05.16.3014: In the Witching Hour
Summary: Long after her breakfast with Canis, Cyrielle places a call to Nitrim…
Date: 1-7 to 1-9
Related: Many, starting with We All Come Undone
Cyrielle Nitrim 

Cyrielle's Treehouse, Beacon, The Spine / Nitrim's Apartment, Volkan, The Crescent
Included in log.
May 16 3014

She can’t sleep.

The AMP doesn’t help — when has it ever, in that regard — but she can’t be done with it. As soon as it begins to ebb away, the things she’s fighting to keep at bay flood back in to eat away at her every nerve. Drinking doesn’t help anymore; she’s too immune to the soporific effects. In all honesty, Cyrielle has begun to consider red eye of her own.

The look she can imagine on his face if she were is all that has stopped her.

And in imagining that face…

She’s returned to her treehouse. So foreign a place it seems now. The bed is part of why she’s been unable to sleep. Too many memories. So she’s set up a nest upon the couch, but that too brings about reminders of times so good the thought of them hurts.

Tucking away the hypo out on the table and leaving just a liquor bottle — as well as the supplies she’s sorting through — in sight, Cyrielle calls Nitrim on her Infosphere display.

“Please answer,” she whispers into the relative darkness of the room.

The wall call emits a soft purple lettering across the screen, announcing the the call has been sent, but is waiting for the other side to accept the call. The seconds tick by, the words AWAITING CONFIRMATION… flashing on and off the screen, and every return of the letters is a possible statement.

In Volkan, however, Nitrim's wall screen beeps loudly through his pitch-black room. The first three beeps wake him up, and it isn't before the next three that he drags himself out of bed - shirtless, in a pair of black drawstring pants and a ruffle of bed-head to his hair - to near the screen.

When he sees the name of the call's point-of-origin, it takes the Khourni nobleman three more beeps to accept the call.

The screen comes to life, revealing a healthy and tired-eyed Nitrim Khournas, forward-lit with the azure wash of monitor glow. Pensive and guarded in a silent way, he rubs at his eyes and drops to sit on the lavish sofa that faces the screen.

"Cyri?" He mumbles into his hands, scrubbing at his face. "What time is it there?"

It’s during that third set that Cyrielle is about to give up. Her mind begins to wander. To wonder. Is he sleeping? Is he even home? Where might he have gone? The AMP and its destructive ways set her mind to obsessing over everything is could be and she is, ultimately, incapable of terminating the request.

When the picture sharpens into view, it shows her with her head in her hands. The glow of the screen is all that bathes her in light, the darkness increasing into the nooks and crannies until… a second wash of light. The habitat she had built for Dahlia. It’s only the barest of glows, from a night-time heating element.

His voice draws her like a cord and she looks up sharply. The ghost of a smile dances at the edges of her lips, but it isn’t able to take over. “I’m… not sure,” she admits reaching out to brush fingers over her tablet. The display lightens and she grunts.

“Late.” A pause, eyes dropping to her knees. “I’m sorry if I woke you.”

"No, no, it's alright I just didn't expect you to call." Finally managing the last of sleep from his eyes with the ends of his fingertips, Nitrim's hands fall to his lap to reveal dark circles under his eyes, the whites made pink with tension from his rubbing. His eyelids open a bit more at the sight of her, his expression slipping into a momentary lapse of concern.

"It's okay, really," Nitrim's voice lowers. From the view of the room behind him, he's alone, but he speaks as if someone will hear. No one will, save for Dahlia who sleeps in her habitat behind him. His eyes flit to the similar habitat on her screen and an new sadness returns to an old face. "I was worried about you. I don't - I don't know what I'm supposed to be doing right now to help you get through this, you know?"

A hand lifts to tug absently at the shirt she’s wearing. Off-white, perhaps, though the shadows can play tricks. It falls deep away from a shoulder, revealing the crest of cleavage and her upper arm. The tattoos are also mired in darkness. The tug doesn’t help and Cyrielle sinks back into the couch, drawing her left leg up to cross under the still-extended right. Black shorts terminate at mid-thigh, allowing the whole of the cybernetic leg to be shown alongside tanned flesh.

