Book 3, Chapter 10

Nyr watched Jin from the couch. With the terminal on and the volume up, it was easy enough to pretend he was there to relax and be entertained rather than to observe his friend at work. Jin was always busy, more so with Ath'ran gone than before. He was adapting best of all of them to the new chores of his position, but that made Nyr worry more than if he’d thrown a fit or complained at all. Du'shan and Riyad weren't exactly vocal about their load, but they at least professed a desire to be doing something else every now and then; Jin seemed content to work and do nothing else.

On nights when they went out, he came too, but when they stayed in, he was often found still sitting at his workstation. He was designing new spreadsheets for more effective accounting, he'd said for the first couple weeks. After that, he'd been cleaning the clutter from the drives and reorganizing files for better efficiency. Then there had been attempts at automating the invoice process for outgoing articles evaluated by Riyad, which lead to reorganizing the way related files were stored and processed, creating another pet project to keep him busy once the real work was done. They were all inventive and quite helpful to the company, but not in any way necessary. They were just things to do--busy-work to occupy his time while everyone else relaxed.

Not all scars were physical. Nyr kept one eye on Jin as he reclined on the couch, trying not to be too obvious about it. Canned laughter told him when to make an amused hum or controlled chuckle. It was easier to pretend when Riyad was there with him, smacking him in the leg every now and again to make sure he'd caught what was said so that they could laugh about it together. But Riyad was visiting Ath'ran along with Du'shan, whose invitation, judging from the light bickering, had come from Lisa rather than his cousin. It was a family thing, necessitating that Jin and Nyr be left at the office by themselves. Though the noise level was the same, it still felt quieter inside with only the two of them in the rather large basement, occupying the same room. He wondered if Jin felt left out or if he was just glad someone else was there to be left out with him. They were the odd ones out, after all.

Jin was the oddest of them all, though. Whether by design or will, Jin was more the loner of their group than Du'shan could hope to be. Nyr wondered if Jin missed his family or the friends he'd had before striking out on his own. He wondered if he missed... Well, that was the real topic of inquiry.

"Just ask me, already."

Nyr sat up. Jin hadn't turned from his station but his eyes were reflecting back at him on the terminal screen, making it clear he was more than slightly aware of the attention he was getting. Nyr blushed, feeling ridiculous. He tried to feign ignorance anyway. "Ask you what?"

Jin did turn around at that, his arms folding across his chest and his face smirking, but without any feeling in his eyes. "This is getting old. I'm not going to get mad at you so just ask me already and get it over with." He rolled over on his chair, kicking off from his desk to slide all the way to the couches. He kicked his feet up beside Nyr's legs, looking casual and yet so stiff Nyr thought he might be able to knock him over with a gentle shove. Jin was still smirking, the right corner of his mouth dipping deeper into his cheek than the left. "You want to know about Greg, right? You sure? I honestly don't think you can handle it."

Nyr leaned forward, elbows on his knees. There was no need to pretend if Jin was going to be so open about it. "I know the kind of person he was supposed to be. It's not a question of whether or not you think I can handle it. I just want to know that despite everything that you really are okay."

"Oh, I know you can handle me telling you about how he raped and kidnapped me and how I didn't turn him in at first because I was afraid of what he might do. You've had that part figured out, I'm sure. That's exactly what you're expecting me to say and you've already dealt with how that makes you see me. I don't think you can handle the rest of it, though, and that's the part you're really asking about anyway." Jin nudged him with his foot. "It's personal. I know you know that and so does everyone else, but if you keep staring at me all the time I'm going to go crazy. So I'm going to tell you if you promise to leave me alone about it, but in return I want you to not try and help me. Some things break and they can't be fixed and some things just come broken. We understand each other?"

Nyr wasn't quite sure anymore. He nodded all the same, knowing how disappointed he'd be in himself later if he passed up the chance to listen to Jin's story. "I won't tell the others if you don't want me to."

"I don't care. Honestly, if people are gonna talk, they may as well have the story straight. And I know you guys talk, so don't even try denying it."

