It's not fair, his thoughts supplied him mutely, as if he couldn't have realized it without thinking it. He felt the tell tale burn at the corners of his eyes as his throat constricted as he scrabbled at the plaster walls, his knees weakening on their own accord.
Why? Why, why? The single worded question ran through his mind over and over again, flooding his mind hopelessly as his knees finally gave out beneath him and he thumped to the ground with silent tears finally breaching his lids and pouring down his cheeks as he stared blearily at the wall that he had just been abusing with his hands.
“Just close your eyes,” Isabeth's weak voice whispered in his memory, her beautiful copper hued face twisted into a smile as she looked up at him from the bed in which the healers had placed her in, her black hair sticking to her sweaty forehead as tired eyes skimmed over his face. On a bed beside her, Oliver laid weakly, a strained smile curling on his lips as well. They both sported the signs of the curse they had been hit with, their bodies skinny and nearly boneless. He was surprised when a too cold hand wraps around his wrist, causing him to jerk his thoughts and attention back to Isabeth, his anguished muddied cocoa eyes staring into her own green eyes.
He had grappled with his words but had nothing to offer her, the battle between him and his grief closing in on him faster than he would have liked.
Oliver's voice cracked into existence but James merely looked down at his feet, his hand clenching tightly onto Isabeth's wrist as his world started crumbling around him one word at a time.
You're safe now, mate. The words came with such relief and sincerity that James had nearly lost it then and there as he watched Isabeth reach across the space between their beds and Oliver met her halfway, their hands closing and entwining fingers with each other as they shared a sad, poetic smile between them. It was so full of love for each other that it made James choke up and look away, fists clenching.
The brilliant Watcher was the first one to go when her eyes had turned glassy and her hand tried but failed to keep a grip on Oliver's hand, her body fighting the inevitable death that was boring down upon her, heedless of her struggles.
She gasped once, then twice, and her clouded eyes turned from Oliver's horrified and desperate face to look at James, her lips twitching into a barely there smile against the pain as she reached out towards him slowly. He went to reach back, to hold her hand in the obvious agony that she was feeling, but just as his fingertips brushed hers, her arm fell limply back at her side and the light faded from her eyes as her lips parted in a last, silent 'Oh' of enlightenment.
“No,” Oliver had whispered out, brokenly, as Isabeth's grip went slack in his hand, and the young man struggled fruitlessly not to allow himself to dissolve into tears. The attempt failed in the end the older brother clutched tighter to the rapidly cooling hand, his face scrunching up as he let out a broken sob as his eyes turned on James, as if he had the answer on how to bring her back, to make it a lie that she had died in the first place. Oliver had followed his lover into the next life with ease, slipping from his body as if he had been drug by Isabeth herself without the intent of fighting against her as her spirit coaxed him into her own realm.
Now, standing outside of the room, he felt as if his ribs were attempting to pierce his lungs with every inhale that he took, his throat constricting and convulsing as he dry heaved towards the floor, the hot tears tracking down his face and staining the front of his robes.
It was too much, too much, and he found himself slowly but surely delving into the darkness that had been trying to consume him for years.
James woke up screaming from the horrible dream and instantly went in search of Becky. Stranger than the nightmare itself, the fact that he sought out his Watcher instead of his brother when he was distraught, confused him to no end. Of course he had great respect for Becky, and he trusted her so much more than her predecessor or any of the other Watchers. Except Nikki, it was almost impossible not to trust and respect Nikki. But that he would seek Becky out rather than his own brother, did have him moving slowly as he did just that.
Her room, unlike others of her kind, was not hidden; and James was able to get in without trouble. He stood over the Cuban beauty, watching her sleeping. James felt strange looking at her there, it was as if he was looking at the best friend he'd ever known. He wanted to curl up in bed and cuddle into her and let her pet his head so that all his troubles would melt away. But then he thought about it and realized he'd never cuddled up with a woman he wasn't trying to have sex with, he hated having his head petted, and he's never needed someone else to help him solve his issues. It sounded like he was turning into... He couldn't even think it.
“Can I help you?” Becky had woken up to see James standing over her.
“I think I'm turning into a girl,” James carefully said his concerns.
“You are,” Becky answered. “Do you know which one? Or have you only figured out the first part?”
* * * * * * * * * * *
James didn't eat breakfast that morning, nor any of the meals following it that day. He chose instead to burrow himself into Oliver's old room, punishing himself by being so close to Oliver's painfully empty bed, and he nearly missed Anna and Mike's wedding.