“I’ve… I’ve been worried about you, too,” Cyrielle admits, her voice shaking slightly. She’s torn between looking away in continued shame, being face-to-face (in a sense) for the first time since the fight and being unable to take her eyes off of him.

“Y-you…” Her voice catches again and she lifts a hand into her hair, tugging at it. A few swears are uttered, but barely caught by the mic. “There’s… nothing you should be doing,” she finally manages, having to close her eyes to get the words out. It’s still a struggle, by the deep breaths she has to take. Fingers curl around the knee of bent leg and press into the flesh.

“I’m so sorry,” she whispers finally, a near-sob catching the end of the words. “I… I needed to say it properly. And to see you. I know we’ve barely spoken, but… I’ll be gone for a few days… or more and I don’t know what access I’ll have, if any.”

For years, Nitrim has learned the craft of appearing unaffected in the face of conversation; the even the slightest tell could give away important detail, reveal lies, or expose an emotional state that he does not want to reveal. He gives her tells. With parted lips and a hollow inset of his eyes, he shifts on the sofa uncomfortably, bringing his hand to rub at the scars that line his neck. He dares to look away, but doesn't. Nitrim is affected, and he cannot help it.

"I'm…sorry, too," The words spill off of his lips before he can catch them. Lips curling, he nearly curses himself for it as he averts his eyes, reaching for his cigarettes. "I blew up, I just…lost it. I didn't think that this would happen to us after all of the things we promised, I didn't even have it in my mind as a possibility." He turns back to the screen, lit cigarette in hand. "I mean, I feared your father would choose you for another but…that would have been his doing; not yours."

His tongue slides over his lips, wetting them as the filter of the cigarette steals their moisture. His hand raises out to hold her reply; he hasn't finished yet.

"I just…I made some bad calls; I pushed you out while I walked. I know you're sorry, fuck if I had a machine, right?" Nitrim's lips crease into a slow-forming frown. "Do you, after all this, believe that you're ready for this? For us? I mean…if you want time to be young, Cyrielle, I'll understand, but I-I'm ready to put all that behind me now. To be a husband and a noble."

"What you did, Cyrielle…it got me. It got me when I forgot to be bitter."

It’s painful to listen to, but Cyrielle does. She stays zeroed in- in this case, the AMP is a good thing. It draws her attention sharply to Nitrim, to the way his lips move. The way his hands move. The words he says. Her breathing becomes shallow. A hand moves to a pillow and she tugs it back. Tucks it around her knee with the other. She wants more, as if it’ll ease the way his voice cuts.

Instead, she leans forward to gather up the bottle of whiskey on the table. The woman drinks long and deep as she processes what Nitrim has said. Dark eyes regard him as she exhales the burn of the liquor. “It should never have been a possibility. I… I should have been stronger. I was weak. I… I fear I always have been.”

The bracelet is still on her wrist and she shifts her hands to start toying with the orb. It’s not repaired- not by a long shot. It’s been bound in some cord as a sort of harness, to hold it there. To keep it by her always. “That’s why I’m going on this sabbatical. To do rituals of my own. I want to be stronger…”

She laughs. It’s a bitter sound that fades into a few coughs. “All that time you spent… thinking you weren’t good enough and all along, it was me.”

"Cyrielle, don't…" Nitrim shakes his head, exhaling the smoke from his lungs as he protests with a hand waving before him. "You're not weak - you've overcome worse things before - so we both know you're no frail girl, you're a Storm Witch."

Quickly as hint the cigarette, Nitrim leans forward to rest his elbows on his knees, concealing much of his bare chest with the angle and sending the pendant around his neck swaying back and forth like a pendulum. The view of Cyrielle, her grief the worst of it, grows in darker volumes in Nitrim's eyes, as if watching a once-beautiful painting wither before his eyes.

"I just need you to think about my question." Nitrim murmurs gently - supportively - towards the large image on his screen. His eyes dip to her bared shoulder, focusing on it so that he can relieve of the weight of her stare; he always did like her shoulders. "And don't turn into the thing that I was, the thing that ruined and just sank deeper instead, Cyrielle. I don't want that for you." A pause; eyes turning once more to hers. "You have to forgive yourself at some point, and if this is something you want, I need you to understand that I don't want a wife that I have to chase."

