Honor Bound; Fate Entangled

With but few exceptions, it is always the underdog who wins through sheer willpower. -Johnny Weissmuller

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Honor Bound; Fate Entangled

Post by Penny Escobar »

April 13th late evening

I looked around the Seaside party, taking in the festive cheer and final night blow out at the manor for Lady Vael’s multiyear reign. The fairy lights were enchanting, dancing over the heads of the celebrants and offering glowing lights to the festivities. I could hear Patrick impressing a group of satyrs with his impeccable aim, Red finally giving in to allow others to scratch him behind the ears, and bees buzzing to a pleasant hum as they offered honey to share and eat.

But there was a somber undertone to it all, a sobering one that maybe only a few could feel, or would allow themselves to notice. So many were putting on a good face as it were, not allowing themselves to fill with worry about what the next day would bring. Lady Vaeluthil Rosemary Marigold Larkspur Whitevale had protected Seaside for more than twelve seasons, and they had all vowed to protect her from both Winter and Summer should they come for her.

Both had, in their own ways.

“Where will you go?” I heard myself asking, only to be met with fairy fake smiles and laughter, giggles and glee before pixies continued to dance and spin about.

“Wherever our Lady leads us!” They cheered.

I heard rumors of a treehouse owned by a former squire, but too often rumors are just that.

The anger that boiled deep inside me might not have been my own, but I knew that I would have to accept the consequences of every action I decided to take in the upcoming days.
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Re: Honor Bound; Fate Entangled

Post by Penny Escobar »

April 14th early morning

“You’re sure you want to do this Penny?” Tim asked, the bewilderment obvious in his voice.

“Honestly, I think you’ve got me over a barrel. I’m not really sure why you’re trying to argue with me at all.” I continued to smile; it wasn’t even strained on my part.

“It’s just…You know….This is A LOT of money.” He was still in shock, I could tell. Which really didn’t surprise me, considering I woke him up at the crack of dawn and offered to buy his castle two days before he was about to put it up on the market.

“Don’t I know it. It’s cleaned my bank account right out.” I lied. I didn’t have a bank account.

But I also didn’t have any more money either.

“Please Tim. I’m certain that I want to do this,” I felt my expression soften, hoping it would help reassure him (and myself) that I was making the right decision.

“Then I accept. You’re now the proud owner of one castle in Battlefield Park Penny.” Still in shock, Tim dropped a set of keys into my hand.

For a little while anyway, I thought to myself.
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Re: Honor Bound; Fate Entangled

Post by Penny Escobar »

April 14th late afternoon

“I have seen to it that she will be protected my Lord.” I said while keeping my eyes to the ground.

The chamber was dark, and the rolling murmurs that had been a constant thrum since my arrival immediately ceased. I could feel his eyes burning into the top of my skull, but I dared not look up. His anger was palpable.

“You did NOT protect her when others invoked my name and arrived at her doorstep Knight. Both Winter and Summer grab for her and you did nothing!” His voice boomed inside my head, loud enough to almost rock me backwards.

“Is it your wish that I step in and go after Winter? You need only ask and I –” I didn’t get the rest out because a tankard was whipped across the room and shattered against an unseen wall.

“Do not mock me Knight. I will see that Krazur here will crush your skull for being inadequate.”

“Before or after I cut off his other hand?” I asked, daring to look up at him then. I could see a pair of burning amber fires staring back at me as I felt a lopsided smirk work its way onto my face. I couldn’t help it.

I heard Krazur grumble in the distance but continued to keep my eyes level with my Lord’s, the Erlking himself.

The memory I invoked drew a chuckle from him, which eventually filled the entire hall. “Tell me then, you plan to protect her. How?”

“I have given her a home. Freely given, by my will. A place which cannot be found unless you already know where you are going. A place both fairy and foe alike cannot find unless they have been to already. Otherwise camouflaged and unseen, unable to scry for, forever lost if not already previously found.”

