Fault Lines

A knife edge life. Battles with instincts, scruples and inevitable descents.

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Fault Lines

Post by Mesteno » Sun Nov 10, 2019 8:00 am

[OOC: Reader warnings for mature subject matter. Adapted from live play with Lexius' writer. Follows on immediately after 'Ex Infernis'.]

October 27th, 2015

Days had passed.

It had taken days not only to recover, but also to begin sorting, dividing and securing all the items they'd confiscated from Jetrell's former home. Lexius had been busy transferring and interpreting what seemed like years’ worth of the demi-god’s research in the lab, and it would take weeks, at least, to make some sense of it all. Not too long ago, the Elf might have happily buried himself in that research without a thought for anything else.

Nowadays, other thoughts existed and crept in at the most unexpected moments.

He resisted contacting Mesteno too quickly after their last tumultuous encounter. He'd spent a solid twenty four hours half buried in a sand dune meditating to recoup his depleted resources after the battle with Jetrell, but even there his thoughts had been haunted by the ghosts and spectres of whip-thin man who's flavour he could still taste on his lips days later, no matter how much spiced coffee he drank.

It was more than that, however, that finally drove Lexius from his cave to seek out the Sadist.

There was a wealth of new knowledge to be contemplated and dissected, and Lexius found that, for the first time in a long time, he didn't want to do that alone. Not when there was such a sharp, eager mind a quick teleport away. It took him several hours to identify that nagging, persistent emotion for what it was. He missed Mesteno's voice, his ideas, his unique input...his presence, however dark and dangerous it might be.

Lexius appeared without warning on his front porch, the satchel at his side and the beads waggling with amusement at his thigh. They might have won a bet amongst themselves on just how long the Elf would be able to hold out. Or they might be amused with the simple fact Lexius hadn't taken the time to check if Mesteno was even there before he'd teleported.

There was no sign of him outside. The conspicuous smudge of a crushed cigarette stub on the decking drew the Elf’s eyes, an anomaly to turn over in his head. The necromancer didn’t smoke, and disapproved of the habit unashamedly.

There was music playing, Holst's 'Jupiter' in its majestic third minute, assisted acoustically by the morgue's solid surfaces. The door to that grim chamber yawned open, the cold spilling out into the kitchen.

Lexius descended the flight of stairs to the morgue cat-footed, passing through the starkly sterile environment and ever closer to the source of the music.

The small adjoining laboratory was where he found the necromancer, the staff he'd pilfered propped obtrusively in one corner. He was studying the soul jar carved from Terrell’s womb for details etched into the (well-scrubbed!) glass, and amidst the hum from the body lockers and the music, seemed quite unaware of his company.

The Elf paused again in the doorway to take his fill of the sight before he interrupted it.

Mesteno was perched on a stool with his back to the morgue, knees in a broad splay and elbows on the edge of the worktop as he gently manipulated the jar under high magnification. Caution had him handling it with sturdy looking gauntlet gloves, just in case there was any spontaneous shattering. He did not want his blood getting all over someone else's soul receptacle for obvious reasons. He'd bound his hair back in a half-tail, drawing it from his temples to keep it from his face without having to wrestle the whole lot into something tidier. It left the small, bone carved Alfar trophy he wore in his hair visible, vividly white against all the red.

He wore only ratty jeans and a simple black wife beater that did little to hide the ladder of rings along his spine, nor the butchery of runic work cut deliberately into the span of his shoulders, rudely interrupted by the exit wounds where the shotgun had torn his clavicle apart years ago.

Protective spells intended to keep any souls from straying from within the sphere he worked in were palpable, yet there was no outward indication of where they were.

Temptingly, there was also a neat little stack of scroll tubes on the worktop too, as of yet unopened.

It'd been some time since Lexius had seen that much of Mesteno's skin exposed, and while he might have felt the rings that laddered up the curve of the Sadist’s spine once or twice, he'd never truly had a chance to examine even this much of them, masked by the fall of hair and the thin cloth. He studied what he could of those and the scarring that spider webbed across the man's skin. He scrutinized Mesteno's posture as he bent over the jar he was analysing so carefully. He soaked in every single nuance of the picture presented, as if the Sadist might, perhaps, test him later on what he had seen.

But he had not entirely forgotten he’d come with a purpose, no matter how long he chose to look. The stack of scrolls tucked in one corner of the work bench reminded him conveniently.

"Mesteno." He murmured the man's name, carrying it with a thought closer to the man's ear rather than attempt to physically breach any barrier he might have set up or raise his voice over the sound of the music.

Engrossed as he'd been, Mesteno was startled from his study, and there was a musical, glassy clink as the soul jar clipped the lens above it. There was no sudden eruption of pieces though, the contact too light to cause any damage, and the alarm which pulled taut muscles into sharply delineated relief eased out of him on a sigh carrying a low, breathy obscenity.