In the quiet space that follows Nitrim’s words, Cyrielle remains still- at first. She does, eventually, reach for the bottle and take another drink. Her foot taps lightly at the air; leg still bent across the other. It’s a measured, steady beat without any backing track to go by. The tell of the AMP coursing through her and making itself known. A tell that the Khourni would know well.

“I don’t want to be chased,” she says finally, lowering the bottle to her lap suddenly. What little remains within sloshes about; sound barely caught by the display. “I’m caught. I have been, ever since that first day we met.”

She draws in a slow breath, leaning back into the couch, lifting her gaze to the dark corners above. “Perhaps that’s why you withdrawing hurt so bad. I’ve… felt as if I’ve been an open book to you since day one. So it stung and I-” Cyrielle lifts an arm to drape over her brow, chest rising and falling. The shift has drawn the fabric tight and made it all the more obvious nothing is worn beneath.

“I didn’t know how to handle it. No one has ever captured me so before. And I thought…” Frowning, she shakes her head and presses fingers into her hair. Tugging again.

“I don’t know what I thought.”

“I’ve been there before.” Nitrim replies, voice slithering into a softer tone. No longer stating his demands, he’s reeled back into the negotiations with her, for better or for worse. Stubbing out his cigarette, he stretches out on the sofa, planting his bare feet on the coffee table before him, eyes roaming over the front of Cyrielle’s shirt for a brief inspection as his arms wing-out to either side of him. “Too many times, and I don’t want to be there ever again. Too many long conversations in the mirror and…do you remember Ithaca? At first, I’d always considered maybe I was being a fool, or cruel, or just fucking mindless. I know exactly how this feels, Cyrielle.”

Shifting on the sofa, Nitrim raises his arms to bend at the elbow; fingers forming into claws that he rakes through his hair. The bend of his elbows conceals his face from the screen, hiding the sigh that escapes his lips before he settles back, propping his head beneath his steepled fingers.

“Is there any part of you, any part, that wanted him to be yours?” Nitrim’s brows furrow, guarding himself as the question is asked. “Was this some fledgling curiosity that needed to be satisfied, just sex…or more? I need you to be honest with me, even if it scares you.”

Eyes close, no longer searching for answers in the darkness. Cyrielle’s hands both fall to rest on the bottle in her lap. Her leg extends, foot — the real one — landing on the table before her. It’s a dull thud, easily heard on the opposite side. Signals in the distance.

“Of course I remember her.” She had been set to share Nitrim, so great was her need for the man. She was ready to give to another’s demands and whims rather than lose the man. The man she’s nearly lost by her own failings.

There’s a long sigh at his words and she remains still for a moment. Sorting her thoughts, arranging them. When she finally speaks again, it’s in a quiet, far-away voice. Like the storytellers the druids were named for.

“Before we met. Before I returned for good from the woods… I would return for brief visits. I would bare visit my family. Instead… I would party. Drugs, alcohol, men… and women. All I wanted was to feel something and… there would be spare moments where I would. I would feel and then… return to my studies.”

She pauses to lean forward, eyes opening to take Nitrim in again, bottle lifted for a quick drink. “They became like dreams themselves. Something I sought when everything else seemed… empty. To just release from myself and feel. It was always a purely physical thing. A… need borne of feeling like I was untouchable. A desire to feel flesh upon flesh.”

Her eyes can’t find his, not exactly. So they track other places. His bare torso. The scar on his neck. “We were… distant. You were pulling away, or so it seemed. My mind fell back to that place. That need. To feel someone else’s skin on my own. And he…” She can’t barely speak of the Valta. Barely say his name. “He took advantage of that. I kept wanting to fight and he moved in. Touched me. I… I was lost.”

Tears, at some point, began to fall and she seems scarcely aware of them.

More tells form on the Khourni nobleman’s body. His jaw tightens, muscle against bone, and his pupils dilate more than they were before; all details captured easily by the hyper-awareness that comes with AMP use. He asked the question and received an answer, knowing all along that it would grate bone against bone. The wound seeps a little, but doesn’t rip open.

