All The Stars @modern_age
Passing Away

ii. Passing Away


She felt as if she had attended far too many. But in reality, it had been only three.

She could still remember her parents funeral. Held in a fine church with beautiful glass stains upon the window. Each one depicting Jesus' crucifixion all the way to his resurrection. In times of grief, people would try to find meaning and solace of death.

Dakota had stopped believing in something greater then herself the night her parents were murdered. What merciful God would leave a child parentless? She was alone in the pew with no one to help her grieve or give her the answers she desperately needed. There were few people whom she did not know. Each face was only blurred by her memories. They meant nothing to her back then. They mean nothing to her even now. But, she had a sense that those people watched her. Speaking in whispers about the girl. Back then, Dakota was a lonely child. An angered child.

'You said you would always be there! You both lied to me. I am alone in this world without you. What am I to do?'

She was an orphan. No one wanted to adopt her into their family. Dakota was not even aware she had family or what little the state could find. Her parents never spoke about their family. She was not made aware of any relatives until their passing. She always assumed they were dead or never spoke. It seemed that it was not the case. Her relatives wanted nothing to do with her. There was too much bad blood between them. They had reasons and young Dakota did not understand why. Dakota wanted to be left alone knowing no one wanted her. She wanted to run away and never look back. But at thirteen, where does one go? She was not sociable and had little friends to bond with.

'They call me strange. They say that I fight like a boy and look like one. Well, they don't say that anymore once I pushed Marie into the wall and gave her a black eye.'

Dakota was a lost soul for awhile. Becoming rebellious at sixteen- talking back to authority figures, stealing from others, fighting with other kids, and the worst she has done was being in juvenile for breaking a kids nose. Dakota had a long history that the state was waiting for her to be an adult and be charged with serious crimes. Well, lucky for her she knew what would happen.

Dakota left and a year later she was in Afghanistan.

'Better then the streets. I get food and a bed.'

Days were better for her back then. Meeting those who were similar to her. Not everyone grows up with a happy childhood. Those she had met along the way had their own stories. But there was one who almost had a similar experience.

His name was Jackson.

"The three of us." He said with a big grin. Clean shaven with a crooked smile. Jackson had some of the most beautiful eyes that glistened when he was up to no good. Dakota knew that look he held. Being around him since basic has brought the two close. A little too close for comfort in the eyes of their superiors. "The three of us have been through some shit and we made it out alive. The news will not see what we do and never will appreciate how we protect them."

"We only escort truckers and convoys. Afghanistan is not what it was before when we joined. It was a lot worse and seemed to be slowing down. Still, soldier's still die here." Dakota said as she looked out to see the mountains.

Chris- the youngest of them- sat with a can of soda in his hand. His mind deep in thought until it was his turn to speak. A quiet kid with a nerdy side to him, Chris was a bit of a jokester, when he was alone with Dakota and Jackson.

"Well, I hear we have another mission." Chris said. He took a drink and burped. Dakota rolled her eyes and threw a napkin at him. Jackson chuckled and wanted Chris to continue what he was saying before being interrupted. "I don't know the specifics, but I hear it's an escort task. A bunch of archaeologist need protection of the sort. Big guys want us to fly to Egypt by the end of the month. Sending out three companies."

Dakota raised a brow. This was interesting news and to be a part of something big, but there was skepticism. "Sounds like mercenary shit. What would a bunch of fossil diggers want military protection when they could get the militants occupying the area to help them?"

"I don't know." Chris shrugged his shoulders.

She remembers sitting in the back of the viewing room. His casket closed with the American flag draped over it. Dakota's dead stare at a picture of the man in his uniform. Jackson had lost his parents when he was ten years old. Raised by his grandparents in a country home, Jackson was a good man. Dakota knew she could not shed anymore tears.

When they buried him, she was alone by his grave. She had no words left to give. All her confessions were already spoken for. The time they spent together were some of the best. She would never forget him and never forget Chris. The three of them.

She took off the ring that was given to her by Jackson. The ring was special. Any woman would have kept it for sentimental reasons. Dakota placed it on top of the fresh soil and buried it along with the man she loved. She would had hoped that they would marry after coming back from Egypt. Get eloped in a courthouse and move in together. But, Dakota will never see it.

Dakota looked to his grave one last time. Her sorrow buried with the ring in the dirt. The winds blew against the hot day. In the shadow of the trees she could see the black figure that has been following her. That day in Egypt had forever changed her. She could see these figures in her mind and it scared her.

"Wake up Dakota." His voice.

She opened her eyes to the vibrant colors of the sky. Her body was lightly shaking and muscles twitching in some places. Her nose and mouth were burning and itchy. Dakota coughed up some of the dust from within her mouth and landing to the ground. A black substance mixed with saliva looked unsettling to the eye. She could still taste how bitter it was. Some particles, she could feel, upon her tongue. Her stomach had ached from having digested the dust that it wanted the foreign taste out of her system.

