i'm not okay (i promise)
tag: kes (late feb 3/early feb 4) // February 4th, 2031

When Jeremiah eventually awoke, no longer kept sleeping either by the will of others or his own exhaustion, the numbness was still present. While eventually, his sleep had become peaceful, it had not started that way. Nightmares had been prevalent, the strange mixture of past and present that could only happen within the dreaming. The silver-haired man assumed that Nasir had helped lead him away from the nightmares, kept them away so he could properly sleep, and he was grateful.

Even if waking only confirmed the truth of the world: Saariyah was gone, taken by Spectrolite, and-

His stomach growled and Jeremiah let out a choked noise, thinking back to her teasing about how food being kept at her place was more for his never-ending appetite than for her delicate stomach. Even without looking at his phone, which he noted had been moved away from where he usually kept it while sleeping (likely to ensure it was not within easy grasp), Jeremiah knew that a few days had passed.

The fact that his internal clock was functioning properly again at least told him that he had gotten enough rest. If he did not get something to eat, however, that would just lead to another problem. This was why Jeremiah got dressed, briefly noting a rather noticeable cat-shaped nook in his bed near where he had been asleep (he would have to tell Luna thank you) before he took note of the time. It was late, very late, and it meant that he was not likely to run into anyone.

That was for the best because the numb feeling in his chest, the way that goosebumps rose on his flesh and left him feeling empty, told him that for the time being it was best if he did not run into anyone.

After all, at this point, everyone had to know what had happened. Yet no sooner than that thought crossed his mind, Jeremiah was moving quickly to the clothing he had worn. The rapid beat of his heart eased up when not only did he pull out Saariyah's Star Yell--the darkened edges of it disconcerting--and the card of her Sailor Crystal. It was the Sailor Crystal that left him feeling uneasy, noting the darkening of it and the overall skin-crawling feeling that came over him when he looked at it.

Sliding the Star Yell back away, hiding it for now (he would have to go see Queen Liuxing, apologize to her, and give it to her), Jeremiah kept the card on him and in his pocket once more.

If he was lucky he would be able to make it to the kitchens, make food, and return to his rooms without consequence. The silver-haired man was not so certain that he wanted to see anyone at the moment, needing to make sure everything was back in place. That he was no longer teetering on the edge anymore. (Even if he was fairly certain that until they found Saariyah, returned her to where she belonged, he would be on edge. After all, he had failed her.)

Silence reigned in the kitchens when he reached them, no sight of any staff or anyone else. Jeremiah was grateful for it as he went to the refrigerator to figure out what he would eat, silver hair pulled into a low ponytail, not unlike Saariyah would have worn hers in.

Ever since news of Saariyah being kidnapped and abducted reached Kesatria's ears, she developed a special loathing towards the night hours.

During the day she managed to pretend that everything's alright, to overflow herself with work and performing different tasks for Liuxing. During the day, she refused to rest, in fear of what might happen if she ever stops to actually think about the meaning of her actions. It may have not been the best coping mechanism, but it worked, it helped her survive.

The night hours were a different thing altogether. At night, she had nowhere to run, nothing to dwell on, no errands to run for the Konmokuseian Queen that would divert her mind. It was only she, lying in bed, surrounded by darkness. And when darkness surrounded her, Kesatria's thoughts started working against her. Right before her eyes, she could see Saari being tortured in various malicious ways by the members of the Dark Alliance. At other opportunities, Saariyah has confronted her, asking why she didn't do more to save her. But at times, she imagined something even worse - her silver haired comrade, brainwashed and manipulated to fight against them. No matter how much she tried to make those horrifying images disappear from her mind, they were constantly there, preventing her from sleeping.

This night was not any different. Lying in her bed, Kesatria ended up turning from one side to the other, over and over again, refusing to close her eyes in fear that those horrible images would appear again. How long did she lay, restless like that? Was it a few minutes, or a complete eternity? She wasn't entirely sure, as usually the only signal that indicated the passage of time was the rays of the sun that indicated the awaited arrival of morning.

What she was sure about, that she would lose the very best of her mind if she continues lying there, surrounded by her own thoughts and darkness. She had to go somewhere - the place itself didn't particularly matter, as long as it was a setting in which she could escape from the horrors within her mind.