“I did the same thing. The same thing. I know, dear; I know.” Nitrim breathes out, freeing a hand from the back of his head to rub against the deep spear-scar on his chest, then back up to his neck. The humidity brings the muscles to tighten in memory. “I understand that this didn’t happen to hurt me. I know…how that weakness wears and lingers. I know.”

Shifting forward on the sofa, Nitrim lifts his eyes from her bared shoulder and the outline of her breasts that tug at her shirt. Tracing the tracks of her tears, he locks eyes with her, lips coming to rest in a neutral, observant way.

“But did you want him?” Nitrim grits his teeth. “Maybe I shouldn’t ask that. It’s a dumb fucking question. I don’t - I don’t want to think about that. Don’t answer that.”

Finally noticing the tears, Cyrielle slouches forward and presses palms into her eyes. She draws her legs up to her on the couch. Making herself smaller. Drawing in on herself. She’s quiet for a moment, working past the pain.

“I’ll answer with a question…” she decides. They need to be open- that much she’s learned. “When you see a girl at the club, covered in tattoos, barely clothed… Do you want her? Maybe not to keep. Or to see again. Or even on a personal level. But there’s parts of your body that respond.”

It’s the best she can provide and as she wraps her arms around her legs, leaning in to watch him on the display — to watch those tells — she bites into her lip.

Eyes lowering to Cyrielle’s legs as they draw up, Nitrim listens, and a strange expression falls over his face. His lip sucks in between his teeth and his chest puffs out, snorting a laugh, a laugh towards the lower part of his screen. The laugh is out of place, but a vein of humor strikes to the center of his core. “I didn’t fuck anyone but you for eight months, Cyrielle, after years of not holding myself back from anything. I was taken, but I wasn’t dead.”

He laughed. It’s the worst thing that could ever happen for Nitrim, as the first laugh is a prelude to the second, and while he’s angry - clearly - it is a step in the right direction that sends Nitrim flopping back to the sofa with a long, pained groan that lasts for ten seconds. Half of the droning sound is muffled as his hands cover his face, leaving the stretch of his shirtless body arched towards the screen.

“Fuck.” Nitrim’s voice distorts against his hands. “FUCK.” All vocabulary, the word repeats a handful of times before his hands drop and his eyes shoot to the screen.

“Cyrielle, if you don’t get right and you go down the path I went, you’re not going to be able to tell those urges no, you’ll go down the same path that I did, and by the time that you’re ready - like I was - I will be you and you will be me and it will be your fault that your heart is denied by your father.” Nitrim sits up straight, motioning to her image on his screen. “Do you understand?”

The laughter. The swears. They cut deep. Cyrielle’s head falls to rest on her arm and she becomes just a small bundle of broken pieces. They seem a prelude to something so terrible. The truth is pain and the unknowing is worse. Tension works its way in as she waits for the hammer to fall. Arms tighten, back tightens. She barely draws breath.

The response? Is not one she expects. When eyes lift, they are more red at the edges and fresh tears had begun to fall. She blinks at the screen and her fingers tighten against arms. Holding her in tighter.

“I…” Voice breaks and she closes her eyes, drawing a breath with a small nod. “I understand. I just… I don’t know where to go from here.”

Silence fills the void between them. It’s a silence that is robbed by the quiet humming of electronics and the sounds of shifting leather from Nitrim’s sofa as he rises to his full height. The full-bodied image of her on his wall shifts as the camera-unit turns, zooming out to capture his full frame. Far too tense to sit still, Nitrim fidgets. From folded arms, to hands rubbing together, and to finally his hands pressed together against the small of his back for a stretch, he cannot sit still.

“I told your father when we met that I understood my recklessness.” Nitrim starts again. “He told me to show him that I can be responsible, but I told him that I needed to do this for myself, to show myself and my people that I can be responsible. I told him that the only way I’d learn is if, for me, going through the right changes wasn’t solely about you. I meant it.” Nitrim pauses, brows perching together as he knows just how it sounds. One hand slips from behind his back to hold a finger up for her, silencing any interruption.