After a moment of consideration, he focused his gaze upon me again. “A place where even the Hunter cannot reach His prey.”

This is where I had feared it would get dicey. He had pinpointed my intent and I slowly nodded. “Yes my Lord.”

“Powerful Magics my Knight.” A heartbeat passed. My heart beat. “I am pleased.”

I took that as my cue to stand up, only to bow deeply as I had upon my arrival once more. “Everything I do is to please you my Lord.”

“I would have you do one more task my Knight.”

“Yes my Lord?”

“Play their game. Win back Seaside for my Vaeluthil.”
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Re: Honor Bound; Fate Entangled

Post by Penny Escobar »

“Should you need a Second, know that I am in your corner.”

“I wish you bonne chance in your endeavors, Penny.”

“Understand that I am not making an effort to unearth your house.”
“I believe you.”
“And should I lose, I will still come again for Seaside.”

“It seems you meddle in the affairs of Faeries, child. I hope you are strong enough to survive.”

“Good luck! You’re gonna need it.”

“You do know that I get at least 10% of any monetary prize that you receive upon winning. And 15% of ticket sales.”

“This is a little more than practice now, huh?”
“A little more than practice. A lot less than open war.”

“But yes, you have the right of it. All of this is for Lady Vael.”
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Re: Honor Bound; Fate Entangled

Post by Penny Escobar »

May 3rd very early morning

“I was not successful my Lord.” Solemn, I kept my eyes to the ground as I stayed on one knee before the antler covered throne.

“My Knight did not win a simple game of sport?” Unless I was mistaken, he almost sounded…amused? I couldn’t quite figure out as to why though.

“No my Lord.” I wasn’t afraid, but I also hadn’t been looking forward to telling him any of this either.

But he surprised me with a low chuckle, and I could hear him shift to his feet before making his approach closer.

“Ah, but this self-crowned faeire still feels hunted, so I am winning. Even if it is as though you are just a small gnat buzzing around her face, you will be the annoyance in her champagne, and she will get no reprieve. You say another comes for her, and you will come again. More of these annoyances will follow. And my Vaeluthil’s promise comes true. No respite in my Vaeluthil’s home for her.” Every time he said her name, I could hear the small twinge of longing. Where sadness peeked out amidst his vengeance, his anger, his amusement that things were apparently going according to his plan.

I felt the warmth of his weathered hand take my chin and lift it up. “You have done..” He stopped, looking down to my shoulder to the dragonfly and honeybee on the shoulder of my battle leathers. His fingertips hovered above them, frozen.

“A hairpin my Lord, the dragonfly was a token of payment from Lady Vaeluthil. The honeybee worn in honor of the Hive she helped to protect, the fallen Queen at her side during the turmoil in Seaside.” The swatch of purple cloth was still there too, but I didn’t think I’d have to explain that to him. He was fixated on the dragonfly at any rate.

“May I?” A rare quiet murmur from him, one that I realized I was among the few who would ever see or hear such a thing. I understood why we were alone in the great hall now.

Wordlessly, I nodded and slipped the dragonfly from my shoulder and offered it to his waiting palm. Shortly after, I rose to my feet watching him silently dote on the small token. It looked so delicate in his tanned and scarred hands.

We stood there silent for several minutes, though mostly it was me pretending that I was not taking notice to his reaction to the dragonfly. Finally, he handed it back carefully to me. “A Knight’s love keeps her safe.” I heard him say as he turned away.

With my eyes turned down to the enchanted hairpin, I slowly nodded. “Often it protects us all.”

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Re: Honor Bound; Fate Entangled

Post by Penny Escobar »

6/21/2019 early morning hours

Down on one knee before the antler covered throne, I kept my gaze focused on the steps of stone between me and the shadowed darkness in front of me. The room was silent except for the sound of my own heartbeat, which I felt was as loud as a giant gong echoing through my ears.