He set the jar down before he turned about on the stool, a pair of safety goggles perched on the bridge of his nose which he pushed carelessly up his brow and into his hair. Lexius identified, he slid off the stool, barefoot as usual and tugging the gloves from his arms.

"Well you look a damn sight better'n you did before," he remarked, though his gaze did no more than sweep his face briefly.

Looking caused trouble.

He’d not forgotten the exquisite embarrassment of being left on his own front porch after their kiss, and neither of them had spoken a word about it since, even in the hours they’d been left alone to pillage Jetrell’s manor.

"I am well." Lexius informed him. It was his stock reply, of course, even when he was at his worst, because he was well. He was alive and breathing and in control of his mind, in command of his limbs, in possession of that spark of energy that allowed him life. Once, that had not been the case. Everything was 'well' when balanced against years spent with body, mind and the shattered remainder of his soul dissected from each other and stored in separate crystals.

"Come to exchange notes?” Mesteno asked. “Or y'know, hand over any interesting books you might have picked up." There had been one particular tome that ought to have been his from the start, a necromantic volume that Lexius had taken, perhaps purely because he knew he would want it.

Lexius studied the front view as he had the back, lips twitching faintly toward a smile for some reason or another that Mesteno would not see for the way his gaze slipped so easily away.

"Hand over?" He made that sound like a crime. "Negotiate, perhaps." His strangely colored gaze flicked toward the scrolls then across the room to where the staff innocuously lingered before his gaze settled back on the Sadist.

"You can't blame me for hoping," Mesteno replied unrepentantly, dropping the gloves on the worktop beside the notes he'd been making.

"May I come in?" Lexius asked politely.

Mesteno stepped aside, and made the sort of gracious, sweeping gesture universally accepted for a 'come in'. "You took enough out of that lab to keep you busy with study for months, Lexius," he reminded him, amused. "not t'mention your new specimens. What did I pick up amongst my meagre rewards you wanted so badly you're already here to 'negotiate' for it?"

Meagre was not really an appropriate word for it, but of course he was negotiating already, manipulating lazily by making it sound as if he thought he'd come out of it the worse of the pair.

Playing the gentleman, he nudged the stool the Elf's way with one foot, and contented himself with reclining against the worktop, arms folded and a lick of amusement playing about his mouth offsetting the stern, serious set of his brows. Bad acting as always. He couldn't play it serious, because he was quite frankly, too pleased to see him.

The beads chortled even before the Elf stepped into motion. No telling, though, which one of the two amused them more.

Rather than allow the distance between them to linger (as he should, Lexius knew), the Elf moved directly Mesteno's way and actually settled his ass lightly to the edge of the stool the man had nudged out, the heel of one of his boots hooked back along a lower rung to keep it from sliding away.

"I can blame you for whatever I like." He noted absently as he settled, gaze finally drifting to the soul jar. He saw it, of course, was scrutinizing the details, but the majority of his attention was with the necromancer and something inside him unknit just a fraction.

"Why Lexius, that was almost juvenile," Mesteno remarked. But he liked it. The small fact that things seemed comfortable between them was as pleasing as his presence.

The Elf paused, and it was a rather lengthy one, a silence in which he just breathed.

"You know that everything I learn I will share with you." He finally spoke up, looking back to the Sadist as his hand went to the satchel at his side. It was a truth, and yet a bargaining tactic of his own. Mesteno could not say he was hoarding the information away even if he'd taken things! "You know all my secrets." He added that without a trace of dismay over the fact, though it would not work in his favor when it came to the trading!

From the satchel he produced a roll of leather. Several samples in vials and dishes secured within the cushioned compartments inside. He didn't quite hand it over yet, though. They were bargaining. And Mesteno had information he wanted. "The remains of a cigarette are on your porch." A prompt, without a doubt.
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Re: Fault Lines

Post by Mesteno » Sun Nov 10, 2019 8:09 am


"I had an unexpected visitor a couple of days ago,” Mesteno admitted. “An old... friend or adversary, take your pick." They'd been as much one as the other. There was no sense that Mesteno was trying to conceal anything, but he offered no more than that yet, unsure how much was required of him. "I'll share my notes likewise, once I'm done,” he went on, “as I'm sure you'll return the star charts you larcenied right from under my nose." It wasn't even a word, but it was a deliberate choice.

There went Lexius’ lips again, tugging vaguely toward a smile at the corners which were marked by the sand coated drift of his hair. He was thick with the stuff today, but most of it remained clinging to his clothing, his skin. His amusement faded away a moment later. He always needed details.

"Was the meeting friendly...or adversarial?" he asked as he slid the roll onto the counter beside the soul jar. The items would keep. His own notes were rolled right up with the samples, most of which included various parts of the lizard creatures they'd encountered and the demi-god's remains. He had another, smaller wooden case which he produced next. In that were his findings and several specimens from Jetrell’s laboratory and the pathogen he'd been working on there. "Should I find the star chart, I'd certainly be willing to trade it for another." Not admitting outright to the theft.