Almost. He kind of wished that he had.
It seemed like the whole Grigorian populace was there in attendance at castle Szmanda; with the exceptions of a select few who either hadn't been invited or didn't care to come. There had been no locals in the crowd at all.
Not that it had mattered.
When the wedding had ended with a hysterical Cameron sobbing as if she was on her knees beside a fresh grave. The only one who wasn't openly excited for the new couple was James who sat silently mulling over his new dilemma. He was so lost in his thoughts he never noticed his brother had joined the other guest, albeit late. Miranda had rounded on Oliver with a look of pure fury written over her pretty face.
"YOU!" she had shrieked out, making the people who had been departing pause and look their way with expressions ranging from surprise to curiosity as she stomped closer, her finger pressing into his chest as her eyes blazed up at him in accusation. "Where were you when James needed you? Why are you the only one still to notice the state he's in without you?"
Oliver hadn't been able to answer. James quickly moved in between them. He stared down at Miranda blankly as he tried to muster up something, anything, to make her understand… to make himself feel anything. But he had broken that night; had broken so far that he wasn't even sure if he could feel anything at all anymore. Even to defend his brother when it was badly needed.
At least emotionally; he surely felt it when Miranda reared back her right hand and slapped Oliver with as much force as her petite little body could muster, which was actually a good amount. Oliver's head snapped to the side but James still stood there with no reaction at Oliver's face turned red with the stinging burn in his cheek. A bit of blood leaked from his mouth showing that Oliver had bitten the inside of his cheek on impact.
He didn't deserved that, James knew. His problems had nothing to do with Oliver, but for some reason he was unable to bring himself to interfere. Miranda was saying something again but he didn't wait any longer to hear. He blinked and straightened to move around her and left his brother to get in trouble for nothing. Ignoring the stares of the family, he simple left the castle for his own.
* * * * * * * * * * *
His glasses slid down on his nose but he did nothing to correct them. This personal item had been somewhat of a secret in the real world, he didn't honestly need them here, but wearing them made him feel just a little bit more normal. He had no care about the fact that his bangs were hanging in front of his face, or that his white shirt beneath his robes was not buttoned up all the way. His tie hung tied limply around his neck, dangling without a care, and there were dark circles beneath his eyes that told the story of his sleepless nights.
He couldn't remember what day it was, or what month. He knew he had sequestered himself away for quite a long period of time in Castle Tudyk after the wedding and he had lost count as to how many times the other wards had come in and out of the castle as they started and ended their days. No one bothered him and no one asked any questions. Becky had come a few times to make sure he was still alive and had force fed him numerous potions but she had never tried to coax him out of his silence. Isabeth had stopped by once, right after the wedding, but had not said anything more than, “Take your time, James. It's going to get a lot worse.”
He sat in the dinning hall for meal times since then, staring blankly at the table in front of him, not eating. Most of the others gave him a wide berth and for that he was thankful. He could no longer relate to them. James kind of wished they would all just shut up.
He was debating on whether he should just get up and leave, food untouched, when the large doors to the Great Hall were flung open with a sort of gusto that made the chatter die down into silence almost immediately. The Head Watcher strolled up to the table with grim, serious expressions on her face.
Normally now days Isabeth was just another Watcher, she was so lax in her ways, but there were times she took hold of her title to get something done. She made sure people knew it too, she wore her green sash with all eight of her stars pined below her badge. The look on her face said 'Get the hell out of my way before I throw you out of it', and she walked right up to James.
Before Becky could stand up fully and ask her what her business was, Isabeth pointed her finger towards James and spoke in short, clipped tones. “James Eric Andrew Phelps, you are hereby being sent to the care of the Mother House, willingly or not, until you can get a handle on this curse.”
The dinning hall was as silent as death. Becky was silent with a look of astonished disbelief written across her face. Isabeth looked as if she were about to transform into a snarling version of her normal self. And James…
He looked scared.
“You haven't been sentenced to life imprisonment, this isn't a punishment,” Isabeth tried to clarify. “But you must hand over your token immediately for your protection and should you resist apprehension everyone in this room is under orders to use any and all means necessary to subdue you or kill you."
James' dark eyes darted to Becky's but found no comfort in the expression on her face. He blinked and looked back to Isabeth's as he shook his head in a back and forth motion but it could not be told if the man was refusing or if he was denying the fact that they were actually telling him he was going to be imprisoned.