Still in her pajama, the dark haired woman got out of her bed, and started to progress along the elongated crystalline corridors of the Crystal Palace. She wasn't entirely sure where her feet were carrying her, but eventually, she found herself in front of the door that would lead to the kitchens. That would have to do, she thought to herself before opening the door. Given this was a belated night hour, most of the dwellers of the palace were asleep by now. Thus, Kesatria figured she would not be seen by anyone, which was exactly what she wanted. After all, as the leader of the Starlights, she couldn't afford having her vulnerable side exposed.

As soon as she opened the door, the Kinmokuseian had realized how wrong she's been to assume she will be on her own. The tall figure of none other than Jeremiah Mercer appeared before her eyes as soon as she entered. He was looking inside the refrigerator, and thus was not able to see her, which made Kesatria wonder whether she should retreat before he notices her existence. She almost did, but the thought of returning to the darkness of her chamber made her stay. A conversation with Jeremiah was long overdue, anyway, and now was a time as good as ever.

"Hello", she said in a tone that was rather stiff tone, to make her presence known. "Didn't think I will find you here. I thought you're still resting. But your presence is probably for the best", Kesatria added and got closer to the man. "I should probably thank you, for all that you've done for Saariyah's sake, and your efforts to bring her back safe. It was very noble of you to act the way you did".

Thanking Jeremiah, of all people, was not something Kesatria thought she would do. Then again, she didn't think such a horrible thing will happen to Saari, either, and yet, here we are. Life seemed full of uncalled surprises in it.

No matter what he did, Jeremiah could not get the pained cry of Dark Star Power from his mind, the eerie light of shadowed green eyes fixed upon him. Whether he said anything or not, as much as he knew that Nasir had eventually helped with the nightmares that had plagued his first day of rest, there had been too many horrors that his mind had visited upon him.

Things that made him wish-

No, it was not a productive line of thought. It just wasn't. Even if the parallels between situations, between now and then, were such that he just wanted to stop letting them add up. Worse: Jeremiah knew exactly how horrifying it would be for Saariyah, what they would ultimately have to do to her to ensure she was loyal without any doubt.

His stomach rumbled, though this time with nausea, as he ducked to look in the fridge. What he was not expecting, however, was to sense someone coming close. Goosebumps rose along his flesh, Jeremiah swallowing slowly past the lump in his throat, as he felt the familiar-but-not-the-same presence of a Starlight. He did not move from his position, banking on the fact that Kesatria--as that is who he assumed it to be, not Chandra who had a different presence to his particular talents--was not likely aware he could sense her.

It was less that he did not want to see her and more that ...

Jeremiah was not certain what it was other than the feeling of utter failure. All he had done was proven to the Galactica that their own were not safe here, that he was not capable of protecting anyone, that he had not done enough, that he-

Kesatria's voice, stiff as it was, interrupted his thought process. Jeremiah let out a breath that he did not realize he had been holding in. The more he listened the more he was content to keep his face hidden behind the door of the refrigerator. Taking in another breath, the silver-haired man straightened back up and stood up to his full height to focus on the person who had joined him.

It was not enough, he thought, I could not secure her Sailor Crystal.

"Sleep can only do so much for me," he finally spoke, "before food is a necessity." Quick as lightning, there and then gone, was a stricken look on Jeremiah's face. In a better place mentally, that flash of expression would not even be there (as his poker face was the stuff of legends). "Please don't thank me. She's not ..." Another breath was released. "She is not here."

Truthfully Jeremiah did not think about the fact what he did could be seen as noble. He did not even think about the fact that it could have very well resulted in his own corruption at the cost of Saariyah's purification. The chaos that had been within her, that he had taken into himself, had long since been purged. It would not get rid of the dark thoughts or the flashes of pain and screaming and all the horrors Saariyah could be suffering.

After all: he knew what they could--and likely would--do firsthand. Healers were stubborn and that was an understatement.

"... were you here to get something to eat?" he inquired instead, a redirect if there ever was one. "I was thinking about making french toast if you'd like some." It was, for him at least, a comfort food. If this meeting was just a few hours down the road, Jeremiah could have been the perfect picture of a gentleman like he had been that day Kesatria had spoken with him about Mason. Tonight, however, aside from making the effort to carry himself well, the pallor of his skin and overall demeanor gave away things he would have much rather not been seen.