Mesteno’s eyes slipped aside, from the roll to the hand leaving it there. He knew the texture of that skin well now, the roughness more like sand itself than callous. The play of too-prominent tendons tempted him sorely, made him inclined to reach across and find some excuse to brush some of the sand away. But no, he was being good. His arms remained wreathed.

"It began mildly adversarial. I'm not sure he was in his right mind to be perfectly honest. I gave him a warning to make sure he understood if he attacked me it'd go badly for him and after that behaved himself. As much as y'can hope for with someone like that."

Plainly Mesteno was whole though, the only injuries those he'd weathered from their little excursion to slay Jetrell. "My star chart had personal annotations," he drawled. "It'll be worthless without the associated terrestrial maps for the rifts and the scheduling tables. But I might be persuaded to allow copies... I suppose it depends on our negotiations."

Lexius left the items where he'd set them and settled his hands to his thighs. The beads still swayed lazily, hanging down beside the stool and staying silent as if not to draw attention to themselves since the pair were discussing the charts. Lexius resumed his study of Mesteno as he spoke.

"Define ‘someone like that’." Lexius knew The Sadist was holding out, which only meant whatever he was keeping back would not meet with the Elf's approval. "It sounds as if you might need to recover it to accurately predict and place your rifts." One missing chart could throw the whole thing off! "Which makes it rather valuable. I should think you would offer a due reward, such as copies, for the one who finds it." No more negotiations needed. He would help find this misplaced chart and receive copies! It sounded fair to the beads, at least. They gave a little snickering clatter against the leg of the stool.

"Consider Aiden's antics," Mesteno suggested. "Though you don't--," need to worry about that, he might have offered by way of reassurance. His guest had not been quite so direct despite his suggestiveness, but the necromancer wasn't about to rake over cold coals in search of a little heat. In the end the sentence remained unfinished though. Lexius had outright explained to him that he couldn't see a way beyond their differences, had confessed to having a friend with benefits he was able to find pleasure with. For all he knew, the Elf had gone to entertain this stranger when they'd parted ways, knowing he was safe from hands with cruel inclinations there. "Let's just say he doesn't have any lust spell bullshit to fire at me the way Aiden did."

He left it at that, and eyed the wooden case briefly, before shaking his head over the star charts. "I could just play Russian roulette with the rifts and end up in some Draeden's uterus because someone pilfered them," he countered.

Lexius frowned faintly. Mesteno would do that, too, he suspected! The sure, certain knowledge of it brought an abrupt laugh to the Elf's lips.

"You are incorrigible." He accused, payment for the juvenile comment and far more true! "I would leave you there were that to happen." His blue-violet eyes certainly gleamed a bit more brightly with the threat. "And, I avoid uteri of all types. There were rings in the coffer. And a book that may be of some small interest to you." The Elf went on blandly. It seemed he had set aside the issue of Mesteno's mysterious visitor.

Lexius’ laughter had sent the necromancer’s dark brows winging upward, because even now there was a certain rarity to them that he couldn't help but treasure. It won Lexius a smile of the unguarded variety, the bright, hard lines of his teeth very straight despite the way one corner of his mouth tended to hitch a little higher, everything vicious-sharp and deviant.

"S'quite the compliment." Incorrigible! "And yet I'm disappointed. All this vagrancy and you wouldn't want to see what it was like on the other side of something like that? Some explorer."

The curve of lips, the flash of teeth, the glittering in those predatory eyes, the entirety of the expression Mesteno wore in those few moments absolutely personified everything the Sadist was to the Elf; beautiful and dangerous, intelligent and brutal. Breath-taking. Lexius shifted his gaze away, but it could not be unseen.

The necromancer leaned towards him, past him innocently to tug the leather roll with the samples nearer so that he could get a look at them. He wasn't falling for that bland tone. "Rings? I'm guessing they weren't the purely decorative sort or y'wouldn't make mention of them... right? Or do you secretly deck y'self in gold and jewels when there's no one 'round to see you?" He eyed him as if trying to imagine it! "Tell me about this book."

Lexius managed to avoid releasing a growl of frustration he could feel bubbling in his throat. Everything tightened in him when the Sadist leaned his way. Everything stilled. What had they been discussing? Certainly not the scent of the man which he could get far more easily if he just leaned a little himself. He did so almost unconsciously. Almost. He did so in defiance of the larger part of him that demanded he not.

Metal and leather, hints of saddle soap, old blood and the damp of autumn earth from hours spent outdoors. Apple, strangely, and beneath it all something dark. The same way he tasted dark, without ever actually being able to put a finger on how it might be put to words.

Lexius’ gaze lidded as he took it all in, and clamped down on the internal urge to lean away. His gaze locked once again on the side of Mesteno's face, traced the path from jaw to ear, ear to throat and downward. So different, those smells, made more so by the underlying sense of darkness that brought to mind the things over which Mesteno had command. Shadows and death and pain. He found no more appeal in the latter than he did with women, but the first two intrigued. He knew he could not pick and choose in this case.