"Surely there must be some sort of mistake, SH. He had nothing to do with the curse being put on him. I am sure that if you..." Becky tried to help.
"Even I cannot fix this, Becky. He will just have to be separated from the rest till he learns how to control it. Now, I will not ask again. Hand over your token or I will use force in order to get it."
Isabeth's voice was hard and cold and James found something within himself stirring. The raven haired Watcher at the table stood slowly shaking, and the back of Becky's throat started to burn. The two friends realized, quite suddenly, that James was too pale and too thin. His hair was greasy and a bit disheveled, and when James stood to meet his own eyes to Isabeth's, Becky began to cry across the room.
That feeling inside of Becky swelled up instantaneously and she nearly fell over the chair she was seated upon in order to scramble to her feet. For the first time since she took over at Castle Tudyk, her awe at this place and confidence in Isabeth waned. Her chest constricted as she opened her mouth in order to say something, anything, but her words never came because Isabeth and James were gone with a small sound to announce their departure.
Her chest tightened more and she felt like her throat was closing up on her as she stared at the place that they had disappeared from and she realized that she couldn't breathe!
Isabeth had taken James. She was so determined to have this place her way that she didn't care about destroying an innocent man. Isabeth wouldn't admit that she had put the curse on James so that she could be with Oliver and never doubt their love. Becky realized something only a few others had ever even thought possible. Ryan knew it when Isabeth took the evil out of Eric that she couldn't filter it, she absorbed the evil. Vince knew it too. And now Becky saw it herself, Isabeth wasn't just a dead body, she was a demon.
And by taking James away from Becky, Castle Tudyk, and his friends; she had stolen James' remaining thread that bound him to sanity.
* * * * * * * * * * *
When they arrived at the Mother House, James was sullen. Isabeth couldn't just leave him without some kind of explanation. She couldn't tell him everything, he would just demand the curse be lifted and then both twins would hate her.
“Until we figure this out, I don't need to tell you your under quarantine.”
“You don't and yet you still do,” James snapped.
So her first try was a failure. When James sat hard in an over stuffed chair, Isabeth sat at his feet and laid her head on his knees.
“This isn't going to be easy,” she began again. “Do you remember puberty? The emotional changes, you felt true hatred for the first time. Real love for the first time. Anger, loss, fear, joy, all these things enhanced and became something so powerful you didn't now how to handle yourself. You never knew from one moment to the next what you were going to say, do, or feel.”
“I didn't have it that bad,” James answered, softly laying his hand on Isabeth's head. “I guess I was a more balanced youth.”
“Well you're going to feel it new,” Isabeth warned. “That is why you are here. Once you have gotten to the point where you can have all those thoughts and feelings, and still go on day to day like everyone else, you can go home. But you need to make sure your not going to have a break down and go on a killing spree. I'm speaking from experience here.”
“Yea, I've seen your interactions with poor Emma. I've been to war with you.”
“Ah, blessed war,” Isabeth sighed. “The only thing that keeps me from going nuclear and destroying everyone here.”
James chuckled till he saw Isabeth's expression. “You're not kidding?”
“Why do you think I chose old Europe.”
“So what do I do?” James asked seriously.
“First you need someone to talk to. Someone you can trust, someone who is unrelated to you, to your problems, to any issue that may come up in the future. And someone you won't get attached to.”
“So that leaves you out,” James played. “Can't trust you, practically my sister in law, the cause of most of my problems, and certainly going to be an issue in my future. And I'm already attached to you.”
Isabeth stood up and began pacing and wringing her hands. “I'll send someone down, I have a couple people in mind to try. Give it an honest go and if it doesn't work then I'll send down another.”
“Who are we starting with?” James sounded worried.
* * * * * * * * * * *
“So, how did it go with Sean?” Isabeth asked coming into the Mother House and seeing James waiting for her.
“I'm not sure,” James said with a smile. “For some reason when ever he was talking, all I could think about was eating chocolate covered strawberries. When it was my turn to speak, all of the things that I want to say just sounded so foolish that I couldn't get them to come out right. So I didn't say anything at all.”
“So you just sat there?” Isabeth asked bewildered. “And then I sent down Matthew Lewis.”
“Yea, I caught onto your little trick of sending down those I've worked with before. I'm not sure they're going to work. All they could say was 'there's something about you now', as if I've changed somehow.”