An awkward silence occurred when Jeremiah finally got his head out of the fridge and looked at Kesatria. As the tall Kinmokuseian stared right back at him, she had noticed that it wasn't the same Jeremiah Mercer she has met a few weeks ago. He was different. Something about him appeared extinguished, dull, indifferent - so different than the smooth, arrogant man she had met in the past. It seemed as though the recent events have taken their toll on him.

If Kesatria needed any further proof of the shift in Jeremiah, she was about to receive it when he opened his mouth. He said that she shouldn't thank him, for in spite of everything he did; Saariyah was not there, with them. A softer look featured the dark haired woman's face at the sound of his words. In the past, she has heard about his care for Saariyah from other people, but never seen evidence for it, herself. That is, until now. For the first time, she actually empathized with him, and felt sorry for all he's had to go through.

In a rather uncharacteristic move, the leader of the Starlights got closer to the taller man and gently petted his arm. "We both know the reason for her disappearance is not your fault to begin with. You have done for Saari more than I ever did", she said, trying to master a warm smile, in spite of the unwanted shiver in her voice.

He then made an attempt in changing the subject, asking her if she was there because she wanted something to eat. Was she? Although she tried her best not to show it, Kesatria wasn't quite sure what to answer. Truth be told, she didn't even think about food before coming here; she didn't really know why her legs carried her to the kitchens, of all places, but the fact was that that's where she ended up.

Now that he mentioned food, though, she realized she hadn't really eaten anything during the day. He soon suggested making French toast for her, a kind offer that seemed just about right. "Sure, I guess it wouldn't hurt", she said and shrugged. "If you need help with anything, you can ask away".

To be honest, Kesatria was a disaster when it came to cooking - the result of her tendency for impatience, as well as being brought up in a mansion filled with experienced chefs. But she knew to appreciate people who make good food. Besides, at the moment, she did want to express her gratitude in some way. It felt like helping with the food making process was the least that she could do.

A flicker of a frown formed on his face, though whether it was because Kesatria was in his bubble of personal space or because she was disparaging towards herself was unclear. "That may be true," said Jeremiah, regarding it not being his fault, "but ..." A sigh escaped. "Saariyah would give you hell for saying something like that." He settled on that instead, which was true.

Mostly since Saariyah was the sort that preferred action over any sort of self-pity or similar actions. (Which was why, as soon as he was able, he would be looking for her. Jeremiah could not devote time to feeling like a failure when he could spend time making it right.)

Properly standing, however, clued him into the fact that Kesatria was not doing as well either. Even that tell-tale shift in her voice said a great deal. Maybe it was just the hour, the time of night giving way and revealing the secrets and other sides of themselves that were better left never seeing the light of day.

"Technically," said Jeremiah, just making conversation; trying to focus on things he could do versus let his mind wander, "I should be eating something every four to six hours." Which meant that he had been kept asleep for at least part of the nearly four days he had slept (as his stomach should have declared war far sooner than it had). Well, that and the fact that Jeremiah really did require a certain level of food intake (and rest) to maintain his sometimes magically fueled metabolism.

It took a moment before Jeremiah registered that Kesatria wanted to help. The silver-haired man blinking owlishly at her, as if he was not quite parsing that she wanted to before he made a gesture towards a cabinet.

"There are some spices in there, with handwritten labels, that you can pull down." Jeremiah gave the rather small list of spices he wanted, including particularly expensive cinnamon. "The powder sugar as well." The fact of the matter was that it was easier to do this, to focus on cooking than let his mind drift. Were he honest, giving Kesatria instruction--softly spoken, and certainly without the presence he normally had--also helped distract for all that it took away from what he would have used as a distraction from his thoughts

"... ah, do you have any dietary concerns?" he asked, realizing that he had--out of habit--directed Kesatria to get items that would have gone into a spicy french toast that Saariyah preferred. "Saariyah's stomach did not always agree with earth cuisine," explained Jeremiah, who was not wondering about Saariyah's health regarding food. Except he was and worse: he knew that if anything, she would be expected to eat whatever was provided or suffer.