“I’m angry at us. I won’t always be angry, but I’m not so overcome with rage that we can’t mend, you know?” Nitrim’s eyes plead, a softness coming to them. “If it was just your body and I always had your heart, if we’re strong and responsible, if we do the right things, Cyrielle, then perhaps down the line if you still love me…that ritual will come true.” Nitrim’s lips part, saddened and weighted by things he fears to say and hasn’t. “We can’t take our houses and ourselves to the point of ruin; not anymore. If I’m worth the wait. If I’m worth not fighting for to earn…if our fathers decide we’re right for each other, then…just imagine how it would feel? We’d have done it. We could be proud.”

To not fight. Cyrielle bites into her lip. Not so deeply to cut into the flesh, but enough that it’ll leave a mark. She watches Nitrim in his pacing, her focus razor-sharp. Her fingers have begun to tap where feet can’t. She’s becoming steadily more unable to remain still herself. The need is rising.

“I lost myself… because I feared your love for me was slipping.” The words come barely audible; she fears to say them. “I should have asked. I should have… talked to you. I was so afraid of what the answer might be and I let… darkness take over.”
Dark eyes drop to the orb on the bracelet and she lets it fill her vision. His blood. In her possession. Ever a reminder of that ritual. Of him. Of them. “I understand what you need to do… and I support it. It’s… it won’t be easy. All I want, even now…” And her gaze returns to Nitrim, watching him. “is to be there with you.”

“It wasn’t.” Nitrim lifts his eyes to hers, his tongue sliding over his lips to wet them of the bitter taste the words leave him with. “And you should have. I told you that you were the one, and I meant it. I…shouldn’t have been so vague; it’s always been my sin.” Nitrim’s lips flatten and a sigh escapes him, canting his head to one side to stare at the image of the woman before him.

“Throughout this whole thing there have been so many times I’ve wanted to just storm back to you. Blame myself, blame you, blame myself again…fuck Cyrielle none of this shit matters does it?” Nitrim brings his hand to his brow, rubbing circles that trace back to his temple. “The blame, that is. Look. I…I think your father is starting to like me. I would go to you, too, but if this is to happen I know that being careless is going to fuck everything worse than it already has been.”

Nitrim closes his eyes and turns to the camera, breathing in deeply.

“So help me, Cyrielle, if I end up married to you someday and you’re not true to me…if this happens again…I’ll kill us both.” He admits, opening his eyes once more. “Wear the orb. Get healthy. When I see you face to face I want to see you healthy and…we’ll figure this out in time. I promise.”

Even as he’s speaking those last words, Cyrielle has found herself reaching for the hypo she buried in the couch before the call began. So she’s caught with it and finds herself staring to the device; held in the hand that bears a wrist with charms. With the orb.

Biting into her lip again, she sits there such as that for a long period of time. “I never want anything like this to happen again,” she says finally, clutching the hypo tightly. Willing herself not to use it. Her hand shakes. “I… I would suffer that storm,” the one that took her future, “again before anything like this.”

“You said I need to forgive myself,” she looks up to the display, “and… I can’t. I hate myself for what I’ve done. I hate myself so much that… that I denied myself death.” The first she’s put voice to the fact that the thought crossed her mind. “I don’t deserve that. I deserve… to face this. To suffer it. And… by the Six, perhaps eventually I will redeem myself to deserve forgiveness.”

She’s still watching him, unaware of her hands working of their own accord to dial in the dose.

"Cyrielle…pay attention to what you're doing and saying. You need help and you need rest." Nitrim nods his head towards her hand and the dial she is setting. "Because if you hate yourself now, just imagine what it would do to me if you and Soleil took the same path. You'd hate yourself more then.”

Taking a step back, his hand motions for her to sit up, to stretch herself comfortable. "Now…I think that you should sleep if you are doing this tomorrow and for fuck’s sake please remember to be safe, okay?” Nitrim’s brows lower, he means it. It’s the serious face. “Unforgivable would have been you sleeping with a man I have issue with and he knowing what he was doing to me. Unforgivable would have been arranging a banns behind my back only for me to be surprised. This…” Nitrim frowns. His lips part to continue, but he hesitates. “Just…whatever it is you want, be true to it. The rest will fall into place. You have to believe this.”

When he gestures, Cyrielle looks down and sees what her hands have been doing. Her fingers wrap around the hypo; hand shaking slightly.