"We're just worried. The way you were acting was as if--"

"As if I loved him?" Jin's laugh was short and caustic, and he shook his head at memories unseen. "Maybe I did. Maybe he loved me. Doesn't really matter any more. Really, once I got out of there the first time, I didn't have to go back. I could have called the SPD on him, right? I went back every week though. Hell, I even enjoyed it. I looked forward to it. I spent all day painting a mask so we would match on Kalyphtian: our first date. It's hanging on my shrine now. I pray for him. I pray for that sadistic motherfucker I killed. And if he hadn't asked me to help him kill Rabbit, I'd probably still be with him."

"You'd still be with Greg if Rabbit had already been dead when you got there?"

Jin was still smirking. "Of course I would. I made him dumplings. I mean, I'd have been annoyed at him and told him he couldn't eat any of him until he was finished with the food I made, but that's what Greg was. You can't expect to change someone just because you wish he wasn't a sociopath. When I was there, it kept other people safe. He and Rabbit had history, though. I wasn't more important than revenge at that moment. Before that, though, we had an understanding and honestly...I really miss that."

Nyr bit at the inside of his cheeks to keep his expression in check. He wanted to suggest that Jin see a therapist, that there were known mental conditions which formed in victims like himself, but he'd promised to listen and not offer help. Even with words like Stockholm Syndrome running through his mind, it didn't feel right looking at Jin. Jin had killed the man who had violated him, not stood beside him, blind with love born of fear. He, with complete understanding of his actions, had both cared for and killed Greg. Even knowing what a monster the man was, the sound in Jin's voice made Nyr sad for his passing as well. It was a strange sort of empathy that was far from comfortable. It felt cold in the pit of his stomach just thinking of Jin and Greg in an intimate moment as though losing it were something tragic. That couldn't be love.

"Say it, Nyr."

Nyr looked up at Jin with genuine confusion. "Say what? You told me not to--"

"Not that. Say the thing you're not thinking about. I want to hear someone say it."

What he wasn't thinking about? Nyr bit his cheeks harder. No.

"I told you I won't get mad," Jin said, nudging him with his foot again. "Just say it. It might even make me feel better."

He doubted that but raised his head and spoke anyway. "You're not all that sane either, are you? You'd have to be crazy to genuinely love someone like Greg."

Jin nodded. Apparently that was what he'd expected to hear. "Yeah. I've been thinking the same thing. I mean, you gotta be a little crazy to perform well in a circus. It's all about doing a good job, and you know, people pay to watch performers get hurt almost as much as to watch them make it to safety every time. Safety was always secondary. With Greg... I dunno. It was thrilling. It was fun. He was mine." He held his bandaged hand up; the white cloth covered nearly healed bones and light scars. "Life sucks when you can't have things the way you want them. I don't really care if you hate Greg, but don't hate him because of what he did to me. I got him back and then some."

"So Greg didn't...he didn't make you like this?"

Jin snorted. "No." He kicked away from the couch back towards his workstation, spinning in circles as he went. "I could tell you a lot about myself that would probably make you consider locking me away like they did with Riyad. I'm not going to, though. I get to keep some secrets, Nyr, same as everyone else. I'm honestly touched you've been worrying but trust me: I am the same now as I was before. Well..." Jin looked up at the ceiling for a moment. "Well, maybe a little lonelier, but there's always the next life. I'll see him again."

Nyr watched the sincere hope glisten in Jin's eyes before the Chinese man sat up in his chair and went back to his work. Nyr hugged his knees as he watched him, still unable to look away but no longer pretending not to.

"Was there something else?" Jin asked.

"No. I was just thinking that you're probably one of the strongest people I know. And someone else is going to notice how great you are and treat you better than Greg ever could. I really look forward to that day. You deserve a love that doesn't hurt."

Jin laughed a little but the smile he returned was genuine. "That'll be the day, huh? When it happens, I'll make sure whatever his or her name is has a hot friend so we can double and make Du'shan and Riyad jealous. It's only fair we get to leave them behind every now and then."

As far-fetched as it felt, Nyr nodded and returned the smile. The laugh track from the show he'd been watching sounded off again, adding a splash more life to the half-solemn room. Jin's fingers began flying over the keys as his work commenced. With the remote in hand, Nyr turned the volume down so it wouldn’t disturb his companion, and snuggled down deep into the couch’s warmth for a light nap. He had a room, true, but there was something much more inviting about a room shared with a friend than to move and leave them both alone. The click-clack of Jin's work was as soothing as the hum of the ventilation. Within minutes, Nyr was fast asleep, content with the world and its answers.

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