk of it, and there was mention of the Simoun becoming dirty, but that was it. Much of her time had been spent avoiding Aaeru or trying to talk some sense into the girl.
Here Aaeru rolled over and faced the wall. “Nothing. It was just a routine patrol mission with Limone. We tried to do a Ri Majon and then patrolled. No big deal.” She grew silent, hoping that no more would be said about that particular mission. Already she was having flashbacks to it, and she shuddered at what she saw. She felt a hand lightly touch her side.
“Aaeru?” called Neviril softly. She hadn’t expected it to have been something so terrifying. She hadn’t meant to call up bad memories, but she had never expected that it would be something that would make Aaeru pull away. “Do you want to tell me about it?”
“No,” was the reply.
Neviril climbed into bed with Aaeru, turning out the bedside lamp. The only light in the room came from the moon, which was full that night. Neviril spooned against Aaeru, wrapping her in her embrace. When she reached for one of Aaeru’s hands and intertwined their fingers, she felt Aaeru squeeze her hand tightly. Whatever had happened had really bothered Aaeru, and Neviril held her close, sorry for bringing up the topic. She had almost drifted off to sleep when she heard Aaeru speak up.
“Neviril? You still awake?”
“Yes. What’s wrong, Aaeru?”
Aaeru rolled over so that she was facing Neviril. “That mission… it taught me what it really means to face an enemy soldier.” She did not look at Neviril as she spoke.
“Do you want to tell me about it?”
“Maybe. I don’t know. It makes me feel sick to remember it.”
“You really don’t have to, Aaeru,” replied Neviril softly. “Not if it makes you feel that way.”
“I made a mistake. I fell for a simple trick and we were captured by an Argentine soldier. He wanted the Simoun, but I wouldn’t let him take it. I untied Limone and myself and took the soldier by surprise, but he grabbed my leg. Then he ran for the Simoun and shot at us. We hid, and I came up with a plan.”
Aaeru became silent once more. Neviril waited, and then gently encouraged her to continue. “Then what?”
“Limone was to distract him and I would knock him out. It went like we wanted and I went to knock him out. I climbed up to the auriga cockpit and he was…dead. He was gripping the controls and there was blood on the seat from where he’d coughed it up. He was already stiff too and I couldn’t get his hands off the controls.”
“What did you do?” asked Neviril, running her fingers lightly through Aaeru’s hair.
“The only thing I could do. I had to cut off his fingers. It made me sick… I only had my pocket knife. I worked until morning while Limone hid. It was the worst thing I’ve ever done.” She didn’t go into any further detail, not wanting Neviril to see the same things that were flowing through her mind. “We were able to fly away after that. I’d dirtied the Simoun in the worst way. I remember what I had done as I cleaned it up. That’s why I never flew out on flights like that anymore. I would only fly in flights to join up with the Chor. I never again wanted to face a soldier like that.”
Neviril wasn’t sure how to feel about what Aaeru had done. The mere thought of it was disgusting and yet, Aaeru had kept it to herself the entire time, carrying the memory on her own. Neviril recalled looking into the eyes of the enemy and realized that Aaeru had instead spent time with the enemy. She had maimed the body to survive. She had wanted to escape. She had learned a lesson about unauthorized flights, but at a steep price. She was caught up in her own thoughts, and didn’t feel Aaeru pull away at first, but soon realized her hands were against the sheets. “Aaeru…why?” she asked.
“I knew you wouldn’t want to touch me after that.” It sounded as though her voice was breaking.
“No, it’s not like that, Aaeru.” Neviril reached out, but Aaeru moved as close to the wall as she could get. “I was thinking about what you’d told me.”
“I know you don’t want to do anything with me. I’m okay. I am.”
“Stop it. That’s not true. You had to survive. You protected Limone. It doesn’t seem as though there was another way… It’s just… hard to imagine.”
Aaeru chanced peeking over her shoulder at Neviril, who gave a soft smile. She looked back to the wall. “I wouldn’t have done it if there was another way. I don’t want to do it again.”
Neviril reached out, touching Aaeru’s arm. “Please, you don’t have to keep punishing yourself… I still love you. I don’t like you hurting like this. I’m sorry I brought it up. I had no idea it was something traumatizing.”
Aaeru let Neviril pull her back, and she closed her eyes as Neviril held her once more. She couldn’t explain why her actions made her feel at ease, but they did. “Neviril?”
“I don’t feel so heavy anymore when I think about it. Why is that?”
“You don’t carry the burden of the memory on your own anymore. You shared it with someone you trusted and now they share the knowledge too, and you’re no longer alone.”
“Oh…” replied Aaeru.
“It’s all right now, Aaeru. The hardest part is letting someone know.”
“Right,” replied Aaeru, nodding.
Neviril tightened her embrace around Aaeru, kissing the top of her head. “You never have to keep something like that to yourself. I’ll always listen to you,” she whispered softly.