A.N. ā“ For Skorpigeist at Lyoko Freak. Hereās another venture down a less-explored pairing path ā“ Yumi/Jeremie. Is this romance even possible? Iāve set it in Season 1 to have some chance. Read and find out!
Saturday lunches were supposed to be a cheerful time. The rest of the weekend lay ahead, and a meal was the perfect way to unwind from a stressful week of classes. Try telling that to Jeremie, though.
Heās physically sitting at our table, sure, but heās not really here. The laptop heās staring at is the center of his world. Usually when he gets like this, he just skips lunch and stays in his room, chatting with Aelita. But today, that wasnāt the case. Itās almost as if he needed the personal contact, yet resented that.
Odd is cracking a joke at Jeremieās expense and he doesnāt even notice. Ulrich strains a smile and sends a pointed look at me. I try to smile in return, but itās hard. Everyone at this table is hurting in one way or another. Jeremie is frustrated at the lack of progress on bringing Aelita here. Oddās grades are pitiful, and as carefree as he is on the outside, he aches on the inside. Ulrich seems to let nothing faze him, but thereās this sense of pain in his eyes that I havenāt seen until recently.
And me? I want to know what causes them all to hurt. I want to fix it all. I want nothing more than to have my old, pre-Lyoko life back. Every day I wonder what could have been and what might be if Lyoko is taken out of the picture. I donāt have the heart to tell Jeremie Iād rather pull the plug some days, or tell Odd to just shut up, or tell Ulrich someplace he could shove that katana. Iām sure they have similar sentiments sometimes.
But Jeremie seems really off today, and itās worrying. We all have our off days, but he is usually so composed about everything. I can take Ulrich sheltering all his problems and pretending they donāt exist, but when Jeremie starts following suit, I begin to lose hope a little. Heās been the unspoken leader of our gang since day one. Itās his skills that give power to ours, his mind behind our strength. Weād be next to nowhere without him.
He snaps the laptop closed and chucks his leftovers in the garbage as he exits. He never said a word the whole time he was here. Odd stops joking around and Ulrich lets out a sigh when Odd has his head turned.
āWas it something I said?ā Odd asked. āI couldāve eaten those leftovers.ā
āI donāt think so, Odd,ā I say. Ulrich shrugs. āSomethingās really troubling him. We should talk to him.ā
āAnd get Einstein mad? I think not,ā Odd grinned. Ulrich nodded, barely perceptible.
āI see,ā I said. I got up and went to the door, and only then looked over my shoulder. They were already immersed in other things. Ulrich had pulled out his journal, and Odd was making go-go eyes at some girl thatād slap him later.
āSince when am I the only risk-taker of the bunch?ā I asked myself as I went up to Jeremieās room. If heād been talking to Aelita at lunch, heād certainly be there. If he was fiddling around with her materialization, he could be at the factory. He usually does let us know about his attempts, so thatās probably not the case. I knock solidly on his door, confidence showing through in a brief adrenaline rush.
āCome in,ā he replies in monotone. I enter, and sit on his bed.
āWhatās up?ā I try to keep conversation light, hoping to keep him talking until I unearth whateverās bugging him. Heās silent, and more warning flags go up. I get up and lay a hand on his shoulder. I sigh mentally, glad this isnāt a polymorphic clone, at least.
He slightly trembles at the touch, but I keep my hand where it is. He needs to know Iāmā¦weāre there for him. From the reflection on the computer screen, I see Jeremieās pupils arenāt even moving. Heās just staring blankly at the screen, eyes dead.
I take a closer look at the screen over his shoulder. The communication window is open, but Aelita isnāt there. At least I know they have been talking now. Thatās something to start with.
āWhatād Aelita have to say?ā I cautiously ask. Apparently I wasnāt cautious enough, because no sooner than I had finished the sentence than heād risen up out of the chair and turned to face me. I was suddenly glad I am a year older and a couple inches taller than him. I had never seen that kind of barely-contained anger in Jeremie before.
āJeremie, Iā¦ā but he cuts me off by lunging at me, fists balled up and aiming for my head. I dodge, more surprised than I may ever have been in my life. He keeps raining blows at me, backing me up to his bed as I block the attacks. I stumble as I reach the bed, falling back on to it. He finally scores a hit, and then a couple more in quick succession, all to my torso. I try not to let him see the pain, physical and emotional, within me.
The punches blur into one another as he keeps the haymakers up. I had been fighting back, but I stopped after I realized he needed this, in some sad little way. He canāt go to Lyoko; he has no fights with monsters to vent emotions. Heās been a kettle waiting to boil, and now that kettle is screaming.
āWHY?!ā Jeremie finally says as his right fist rests an inch from my head. Weāre both breathing hard, ragged. Heās winded himself, and sinks down to the bed next to me. I clutch my stomach and wonder how much bruising there will be tomorrow. I look over at him and see heās curled up into a fetal position, tears dripping down his face and onto the pillow heās clutching. Wincing, I sit up and again reach out and put a hand on his shoulder. There is no tell-tale flinch this time.