"What do you wish to know?" He might have been asking in response to the Sadist's final demand or he could be asking something else altogether.

"I want to know whether the book is what I think it is, and whether it's in the common tongue. Or Latin. Something I can read, basically. If it is, what'll you take for it?" Down to business then.

Lexius’ voice had dipped lower in tone and had collected a few grains of sand somewhere along the way for the subtle roughness that now infested it. "The book is what you think and readable. There was also a crook and a staff. There is much to them, though I have yet to determine what."

As for what he would take? Lexius bit his tongue on that answer and set about pouring himself a cup of water from that skin he carried into a small wooden cup.

"What do you wish to give?" He finally asked, on the heels of a slow drink that had cleared much of the grit from his voice.

The change in Lexius’ voice distracted Mesteno. It was his turn to observe as the Elf went about pouringr. Whatever he was searching for was hidden by the hair he felt a wretched impulse to resituate behind an elven ear. Maybe he'd just imagined the change though. He had to bite his tongue when the first thing to spring to mind was something lascivious but he did lean over again, this time to claim, even if only temporarily, the wooden case he'd brought out.

"Well there's the cloak, the staff, the scrolls over there and the soul jar. So far as I can see, the jar has nothing of value to it other than an opportunity to examine the containment method, which is something I can do already - just not without being alive to direct it see, so I'm curious to know how he set it to activate for his own. Plus it was in a uterus." Serious expression! Lexius did not like uteri. "I suppose I could spare a few scrolls." He was starting with a low offer, and knew the Elf wouldn’t take it.

Lexius gave a low snort of faux contempt. "The personal tome of an incredibly powerful necromancer and you offer a handful of scrolls?" He eyed them sidelong, briefly. Mesteno hadn't even touched them yet, had he? No, they'd be spread out and around if the man had gone through the stack. "Scrolls you cannot even assure me contain any valuable information at all." He added that educated guess as his gaze swung back to the Sadist.

It was all rote, really. He'd spent a large part of his existence haggling. He often did it more for the sake of the skill itself rather than any need to get a good deal. It was one of the few things he honestly enjoyed. And he did want to know what was in the scrolls. He needed to know what was in those scrolls. The disturbing thing was, though, despite the persistent nagging in his head otherwise, it wasn't all he really wanted. It wasn't all he wanted Mesteno to offer him. He forgot his drink to level a rather intent, almost challenging look at the man.

"Oh c'mon,” Mesteno shot back, “you know as well as I do he wouldn't have locked 'em up in that treasure room if they hadn't been worth something. In your own words, ‘he's a powerful necromancer’. Anything he kept is gonna be worth the study." But he knew full well that Lexius liked to haggle. Their first exchanges had been essentially business deals.

"I am no thief to need to cape. I am no mage to need the staff,” The Elf went on. “I am no swordsman to need the sword." He'd noticed the sword even if Mesteno had left it off the list! "And I would not touch the soul jar if you paid me." That might be a small exaggeration. "Make me a better offer, Mesteno."

Mesteno was left to blink owlishly at the Elf in a way that almost made him bark another laugh. Lexius mastered the urge lest his position deteriorate

"You're deliberately tormenting me," Mesteno accused him, jabbing a finger towards his chest, though not with any threat it might actually touch him.

Lexius flicked the fingers of his free hand, negligently dismissing Mesteno's first words. It served to also brush off the accusation in that pointing finger as well at the man's tone. The gesture was easy. Biting back a vague smile was more difficult.

"I don't have anything else from that place to offer,” Mesteno insisted. “You already got my agreement to come lie on your table, you've got my star charts - I'll give you copies of the accompanying documents" grousing there! "So unless you need a job doing, the promise of a future favour or hooking up with something illicit I can get you through the black market..."

Lexius was enjoying himself, more so than usual if only because it was Mesteno on the other end of the negotiation. He didn't show a speck of interest for any of the offers the man threw his way. "None of those things will serve." He assured with some measure of gravity, but then found himself snared in his own trap. He should have taken the offer of future favors!

His gaze suddenly narrowed in something akin to determination. "Offer me something...more personal." That subtle grit was back in his voice as his gaze skated its way down and back up the man's body.

It was the word 'personal' that immediately narrowed Mesteno’s eyes in suspicion. No, he wasn't mistaking the look, and that change in his voice he'd convinced himself hadn't been there earlier - even he wasn't that oblivious. But this wasn't invitation, he knew. There would be conditions. Don't mind the broad swollen pupils, the way he was having trouble not looking by this point.

"Lexius you are shameless," he told him quietly, and not with disapproval.

Something personal, in return for a book. The nature of such an exchange could be all too easily likened to whoring, not something he’d ever considered he might be subjected to again. Not something he wanted to ever be linked to his relationship with Lexius.