All Kesatria could do was to sigh heavily at the sound of Jeremiah's words. As much as she hated to admit it, he was right. Saariyah probably wouldn't be impressed with her current mental state, to say the least. Just like in the conversation they had in the car back in the day, the silver haired woman would've given her an unamused look and nothing else; no supporting words, no compassion. But that much was to be expected; she was her leader, after all, the one person to whom she had to look up to, besides Liuxing.

"I guess you're right about that", she said a few moments later, ones that felt like forever. The fact that Jeremiah knew how Saari would react meant that contrary to what Kesatria previously believed, he actually did know her. How much time did these two spend together, before Saariyah disappeared? If Kesatria paid more attention to people other than a certain someone, she probably would've known the answer to that question.

"I see. We all should eat, sometimes", the dark haired woman replied when Jeremiah explained his needs to her. While Kesatria wasn't exactly well informed about the required diet for a human - in all honesty, Chandra was the one who was more likely to know something about these matters, given how studious they were - she did know that even humans had to eat to survive. Every living creature had to, after all. But if there was one thing that Kesatria knew, it was that making French toast had very little to do with surviving. Here on Earth, it was considered a comfort food, something you'd make to lift your spirit. The fact Jeremiah opted for that kind of food indicated just how bad he felt about what had happened.

One surprised gaze later, Jeremiah agreed for Kesatria to actually do something rather than just stand there and watch him do everything on his own. He instructed her to bring the spices from the shelf, to which she nodded and reached her hands to get them down. The shelf was tall, but nothing that would require an effort for someone of Kesatria's size. Had it been Saariyah, she might've needed a ladder to get to it.

A bitter grin featured the Kinmokuseian's face at Jeremiah's next question. Yet another proof that he knew Saari better than she had initially thought. Saari's delicate stomach didn't always react well to human cuisine. Back in the day, some of the Three Lights' rehearsals had to be stopped or done without her because she didn't feel well after something she's eaten. Luckily, as a model she wasn't expected to eat that much, anyway - but Kesatria did remember worrying that Saari would not be able to look for the Princess.

She tilted her head from one side to the other. "Not really, no. My stomach's pretty solid, whatever planet we land on", she said, trying to sound amusing, just like Cesario would have been in his many interviews. "Alcohol's not really my thing, though. It seems that all Kinmokuseians don't react well to it". She had learned that the hard way, in one of the cocktail parties Cesario was invited to.

"What should I do next?"

It was there on the tip of his tongue to explain the absolute beast that his metabolism could be when he manipulated it but the words never came. Whether it was because he was still out of sorts or simply because it was a tidbit of information he did not feel comfortable sharing yet was unknown. Both were just as likely just as Jeremiah could point to the fact everything that had happened resonated too much with his own past (both this life and his last).

What he settled on saying was: "No guesses, it is an absolute certainty." Saariyah would not suffer any sort of wallowing behavior, though certainly, she could forgive a little self-care and comfort food. While Kesatria was getting the odds and ends that he needed to make french toast, Jeremiah was getting out what was necessary for cooking. The last thing he got was the eggs, holding each one and cracking it against the counter before splitting the shell with just his left hand.

There was a quiet hum of thanks from him for gathering the spices. "It certainly makes it easier to be able to eat," said Jeremiah, "as it took a while to figure out what would be alright for Saariyah." A soft exhale of breath was released as he studied the spices set down by Kesatria before he picked one up to start mixing them with the eggs. "Though sometimes it just boils down to the spicier, the better."

A silver eyebrow went up as Kesatria spoke about alcohol, however. Saariyah had always been mindful of drinking and what alcohol he used in cooking did not amount to anything.

"Is it something similar to an alcohol flush or is it simply that your tolerance is low?" His head tilted towards the skillet. "Add a little bit of butter and oil to it and turn the hob on." There was a pause, Jeremiah quickly realizing Kesatria may not know that particular British idiom (even Saariyah did not know all of them he used). "I mean the stove burner."

After that Jeremiah would direct her to get plates and other assorted things they would need to actually eat.

"... and admittedly, I can't get drunk." The corner of his mouth twitched upward into a half-smile. "My body burns it out too quickly for something like that." Which was why he was always the designated sober buddy. Like this, Jeremiah's mind could almost not think about Saariyah and what had happened but almost was not nearly enough to do away with all the thoughts within his mind.

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