Dakota was dazed. Her brain pounding hard against her skull, that she thought would split open. Everything was sore and blurry. Her eyes adjusting to all her surroundings. She could hear the sound of water right next to her as it gently moved from being disturbed by a small pebble. She could see Phoibe throwing small pebbles into the water. Dakota took a deep breath in and it hurt to expand her lungs.

"You are awake." Phoibe said.

Where am I?

Dakota groaned as she sat up on the rock she was laying on. There was water inside of the rocky structure- like a fountain one would see in parks or buildings. She took notice that she was far from where she was originally. Dakota was not in the fields. She was not alone when she thought death was upon her. The sun was beginning to set over the horizon. There seemed to not be a soul in sight. Candlelight was illuminating from inside of homes. The days end was soon near for many, but Dakota was awake. Still weak, but awake nonetheless.

Questions beginning to form inside of her mind were driving Dakota mad. The last time the woman was conscience was not to long ago; was it? Dakota did not have the sense of time on her side. How long was she out for? Did Phoibe save her or Alexios and asked the young girl to look after her?

What of the man?

Dakota shut her eyes for a moment. She wanted to stop her mind from going into overdrive. There were too many questions and not enough answers to be passed along. The events earlier showed how weak Dakota truly was. She was rendered helpless by a stranger and he had cut her hand. For what purpose made no sense to the woman. It could be a possibility of many things and Dakota did not like the idea of her blood being taken.

He took some of my blood. She looked to her palm. It stung slightly from little movement, but the bandage was tight enough to keep dirt and grim from entering.

It will take some time to heal. I cannot let infection set in or ha e anyone else clean my wounds. I still fear bringing a virus to these people. Worse, having me not able to fight something foreign. Dakota sighed heavily. She was tired of being hurt. Tired of

"You worried both of us. When we found you lying there on the ground. Eyes full of tears." Phoibe continued on, but Dakota was barely listening to her.

The man was haunting her mind. She could see his eyes staring into her and still feel his touch on her. Dakota felt disgusted and pissed off. He touched me.

Phoibe could see the dead state within Dakota's eyes. Strands of hair sticking to her face from the sweat rolling down her brow. She did not look herself. Dakota's eyes were a bit red. Her lips chapped from dryness and nose had a bit of dry blood coming from the left nostril. Whatever caused her to be in such a condition had harmed her both physically and mentally- probably emotionally.

Phoibe placed a hand upon the woman. Dakota flinched slightly from the touch upon her skin. Where she was shaking, Phoibe was quite warm. It was a comforting touch to Dakota's fragile state. Was there a way to recover from such?

"How did I get here?" Dakota's voice was dry and cracked. It hurt her to even utter a word from her mouth. She was lost in her thoughts that she had come to realize that Phoibe was not in danger. She was safe from any harm that was brought to her. Alexios had saved the girl from the thugs, while Dakota did nothing. She had been lured into a trap and suffered the consequences. "Why am I... No. He left me to die. I was alone. I was in a dark place."

It was not your fault. Her thoughts said. Dakota held in much of her anger and frustration this past month. Being alone in a world that wanted her dead for no reason. She was tired of not having answers and when she thought she was close to finding one, someone had to make it riddles that were hard to decipher.

"Its not a long story of how you got here. You are alive and out of danger."Phoibe placed a water skin to Dakota's dry lips. The woman drank it fast due to dehydration. Her stomach had expanded from the refreshing drink and her body felt relief for that moment.

"The thugs are dead and a bounty is set on Alexios. I found you lying on your side. Your hand bleeding from a deep cut. I thought you were going to die." Phoibe held the water skin close to her chest. Dakota wanted to hold the girl close, but she did not want to further worry her. Not when Dakota was in the wrong state of mind. She is safe. Dakota thought. That is all that matters. How I got here is not priority, even if Phoibe dragged me here.

"I'm sorry if I worried you. I did not expect to," Dakota could feel the bile rising from her stomach. She turned to the side and threw up the black particles. Dakota closed her eyes shut from the pain it had caused her. That bastard is going to pay!

"I did not expect anything to happen to me." She opened her eyes. "I guess I was wrong."

"Here." Phoibe had grabbed a piece of bread covered in cloth. "This might help your upset stomach. You have not eaten yet and your body might be hungry."

Dakota thought for a moment. She was hungry, no doubt about it, but could she truly take it? God's only know the girl stole it from some poor bastard. Dakota wanted to smile, but every emotion within her was numb. Being taken back to memories that she would rather never see had brought up feelings of pain and hurt. Whatever was in the dust was like a deadly drug if taken in high doses.