"Let me make something perfectly clear here. Whatever... personal offers I make to you, are likely to be benefitting me as much as you. If you just happen to offer me the book afterwards, I'm considering it a gift." About that he was adamant. "Tell me what you like, Lexius. And how you like it. So I don't have to go offering anything you deem inappropriate. Are we talking about me playing gentleman and taking you out somewhere here, or something more… base?"
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Re: Fault Lines

Post by Mesteno » Sun Nov 10, 2019 8:17 am


It was dangerous, playing this particular game. The time would come when he was on the other end of it, the Elf was certain. It'd been no easy thing turning the conversation this way. And of course it had set off an automatic clamouring inside his head, the muscles tightened across his frame. Lexius closed his eyes for a moment and to attempt to systematically shut down all those negative reactions.

Mesteno's words filtered in and he looked his way with lids kept narrowed over his blue-violet gaze. He finally let something of a smile curl at his mouth again, head canted just a touch to one side.

A gift, was it? Did Mesteno really believe he would get as much from the exchange, wrapped in his conditions, as he would without them? It seemed a preposterous notion, but the Elf didn't challenge it. Instead, he answered the question.

"Something more base."

His fingers had been itching to touch since before he'd walked into the room, the distant echo of a want that was smothered under the rest of his reactions but refused to die. "I do not like pain for its own sake, Mesteno, but I have always enjoyed the struggle and I do not mind leaving or wearing bruises or even broken skin. But such violence, at this time, may well lead to an inappropriate reaction on my part." He didn't, couldn't, risk doing something so terrible it would put even a sliver of fear in the man. It was a thing that preyed on his mind even now, when he could ponder it dispassionately. "I need your patience and your willingness to allow me to...savor. I cannot start the way we did before. It is too much."

Pessimism owned a corner of Mesteno’s mind, and assured him in stoic, persuasive tones that entertaining any of the 'base' ideas parading across his sexually deviant mind was foolish.

The Elf would vanish again.

He was setting himself up for the very disappointment Lexius had promised him only days before.

But it couldn't erase the stirrings of desire, hearing the Elf speak the way he did. He picked up on words like struggle, bruises, broken skin, and wondered whether those bestial urges he had would be content with small beginnings. It was quite possible that he'd been spoiled by the extremes Evander had welcomed, and by Samiel's willingness before him to explore boundaries most would have considered sinister. Lexius was far older than both though, and the necromancer wasn't about to question his tastes. He considered it all quietly, wondered whether it was even emotionally responsible to engage in things carnal at this point.

Desire won out. It'd already done things to the sharp features of his face, the levelled eyes gone hungry, salacious, a mouth well made for vulgar things.

"All right, Lexius." How intimate he sounded, sotto voce - the music had stopped, reached its end. Appropriate. "Consider my offer to be anything, tame or perverse. I won't try to break you. Just don't run from me once we get started. That's all I ask."

Lexius wondered at that, that he could stir desire in the man even without the promise of violence as accompaniment. He didn't expect it would last much beyond this one time. Lifting his cup as the Sadist laid out his own condition, he drank away the last of the water then set it carefully aside to the counter beside him next to the box and the roll of leather.

"Very well." He agreed quietly as he unstrung the so-silent beads from his belt and pooled them around the cup. Rather than initiate anything just yet, though, the Elf asked another question.

"Do you require that, Mesteno, to find your pleasure? The breaking of another." His gaze was still mostly obscured by the way he'd narrowed his eyelids, but there was a sharpness to his regard now. "Were you to have full freedom, what is it that you like and how?"

No doubt the necromancer was a wanton wretch, his impulses easily inspired by the right words, formed by the right mouth. Perhaps there was a scrap of incubus blood in him, to be so hungry for it, and yet he'd turned down the advances of his visitor and Aiden both, the former of whom would all too likely have submitted uncomplaining to his perversions. Instead it was the Elf who seemed to hold sway over his desires, conditions or not. Lust was a curious thing.

Lexius' questions were difficult things to answer. He felt, somehow, that a few wrong words might put a stop to things before they began, and yet it wasn't in his nature to be dishonest.

"It's not a necessity," he murmured, and though he itched to initiate in some way, this was the Elf's show now. Anything, he'd promised, and so he'd have to lead. "In fact I'd go so far as to say a lover who stubbornly refuses to break and weathers everything I dole out, invites it..."

Was even better? Talking about it made him restless. His hands were tight around the edges of the worktop to either side of his hips, fingers white knuckled.

"Struggle is welcome. I like to fight for it. Earn it. Punish once I have it, especially if there's still struggle. But I would never desire a lover to endure it just to please me if they hated it. There's some pleasure in that, too, making the release harder than a man’s ever known even when he's hurting. I like that, the confusion, to see them when they're gathering their wits afterward and aren't quite sure how it happened, how they still got off on it."

