[10] Sage

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I stare at Jake, bewildered, for quite some time. "Why are you sorry for me?" I finally demand, utterly confused at this change of heart. "I killed people!"

"I'm sorry that something broke within you that resulted in you killing people, and I can tell that you're in pain because of that broken bit. I feel bad for you," Jake explains slowly, as if walking a child through Empathy 101.

"You're not supposed to feel sorry for me! I'm a killer!" When will he wrap his big, stupid head around that?

The Voice is watching this exchange happily. She understands that I am attempting to push him away, trying to remain isolated just as I have been for years now.

And that is what makes me do what I do next.

I muster up my body strength and lunge at Jake. He begins pulling back, alarmed, but I simply wrap my arms loosely around his neck and bury my face in his shoulder.

He relaxes as he realizes I am not trying to kill him, but am, in fact, hugging him. Awkwardly, he pats my back in what I assume is supposed to be a comforting gesture.

"But why would you apologize?" I whisper, words muffled even further by his shoulder.

"You're in pain. It's the polite thing to do." We both conveniently ignore the fact that we have both caused horrible pain for many people and our own loved ones without so much as a fleeting "sorry." "Plus, even a killer deserves to be treated like a human, and from the sound of it, back on Earth, they were treating you like an animal."

I remember the constant straitjacket, the pills in place of needles, the round-the-clock humiliation...the muzzle. I nod in agreement.

"My parents...disowned me," Jake admits slowly, and I can tell he does not want to be sharing this bit of his life but feels as though he must.

I draw back, settling comfortably against the pillow once more. Part of me feels that I should at least offer something along the lines of, "Oh, you don't have to tell me this!" but truth be told, I want to know. If the Voice has done one good thing for me, it has abolished my - and humanity as a whole's - habit of lying to make others feel better. I want to know, therefore, I will do what I can to know. A Voice philosophy, for sure, but quite helpful, especially at times such as this one.

"When they found out I was on drugs, they tried to get me to stop. Then they tried taking me to a therapist. When I refused to go, they called the police. It was bad. At first, they were just worried for me. By the time they tried to have me arrested, they were mad. They knew I was wrecking my own life and perpetuating a culture that should have died out long ago, not to mention that I was refusing to get help. Even then, I couldn't bring myself to admit that I had a life-ruining problem.

"Anyway, they called the police, but I was being careful back then. They couldn't pin anything on me. So my parents disowned me instead. To make sure they wouldn't be dragged down with me when it 'crashed and burned.' I believe were their exact words." Jake snorts, a bitter laugh, and I finally understand where his anger issues took root. The drugs obviously didn't help. "They were right, though. They were right about everything and if I hadn't been so...stupid, those poor people would still be alive and I could have a normal life." He sits back on his heels, jaw clenched, very much done with this impromptu heart-to-heart.

"Thank you for telling me," I tell him, and I mean it. He didn't have to share anything with me, especially since I was under the impression that he hated me. I'm not entirely sure why he did. After all, he seems to regard me with contempt and plain disgust the majority of the time. "And for the record, if we're playing the who's-crappiest game, I think I win by a long shot."

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