“It’s difficult to sleep,” she offers finally, voice a bit strained. “Ice… blood… and our fight. It’s always the same.” Images repeating over and over and she trapped and unable to escape them. Weak as she is in the moment, the woman follows his directions. She’s even able to set the hypo aside, though it’s still within reach. She’s not that strong, even with Nitrim there. Speaking. His voice is a balm to wounds invisible.

With a pillow there, she finally lies down, stretching out on the couch. Her shirt is caught and tugged, baring an expanse of side and abdomen. “What I want is you here, with me. And if… if I have to focus on everything else for a time to make that happen, I will.”

Somewhat satisfied with her turn to relaxation, Nitrim once more brushes his hands over his face, and then to the top of his head where they stay trapped within his hair. The bruises from the training yard catch in the light as he lets out a cleansing breath. “Good.” He intones, lowering his body back to the sofa and planting the arch of his foot against the edge of his table. “I’ve been sleeping for shit lately, too. I told you Devon thinks something is up. We’ll just have to be ready.”

“Look,” Nitrim changes direction, quickly, and as he leans against the back of his sofa, his eyes drift to her exposed abdomen. His vision traces over her navel and the way her ribs curl in against her skin. She’s skinny, but it’s the very curve that he’s always been drawn to. Damn her shirt. “No one, not your father, not mine will agree for me to take a wife, ever if I don’t get some of this shit out of my head and come out better for it.” His eyes lift to hers, his voice hesitating. “I still love you. I always will. The fact that the banns didn’t happen when we wanted to won’t change that. We’ll…find what we want in the days ahead but for now you should sleep.”

His voice is soothing. A better balm than she could hope for in drugs or liquor. Cyrielle’s eyes close, letting the voice wash over her. She breathes carefully, slowly. Trying to focus on Nitrim rather than the need within her body for the chemicals AMP is comprised of. A soft sigh escapes her and she turns to her back; abdomen still bared by the loose fabric of her top.

“I won’t agree to any attempt to banns,” she murmurs into the darkness. “If they try to wed me away… I will refuse. I will fight. I want only you.”

“Then let your father know what you want, and ask him what you need to do, through him, to earn his wishes.” Nitrim replies, bracing his elbows on the back of the sofa behind him. Stretching out like he does on the sofas at the clubs, he reaches for a fresh cigarette and lights it with a flame produced from the center of his palm. It provides a decent, but not perfect, smoke screen as he glances to her abdomen again. “Fight for me, then. Fight but don’t be desperate. Be the storm witch and not…aimless.”

His head tilts, eyes remaining on that spot of flesh, distracting himself with better thoughts and a greater-than-life-size version of a tired woman before him.

“And for fuck’s sake, keep in shape, alright?” Nitrim offers sarcastically. “I mean, not forever, everyone gets old, but…” He catches himself. “You know what I mean.”

“I’m hoping I still get an assignment in the navy,” Cyrielle says with a lengthy sigh. She opens an eye, turning her head to look towards him. “Aimless… I've been aimless for so long, now I feel pulled in multiple directions at once. Is that normal?”

She brushes her hands down over herself, tugging the shirt back down into place. Perhaps she noticed the look and she’s teasing. Perhaps it was discomfort. Either way, the light fabric outlines every bare curve now.

“Isn't that what science and medicine are for?” There’s a brief laugh. “I’ll… I’ll try to get back off the AMP. It’s… it’s so hard.”

"I guess nothing worthwhile ever is…" Nitrim trails off, eyes falling out of focus over a pixelated part of the screen as some of the data packets lag with the distance. His eyes flit to Cyrielle's face and he reaches for the controls to the screen.

"Get some sleep and get better, Cyrielle, okay? We'll talk when you get back and see how you feel then. For now, though, I'm expected in the yard early, so I have to get to bed."

There’s a soft sigh, only noticeable by the way Cyrielle’s lips move. She looks to the screen intently, as if working to memorize every part of Nitrim before the connection is severed.

Realizing it’s been a while since the words have been said aloud and knowing the chance may not come again soon, Cyrielle offers one last thing before the display goes dark.

“I love you.”

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