I could smell fresh blood, it stemmed from a pile of parts not far off. Part of me wished I had waited longer to come here. The other part scolded my cowardliness. But before the inner struggle of that should be me ripped apart from the seams over there could begin, he spoke.

“She tries to hide behind her friends. Such spinelessness. But that won’t stop me. I saw that look on her face when her…. Hope,” he repeated the woman’s name with a mix of scorn and amusement, “was gored by my antlers. It felt exhilarating!” But the thunder of his voice and boom of his laughter stopped just as quickly as it started. “But still, you lost at their game of sport.”

I closed my eyes, feeling the hot sting of tears roll down my face. They spread over the fresh claw marks on one side of my face (a reminder that this night and early morning was amid a never-ending tailspin), but instead of speaking up, it was my magic that did the talking.

The stone and earth beneath our feet, throughout the entirety of the great hall we were in, shook violently. It caused metal tankards stacked on long tables behind me, to roll over and spill onto the ground. Stone and mortar crumbled in weaker places of the foundation, and fresh cracks ripped through the floor, one crevasse reaching and clawing – but stopping, just shy of the Erlking’s boots and the throne.

“Yes! Build on that anger my Knight and let it grow! Foster it so you will hunt her down and rip her apart for the glory and honor of the Hunt! Snatch all that she has and crumble it into dust! RETURN SEASIDE TO MY VAELUTHIL! SHOW ALL NO ONE CAN ESCAPE MY WRATH!! NO SOUL CAN AVOID FURY OF THE GREATEST HUNSTMAN!!

His voice boomed in my ears, and in my head. The room was so massive that his words even echoed in the distance. It rumbled in the cacophony of noise that was all around us, but my voice? It came out quiet and strained, even a bit higher than I expected, which was likely due to trying to speak while still crying.

“Won’t stop you. By your antlers. Your wrath.” I opened my eyes and lifted my head to see that he’d stood from the throne, his attention finally captured by the cracking sound of my voice. “But it was ME who lost? You USED me as a fucking tool, so you could try to get a token of your Vaeluthil's affection. I gave her my HOME. MY PROTECTION. TO KEEP HER SAFE FROM EVERYTHING. EVEN THE LIKES OF YOU!!”

Screaming now, the tears nearly blinding as I rose up to my feet and barreled my way into a straight tackle into him. I didn’t have antlers, but the anger and fury that was in the air felt like it had coiled around my soul and drove us into a wrestling match, rolling on the ground.

In all the grunting, swinging limbs and punches soon being thrown, I heard him hiss in my ear, “Because. You. Are. My. Knight.”

Then the world as I know it went BLACK.
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Re: Honor Bound; Fate Entangled

Post by Penny Escobar »

June 21st, early afternoon

I really didn’t feel so good.

But I suppose that was to be expected, considering the circumstances, I told myself while looking down over the length of the Great Hunting Hall of the Erlking.

My fight with the Erlking had not been a successful one. I barely could remember what happened, much like the events in the last 17 hours or so? Each flash of what should have been a memory but wasn’t, rocked me back through a wave of emotions. All of them were laced with pains of differing nature. If I wasn’t allowed to be in control of my actions, it didn’t seem fair that I was still held accountable for them. That things were still my fault. But that’s life, isn’t it?

These were my thoughts as I looked down at the figure of my corpse sprawled on the ground.

“You’re not completely dead by the way.” His voice was in my ears, and though there were various scurrying goblins moving around, none of them looked up to regard me or could hear their Lord, seated calmly on his throne.

Before I could open my mouth to try to speak, I caught sight of a slowly forming predators smile. I remember Joey long ago warning me about that look, when we got caught in the NeverNever all those years ago.

“Because of course, I couldn’t stand to lose my Knight after all. Consider this a simple reminder as to what happens when you try what you did.”

If I could have, I would have blinked or sighed. But being incorporeal now, I wasn’t certain if I could do either.

“Let me know where, if anywhere, you’d like that dropped off,” he gave a flick of his hand towards my body on the ground nearby while a small collection of goblins arranged themselves to pick up and carry it.

“The Lyceum,” I heard myself say.

And I just hoped that Mallory was working today.
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Re: Honor Bound; Fate Entangled

Post by Mallory »

The Lyceum was an intricately warded demiplane, enchanted over three nearly sleepless months of work by Mallory Maeda and Safiya al-Bahur to carefully define its boundaries and guard against anomalies -- and interlopers. The only way in, aside from the door, was a closely guarded secret between the shop’s co-owners: a sequence of sigils derived from a blend of ancient languages in obscure dialects that would allow a spellcaster to appear in the teleportation circle in the shop’s basement.

The security was enough to prevent conniving faerie nobles, zealous angelic paladins, and even most vengeful archdevils from penetrating their defenses. There were far more powerful beings than those out there -- but a magic shop, and the clever alchemist and heartless witch who ran it, should have been beneath the notice of someone as powerful as the Erlking.

Which was why, when the bruised and bloody and unmoving form of Penny Escobar landed on the broad stone circle in the cramped workshop, Mallory did not believe her eyes. The very first thing she did, after pushing aside the grimoire and sparking silver well of blood-infused ink and standing from her workbench, was to swipe her bleeding left ring fingertip across her gaze.

The witch’s eyes turned solid red, and she Saw that this was not an illusion after all -- and that Penny’s body was not completely devoid of its soul, as Safiya’s once had been. Red, not the rich blood color of the witch’s magic but the heat and brightness she associated with the wizard, formed the essence of her spirit that flickered far too faintly over her battered body. But this was not the residue that often lingered over the recently deceased.

“Your tether’s still intact,” Mallory breathed, rushing over to have a closer look at the vibrant thread that stretched away from her body and into the shadows of the workshop. When she neared, she heard a voice ringing in her head:

“Help me Mallory-wonton, you’re my only hope.”

The witch stopped in her tracks, tilting her horned head as she screwed up her face. “...Penny?! Is that you?”

“Yeah. I was going for levity. It’s kind of been a long night.”

“Shit... shit, what even happened to you?” Mallory asked as she knelt by Penny’s body, gently turning her head to look at the wounds. Claw marks lined her cheek, a stark contrast against skin that was growing steadily paler, though likely the least of what she'd suffered last night. “...Tell me where you are. What do you see?”

Unable to gesture to the corpse that was being inspected as her answer, Penny instead just didn't respond. There was silence for a few more moments before, “I’m not sure. It's dark. I think I can smell water?”

Mallory grew still. Her eyes narrowed. “Listen carefully. Do you hear any boats?”

“Why’s it always got to be water,” her complaint came out as a murmur before she grew quiet once more. “Not boats plural. There's just one. Fuck, it’s the--”

“Penny?!” The workshop had fallen silent, or more specifically, the voice in Mallory’s head. She curled her hand into a fist as she hissed one of the oldest names she knew: “Χάρων.”

((Adapted from play with Penny!))
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Re: Honor Bound; Fate Entangled

Post by Mallory »

The half-hour since Penny's unceremonious arrival in the Lyceum basement had been a frenzy of activity. Texts and phonecalls to Patrick and Mai and Eri, carrying a body out in front of her customers, recruiting the Fujii twins to pull every book they could find on the Styx, and preparing the ritual chamber at Riverwatch for what was probably the most ill-advised teleportation spell the witch had ever performed. Penny's body was laid in the center of the small, windowless room, and Mallory found herself breathing apologies to her motionless body for both that fact, and for taking just enough blood from the wizard to draw the circle.

Each symbol that surrounded it pointed one way, in the same direction as the tether of Penny's soul: towards Styx.

Then Mallory said her goodbyes, made promises as full of as much confidence as she could muster, placed a silver coin into her mouth -- and in a crimson flash, appeared in waist high water on the banks of a river that was shrouded in impenetrable darkness.

She was not alone. She could hear sounds on the water, faint splashes, as well as faint whispers in the air from the racing memories and regrets of hundreds of dying souls. She felt invisible fingers tugging at the hem of her shirt and grunted as she took a step back towards the shore, then called out into the darkness: "Χάρων! Προσφέρω μια συμφωνία!"

"Mallory!" Penny's voice called out from the darkness, the audible form of her reaching out towards the witch before her figure came into view. Light from the ferry itself was minimal, but the more she focused on the woman's voice, or the more likely the moment Charon's attention was drawn onto the witch's voice, the greater the light grew.

The boat had left one shore, and was moving for the opposite until all movement stopped.

Getting down on her knees on the edge of the boat, Penny stretched a hand out towards Mallory in hopes that it would pull one of them closer to the other.

Mallory lifted her chin and stared at the wizard's form as she floated into view, kneeling on the prow of Charon's vessel. "Do not even start with me, servant of disappointed masters." She restrained herself from spitting into the Styx itself, and tried to look past her into the boat. "Charon, I am Malleus, blood-bound, secret-seeker, and pact-keeper. I come to discuss matters of poor servants, and what becomes of those who serve me when they die." She opened her mouth again, and let the coin fall into her outstretched hand, and held it up. "I carry the mark of one she serves."

Gleaming under the lantern's light on the surface of the coin was the horned heart that Mallory had chosen as her immortal symbol.

She hadn't expected that. And Penny's arm immediately retreated to her side like she'd touched a burning flame. It was all the woman could do to just stare blankly down at her knees and the edge of the boat. Her mind began to swim with darker thoughts then, missing out on the verbal exchange between the two for the most part. But playing the poor and defeated servant all too well.

Mallory kept her expression as ice-cold as any would expect of a mortal, and for it -- and for Penny's crestfallen look -- Charon croaked out a long, bone-rattling laugh. "Ahh, a new immortal... and one who speaks the mother tongue," he laughed, and with one last stroke of his long wooden oars, the ferryman himself came into view. His eyes were dark and his skin was gaunt, partially shrouded by a heavy cowl that stank of brackish water and bone meal. "I tire of the countless heroes who come to rescue their beloved; but to hear your wrath?" The boat slid to a stop against the mud in the shallows, and the old boatman folded his bone-thin fingers over top the end of an oar. "Very well. I will entertain this... bargain of yours, Malleus."

The witch closed her fingers around the coin, not willing to surrender the payment yet, and dipped her horned head with a gracious smile. "I have servants who pledge themselves to me, who agree to offerings of secret knowledge in exchange for a taste of my power... and after they die, an eternity in my care, in my immortal library. When they pass on, I see the knowledge they found in life, and it fills my shelves... but if one falls from my service and then passes on, this knowledge is lost."

Charon rattled another laugh. "I see, I see where you are going with this, yes... And, so this one? What has she done?" He pointed a bony finger at Penny's bowed head.

Mallory's answer was as cool as her first words to the wizard: "She has disappointed her master."

The wizard was nearing the end of her rope, and her mouth curled in a sneer as her eyes fought back tears that she probably wasn't capable of spilling in her state. She caught on to the end of their conversation, and maybe she was a just marked as a lowly servant, but she was soon pushing herself up to her feet.

"Disappointed her master." She repeated. "Tore out her heart and gave it to another. Questionable loyalty. Spilled enough blood for an ocean and didn't choke on it herself. Killed her best friend. Breaks out of the cage she's supposed to stay in. Swallowed whole by darkness and never breaks free." It sounded like strung together nonesense now, but she slowly shook her head then.

"Disappointed? More like angered. I should never do that again."

Charon enjoyed another long laugh. "You break her, Malleus! Right before my eyes. Ah, such a treat! The torturers may not approve, but I do, for I can only hear the distant cries of those who suffer... and it is such a treat to see it up close." He bared his yellow teeth at Penny, and back at Mallory, who had not even deigned to look at the wizard when she stood and spoke, as if it did not even matter. "So what is it you ask of me, child? I will not surrender this soul to you, unpaying though she is."

Mallory opened her hand to flash the coin at him, smiling before she closed her fingers again. "I can pay for her. And I can swear to you... that all who fall from my service and die, I will convey across the Styx, if you would give me the means. You must have oars to spare... yes?" The boatman nodded, fractionally. "But I wish to shepherd them myself, so that I may have time to pull the secrets from their minds, and fill my shelves. Then I will ensure that their spirits are conveyed to the judgment of this place and no other."

Charon parted his thin lips, paused and frowned, and used his long, thin fingers to stroke his chin.

"And I will pay you a coin for each of them, and tell those on the far shore that they have crossed by your hand. For that will be true, by you striking this bargain... will it not?"
There was another rattling laugh from the ferryman, and he answered, "I am agreed." With one hand he held out the oar to the witch, and held the other open for the coin. Mallory reached out and dropped it into his palm, and as it spun through the air, it gave off the faint sound of whistling wind and ruffling feathers. One with a sensitive nose might think the trinket stank of crows. "So, will you be prying open her mind here and now, or on the shore? How long does it take...?" he mused as he held the coin up to the lantern light, squinting at the strange symbol of the horned heart with growing curiosity...

Mallory did not answer him. She simply threw one leg over the oar and said, "Penny -- get on."

It was the scent in the air that pulled her attention to the here and now. Kami bless her, she almost shouted out Mai's name there on the boat, but she choked on her response and the tears that would have been falling freely even in her incorporeal form. She wasted no time in reacting to Mallory's order and climbed on the back of the oar like it was a motorcycle. Or more appropriately, a broom.

Whatever she was saying to Mal was rather incoherent, in a mix of what sounded like Spanish and Orcish tangled together with the soul wrecking sobs that were to follow.

There was a small flash from the coin as Mai's illusion finally broke under the strain of Charon's probing. His mouth hung open in shock and anger. "Rabbits? Immortal child, you are not Tsukuyomi! YOU TRICKED ME!" he howled. He swiped at them, closing his claw-like fingers partway around the witch's neck --

-- but with a burst of speed from Charon's oar, Mallory and Penny shot up into the pitch black sky, Mallory letting out a pained cry as his nails tore angry lines across her neck in the process. "Hold on!" The oar veered wildly through the darkness, skimming over the river with a burst of mist around them from their high speed, and the witch tightened her grasp. She could hear splashing in the river beneath them, the grasping arms of the damned rising up to pursue them at Charon's command. His remaining oar could be heard slicing through the water, pushing his boat much faster than it had gone before with mighty strokes, and the golden glow of his lantern soon came back into view...

...until a bright flash of crimson light engulfed them, and they vanished.

((Played with the wonderful Penny, with thanks!))
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Re: Honor Bound; Fate Entangled

Post by Penny Escobar »

Where the reappearance of Mallory might have been sudden, Penny's soul returning to her body was less obvious. There were a few moments of nothing before her body jerked like she caught in the midst of a seizure. Understandably traumatic, then ending up with the woman turning onto her side and limbs soon drawing inwards into a fetal position. The second her eyes and mouth opened, the former were closing as she coughed and sounded like she was still choking back tears that had yet to form in her physical state.

It took time for the typical signs of life to register and for her breathing to regulate to something that was more normalized than completely nonexistent. Feeling tears in her eyes, she opened them again and tried to remember how to wipe her face while simultaneously looking to see where she was now and who else was there.

Patrick was right there, as if the concept of personal space was one he'd yet to master. He'd been holding her hand cupped loosely between both of his right up until she curled herself up in a ball, and then he hovered over her like an anxious bee, nervously awaiting the moment she became aware of her surroundings. When her eyes opened, he let himself reach for one of her hands again. "Peninnah," he said, her name a somnolent sigh of relief.

"Patrick!" She croaked, which didn't sound at all how she wanted to, but it was audible and coherent. Her fingers curled around his reaching hand, taking it and managing to squeeze it before her head turned more to the ground in no small amount of shame. The tears she couldn't stop, but she could mildly hide her face in the meantime.

No matter his inner turmoil, he loved this woman and the sight of her tears ripped him apart at the seams. The pilot inched to the very edge of his chair and leaned his upper body over hers, an arm curled protectively around her head and pressing his face against the slender curve where Penny's throbbing throat met her shoulder.

"I tried. I really tried,” she sobbed.

Patrick crooned soft shushing sounds, slipping his fingers soothingly through her hair, pressing kisses on the portions of her cheek and jaw that he could reach and tasting the salt of her tears each time he drew away. After a time he sat up a little more, enough that he could properly see her profile. He brushed the hair away from her face. "Mal got you. She took care of everything." Or so he assumed. All he cared about was that he'd brought her back.

His words and the quiet sounds between each kiss soothed Penny, and over time the tears stopped falling, only to leave her eyes more than a little bloodshot. With her hair moved from her face, she turned to look up at him again, soon shifting to reach out to him with her other hand. This one she tried to smooth over his cheek, like she was testing that he was real. "Mal. And Mai. So I could come back to you." After another heart beat, her voice dropped to a whisper, "Please don't tell me this is a dream."

He looked terrible, but he was sturdy and real. While he lacked the tell-tale track lines of fallen tears, it was still easy to see he'd spent most of the day under emotional duress. The skin around his eyes was red and splotchy. The rest of him wasn't much better -- he was decidedly disheveled, wearing a set of rumpled running clothes he hadn't bothered changing from after working out. "You're not dreaming," Patrick promised, but some of the buoyancy waned from his expression.

Penny’s hand fell from his face, but only to push up against the floor underneath her and to start propping herself upwards. Slowly to avoid the possible head rush, but eventually she was sitting up. There were fresh bruises and new aches, but she was focusing on the fact that she wasn't dreaming. And that she could feel it all. Her hand reached back for him again, while she ignored the mess that they both were, more leftovers from their night, that morning and afternoon. "I want to kiss you but, I probably need a breath mint." The sound that followed wasn't really a laugh, bit more of a rushed breath that escaped her lips.

"I need to brush my teeth anyway," Patrick mumbled in response. He straightened up and then sank back in his chair when she got up, pushing a hand through his untidy mop of hair. "Was only home long enough to grab clothes." Both corners of his mouth quirked up in a humorless shadow of a smile. He was the picture of defeat in the way he sat sprawled in the chair, just watching her for a time. "It's a good thing you have Mal. And Mai. I should have known she was helping, too." He'd seen her when he showed up at Riverwatch.

When he ended up pulling away from her, and then out of reach, Penny let her hand drop to her side while not bothering to mask the confusion on her face. It was a slow dawning, but his body language mimicked that of moments from the night before. Or maybe she was just imagining it? All the same, her head tipped a touch with lingering uncertainty. "Yeah, for a bit there, I thought she hated me."

"I don't know what I would have done if you'd--" He could even say the damn word. Patrick shook his head, as if to rid the very thought of it from his mind. "Nothing, actually. I couldn't have done anything at all. I was entirely useless today, and even moreso last night. I wasn't even armed." I still don't think that's necessary. Her words echoed in his mind for what felt like the hundredth time. At least now he had the weighty comfort of a gun holstered on his hip, but it still hadn't done him any good.

"You're who I fight for. Knowing that you'd be there to come home to. The first person I needed to see, to let me know that this," she didn't reach out for him again, but gestured between the space that was between them. "Isn't a dream. That this is all real." As she spoke, she only looked more and more confused, like they were speaking two different languages and his was one she couldn’t translate.

She'd be able to see the way her words touched him in the way his eyes filled with tears, but he grit his teeth with the effort of forcing himself to keep a lock on everything. "You shouldn't have to fight for me. You should be with someone who's fighting with you, someone who could track you down on any plane, instead of sitting around on his ass incapable of contributing in any meaningful way." God, but the distance between them was killing him. He reached for her hand. "It's like in the politics of that game, where each fighter is supposed to have a second. You deserve a second who can hold his own and be your equal in the ways the matter."

She didn't deny him her hand, closing it around his lessened a certain amount of tension that had been building in her limbs. Penny shifted closer in his direction by a few inches, her brow still furrowed to show the confusion. "I will look to no other for protection. I want to spend the never ending night with you. With your back to my back." Reciting the words he'd even memorized, though bits were left out. "I have someone my equal in the ways that matter. Don't I?" The way she was looking at him was obvious that she thought it was him, squeezing his hand for emphasis.

"But am I, though?" he asked in regards to his being her equal. A fair amount of skepticism colored his tone if not his expression. What he couldn't tell her was how he still struggled with feelings of worthlessness, even after all this time, a deep-rooted wound she might remember seeing in their Soulgaze. "Last night you asked me what Mal and I did growing up? We ran and hid when there was trouble. We kept our heads down and scraped by."

"I've seen you. Aren't you still standing?" Metaphorically she meant, considering he was seated. "You did what you needed to survive." The shift in conversation wasn't one that she completely followed, but she rolled with it.

"We're not--" Patrick blew out a frustrated noise, frowning more at his inability to express himself clearly than at Penny's inability to follow. It wasn't her fault. She couldn’t see the way it all connected in his brain. He looked at their hands, the way their fingers were pressed tightly into one another's skin. There was an element of defensiveness to the gesture, like they were both of them afraid to let go. "I can't even think straight. My head is a a fucking mess right now." He pressed the heel of his free hand to his forehead, silently willing the ache behind his eyes to dissipate.

The lost look on her face lingered, and she dared to reach out to him with her free hand. Her fingers went for his hair, as if the gesture would help sort his tangled thoughts. At the very least, Penny wanted to silently soothe him. "Maybe we should get cleaned up?" She had seen her own appearance when she'd been a hovering spirit of sorts, and didn't imagine that her look had improved with the choking sobs of when she was returned.

Another sigh had him deflating even more. He'd failed entirely at conveying anything that was going on inside his head, fixed absolutely nothing, but the fingers in his hair were easier to focus on than the source of his discomfort.

"Can you help me?" Hoping that a shower would help sort something in his mind if her fingers in his hair hadn't jumpstarted anything.

Patrick reached for her wrist, gently tugging her hand from his hair and stood up from the chair, aiming to help her up once he was on his feet. "Sure, babe. I think we both could use a really long shower."

Her hand guided away, and slowly helped up to her feet, Penny was unsteady on them for a moment. But instead of coaxing him along with her out of the room, or even noticing that she was in that small windowless room in Riverwatch, Penny stood her ground. "Patrick, do you love me?"

Her question caused a resurgence of tears. He took her face in his hands and pressed a lingering kiss on her forehead, scrambling to get ahold of himself. "Of course I love you. I have this whole ocean inside of me and I'm terrified of drowning you in it."

She'd had another question on the tip of her tongue, but his admittance after her held and kissed her face silenced that and instead she followed up with, "Then drown me. Because that is what I need more than anything else."

Patrick's hands pushed back into her hair, gathering its lengths into his fists, pulling only hard enough to tip her head back so he could kiss her. Sure, they both needed breath mints, but the moment demanded the gesture. "Don't ever leave me again." He didn't mean it literally, of course, because they both had jobs that they were all but married to.

After the kiss, she was left breathless but still was able to find her voice. "Never." It held a certain amount of promise to it, unintentionally laced with power. A Wizard's Word.

"I need you, okay?"

Penny’s hands fell to rest at his hips in a gesture that spoke of an aching, heartfelt need that matched his. "I love you too."

(From live play with Patrick! Thank you!)
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