Just seat me in the vivisection, guys, it should be interesting from here on out...
((RP Mode....I guess))
Went to the pirate event tonight, in Steelhead. Danced overlong at Dorian's, trying to make some Lindens for the desperate need for rent, and ended up combining bits of three store-bought outfits into one wearable--if slightly licentious--one, and fairly flew to Steelhead, nearly twenty minutes late. Lunar rushed to my side when I climbed aboard ship, pulling me to the foredeck, whispering that Miss Qlippothic was mysteriously delayed, and there was no one to host, and please, could I?
So...what was I to do? I took over, organizing as quickly as I could, Fawkes grabbing my arm as I went by after setting out my tip jar, grinning and pulling me into a dance...and what was I to say then, too? No?
Of course I danced, but I also welcomed people aboard, reminding everyone of the fact that the dance prizes were donated (by Miss Abby Coalcliff of Devilish Cupcake, so sweet of her!), and our DJ Fuzzball Ortega worked hard serving up our very odd requests, and deserved tipping, and in the meantime people are tipping me...
...and twenty minutes later, Miss Qli shows up.
I bespeak her quickly, mind to mind--once a member of the Unseelie, always, and it was convenient--and explain the situation. I'm rushed, perhaps tactless, and I did not mean to be--I meant to ask if she wished to take over, and I think I more implied I'd taken over, but either way, the words were out, and she...shrugged. Released her chosen duty. Said she'd have to get used to not hosting anyway...
While I was puzzling over her unexpected change in attitude, my friend Midnight, now a pirate Captain in her own right, came aboard ship, saw her clockwork damsel in distress, and swept her away to the islands, most likely, while the rest of us spun and whirled. And the night went on, but my mind went into overdrive. Something was wrong.
Much as I didn't want to admit it, something was wrong with this. And much as I didn't want the responsibility, I had to change it.
A few hours went by, the ones I kept company with unknowing as I carefully constructed a spell I'd only used once before. Precarious to build, precarious to fuel, it would allow me to walk at a distance, speak and be heard, see and be seen...all while remaining in my own location, far away. I do believe, now and ever, Dr. Mason is absolutely trustworthy with my person...but it wasn't the doctor I was after.
While the physical portion of me danced on a distant island, my shade stalked Steelhead, walking up to the Bloodwing Foundation, ghosting through the front door. I noticed my picture on the wall of the front room as I passed, and it steeled my resolve. I followed the faint energy traces of the Doctor--and the scent of formaldehyde even my shade could pick up--until I found him, taking a break in his laboratory.
I sighed behind him. "Darien..." I began.
He turned, removing his goggles, eyebrows raising. "Yes Miss Orr?"
And the distant pose, I thought, we had no time for, and he wasn't the one I wanted to talk to anyway. I strode closer to him, leaning down, looking in his eyes, calling up every memory I had of the incubus, good and bad, and called his name again. An answering flicker of flame, deep in the Doctor's blue eyes, and I knew there was some sort of connection.
"You do realize how happy you made Darkling, when you--demonic you--showed up at that hotel?"
"And Lumina," the distant, dark voice said, and I nodded. And Lumina. How could he not?
And I talked. Slightly angry, slightly frustrated, slightly confused, and I won't say I haven't missed talking to the demon, on occasion, as much as I've held myself away. We discussed changes in his daughter, changes in the Doctor, good and bad and indifferent, and changes in the town.
I remembered the outfit I'd worn the night of the slave auction in Lumindor, that started the leavetaking. Unwilling, but it seemed to strengthen the connection. And we kept talking, instruments ticking around us, the rest of Steelhead asleep.
We talked of daughters growing up, and growing pains, and heartache. We talked of punishment and employment and consequence. I talked about the Steelhead host position, and how he'd be very nearly perfect for it--the demon's silver tongue, his love of dancing, his odd charisma, and his perfect web of contacts across the grid...and we finally came to his banishment, and the reasons for it.
Memories kept flooding back, as if the floodgates, once released, would never close. I remembered walking around dead the day he said goodbye, because I felt dead inside. I remembered not being able to change before I went to the town meeting, and shocking all those who saw me, skin stretched and stitched, hair grey straw, smile sutured in place.
And all the memories in between...watching Taiyou go up, day by day, marveling at the structure, at Lunar's skill as builder. Knowing he was building it for me as much as for the town, and being astounded he'd go so far just for an employment opportunity.
I remembered the winter that I started working at Le Jardin, and wandering the world away from Steelhead...it nearly felt as if I were two people, one little shifter in tatterdemalian Victorian dress, and the older neko in mourning, wandering the odd places across the grid, because she only felt at home with oddity, until she recovered from the loss of her prince.
And here I looked into the eyes of another prince I'd lost.
I couldn't be sure, but I was fairly convinced when I first met Darien, in the lobby of Le Jardin, I was still wearing the mourning band. I don't think I took it off until well into December, may in fact have had it on for our second meeting at the Enigma, Christmas night.