He was watching the Elf so closely as he spoke that it was plain he was expectant - whether he thought the serenity would fail for revulsion, or desire was uncertain though.

"Don't worry, Lexius. I won't be disappointed if I don't get to split you open like overripe fruit." He smiled. Just a faint twitch of one.


In the messy aftermath, it hadn’t taken Mesteno long to start pulling his clothes back into order. They were face to face again finally, and old apprehensions, the aversion to having too much skin on display had already begun to set in.

Lexius didn’t attempt to stop him. Instead he was fastening laces, belt. The ache behind his eyes kept his typically smooth brow furrowed. Indulging this way had cost him, though he’d expected it. The flaw that had come with his rebirth had never ceased to plague him.

Each watched the other, not out of wariness, but to get a better look now that they weren’t so indecently occupied.

"I would like to see you fully naked." Lexius blurted. That really hadn't been what he'd intended to say. He cut it off before he got more explicit. The edge in that rough tone spoke enough about the reality of the desire. It wasn't something he'd just said to reassure.

"You've seen more of my skin than I have of yours," Mesteno reminded him.

Perhaps back when he’d been lying naked on the table, horrified by the sudden absence of his clothes, Lexius had only been examining him in a clinical fashion, but it didn't change the fact he'd had nothing but a bit of muslin to avoid indecency.

The remains of his shirt were hanging uselessly, the fabric torn. He shrugged loose of them. Perhaps a small concession to the Elf’s clumsily confessed desire.

The patchwork of burns and bullet holes, surgical scarring and metal Lexius had willingly pricked his fingers on. Ugly and expansive. He let him look. Let him see the faults in his hide, pulled taut over the whip lean physique, but said nothing. Aside from, "Maybe if you negotiate well next time, you'll see all of it."

The Elf wanted to investigate it more closely. He wanted to touch every one of those scars and holes where Mesteno's flesh was shiny and jagged, hollowed and ridged. He wanted to bite that tattooed bird right across its inky chest and drag his teeth across its wings. Lexius jerked his gaze back to Mesteno's face and took a carefully measured breath.

"So I have." Lexius admitted at a murmur. He did not offer to strip and tie up the score even if it had looked, for just a moment, as if Mesteno wanted to reach out and touch him. That dark, animal need that was now curled up, mostly sated, behind the shattered bars of its cage stirred in approval of the notion.

Other parts of him, disagreed.

No walls were erected, but he kept the distance between them. "Do I need to negotiate?"

This hadn't been about the book. Mesteno had made that clear. At least, the Elf thought so. Now he thought perhaps he'd been wrong. The idea was... disconcerting. It drew a frown to his lips and had him looking away.

Mesteno picked up on the miscommunication fast enough, and he padded closer as Lexius stooped to collect an abandoned vial of oil from the floor.

When he straightened up, Lexius found a scant few inches between them and a slim, tawny hand lifting to slide against his cheek, heel of palm tucked along his jawline. He barely kept himself from leaning into it no matter the repercussions.

"Next time,” the necromancer told him, “I mean t'have you. I know you don't want me to, you find the idea... off-putting." The same way Mesteno did about nudity, though only because of personal misgivings. "Think about it though. And maybe I'll man the fuck up and let you get me all the way out of my clothes." His tone was warm, intimate but thereafter he slipped past him to head back out of the morgue, his stride stubbornly denying that there had been anything questionable afoot. "You can borrow whatever you want," he called back over his shoulder, with a nod toward the pile of scrolls.

He'd never intended to keep them all, anyway. If he discovered there were three of each, he intended to make sure copies were evenly distributed between the Elf, Pharlen and himself.

Lexius watched the Sadist as he spoke, somewhat still, listening as the man laid out his intention in that particular tone. What a dichotomy of feelings that stirred up! His jaw tightened beneath, but his gaze latched on his mouth. He didn't get a chance to do anything (foolish or not!), though, because Mesteno stepped away, stepped past him, and headed for the stairs. That might have been a muttered curse given in Drow. There was no telling what expression might now be on the Elf's face, but his gaze bored into the metal and the flesh of his spine until he was completely gone. Lexius didn't say a word.

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Re: Fault Lines

Post by Mesteno » Sun Nov 10, 2019 8:23 am

October 30th, 2015

Have you been hiding from me, Lexius?

Another absence of days. This time it was Mesteno who’d broken the silence, crouching in the subterranean tunnels that ran warped beneath the Temple of Summanus. In the cup of his palm, the illumination from one of Lexius’ crystals flared, catching the underside of his jaw, the southern slopes of his cheekbones – nightmare lighting that did nothing to soften the severity of his features.

He was alone. He appreciated the silence, even if all the conversing he meant to do would be from one mind to another, with that small crystal relay as their go-between.

No. Came Lexius’ answer, and he might have left it at that, though he chose not to. I needed the sands for a time. Honest, if not always forthright.