She looked to the piece of bread, "I cannot take it."

Phoibe look flabbergasted. "This is for you. I already had my share and wanted to save you a big piece. You need it. Please take it."

The sound of footsteps had alerted both Phoibe and Dakota in the midst of trying to force the woman to eat. Dakota would refuse if it meant the girl would survive another day. In any case, Dakota was in no mood to eat. She simply turned her head away like a child refusing to eat vegetables. Phoibe sighed in defeat and sat down at the edge of the rock. Before being defeated, the girl put the bread next to Dakota.

No need to push away a peace offering. Even her thoughts sounded weak.

"How'd it go with Markos?" Phoibe asked Alexios.

Dakota looked for a moment to see that Alexios was walking towards the girl. Through hell and back, Dakota was not sure who looked worse. She would keep her comment to herself for the fight inside of her soul was drained. The events that took place had affected them in some form or another- whether spiritually or physically.

"How it always goes," Alexios wanted to shrug his shoulders. Something was always amiss with Markos and his constant need to find trouble. Whatever history the two men had, was being balanced on a tight rope. As much as Alexios owed it to Markos for taking him in as a child, the older man always found his uses for Alexios. Being the misthios and all with the bird. "I didn't get my money, and I am running another errand for him."

"Why do you let him boss you around?" Phoibe was growing bold. Dakota kept an open ear on the conversation and waited to voice her opinion. She knew that by saying the wrong thing would not help the situation. Sometimes it was better to keep quiet then to say anything. Dakota's mouth had a tendency to rile unwanted attention. Maybe it was a good thing she kept her mouth shut this time around. After what has happened to her, Dakota was not much in the mood to conversate. At least, not until she readjusted her thoughts.

Dakota would be like a shadow that stayed in the dark. Though she was silent, it did not go unnoticed by Alexios. Seeing her back against the stone and eyes on the water. The woman was in deep thought and would not be talking to either of them anytime soon or until she wanted to barge into conversation. Though, some blame could be placed upon himself for having had not noticed her missing until the last minute when Phoibe was safe from harm. Alexios only cared for Phoibe's safety and thought Dakota could take care of her own.

She was still unexperienced. She could have died if it were not for Phoibe finding her. For now, the issue would be addressed later. Phoibe was waiting for a response.

"He doesn't. He just gets me into situations I have to dig myself out of." Alexios was kneeling before her.

"Maybe you shouldn't let him do that." It was pretty obvious of the bond they both shared. Phoibe looking to Alexios like an older brother and wanting to be like him in some aspects. Dakota, however, knew there was something that was not being addressed.

"Thanks for the advice." If one could call it advice from a child.

"Your welcome." Dakota could hear the victory within her voice. Like Phoibe accomplished something that Alexios could not. It was pretty humorous to hear for Dakota. She needed something to distract her. Too keep away those thoughts at bay, while she tried to recover her sanity.

"What do you want, Phoibe." Here we go. Alexios was in big brother mode now by the way he was standing.

Dakota followed Alexios to the stables on weary legs. Her muscles had twitched with each step that she almost collapsed. Her body was just not yet up to the task to be moving at this rate. She needed rest, food and water. But as stubborn as she was, Dakota was not going to be left alone. Not when her thoughts were in a dark place right now. She needed a distraction from that shadow and the man who placed fear into her heart.

When Phoibe had asked Alexios for help, there was something far bigger. A sickness threatened the whole island and Dakota wanted to help prevent it from spreading. She was immune to many diseases due to having been vaccinated growing up and the military giving her vaccines to be immune to some of the more deadly diseases out there. Depending on what this blood sickness was could be one of many things: tuberculosis was Dakota's guess. Hell, even the black plague was another.

Dakota was fixated on the mysterious blood sickness that she had bumped into Alexios, again.

"You must stop doing that." He said.

"Like I do it on purpose." She managed to say. Her voice low and not like the normal tone he was used to her speaking.

"I know what you are trying to do and I am going to have to stop you right here before you go any further." He stood before Dakota. The last time she had made an argument about going with him had almost cost her. She was not fit to fight or even go on this task with him. Dakota was just going to have to get used to the idea that she was no capable of doing most things he could.

Dakota narrowed her eyes at him. She knew he was going to speak out against her going with him. "We both know you have no control over what I do. Might as well get use to me because I am one woman that cannot be submissive. You want to play the part of hero in a world where one person cannot claim the victory."

She walked passed an angered Alexios. After the days events and her near death, Alexios was not going to put up with this. Dakota had limits to her own body. She was only putting up a front from what was truly hiding behind her attack. He gripped her arm- not tightly- but enough to cause her to stop in her tracks. He could feel her tense up and her muscles twitching underneath her skin. The woman clenched her fists tightly and threw a punch towards him.