In fact...I'm sure of it.
I watched his eyes, watched the Doctor's mouth, and heard words I never thought I'd hear either of them speak.
"Well," the demon's voice said, "If you want to summon him yourself and forgive him, that would break the banishment..."
I blinked. That simple? Just that? Just...
...wait. What was it the rumors had said, in far places? I'd heard them, how did they go? I didn't realize I was speaking aloud until I heard the echo on the air.
"Say his name three times and he shall appear to satisfy your desires, and his own. Be warned..."
I looked up, meeting his eyes. I won't say he laughed; it was too serious a moment for that. But I definitely got the impression that I'd misunderstood.
"The desire," he said softly, "in this case, being forgiveness."
That simple, I thought again. Nothing was that simple. I looked warily at him.
"Well," he said, the flames dancing in the Doctor's eyes. "What would you say to undo 'no more demon, no more'?"
And I could have struck myself, in that moment, save my hand would have passed straight through my face. Words flung in anger by a woman hurt by his hand, bad enough, but--a shifter new to the Unseelie, named phouka and later succubus? What sort of power did such a being hold, unknowing or not?
I sighed, feeling abysmally out of my depth. "Universe took it that literally, did it?"
"Yep," he said. And waited. And I had to think about it.
After all, I'd changed a lot in the months since he'd been gone. I'd left Lumindor, I'd pried the succubus out of Dark City, I'd made my peace with my demonic fledgling and we seemed to function more or less in synch. I'd discovered love unexpected, undreamt of, and walked away from so many in my life, in the meantime. I'd suffered additional heartbreak, suffered financial crisis, learned to build, learned to script, learned to make clothes, set up a small business...once everything was finally in place, I was in line to run Taiyou...I'd gotten back into dancing, and become a model, and...
Of course I didn't want to go back, but that wasn't what we were discussing. I wouldn't be asking the demon to return for me. Maybe I was just asking the demon to return, for I'd never meant to banish him in the first place.
Even the ticking of the lab's instruments fell still as I spoke.
"It was...never my intent, nor my will, to banish one I'd loved to such terrible punishment. It was never my will to remove one others loved from this plane. All I wanted, all I wanted, was an end to it..."
I trailed off as I watched him, realizing I meant that. An end to pain between us, an end to the games, an end to him trying to draw me back into his life...I left House Bloodwing because of it, I walked away from the demon entirely, and I very nearly left Steelhead...for memories, if nothing else, but because at one point, even seeing him was a a blow to my heart, making me wince and curl inward, and I'd grown long tired of flinching at the sight of horns.
"But through all of it," I continued, blinking my insubstantial lids, "...No, I never wanted the demon removed."
I took a deep and completely unnecessary breath, ghosting through the back wall, rising through the earth until I stood behind the house, listening to the call of the sea. It took some time, but I finally heard the creaking of the Doctor's wheeled chair moving around the foundation, out onto the grass. I turned, watching him approach, a wind I couldn't feel lifting strands of my dark red hair, sudden electricity raising my lilac fur, even as a shade. I waited until he was close enough to see his eyes clearly, once more. If I was to do this, I wanted it done right...and I wanted it done tonight.
"Bloodwing, I forgive you. Bloodwing, I summon you back. Bloodwing, I break your banishment. Is it enough?"
Lightning struck the ground behind me, and I whirled. I saw Darien, winged, horned Darien, rise from the earth, form caked in hoarfrost, frost cloud billowing from the garments he wore. His fire eyes glowed first, unearthly, then his hands were lit with limbic glow, and soon, his entire form held its own nimbus, crackling with energy. Behind me, the Doctor said something, but I admit, I was too stunned to hear. Something in me honestly hadn't thought it would work...
The ice coating him shattered, and he dropped to the ground, his wings limp, and slowly, oh, so slowly, lifted to his feet. I felt him drift through me, sudden savage chill shaking me to the core, and he was behind me. His voice sounded frozen, as well, but it was gaining in strength.
I nodded once, watching the waves, then turned, and watched the last of the Darien I remembered meld with the Doctor in the chair, as he stood on shaking legs.
"I never intended such pain," I said. "It was more than you dealt me. It's unfair. It's time it was over."
"It was the pain I felt I deserved. Threefold at the very least."
I watched him, tapping an extended claw against a lilac-furred arm, thinking.
"Do you still feel you deserve it? If so, the universe will find a way to act on your will again."
The demon sighed. "As long as I've learned my lesson...yes."
I squared my shoulders, nodded, and hoped it was enough. I dissipated the spell and watched Steelhead, and the demon, fade from view, and returned to my physical form--which immediately collapsed to the floor of the bamboo cabana Fawkes and I were dancing in.
He leaned over me, worried. I smiled with what energy I had, shrugging again.
"The demon," I whispered, "is back."
Let's hope he has learned his lesson, in truth, or...the dance will continue. And this time, I go into the dance armed.