I knew you'd go, Mesteno confided, without any self-satisfaction. It was a simple statement, one which excused rather than sounding resigned. It hurt you, what we did. He was speaking of that dissonance Lexius felt. Unavoidable. I wanted to know that you were all right, that's all. Do you need more time?

Time will not heal this.
The Elf confessed.

Time had had its chance and he was done wallowing in its ineffective embrace and false hopes.

Lexius' reply was difficult for the necromancer process. If time wouldn't heal it, would the dissonance always be there? Would it continue to punish the Elf for walking a path not encoded into his rebirth? It was not pleasant to think on, and Mesteno sat staring down at the luminous shard of crystal without replying for a time.

The imperfect resurrection that had plagued Lexius like faulty coding in a computer program wasn’t something they could simply re-write. According to its parameters, the Elf desired Koyan. No one else would do. Trying to deny it would cripple the system and cause unknown damage. It was still nothing short of miraculous that he’d had the strength of will to touch, to kiss, to make that base demand.

In the end, the Elf brought Mesteno to the desert, snatching him from the bowels of the Temple and to the quiet of his home. It wasn’t until they were settled some time later, drinking spiced coffee amidst scattered cushions and talking about anything and everything else that made demands of their time, that their words cycled back to the barrier to their intimacy.

Lexius was watching Mesteno too closely. Sat near as they were, physical contact was an inevitability, and he’d dropped a hand to cover one of the other man’s ankles no matter that it made his eyes tighten at the corner.

Mesteno recognised it, and came to the immediate conclusion there was more of that dissonance at work.

"When we were... fucking." For lack of pleasanter words - he couldn't have just said 'having sex'. "And you were in my head. It seemed like there was a lot of uncomfortable, maybe even painful stuff goin' on up here." He indicated with a finger against his own temple. "Will that always happen?"

Mesteno’s boot and pant leg kept the physical contact from being direct and Lexius wasn't trying to move either to let his fingers brush across skin no matter the urge that prompted him to do just that. If he could resist the craving to taste Mesteno’s mouth again (one far, far stronger!), then he knew he could master the temptation to touch any more than he was currently. He kept the hold light, but rested the full weight of his hand where it was and didn't move it.

Lexius drank from his coffee as he formulated his reply.

"I believe it will." He admitted. Too honest, perhaps. Mesteno deserved that, at least. "Until I find the source and... correct it. You were not wrong, in some of the things you said. I can feel, independent of what is dictated. But given what I truly feel does not match, there is a certain dissonance in it." He paused a moment, levelling a long, long look at the man. "I do not regret what we did. Not for a moment." He wanted that to be clear.

Mesteno appreciated honesty, but that didn't mean he hadn't hoped for a different answer. To think that it would be there if they shared a repeat performance, or made a habit of it, made him resent the fact he'd no power to change it.

"Give it time. You may think otherwise before long," he chuckled, though he was only half joking. He suspected most of the men he'd taken to bed would rather erase their experiences for one reason or another. "Given how long you've lived with it, and never come across any way to fix it, I know it's not gonna change anytime soon. I won't be offended if you'd rather I didn't make any advances. I felt it. It was... unpleasant."

His foot was retreating from against Lexius' calf despite that squeeze at his ankle.

Lexius tightened his fingers again, this time with purpose. The way the Elf narrowed his had more to do with his resolve than any pain it might induce. He was cursing the fact Mesteno had felt any of that internal battle, but given the multiple ways he'd been twisting his Will that evening, it couldn't be helped that some of it would have leaked through.

"I've become far too complacent in some things. Things that I find I no longer wish to tolerate within myself." Mesteno had provided the proper motivation, but the Elf knew he needed to fix his problem no matter how things played out between them. It was a weakness, a place of imbalance that persisted and prevented him from having full command of himself. It was a type of unwelcome bondage he could not allow to continue. "And as I said before, I believe it is you who will be the one that thinks otherwise. But until then, allow me this."

He pulled Mesteno's leg back into place.

"If there's anything you need me to do to help you, anything I can do, tell me,” Mesteno insisted. “I know it may sound self-serving, but I didn't realise until I felt it just what it costs you to touch someone. So anything, even if it’s just a second pair of eyes lookin' over texts for an answer to the problem in case you missed somethin'."

Lexius' continued assertions that he thought Mesteno would end up disappointed in him, only left him smiling. It wasn't wry this time, nor wicked-deviant. Just a keen flash of white behind the steam and the lip of the mug.

"How about we agree to quit assumin' the other is gonna find reasons to regret things? I'm pessimistic by nature, but I'd rather not be 'bout this. We'll just enjoy it while it's happenin' and deal with things as they come."

Lexius let his touch drift down (mostly unconscious) to drag along the spot where he knew that flesh had been carved. He seemed to know precisely where it lay and traced out the pattern of it. He gave a nod of agreement for Mesteno's offer of aid and hummed a thoughtful note of sound low in his chest.