No one touches her! No one should make her feel small or weak! All her life, Dakota only knew fighting. She had her reasons: good and bad. Dakota knew she was taking out her frustration and anger on the nearest target. Her mind was already fucked up and she had no way of talking things out. Alexios would not understand her feelings. Dakota was worlds apart in what she was struggling to grasp. As much as she hated to use that raw emotion, Dakota had to vent destructively.

"I am no hero. I am but a man placed in situations I must get out of. You are no better then I who only want answers." He retorted. "You only fight to get your way and if no one will bow to your whim, you do as you please. You may have been a soldier and seen war, but after seeing what happened to you, I would rather risk your wrath then let it happen again. You were unprepared and I let you go with me anyway. Even the gods must have seen it and kept me blind."

He was only angering Dakota more, but maybe he was pulling through to her. She was acting out for her own reasons. Childish reasons, but Alexios had to deal with it. He had to find a different route to push reason and sensibility to a woman who only used physical tactics to communicate her emotions.

"Do you want to be an easy target to anger? To let it blind you when an opponents spear goes through your chest?" Alexios grabbed the broken spear that was strapped to his back. The blade being pointed at Dakota's heart. "You can barely stand on your own two feet. I let you win last time. It almost killed you and here you stand, trying to fight me again. Can you not see that you are only hurting yourself, you stubborn woman?"

"Shut up!" She shouted and threw another punch at him. She had managed to shove the broken spear out of his grasp. The weapon falling to the ground.

Alexios caught her fist in his hand. Dakota clenched her teeth in frustration. She used her other hand, but was caught by his. Dakota could feel all her strength leave her body and she was once more feeling helpless. The image of the grey eyed man flooded her thoughts and all the emotions came through like an open dam. The frustration of being left to die. The helplessness she felt when she could not even fight for herself. That man took it all away from her and she would be damned if Alexios was going to let her die.

"The only way to prove a point is to get you to understand. You are by far the most stubborn woman I have ever met." He pushed her lightly to the side.

Dakota- once again- caught herself before falling over her own feet. He could see the defeat that had taken its toll upon her. Her shoulder's were slumped and hair covering her face. She was breathing hard and turned towards him. Dakota quickly ran towards Alexios. Awaiting her attack, Alexios watched for her punches. She was only punching air out of anger. He could hear her breathing hard and eyes threating to shed tears. Why would she be getting upset if he was only looking out for her wellbeing? Did she not see that he did not want her to die on his accord?

Dakota had to be reasoned with. She was only hurting herself further and tiring herself out.

"Why must you fight me?" Alexios grabbed both her hands.

Dakota must have looked like a wild woman to him. She struggled against his grip, but he was not going to barge.

"Fighting is all I know. You take that from me, I am nothing." She kicked the man in the stomach hard.

Alexios grunted from the pain. His hand still keeping hold of Dakota. She was threating to kick again and it seemed she had another target in mind.

"You almost died!" He pushed her a finale time. She fell to her knees with a loud gasp. A black substance dripping to the ground from her mouth. Alexios- being angered- turned around to leave Dakota in her own woes. The woman wasn't going to listen to him. She only wanted to continue to fight while she was weak. What was the point in keeping her around if she was only a burden?

"Why would you care?" Her voice had caused him to look over his shoulder.

Dakota had risen up on weak, shaky knees. Black salvia dripping from the side of her mouth made her look other worldly. Her eyes stared angerly at him with conviction to not give up. She was still fighting something inside of herself to continue on. The need to understand was buried deep. But, something inside showed a bit of fear. Alexios was not sure what it was. "Fighting is all I know. He made me feel weak. Speaking riddles to me that had meaning, but I cannot understand. If I fight long enough to survive, maybe it would make sense."

Alexios sighed heavily. If this is what he was going to have to put up with, he might as well find solutions. He thought he could understand Dakota, but it seems she would only build a wall. There were many frustrations about the woman.

"If you were to die, you would not get your answers." He spoke. "Stop trying to fight me when I speak truth. You want to return to your home. You want answers. Understand that the gods have brought you to me for a reason. Even if I do not agree with them."

Dakota's eyes rolled to the back of her head. Fuck!

Her body went completely limp in a matter of seconds. Alexios moved quickly to catch her before she further injured herself. The woman now in his arms.

"If you die, I would not forgive myself." He whispered.

Dakota may have been a burden placed upon Alexios by the gods, but he would not let anything happen to her. Maybe after this day, whatever was between them would be better. Dakota might not be a difficult woman to reason with once she is properly trained. Only the gods know and have something brewing that Alexios knew nothing of.

Above them, Ikaros circled in the sky. Eyes looking out in the distance to the unknown and what would be in store for both of them. A sickness was to be determined on who was to live and die. Alexios was to go alone on this task and the decision he will make could change his fate.

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