“Oh my gods,” Koh breathed as Amon stopped talking. She leaned back with a shaken look. “That can’t be the end of the story. Tell me you stopped it! You rescued her, right?”
Amon sat rigid, his hands shaking where they gripped his knees. His breathing held the sound of someone on the edge of tears. But then, as if he flipped some magical switch within himself, all signs of emotion were gone again.
“No,” he said quietly. “I’m no hero.”
Koh sat there, choked with emotion. She was disturbed by the whole thing, and even a little afraid to be there… alone… with this man who was capable of so much darkness. On the other hand, there was a welling of sympathy and concern, especially watching his emotions bleed through the story, as much as he tried to hide them.
It was hard to know how to feel. Even harder when Amon challenged her.
“Judge me,” he said simply.
Panic flooded her, but thankfully in just that moment, she felt a cool, almost welcome release.
Noah had come, filling her mind.
“You already judge yourself enough,” the cat-girl said to him. “Not kind of you to place that sort of responsibility on a child, Amon.”
He grunted under his breath, recognizing the change in speech pattern. Knowing it was Noah he was now talking to.
“I assume you heard the whole thing.”
“Of course,” she leaned back casually, her eyes searching him. “I wouldn’t have missed it.”
“I’m glad you found it entertaining,” Amon replied flatly.
“Now, come on,” Noah stood up and walked over to him. Unlike Koh, she had very little sense of personal space and no qualms about taking up someone else’s. “You know that’s not what I meant.”
“What do you mean?”
“Are you fishing for a response, Amon?”
“Mayhaps,” he looked away. Then he admitted, “I’ve never told anyone about this before.”
“I see,” Noah perched on the arm of the chair despite the fact he consumed most of the chair already. “Would you like to know what I think?”
“I have a notion that you’ve punished yourself quite a bit already.”
“Not enough,” Amon grumbled. “And the longer I stay here, the more I feel ’twas a mistake to come back. This world is too good for something like me to exist.”
“Always so dramatic,” Noah sighed at him. “There’s a logical answer to that, Amon.”
“Become the kind of person that deserves this world,” she told him.
He just groaned and made a dismissive head-bob.
“What was that?” Noah caught it. “Did you just roll your eyes at me, Amon of Allag?”
“What of it?”
“I couldn’t see it.” She suddenly leaned dangerously close. Then she reached out to snag his visor. “Need to get rid of this thing.”
He pulled back in alarm, but it was too late. His head-piece resided in Noah’s hand and he was left completely vulnerable to her gaze. Panic rushed through him as he struggled to look every way but at her, even attempting to cover a part of his face.
She caught his hand, and though he was much stronger than she was, he allowed her to pull it away.
“You’re not such a tough guy now, are you,” Noah chided him gently.
He said nothing. Just sat there, staring at the ground, almost petrified.
“Are you afraid?”
He remained silent.
“Why? You have nothing to hide,” she pulled his chin around to face her, giving the side of his face a soft touch. “Trust me. I’ve had my share of flings. I know a good looking guy when I see one.”
Amon coughed and shook her hand away. “’Tis inappropriate.”
Noah just laughed at his discomfort and then sighed. “This world has done a number on you, hasn’t it? Now it’s chewed you up, spit you back out, and left you to face the consequences of your choices.”
“Nothing I didn’t deserve,” he muttered.
“Here we are, talking about deserving again,” she put his visor on just to tease him.
Amon couldn’t help but glance over at how ridiculous it looked. A flicker of humor twitched his eyebrows upward. Just a tiny motion. But it was progress.
“In the end, we choose what we deserve,” Noah told him, the silly visor contrasting with the weight of her words. “For example, despite what you think, you’ve been a very good thing for Koh.”
He furrowed his brows, squinting at her. He was much more expressive now that she could see his face.
“I know what you’re thinking. But this is the first time I’ve seen Koh branch out, meet new people, try new adventures, and really go after a goal the way she has lately,” Noah spread her hands. “Maybe you haven’t answered all of her questions, but some of the information you’ve given her has been enough for her to connect the dots and confirm things about Allagan history that her people could only speculate before.”
“In a weird way, Koh really admires you.”
“Well, I’ve blown that now, haven’t I?”
“I don’t think so. I think she needs time to come to terms with who you were in comparison to who you are now.”
“I’m the same person,” Amon argued.
“I disagree,” Noah told him. “And I think as time goes on, you’ll find you have more choice in the matter than you think you do.”
He mulled that over for a moment. Then he asked, “Can I have my visor back?”