Jeremie relaxes into the touch, audibly sobbing now. I am unsure of what to do. Heās opening up before me, and I can do nothing but sit there and watch. This task set before us has been harder on him than any of us, despite not having any physical fights. No; his are mental battles, and they seem to have taken a greater toll than any of us could have predicted.
āJeremie?ā I nearly whisper as his sobs turn into hitching breaths.
āYumiā¦ā he says after a bit, and it sounds so sad I canāt help but throw my other arm around him and hug him tight. He stiffens up at first, but relaxes again shortly. He doesnāt have the energy left to put up a tough-guy faĆ§ade.
āJeremie, tell me whatās wrong. It hurts me to see you like this,ā I say to him.
āIt does?ā He wriggles loose so he can turn over and look at me. I guess I seem honest enough, because he continues on. āI feel like Iām letting everyone down, Yumi, and you know me ā“ I canāt stand not being as close to perfect as possible.ā
āBut thatā¦this is not your normal reaction to that situation,ā I say slowly. āItās sorta scary seeing you like this.ā
āItās scaring me, too.ā Jeremie wipes his eyes and regains more of his composure. āIāve always been able to beat anything I set myself to do. But not this. Iāve met something I canāt solve, someone I canāt understand.ā He looks a second away from breaking down again. I donāt want to see that happen, but I press on.
āAelita,ā I say, and there he goes again. His head disappears under the pillow, but it only muffles the anguish. At least heās not punching me now. I rub his back, and he stills. āSomething go wrong?ā I ask, as much kindly concern in my voice as I can muster.
āItās been going wrong for a while now,ā Jeremie says as he re-emerges. āI just didnāt realize it. Aelitaās been having doubts I havenāt wanted to listen to for a while now. Maybe I am going about this all wrong, but arenāt I doing it for all the right reasons? Doesnāt everyone need something to fight for?ā
āYes,ā is all I say as I nod to urge him to go on, get all this out while heās willing.
āIf Aelita starts doubting me, I start doubting myself. Iām beginning to lose the only thing I have worth fighting for.ā
āOh, and Iām not worth fighting for?ā I didnāt mean it so harsh. I clasp a hand over my mouth, eyes wide.
āOf course you are, but sheās the reason we started this,ā Jeremie responded, feeling defensive as well.
āAnd now you donāt want to finish it because of a little doubt?ā I canāt contain the outrage Iām feeling. Weāve been at this for so long, and heās willing to drop it for some nagging doubts? I grab his shirt collar and haul him up so heās sitting face-to-face with me.
āBut thatās not it,ā Jeremie started. I let go and look deep into his eyes. He sits there, passive, trembling now in fright instead of anger. What is going on inside his head? What would make him doubt so much as to be willing to abandon Lyoko and Aelita.
Then, it clicks.
āYouāre afraid of what happens next, arenāt you?ā Hās still silent, but heās gone rigid again. āYou donāt want to face the possibility of Aelita rejecting you, do you?ā
āCan you blame me?ā he says plaintively. āWhy bring someone here who wonāt fit in, wonāt be appreciative of what weāve doneā¦who wonāt love me.ā
I see red flash in my vision, and before I know it, Iāve slapped him. His glasses lay on the floor and a bruise is forming on his cheek.
āYou fool!ā I shout at him. āYou narcissistic, short-sighted fool. Itās not about that. Itās about the commitment you made for her. You cannot let that go, and if you think sheāll react like that, then youāre not worthy of her love.ā I finish venting and just know Iāve ruined any discourse weāve had. Heās glaring at me, but a long-absent twinkle in his eyes is back. āJeremie?ā I question.
āI needed that,ā he says simply. āThank you Yumi.ā I can feel my mouth flapping, useless, as I try to regain some sense of balance.
āWhat?ā is all I manage.
āWe all have our demons to face,ā he says. āWeāre all hurting, in some form. And only together will we succeed in our cause.ā He scoots closer then, and hugs me. Not in some awkward guy-hug type of way, but like he truly means it. Only now, I know he does. Shyly, he kisses my cheek as he lets go.
āWhat?ā Itās like Iāve been reduced to that one word.
āYou looked like you needed it,ā Jeremie is finally smiling. āIt may not be from Ulrich, but give it time. Heās still fighting his fights, and heāll come around.ā
āThanks,ā I squeak out. I wasnāt expecting that, but I shouldāve learned by now not to expect anything in this crazy world. We both get up at the same time, elated yet settled down. I head for the door and Jeremie watches me go, longing in his eyes. I canāt help it, again. I cross the room, and kiss him ā“ hard. Call it an impulse, call it what you will. The situation called for it.
When we part, Jeremie is the one reduced to āWhat?ā I laugh out loud and pat him on the shoulder.
āIt may not be from Aelita, but give it time. Youāll find a way to bring her here. I trust in you. You should, too.ā I turn to leave again, a stunned young man in my wake. Iām about to shut the door, when he regains his voice.
āYāknow, I think I do now,ā he says. āI think I do.ā
Author's Chapter Notes: