Let's call the whole thing off

Re: Let's call the whole thing off

Postby Glenn » Thu Jul 26, 2018 3:15 pm

She had seen how he had come out of the glamour last time. This wasn't then. Oh, he was unsteady, and there was that energy; he was obviously overstimulated, given the way his eyes darted and the spark within them but... well, maybe it was much like the last time, but not entirely so. Still, what did she think would happen when plans and plots were discussed? Of course he leapt to one conclusion after the next.

Maybe that's why what he said next might have been surprising. "It was youthful abandon, carelessness, for us, at the beginning, until we paid for that. That wasn't our fault, not really. We were easy prey with our heads sticking out. We were young, just like you were with him and your name." There was a throb to his voice, pain, memory, pure unbridled emotion. "The revenge that followed though? The year of training for it. What I lost in myself. The futility when I achieved it? I was more than primed for what happened to me underground. I had prepared myself for it, body and soul.

"Finn. Spite, jealousy, arrogance. Those things can drive me, but never vengeance, never again." His lip twisted slightly, a tint hovering between bewilderment and distaste pushing through the sheer passion that had driven his words. "We're not talking about me, though. I'm sorry that you've a father driven by such a thing. That's all." And in any comparison, on this point, he'd be better, for her sake and his. Maybe it wasn't really all.

Then she was back to the candlestick though, and she explained it all. "Of course. It's a horn, not a..." Dry tongue darted out to pass over the smeared blood upon his lips. When he spoke again, it was a near whisper. "That would be the second coincidence then. After yours." He'd push himself into a hard, harsh exhale. "Good neighbor for the detail. It'll help me to prepare if it ever comes to that," which was absolutely something that was meant to be his inner voice and not his outer one.

Of course, soon after he'd be leaning on her, and then letting her all but carry his weight entirely, talking about promises and oaths and hosts and guests. He let her lead him a few steps towards where the bed obviously was, before letting those well-trained feet take over. With three deft steps, he turned sharply. "The world's glowing, Finn. Purple is more purple than it's ever been before, but I'm not tired. I'm fine. What's done is done and I'm glad for seeing what I saw." He seemed to be studying every bit of the room, from her shoulder that he had just escaped from to the very tip of a prone quill. "You started the quest, didn't you. Let's finish it together. You listed all the possibilities. We should hardly let it lay. Let's go find your damned satchel. Flying book or no, I'm a poor host for having it lost, after all, right?" Then, he stood at his full height, the world having grounded itself for at least a moment. His arm shot out, finger pointed in accusation. "I knew the condition of a kiss was just you trying to take all you could get. You'd think queens would find their fun in other ways. You deserved the book. The book but not the lost satchel."
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Re: Let's call the whole thing off

Postby Niabh » Fri Jul 27, 2018 8:02 am

“Don’t be sorry,” she said, voice clipped and cool. “I’m not. It’s made him useful. A bit like honing a blade, I suppose—so thin it’s bound to snap, but so sharp that it’s good for fine work.”

She hesitated, running her tongue over the inside of her teeth, debating if she wanted to go on at all, and if so, how much to say. It seemed an intrusion to counter his pain with hers. “After everything that happened with my kinsman, after the High Court, when I came home again, I thought it would be over. That was the only thing I wanted. For it to be finally over so I could put it in back of me and I never had to think about it again. I thought…perhaps if I knew they’d suffered for it, suffered as much as I had…it might balance the scales.” The warmth ebbed from her voice. “The trouble was, I’d already had my revenge, and still it was not enough. I would lie awake imagining it over and over again until I felt satisfied, until I felt however you’re meant to feel when something’s over and done and you never have to think about it again. It became like a drug. The only way I could fall asleep. And when I woke, it wore off. It was going to go on dragging me back there forever. As if I’d never gotten free at all. It went on for years. It’s still happening. Even after all that, part of me still wants it. But the rest of me wants more to live.”

She’d been talking too long, talking too deep. She drew in her breath between her teeth, let it out in a long hiss that seemed to bring the feeling back to her extremities, though her hands still felt oddly cold, thick, and numb. “But the point is that I know what revenge is; you are not some object lesson in revenge, Sionnach. I know what it does.”

She stared at him sullenly a moment, not quite able to let the subject go. Insidious, it was: one mention and all the dull, hot anger roiled up again. It was enough to make her wish she’d never brought it up. Dash it all. More regret. What was this thing? She would have to go somewhere and purge herself of it.

Her head shot up swiftly, bursting out of her brooding. “I don’t believe in coincidence, Glenn. The gods named Myrken. They sent me there. They had some purpose for it. I just don’t know what it might be. If you know of something, tell me.”

But he wouldn’t. Of course he wouldn’t. Still she got his arm over her shoulder and got him his few steps, thinking all the while that it would be much more convenient if he dropped, as he had on the table back in Myrken. Then she could just deposit him on a sofa or something, make a quick, silent search of the place for her satchel—just in case—and lock up behind her.

He wouldn’t, though. Whatever change had been wrought in him, the glamour seemed to galvanize him. The admission would never pass her lips, not even if he put her to iron, but she struggled just to keep up with the tenor of his thoughts, his wild leaps in logic. At least now he seemed to be flagging a bit, praise the gods, otherwise she might end up coshing him over the head with something just to shut him...and no sooner did that thought cross her mind then suddenly he was sweeping himself away from her. She groaned quietly, hand pressed to her eyes. Dash it all.

“I didn’t start anything. This isn’t about the damn satchel; I don’t care about the satchel. I’m concerned about who would care enough about what might be in that satchel to steal it.” Her gaze shifted coolly to his pointing finger. The tip of her tongue ran over the inside of her teeth while she considered biting it, but that would require darted forward and leaning in and, quick as she was, she didn’t think she could pull it off before he could jerk out of reach. Her eyes lifted, mouth pursed and feigning haughtiness. “Oh, and by the by, so far as I’m concerned, you still owe me a kiss. I set the price, I gave you back your name, you never paid, therefore you are in my owing.”

She made a show of rubbing her shoulder with the heel of her hand, so that he would see her doing it. Her voice dropped in an accusation of her own. “And why, pray tell, do you keep staring at my shoulder?”
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Re: Let's call the whole thing off

Postby Glenn » Sat Jul 28, 2018 3:35 am

"I'm still a tad sorry, Finn." She was cool and clipped. He was warm. She would just have to cope with it. "I think it's pretty safe to say that having a kind, compassionate, and nurturing father is better than having one that either sells you or sees you primarily as a tool for revenge? If we're judging parents on how useful they can be to our plans, then I think something's gone wrong?" It's not that it wasn't clear as day why she took the attitude she did: what else was she going to do? Why lament when you could see the utility in a situation? His voice was walking two steps ahead of the rest of him however. Here was his attempt at reconciling that. "At least your mother is a selfless healer, right?" Half was better than what he had.

It also meant that he primarily listened to her go on about revenge instead of explaining her own feelings to her, for once. At the end all there was to say was this: "I'm still an object lesson, just apparently not for you."

But then it was about horns, about hounds, about coincidence. "I told you already, didn't I?" His tone was a bit more matter-of-fact now. "Catch told me his horn wasn't a horn. We generally make our instruments out of wood or metal in Myrken. It's embarrassing to admit," but admit it he did. That he was answering this at all, so directly, was surely a sign of his current lack of inhibition, "but in this case, the idea that your weapon, even as a horn, might be blown, had escaped me. I do, however, think it's just a coincidence. Why?" He was lecturing now, or half-lecturing. He was just lacking proper footing and a classroom. "Because I think he meant something else entirely. Whatever his horn is, it's not the same as yours. That's my immediate theory at least. Still, he took the time to warn me, even as he was ensuring my survival."

His voice softened a little, the external, the lecturing, becoming more internal by far. "Finn, if you do not believe in coincidence, isn't the fact that all of this led you to being here, now, significant? I believe in fate, but differently than you do. Chains upon us. I've seen presumed gods. I'm not going to deny them." Instead, he'd throw himself into the cliffs of fate, as if he could shatter them with his fragile human body alone, rather than allow natural order to take its course. Still, he was at least trying to focus here. This wasn't about him. "I'm not saying you've not furthered your cause at all in the years since you arrived, Finn, but isn't this different? Isn't this what we are in the end? Two people who care so thoroughly about our own people, but that, through specific experiences, can find room in very, very full hearts, hurting hearts, for one another as well. We're a bridge. Despite all of our prejudice, maybe even because of it, we can try to make the sum of us, ourselves and our people, more than the individual parts?" These were words he would never had said to her normally (not the notion, necessarily, but the specific words and the emotional appeal and vulnerability behind them). "Was it just coincidence that led us to this moment?"

Then he was up, though, and whether she still wanted to be rid of him in the immediate or not, there'd be none of that. Mysteries and questions brought forth a second wind. He was acclimating to the vividness, and shouldn't she be just a little alarmed by that? "I stare at your shoulder because it signifies the way that you grit your teeth and crash through," but then he laughed, if only a little, not amused at her so much as herself. "I think it's because there's a cost every time we lock eyes. Cost isn't the right word. There's meaning and I'd rather we not drown in it except for when it's most important that we do?"

Even as he said that, though, he dared look her straight in the eyes. His own were filled with affection and defiance intermingled. "As for the kiss, you received it, remember? A gentlemanly, knightly even, kiss upon the hand of a queen, showing respect and deference. Admiration for you. Most royalty I spit at." Maybe that was part of why he bled all over the place so much. His smile was simple and slight, barely there. "Tell me what was in the satchel and then we can bring our raven friend in and get his thoughts on the matter. That seems the next logical step." The raven had screeched at her at seeing Burnie before. What would he think now?
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Re: Let's call the whole thing off

Postby Niabh » Sun Jul 29, 2018 8:26 am

For Glenn to make such a charitable remark regarding Father struck her as so odd and out of place that she cocked her head suspiciously, unable to decide if it was sarcasm and should be repaid in kind or if it was another odd side-effect of this…whatever they were calling his current mental state.

No sooner had he said parent, though, then the full enormity dawned on her, a point so basic she’d never even considered it might need clearing up. Fathers meant something different to tultharian. She chuckled, utterly charmed that he could ever conceive of such a notion. “Ah, no, no, it isn’t…I understand a bit of what you mean, and I agree that it would be much better for everyone an he were more reasonable, but he’s not my parent; he’s my father. Just as I am not his daughter, but his queen. And he would do well to remember it.”

Still amused by the momentary confusion, she took herself back to his writing table and hoisted herself onto it, bare feet in the seat of the desk’s chair, and watched him from her perch. “I suppose you understand now why I wanted to know what became of His horn. I couldn’t ask Him, and I wasn’t sure how much anyone else knew of it, or if it would be safe for Him that they knew at all.” She frowned. “I. I don’t believe He is the same sort of creature as the one in the story. Not really.” It came out as a confession, a touch embarrassed. “I wanted Him to be. Who would not hope to see a unicorn? Who would not even hope for the hope of it? It would have been good know that we did not wipe out the last of them. Perhaps that would mean there was never any curse on us—that it was all just foolishness and rash action and we brought it on our own heads after all. There was too much hope not to ask the question. Even if I thought I knew the answer. But I wanted to believe it.”

She waited for him to finish speaking, then sighed when he was done and crossed her wrists over her knee, head bowed. “I want to believe you, too. But I’m not sure why you would ever say such a thing. Because I know you well enough that you cannot bear to think of anything greater than yourself. ’Tis why you spit at queens.” She raised her head a moment, smiled, then shook the amusement off her shoulders. “Now you ask me if it was all coincidence. For your sake, I was well to leave off fate and fortune and agree that it was only happy chance that we met and did some good for one another. At most I would say that gods did the guiding and we did all the work to make ourselves worthy of it. I would even ask you, what does it matter? I feel as you do. If there be enough worth in it, it scare qualifies where it all came from. And I do believe there is worth between us. But I believe that if so many happy chances come together and lead to so great a thing, one would be a fool to think there is no hand behind it. And if the chances are greater than any mortal hand, it must be the gods.” Looking back at him steadily, she asked, “If you believed it was the gods, would you seek to undo it? Out of pure defiance, so that you could still say they were not your master? Even if the good were undone as well?”

In a spirit of mischief or perhaps a small fit of her own defiance, she stared back and him and gave a quick lizard-like blink that made her eyes go from brown to full-black, so that it was near impossible to tell just what her gaze might be fixed on: could be him, could be something just behind him or off to one side. “Sionnach,” she said at last, patiently, “since I came to your country, there has not been a bottle of wine that I didn’t drink the same day I had it, or a blackberry that didn’t go into my mouth as soon as it was plucked, or a letter of yours I didn’t open as soon as I had it in my hand. I believe the gods put those things before us, too, for our pleasure, but it is our own will whether we seize them or set them aside. I don’t get to look at you often, but so long as you are here before me I will look, because we neither of us know when the next time will be, or if it will be. You may wait and wait and the day will never come, but the moment…the moment is always before us.”

At last she slid off the table, returning his smile with a faint one of her own. She dealt with a most persuasive madman. What did that say of her? Anyone else might think her a being of extreme patience, when in truth it was all mere stubbornness, which was about the only field she could match him on. “Glenn, I promise you, there’s nothing important in that bag. Just my traveling things. The only thing I’m worried about is the letter I was writing to my bard, and even then, there won’t be that many people who could read it. What I’m really worried about is that if someone’s taken it, it’s because they are the sort of person who can read it. But I’m not sure how any of that sort of person would be Here.”
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Re: Let's call the whole thing off

Postby Glenn » Sun Jul 29, 2018 3:40 pm

She was amused by all of this but he seemed a bit less so. In fact, he seemed rather frustrated. "Perhaps it'd be better if you used different words for these things? It makes sense," there was no balm or salve quite like him explaining her own people to her, "that you do not have the same, traditional relationship with parents that we do, given how long lived you are and how relatively short your childhood must be accordingly, and I'm sure you have any number of quaint traditions about being left in the woods or whatever else, but..." which is where he voice finally faded off. When looked to her finally, it was with some bemused resignation. "Will you just explain it then? Your Father is not you father. Your Mother is not your mother. They're what? Advisers tied to your clan?" There he was again, supposing. "Oh, just explain it, and tell me from whence you came too. Your actual parents, if you have any." He did want to understand, but maybe not as much as he wanted to simply possess the knowledge without her having to give it. That, of course, was how he got into this most recent mess in the first place.

As to the matter of Catch, well, that was a more even exchange, perhaps even one skewed in his favor. "You told me that the very worst thing you could do was to forget that your glamourie was just that? Sometimes I think that is what happened to him, that he lost the means to find himself and he's made do with a combination of personal wishes and direction from those around him. A path of least resistance. It's as much about how he sees himself than anything, especially considering the level of power, the inability to grasp certain complex ideas without so high a cost, and his own stark innocence; what better to draw forth a unicorn from than that?" He'd pause only slightly before punctuating the thought. "What better to draw one of your people than the combination of innocence and power as well? Considering I have neither, I should better appreciate your charity."

There's a wry smile at her truly reasonable objections. Such an expression from him had so much more color and verve to it than it would have even a week before. "Defiance is nice, Finn, but it's a bit like revenge. Satisfaction is better and there's little more satisfying than taking the machinations of gods and using them to your own advantage. It's a fine line, because they'll always tell you that you're just following their path, no matter what you do, but certain of us are stubborn enough to claim the opposite as well, no matter what they say. I wouldn't undo it. I just might take credit for it. Good neighbor for your continued patience in the faith of that." She had shrugged amusement off her shoulders and he had started to draw it inwards for a laugh that would emanate from his chest outwards. It never came.

Instead, there was an odd look upon his face, that rare, never-admitted look of Glenn Burnie actually doubting something that came out of his own mouth. "I like the notion of the bridge, Finn, but I'm not sure it's quite right. The ground shifts beneath our feet and we shift upon it. I think I've figured it now, though. It's interesting you have a notion of neighbors to begin with, for what you showed me was a nomadic people, but have it you do." Wist was a powerful thing, able to creep both backwards and forwards. "I learned it well enough in Myrken. It could be as simple as borrowing some spices, or as severe as pitching in when disaster strikes. It's standing back to back against a shared fate. It's offering a shoulder in time of sorrow and a cheer in time of joy. Sometimes it's aggravating you with too much noise or a misstep onto a flower, or even an argument where a line of property is truly drawn. That's what I think we are, you and me, and eventually, your people and mine. It can encompass friendship but it's also something all the more, shared survivors. That's what we are, Finn. We're neighbors."

It all, somehow, came back to the satchel though. "Three questions," and it was all a bit like pulling teeth, the ebb and flow of this branch, one would think the most pressing branch, of their tree of conversation. "Where does the High Queen think you are? What does the High Queen think you're doing? And are you so afraid to have the raven see me in this moment that you truly wouldn't invite him in to help us work through this?"
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Re: Let's call the whole thing off

Postby Niabh » Fri Aug 03, 2018 7:05 am

“We do have a different word for it,” she replied dryly. “You don’t. Really, it’s not important. Why do you bother to ask questions if you’re only going to invent your own answers?”

She let out a demure lady-like huff, because of course he was going to insist that it did matter and she might as well tell him so that they could move to more pressing matters.

“The man I call my father is my father, in that at some point he fucked my mother and I was the end result of it.” She fixed upon him a steely eye and a wry twist of a smile in the hopes that if he was going to put her through the discomfort of talking about Father, she could at least try to discomfit him in turn with bluntness. “That’s as much as matters to tultharian, isn’t it—whose prick got into who? But by law I am my mother’s child, not his.”

She huffed again, because now she must rescue poor Meg from this muddle. “My true mother is a very strange woman. She lives clanless. I’ve met her all of five or six times. I’ve never understood the full history there but apparently she wants the Nialls back in power enough to sleep with Father, meaning she is more devoted to the cause than even I am. But she has another daughter called Morgana, who has had the keeping of me since I was a baby.” Her stiffness softened, as it often did when it came to Meg. “Morgana’s the one I’ve told you about, the healer. As far as I am concerned, she is the only parent who matters. There. Now don’t you feel more enlightened.”

For perhaps the first time, she looked weary. She shot him a fierce glittering glare as if daring him to ask more. Particularly about Meg. If there was one subject that could raise her hackles faster than Catch, it was her fierce protectiveness toward her mother. She had yet to forgive Glenn some of the snide remarks he’d made in his early letters.

Which of course was precisely when he mentioned Catch. Fortunately it had the effect of defusing her defensiveness about her mother by redirecting it toward being defensive of Him. As an excuse not to look at Glenn, she drifted, silent as the moon, to the very quill he had been looking at before, and distracted herself by ticking its point with her thumbnail. “I’ve told you before: things such as He should not even know what they are. They’re too big to fit into their own minds. It was easier to believe He was as He said He was, rather than that something like that could happen. If what you say is so, then that is the only truly monstrous thing about Him—that He could lose Himself so.”

With a tiny click, she set the quill back into a pot with the rest and looked over her shoulder at him. The look on his face made her forget what it had been. Glenn Burnie expressing doubt made her suspicious, as if it might be calculated to stir her sympathies. Part of her convoluted nature took pleasure in seeing people in doubt. It was the same bewitching brew of puzzlement and vulnerability that attracted her to those who were lost—never sure if she wanted to lead them back to a path or confuse them all the more. It was doubly-attractive with Glenn for being more novel.

She crept a few steps nearer in hopes as if being able to see him more up close might reveal a trick. Her long ears pricked forward delicately like a deer’s. “Neighbors?” As though she were asking what it meant. “I might agree with that more had I not seen how your folks treat their neighbors.” But she nibbled on her lip a moment, wistfully. When she stepped closer, he might see that the freckles were back, as well as a certain chapped raggedness to her lips. “We learned about neighbors from you. An old truce. If you called on us as good neighbors, we would be good neighbors. The strange thing is that we remembered it and none of you did.”

Her black eyes lifted. She was trying to be nonchalant about it. “I could be neighbors with you. Just you. Still not sure about all these other ones, though. You made yourself difficult enough. I haven’t the patience to be neighborly to all these others if they’re each going to take up a year-and-a-half of my life and the gods-alone-know how many letters. My wrist will wear out.” But she smiled.

The smile widened still further over the raven. She flagged a hand at Glenn. “Oh, if you want him so bad, go to the window and call for him. Say you have raisins. He loves raisins. I’m not keeping him out.” She chuckled. “I honestly thought you would have guessed all that by now. The High Queen doesn’t know I’m gone because Father’s back home being me.
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Re: Let's call the whole thing off

Postby Glenn » Fri Aug 03, 2018 8:07 am

Glenn Burnie listened. That was a rare thing, and it certainly wasn't because she pointed out the quasi-rhetorical (and quasi-know-it-all) nature of his questioning. He was shameless when it came to interrogation, when it came to absorbing knowledge and interacting with it. She could live for another thousand years and never have the words to shame him about that. Her very direct explanation certainly didn't do it.

Still, he listened about her father; he listened about her mother; he listened about Morgana as well. "I know a thing or two about a father not being a father, you know, though less about a sister being a mother, mind. I've seen it, that sort of thing, but that's all." By her seeming, he had no parent at all and he never had. She must have known that. "Does she want for you what your father wants for you? Does she want for you what you want for you? Is she happy for you or worried?" These were pointed, dangerous questions, and he couldn't be blind to it, but there was no malice in his tone or his gaze (which was upon only one eye and her shoulder all at once). Dangerous, hardly oblivious, but still earnest, perhaps?

When it came to Catch, he would remain earnest, but whatever curiosity he had was not idle. In fact, it was already spent, years before. Now he had something else entirely; that it was honest hardly mattered. "I spent years trying to help him know himself. I wanted that for him far more than I wanted to force civility or to make use of his power. None of that. Eventually, as I fell, there was the matter of protecting him from Myrken and Myrken from him. I stopped trying so hard to open his eyes to himself, though it horrified me." She rarely offended him but he did see somewhat put off by her notion of enormity itself making awareness impossible. "What point is power if you do not know yourself? What point is knowledge? Better to be the fish, to be unable to act, but at least to know yourself, than to lack that, to be able to act but without purpose or meaning or direction or understanding." He didn't add anything further to that declaration, but she had to know that he'd argue with her until they were both dead and rotting if she dared disagree.

After his confusion (truly a realization) and subsequent declaration, their bodies ended up quite close to one another. She'd helped him up, but he hadn't quite yet gone wild about her lost item and her related theories. They were two neighbors whose vessels were practically on top of one another. So taken was he by his own idea, by her reaction, by how it made so much else fall into place when answers were lacking before, he did not drive further. Instead, he actually listened (a habit that he would not continue to endure for long, of course). "Would you tell me more about the truce, Finn? I'd hear the terms," though likely not stand by them. His people practically worshipped hers at one point, did they not? Listening without speaking (to her at least) was not the only thinking he couldn't abide.

"I don't have raisins. I'm not about to lie to him." Sometimes he listened; sometimes he was nearly offended. This time, he was starting towards the window when she chuckled. She thought he would have guessed. He should have guessed. "He's likely getting you all wrong," Burnie muttered, though that was just to cover the fact he had stopped and turned halfway back to her. It was just a little possessive, perhaps, but that wasn't the important bit. Would she chuckle again? Maybe that'd help her to ignore the half-frown (reminiscent of the one that preceded neighbors) upon his face.

While he was increasingly recovered from his exposure to her glamourie, there was still the lingering problem of his misplaced inhibition. When he spoke, it was all too honest and he'd almost certainly regret it later. "I've no bearing. I didn't think he was you. I thought they were feigning a hundred year sickness or a broken heart or any other number of things. I'm only starting to understand how you interact with one another, how you communicate, how you plot, how the rules shape all of that. When anything you see or hear could be suspect, when you can't believe your own eyes or ears," and there his voice faded off as he continued to think it through.

His eyes were churning with thought, with imagination. This was commonplace for her, perhaps, but he was trying to process the entirety of her people's social life in one moment. "The letter of what's said becomes the most important thing. You must try to trick exacting truths out of one another, oaths. You understand that they can't believe their eyes either, so they're doing the same thing. It's remarkable, really. You take for granted what we value and we take for granted what you do." There, then, now. He finally laughed, and it was exasperated but with a delight she'd so rarely witnessed from him. His smile was bright, bright enough to light up a room and warm a heart, even ones as terribly bleak as his. "It really is just remarkable, Finn."
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Re: Let's call the whole thing off

Postby Niabh » Sat Aug 04, 2018 3:20 pm

In all this, she was only now starting to flag a bit. After a long ride out, their conflict last night, a piss-poor night’s sleep, the stream of shocks, one after the next, from being in the city itself, and the sheer difficulty of keeping up with Glenn Burnie, she was beginning to feel a nagging behind her eyes that tugged at her lids, and a fog around the edges of her mind that made it difficult to bridge the gap between thoughts and sentences.

“All you ever need know of Morgana is that she is the last person who needs to be involved in any of this,” she replied, with the force of a door slamming shut. He might not want to look her in the face, but she was watching him, trying to force him to meet her eyes with the sheer intensity of her stare alone. It irked her, as if he wasn’t quite taking her seriously. She took a step backward, so that he would have to shift his eye upward to keep looking at the same spot. “I begin to suspect all that talk of looking at my face only on special occasions was an excuse to stare at my tits instead. I could always swap to the gown from yesternight. That one had a better view.”

She glanced briefly down at herself, just in case something might be askew, then back to him. But the mention of her red gown triggered a memory from earlier this morning. Something he had mentioned at the tavern…She frowned, trying to recall it—then clamped a hand to her collarbone as if staunching a wound. “Wait, are you looking at my mole?

At once she whipped her back to him to hide it, with a sharp, incredulous, and mildly revolted laugh directed toward the ceiling. “Of all things! At least staring at my cleavage would make sense, the way these stupid stays truss everything up. Why in sin would you—”

But she thought she already knew, for didn’t it always come down to the same thing in the end? The one wearisome thing they were never certain of. Even Hok wondered. And Glenn, driving himself half-mad to burrow down to the white bone of truth, would never be able to let it go. Feeling around on the floor for a bag that wasn’t there. Trying to solve the best trick she ever played on him: the one she hadn’t played at all.

Hand still curled over her shoulder, she hesitated, then turned back toward him, pained and uncertain. “Is it because it’s real? Because you know it isn’t part of the glam?”

She sank down to the settee, absently smoothing her skirts over her knee, reaching up to push her hair behind an ear point, all without looking at him. “We’re back to the goose and the gold eggs, Sionnach. You can tear it to pieces and understand how every part fits together, and so destroy everything there was to value in it. Some things are their own Truth, and not to be meddled with. You see what has become of Him. I don’t credit you with that, not all of it. But what good did it do Him? What good did do anyone?”

In spite of herself, she stretched out her hands and flexed her long fingers. The roll of knucklebones under the skin took endlessly fascinating hours. Time snapped like the spring in a child’s toy, cheap and meaningless and ever so—yet when she was done it was but a moment later, and she standing before him again, glittering, faintly feral eyes raised to his face whether he wanted to look at her or not.

She thrust out her hand, fingers flexed and pale palm turned upward. “You can solve the riddle of how much of me is real this minute. Find something iron and put it in my hand. Or you can ask me to drop glam. But you’d still never know then, would you? You’d never be certain. Because I am not Rhaena. I can still keep things from you. It’d be like ants in the back of your brain, wondering if I kept something back. Or you could take me as I am, glam and all, and resign yourself to the fact that it doesn’t matter. Truth or trust, Sionnach.”
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Re: Let's call the whole thing off

Postby Glenn » Sun Aug 05, 2018 12:14 am

"You're wrong." This, was said casually enough. All of the talk of leering didn't bother him in the least, because it wasn't true, and even now he had the shamelessness of someone whose interest leaned towards the cerebral instead of the corporeal. He knew his heart and his loins both. Also, nothing him made him quite so shameless as telling someone that they were wrong.

So confident, he didn't even avert his eyes from her shoulder. His lips twitched perhaps, as if pleased she'd found him out, but that was all. "Ignorance isn't the only bliss in this world, Finn. The unmitigated surrender of a spectator isn't the only way to enjoy something. You can understand why the goose is a goose, why geese lay eggs, and why this one happens to be laying golden ones, all without killing it. Understanding can further appreciation. A raging river is more wondrous, not less, if you know where it flows from and where it flows to. It makes it an active enjoyment instead of a passive one. It's not the same but the upside suits me and pleases me. There's a risk to it, but I know myself to know that I'll just appreciate it all the more for working out the mechanics of it." There was something of a glamour in his response. How could he be so confident of this? How could he believe it so thoroughly? How could he be so sure? How could he be sure of anything at all after all he'd experienced? There he was, though, madman or zealot or something else entirely. "I am yet enough, Finn, to open my eyes and to glorify what you offer instead of destroying it."

Then came knuckles and skin. This was the fourth time now? The fifth? Changing herself seemed to have little impact upon him. There was a line and she had just crossed it in a pique once again. Despite all his effort, her shoulder was lost. She'd pulled his gaze away with her fingers and the assurance of eternity. She dropped it back to her eyes. His own were churning, deep seas of wild thought and focus, obsession, a thousand obsessions, a thousand crossed lines, a thousand screamed acts of defiance. His mouth was ever so slightly agog, lips wet, breath labored. He did not collapse back to the ground this time.

"You're wrong." All of that causal nonchalance had been washed away. It had crashed upon some far off shore and moss was now growing upon it, some lazy crustacean nibbling upon it along with the moss, not finding the effort of differentiation worth its time. Still, the words were somehow the same, endlessly different, but still the same. "It's not about trusting you. It's not even about the real truth," somewhere, on that shore, nibbled-upon, was his inhibition as well. "The only real truth that matters in this world is what we decide matters. There are gods but they are just beings of power, driven by belief. There is nature, but it up to us to understand it and shape it as we can. There can be purpose and meaning, but it is purpose and meaning we decide upon."

He stepped past her hand, digging under it in a half-stumble, only to rise to his full height so her arm would rest dangling upon his shoulder. Now he was right upon her, she glittering and he seething, eyes writhing. "I trust you Finn. More and less than that, I like you. I like you very much. We can decide our mutual truth together. I would like that very much as well. You don't get to unilaterally decide it for me, however."
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Re: Let's call the whole thing off

Postby Niabh » Mon Aug 06, 2018 2:46 am

“I do like that you interpreted that as ‘ignorance is bliss; never learn anything.’” Her voice was light; her expression was sharp and unamused. “Because of course you would. You see someone not wanting to give you a thing as being deliberately deprived of it. Of course you would. I expect you were an excellent pair, you and your lady.” In spite of herself, in spite of the little rule she had established for herself—don’t go throwing a man’s late wife back in his face; it’s mean—she couldn’t keep the very soft jeering out of her voice. “You can say me wrong all you like. I know I’m not. The more you say it, the more you sound as if you’re trying to convince yourself, not me.”

The glam was hardly a fit of pique. She’d done it on purpose to reassert her control. If anything, it was pettiness, not pique. She held her gaze steady on his face the whole time, gauging his responses. This queer vulnerability to glams both frightened and delighted her, and now it had twisted around that even the delight frightened her: she wanted to go on doing it, to see how far the response went. To see what it could make him do. She suspected he might even let her do it, if he thought he was the one setting the terms, and any Tuatha worth her glams could get around that. It would be so easy—

Oh, this was why it was so bad to get attached to tultharian. It was so hard to see them as anything but a box of toys. But she was trying.

“Look,” she said at last, quietly, “if that’s what you want…if that’s what you truly want…let me help you. If you want to find answers, if you want to know how things are, I will help. I offer that. But you can’t just go on telling me ‘you’re wrong.’ An you think I’m wrong, I’ll be glad enough to explain why I think I’m not. But you must meet me halfway, Sionnach. You don’t get to decide things for me, either.”

Then he actually caught her, and on his own terms, no less: she thought he was stepping around her outthrust hand to get away from her, to escape the challenge. Instead he came up right under her arm, very close, too close, unexpected. Her stomach sucked in, her breath caught, her head swam. There seemed to be no possible direction to get out from under him. “Er. No.”

So she chose the impossible direction: closing her eyes, she shuffled forward, pressed nearer to him…and with a full-body slight-of-hand augmented by glamour was behind him, facing the window with her arms wrapped tight around herself.
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Re: Let's call the whole thing off

Postby Glenn » Tue Aug 07, 2018 12:59 am

He pulled her in through the door. That he remembered clearly and cleanly. He had no idea how guest right worked, not really. No, that wasn't accurate. He had too many ideas. Too many texts supposed too many things, all doing what he did, using logic and reason to try to bridge the gap in an absence of real knowledge. It meant everyone came to slightly different conclusions for something that ought to have been exacting. How to deal with it? Just pull her in and bypass all of it.

He gave her an unsatisfying answer to a question she was desperate for and he barely recognized. They spoke of fathers and mothers and ultimately he did not press further on the matter of the sister. Those questions would stay with her and she would answer for them in time, to herself if not to him.

There was the matter of the mole, a touchpoint. She spoke of Rhaena. It had taken him by surprise. What had he said in return? He said it wry. "At times we were, and except for at the beginning, for all the wrong reasons. After that my darkness shaped her until His magic and the Storyteller's overcame that with festering light." He was beginning to remember things, not just her death either, the months before, not just actions but attitudes. He would have to deal with it in time.

Him. Yes, they talked about Catch. They disagreed. She seemed so willing to squeeze out any piece of him she could from his experiences and yet entirely reluctant to say or even hear the first thing about him. It was like staring at the sun and he well knew it. Was that before or after the mole, when she was before him, when he was beneath her, when she was past him? All before they could come to any accord about mutual truth.

Then came her story. That he could place. The horn. He collapsed after that, though it had opened his eyes. That he would have never imagined the Hunt was damning, absolutely damning. He didn't know what was real and what was lore. She'd say it all real, but that wasn't true. He was being far too conservative with his estimation, however. He'd have to adjust.

Instead of adjusting, he collapsed. What had she expected, drawing from her well to wash him away again and again. By the end, she had hoped for something else, perhaps, trying to deposit him in bed, but he whipped around, searched for the satchel. It was hard to hold on to the narrative, after the story, after what came before it, but reinvigorated, inspired by the muse before him, he all but transcended the narrative. He was verve and energy. He was motion. There was a power to him, to his mind unleashed. He had a thousand thoughts and wished to voice all of them at once. Instead they came one after the other. This was when he finally answered her question to far more satisfaction of both of them.

Then, finally, another piece of the puzzle snapped together. The raven was not summoned. Instead there was a whiplash turn back, another churning march towards her. He admitted his weakness, his lack of bearing, how much he understood that he did not understand at all, that he was only coming to an understanding of. Would she be alarmed to hear how much of it linked together, how much reason did bind it? Their penchant for laws and the literal made more and more sense. It fit with the glamour, with everything. This all led to an exasperated joy, a real joy, the sort of which she'd not quite seen out of him, not like this. When he understood what no human was meant to, that was when he was most alive. In this moment, she was the sole witness, the sole recipient, of that life and that light.
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Re: Let's call the whole thing off

Postby Niabh » Mon Aug 13, 2018 8:27 am

She turned back in time to see him beaming—not at her, in particular; even in her grandiose arrogance she grasped that. Merely glowing in general, like a coal that might burst into full flame if you but blew on it, and she bound to hold her breath. It was perfectly tantalizing. She gave him a fond smile that was all but a grimace, and practically squirmed in place, trapped in a slow boil of frustration. Her arms uncrossed and tucked themselves behind her back, one hand gripping the other wrist.

“When you were little,” she began—and then stopped, remembering how circumscribed his childhood must have been. She lowered her eyes briefly in wry apology. “Well. Never mind that part. And you like as not have no cause to be near children unless they’re running your errands. I was just thinking about how little children play games to see who can hold their breath longest, then act as if it’s some great accomplishment if they can last a whole hundred-count. That’s how I feel quite a lot with you. With all tultharian, but you in particular: as if I’m showing off how long I can go without glamour. It’s just a silly little challenge I play against myself, all the while knowing that sooner or later, I shall have to start breathing again.”

She went quiet, thoughtful, though a trace of a smile still lingered. “But oh, Sionnach, when you turn that look on me, you are the worst threat to my resolve ever born. My back-brain warns me to let you be, that we neither of us know yet what all this change in you has wrought, that I might do something can never be mended, but there is this one spot, right here—” She poked a fingertip in the center of her forehead, then returned the hand to safety. “This spot sees that smile of yours and wants to go on fiddling and fiddling, friendship be damned, just to see what more could be made of you.”

Hands still held behind her, she took a step nearer. Her head cocked to the side, scrutinizing him with lids lower and lips pursed, as if already picturing what more could be made of him. In the end what she imagined must have pleased her, for she nodded in satisfaction, then let out a weary sigh that it would ever remain imaginary. “Like you, in a way. You took yourself out of temptation’s reach to keep yourself what most be in your nature, because you knew it was causing harm. I cannot. I can clasp my hands behind my back to keep from borrowing, but I can’t exactly sit on my glam’s hands to stop from glamming.”

As if the mention summoned them, her hands slipped cautiously from behind her, reaching out to cup his face—delicately, as if it might crack and fall to pieces like a teacup. When it did not, they traced the outline of his jaw and chin, sensual but innocent, a blind woman mapping a stranger’s features. One thumb hooked beneath his untied collar, peeling it back from the unmarked place where he had sworn a scar had been—and hadn’t she thought that funny only this morning? Showing off the place where nothing was? Then she was indignant and self-justified: he’d been squinting at her shoulder all this time; she’d earned another gander at his. Her thumb smoothed across the spot on his collarbone, feeling for an edge that was not there.

Her gaze shifted to his face. One sharp brow crooked. “You said you’d tell me.”

But now she was taking liberties, and she tended to take liberties the way she ate cherries: no matter how she tried to resist, she would keep coming back and nibbling until they were all gone. That would not do. With a pat, she restored the collar to its proper place and took her hands away, with a shivery sigh.

“The trouble is,” she went on, now in her more usual bright, matter-of-fact lilt, “just when you’re all vulnerable and exposed and I know exactly what to do, you’ve spoiled it. Now I have regrets and I like you too well. Now I would actually care about violating you, because I know how you feel about that. Usually.” She looked him over wryly. “Right now I think I could glam you green and put a cockscomb on your head and you’d still have that eager grin on your face. But you’d be sorry later. And so would I. I would not do you ill.”

More cautiously than she’d felt his face, she put a warm hand to his shoulder and gave it a squeeze. “Allow a lady her concerns. I know you can like as not carry on struggling through this until you tip over on the floor. But the point is that you don’t have to. You have named me neighbor. It is neighbor I must be. Neighbors look after each other. You said so yourself.”

And whatever terms there were to being neighbors, he had invoked it. Like all fairy oaths, it was simple to slip into unawares and impossible to break, and she was holding him to it: her black eyes were stern, clear, and wholly trusting in his word.
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Re: Let's call the whole thing off

Postby Glenn » Tue Aug 14, 2018 5:20 am

Her smile was fond. It had been a word he'd used with some regularity since her arrival, more so than he had in a very long time. It was hardly a carnal word. It wasn't entirely neighborly either. Here, she didn't speak it and he didn't respond to it, but it was a nice, if pained smile she showed him. He enjoyed both aspects of it, because that was exactly the sort of aggravating person Glenn would be in any condition at all.

"I can hold my breath for quite a while." Generally, he was no braggart. Instead of outwardly boasting like many men did, he was much more apt to try to contort reality itself to spout his praises. Currently, however, he was not at his best, whatever she might think, and that slipped through. "I try not to think about it," which was an odd addendum, and a highly unbelievable one, for when did he not think about anything? There were limits though, and it was all too easy to attribute every little thing to the preternatural if one wasn't careful.

Just as he was, right now, more apt to brag, he was more susceptible to flattery. When she called him the very worst threat to her resolve ever born, no small thing given her (increasingly understandable) penchant for literal speaking and her relatively long life, his gaze bore down upon her all the more. When she touched her own forehead, he swallowed and the world momentarily spun. He was nothing if not a creature of balance however, and his feet were planted well enough that it did not take him along on the journey, not far at least.

It all meant that he was distracted enough to be surprised when she was quite suddenly upon him. It had just been walking a few steps, though, not a shift in perception. That was his guess at least, but he felt surprisingly good about it. His mind was so diverted with the distinction that he let her place her hands upon him without resistance. Eventually, his mouth caught up to the rest of them, first with the slightest of frowns, and then with some quick, fevered words. It was not used to lagging behind. "You'd make what you'd make and lose so much that you value in the process," thankfully this was rote, Burnie's usual argument about the good and the bad being tied together and about how gods mucking about gave him some sort of important moral high ground. "You'd lose everything that makes me worthwhile and gain," and wasn't that the rarest thing? Glenn Burnie running out of words.

His brain had caught back up in the relay, bypassing the mouth, all while running backwards stare at the two of them and the situation as a whole. "You've spent a year corresponding with me and two long days seeing me inside and out. I imagine you have an entirely complete sense of exactly what you might make." Here he would shut his eyes, would breathe through his nose one long, well-preserved breath. When he exhaled, it was with a tiny chuckle. "That's fair then. I think you'd lose some of the surprise I provide, at least when I'm not entirely predictable, but it's fair and I both concede the point and appreciate your restraint," not that he could do much else with his primary argument gutted.

That was all too honest, but then everything was right now. The brain could discern accurate from inaccurate, but it was letting all other manner of thing pass. Burnie was not a liar, not at all, but he was terribly skilled at holding back complete truths more often than not. That skill, it seemed, had been abandoned, if not in the carriage the day before, then somewhere in the depths of time immemorial with an abdicating queen who hunted a unicorn.

It meant when she asked a direct question, or called in a promised story, there was little to do but to tell her. "I meant in a letter," he'd try to defer, but there was no helping it. "I'll tell you though." And he would, but she had more to say and he listened for once. Why? Because he knew that if and when he spoke, she'd have the whole of it.

It wasn't until she was squeezing his shoulder that he looked first to her own shoulder (and she'd allow him that, wouldn't she?), and then to her eyes. To his eventual credit, his gaze was straight and direct, even as he was partially lost in the effort of summoning up memories. "Actions have consequences. You know that. Sometimes they're the ones we expect. Sometimes they're not. In the Dream, we all had jewels attached, here." He rubbed at his collarbone, though it was no longer exposed. "When we died, the jewels exploded. If our partners died, we died as well. I was matched with Agnieszka. We were the second last pair to die. These were not normal dreams. When I woke up, it was with a wound." Short, simple sentences to try to contain the surreal.

"The wound became a scar. The scar became a tool, a focus. A touchstone." He could not hide from her, but more than that, he could not hide from himself. "This was ten years ago. I was young. I wasn't rational. I wasn't well. I was scared and hurt. Then, in the midst of all of that, Sarayn took Rhaena's hand. I became consumed with revenge." It had been useful that he had spoken about much of this already. With his emotions so unleashed, maudlin grief might have otherwise overtaken him here. Instead, he was keeping his composure. "I had to be stronger, quicker, able to handle a drow. I trained with Jirai. She cut me, battered me, poisoned me, day in, day out. I became what I needed to be over time, but it meant relying on certain means to sustain myself through her daily torture, to see myself healed. I lost a friend over it, but I found those means, unnatural ones. I abused them out of necessity and after enough time under this regimen, I woke up to find the scar gone. That meant that one day I woke up without being sure I woke up at all."

Glenn Burnie was a stubborn, willful, determined being, but it took almost all he had not to look away from her then and there; composure had its limits. "You can imagine what followed," he all but whispered instead. "Every morning I woke up with no scar. Every morning I gave myself a new one to ensure I was awake. Eventually Ariane returned and convinced me to stop." That admission should have been easier than the one about irrational, but functional self-mutilation. It was not, but he was able to rush through it at least. "I stopped training with Jirai, found a different way to defer her murderous impulses. For myself, for my sanity's sake, I chose a tattoo instead," one that was obviously gone now. "It did not survive all of my interactions with Catch. I think, now, that Golben was likely the end of it, but after that," and Rhaena's death, "it no longer mattered."

That was a testament to her, wasn't it? Or at least to her shoulder. Things mattered again when he spoke to her. He left that unsaid though. "I'll allow you concerns." Allowing was one thing. He couldn't stop himself from what came next. That was something else entirely. "I grew a tolerance during that year, both to the means I was utilizing and to a certain poison of Jirai's. A taste of both day after day, to build my body and mind up to endure them. That's what I need here. I may be deluding myself, but I think I'm not. I'll find some careful way to expose myself and by the time I arrive in Myrken, whatever's happened to me that possesses permanence will remain so, but that'll be the end of it. I'll solve your problem of temptation," or drive himself mad in the process.
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Re: Let's call the whole thing off

Postby Niabh » Thu Aug 16, 2018 5:41 am

“How odd, that when I say that some things are spoiled for being picked apart and examined, I get this speech: ‘you’re wrong, understanding furthers appreciation, active enjoyment is better than passive, araile, araile.’” It was not quite an impersonation, but her eyes twinkled and her lips tucked up at the corner. Digging at his small hypocrisies would never stop being amusing. “Yet when I suggest that I might like to take something apart and put it back together, the answer is ‘no, no, you’d have what you want and lose all you treasure, and be left all the poorer for it.’ Seems to me that the real lesson here is that there are different rules for Glenn Burnie.” The teasing smirk bloomed to a vulpine grin. “I could be presumptuous and believe that you have more caution for me than you do for yourself, but no, that is sentimental. And patronizing. I’ll credit you patronizing but if you ever get sentimental, I’m putting you to bed with a cold compress on your brow until the fever passes.”

It was very easy to be lulled into the false security that so long as Glenn was talking, he was fine. She had a feeling, though, that that might be exactly why he did it: that he would chatter his way through a gut-shot to convince you that it wasn’t as bad as it looked. But she was a hunter, with a hunter’s eye for finding a weak spot. Such advantage need not always be predatory. When he wavered, she shifted her weight to the ball of her foot, minutely adjusting her balance to dive for him if it seemed he would collapse again. The instinct was so ingrained that it did not even register that she was doing it.

“Do you think I keep bringing up the golden goose because I’m fishing for a bedtime story? I know. I know that what you do and what I do is not the same thing, but it’s near enough. There are lines we cross at our peril.” She considered this, then shrugged. “Well, maybe not my peril but certainly at yours.”

She shrugged again, nonchalantly. “I am sure you would be absolutely crushed if I dared suggest you were predictable. Call it familiarity, then; that’s a bit warmer, and a little nearer the truth. At least on my end.”

That was a very clumsy, uncourtly way to end such a statement. That one really was fishing, an attempt to get him to reassure her that he felt the same. Inwardly she scolded herself for bad form. You earned your own disappointments, admitting things like that. Then again, he was being particularly open just now, and there was no telling how long it might last.

She hadn’t expected him to tell the story. That bit of openness disarmed her, and since they were being open, she did not try to conceal it when he looked in her face: puzzlement, curiosity, lips slightly parted and poised for a question that never quite manifested.

Her thoughts split along two paths, one cool, calculating, half-buried in underbrush. Her heart quickened with excitement: this was something she could give to Ainrid. Dreams were different here. They could be made different. If you could carry a wound out of a dream, you could carry something smaller and more concrete. An earring, mayhap. A little crystal bead.

At the same time her belly burned with resentment. She had asked him something personal, in good faith, and now she was hoarding his words away for her own use later. Taking advantage. It was neither friendly nor neighborly. But he never had to know. Her hand stayed on his shoulder as he spoke, to let him know she was still there. She could offer him that little comfort in exchange, at least.

And so of course he yanked the rug out from under her at the end.

She snatched her hand away and frowned, too baffled to really know whether or not to be offended. “What do you mean? What problem of temptation? What are you planning on doing?”
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Re: Let's call the whole thing off

Postby Glenn » Thu Aug 16, 2018 5:59 am

He had so many excuses, really. He was out of practice; how often had he jousted with someone verbally in the last few years? Almost not at all. He was afflicted either by an onslaught of unleashed emotion or by fell fae magics. He was fatigued from the events of the last day and she was not. There were so many excuses, but there was only one truth, and as blind as he could sometimes be, he could not be so blind not to admit it. In this particular moment, he was outmatched. She had the better of him. She had every advantage.

He knew it. He could not deny it. Either he could flail like a cornered beast or he could trust her. This was a much more difficult trust than giving a fairy queen your partially-discarded name half to spite her. Curled up within this pulsating ball of Trust was esteem, self-identity, the remains of one's pride and purpose, and those things were far more valuable to him than his name. She had the right of it, that he didn't even recognize how much he needed, for it was tarnished, withered, frayed. Those though? They, more than less, were all he had left.

"Perhaps," for deference was all he could muster against her currently, "I just know that you are better at appreciating the value of whole things than I am."

He had made that argument not long ago now, or something close to it, that what she did and what he did were similar. It was nice to her say near the same and even as she was speaking of lines, he'd be smiling warmly at her, with appreciation. He could hardly help himself, but she'd likely blame him for the confusion nonetheless. That notion only made the smile warmer.

His responses now were brief though not without substance. In some ways, they had more substance than his speeches. At the least there was far more substance per word. "There are patterns. What is familiarity but the state of feeling comfort when you recognize them? I'll choose not to be crushed. Far from home, we can find solace in the most unlikely of places."

Short answers, then. Perhaps he had been saving his words for his story which, when it came, was both lengthy and full of substance.

No questions followed, so instead, he tied his future plans back to that one aspect of his story. Then her hand snatched away and he did what he would have never normally done (and well she knew it; she could not claim otherwise, not now and not later): he told a full truth. "A bit of glamour, a taste of it. Every day, somehow, gauging my reactions, regulating the dosage, until however I feel (for I think vivid feeling will remain regardless), however I react, however I am affected, it is the least of this and not the most." What had she thought he would do? Nothing at all?
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