“I don't know where to go from here.” Isabeth sat thinking over the situation for awhile. She had managed to get herself to almost believe that she was really helping him, even though she knew deep down in that all she had to do to fix it was remove the curse. She didn't want to for many reason: because it hadn't run it's course, because she was still invested in Oliver and didn't want to mess it up by having James be James, and very importantly, the only way it could be removed was a very undesirable action she wasn't willing to consider at this point.
“Wait,” Isabeth yelled suddenly. “I sent Mike down too. Did he help at all.”
“No. I can't quite figure out what happened with him,” James admitted. “There was a lot of distraction between us and what we were both expecting. And, of course, he had just gotten married a few months ago and was missing Anna.”
“Why didn't he just bring her along,” Isabeth mused. “I never said he couldn't. She may have been your one, the person you're able to talk to.”
“He just ended up sounding like Oliver, and I got sick of it real quick.”
Isabeth just looked at him confused.
“When ever Oliver is around, the way he talks about you is the same way Mike was talking about Anna. Everything she does is beautiful, everything she does is right. It's sickening.”
“Did he tell you about Aimee?”
“I do not know of anyone named Aimee. Is she a local you've picked out for me to enjoy.”
“I should slap you for that,” Isabeth joked. “No, Aimee Elizabeth Leigh Marie Vivian Simpson Phelps is what we're going to name our daughter when she is born.”
James' light mood went south real quick. “You're pregnant? He's planted his seed in you? And I'm sure he did it on purpose just to lay solid claim to you. Why the hell would he do this to me?”
“You're sounding very paranoid,” Isabeth was becoming alarmed. “You're progressing into the transformation way too fast.”
“I'm sorry. I think I like you more than I wanted to. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.” James watched his hands for some time then looked up into Isabeth’s worried expression. “What is wrong with me? I was never like this in the real world. This isn't me.”
“I altered you,” Isabeth suddenly reviled.
“What do you mean, you altered me?” James' anger was back as quickly as it had gone.
“I needed a dividing line, a way to separate you two. In order for me to see him in the saintly way that I do, I had to make you retched. I had to make sure that what I was feeling for him didn't over flow onto you. I had farm too much emotional drama in this world to last more than five lifetimes.”
“Why did you do this? When did you do this?”
They were both in such an agitated state that their pendents began to glow unknown to them. Vince and Oliver were somehow alerted to the need of the fighting pair. Vince because of who he was to Isabeth and Oliver because of who he was to James.
“I did it after the Bicentennial ball. I wanted to be in love with Oliver and not James.”
“Why? What is so bad about me?”
“It wasn't you at all, James. It's my sister.”
“Castle Tudyk? What does my castle have to do with anything?”
“No, my twin sister. She was still born, her name was supposed to be Olivia. I had to miss an entire lifetime with her. All the things that could have been, all we could have done. I thought I could have that with Oliver, that I could reclaim a little of what should have been. Well, that and a little more, he being a man and I being a woman, and all. There are things he cold do for me that Olivia never would have been able to do.”
“Well there are other things you should be sorry for. Like turning me into this.”
“Don't you see, don't you get it yet? I made you rude and mean, vicious and conniving, so painfully honest and unwaveringly cold hearted. If he is Olivia, then you are me. I made you into a male version of myself.”
“You are mad!”
“Well at least I'm not in love with myself.”
“I'm not in love with you.”
“Bull shit you're not.”
“What is going on with you two?” Oliver was the first of the two alerted to arrive in the middle of the screaming match. Vince arrived a second later and as always found a comfortable place to sit and took out his notebook.
“She is insane,” James yelled gesturing to Isabeth.
“He's the one who's insane,” Isabeth turned it back on James. “He thinks it better to be in love with himself. And I don't mean like having a healthy self esteem. I mean the one true love, soul mates kind of love.”
“Well it's a hell of a lot better than being in love with your dead twin sister.”
Oliver looked completely lost and confused. Vince was looking up at them pinching away a smile so they wouldn't see his amusement.
“What are you two fighting about?” Oliver asked trying to understand.
“You,” James and Isabeth shout at the same time.
“How is what you just said have anything to do with me?” Oliver asked getting even more lost.
“Because of who we are,” James started. “See if I were you, who is in fact Olivia, who is her twin sister, and dead; then she'd be over here on my lap where I want her to be, possibly trading tongues right now. But I'm not you, I am me, who is in fact, bloody her.”
“Wow!” Vince interjected. “That sounds like something Isabeth would say.”