Leaning in against the table, he drew his other hand along Mesteno's thigh toward his knee and hooked it up to slide his own leg beneath as he turned his gaze to examine some shadowed spot on the cave wall behind them. He finally asked what he should have from the beginning.

"And what if Evander should come back, cleansed of his obsession and wishing to have you again?"

Perhaps it was unfair, that question, given how recently the pair had parted and the circumstances of the split. Perhaps it suggested more intent from the Elf than expunging some curse of his own with Mesteno's help. That twist of possession was still inside him, but Lexius wasn't certain he could blame it all on that instinct. Not when he missed the man's presence during his days of absence. Not when just establishing a mental connection brought him such ease. Not when it came to giving something he had given no other.

Mesteno had been expecting continued assurance that physical relations of the kind he desired were unwanted, not the subject of Evander, something so wildly tangential that he was left sat wide-eyed and dumbfounded.

Instead of the composed mind of moments before, Lexius' mental connection to him was met with a clamour, a storm of thoughts and feelings unpleasant to weather.

He was angry. He was indignant. He was stung and he was raw.

Some of that was undoubtedly aimed at Evander, but a portion was attributed solely to what Lexius had asked him. All of it stormed under a silence, a stillness like the unrippled surface of a millpond. After what felt like a small forever, Mesteno managed to compose his thoughts enough to send something deliberately along that mental link. A memory, if the Elf chose to watch, no more than a few seconds long.

A sedate approach to a familiar porch, with familiar dogs demanding attention. A familiar line of miniature sculptures on a railing, and then, right in the middle of the porch decking, a bottle of Stolichnaya.

Underneath it a note. Blatant hesitation before it was collected, and then cautious fingers unfolding it to reveal a few simple words. If you are not too long, I will wait here for you all of my life. An annotation attributed the words to Oscar Wilde, though the first half of the sentence had been crossed out.

The memory ended there, and Mesteno sat back, leaning his weight into the elbow he had propped on the table, the fingers of his other hand impatiently sweeping the hair back from his brow.

"I wasn't particularly coherent when I explained what happened with Evander." He told the Elf slowly. "He hasn't gone anywhere, Lexius. He would come back if I asked him to. She - the woman, has always been there, always a sore point, she'll never be exorcised. I did a fucking... fantastic job of ignoring her for years." He spoke almost as if she were still alive, rather than slain, but given the weight of the impression she'd left, it was difficult not to feel that way. "There would be mentions, comparisons, him defending her actions and denying things I'd outright proof of. And I tolerated it all, because they'd been together longer than I've been alive. He'd do something, and accuse me before I'd even reacted, of being about to react the way she'd always done to implicate him as guilty. Game playing. Manipulation. I'll give him his due, he suffered for that bitch, she conditioned him to be that way, but still there was... he wouldn't hear me speak her name. He'd lash out. And then when I asked for the map from you, he was immediately furious, insinuating I'd lingering feelings for Samiel."

He let slip a short, ugly laugh. There was no humour in it.

"In every future prophesised for them, she was there, an intended, no matter the outcome good or bad. They were linked intrinsically, they were meant to be... and I won't be anyone's solace. I won't be a substitute. I will never be to him what she was."

He was utterly convinced of that, and it was telling in the way his hand trembled furiously before it clamped to the edge of the table. He'd barely finished speaking when he was struck by the ridiculousness of what he'd done in getting involved with the Elf. That small reassurance he'd requested of him that he wouldn't accept Koyan back should the man come asking, telling him that all would be well - he was repeating mistakes.

The need for Koyan was there in every fault line in Lexius' reincarnation, and there was no way Lexius knew of to fix it. He'd stepped back into precisely the same role he'd been with Evander - or so he seemed to assume in that moment.
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Re: Fault Lines

Post by Mesteno » Sun Nov 10, 2019 8:29 am


Lexius bore the storm he'd created in Mesteno's thoughts without a flinch, and he focused solely on the quiet, still surface the man presented in the wake of the question. He reflected back patient serenity, calm acceptance of the parts of those emotions that belonged to him, but there was a certain tension tightening the line of his shoulders and sharpening the harsh angles of his face.

His eyes had lidded somewhat when Mesteno projected the memory of the note, the only outward sign of how he processed it in the renewed grind of his jaw, the quick jump of a tendon beneath his teeth. He needed another root, but he didn't reach for one.

In truth, Mesteno had said nothing Lexius hadn't already worked out on his own. He knew Evander was still local. He knew Mesteno's issue was the man's obsession. He could feel Mesteno's certainty it would never fade. But he'd lived too long in RhyDin, too long period, to be so sure of that himself. The note only added to the problem. What the Sadist had said there at the end was a position he could see himself filling, as well. The solace, the substitute, the filler....the thing to be conquered. He felt that same thing mirrored back as Mesteno wound down and reacted without thinking at all.

Lexius rapped his knuckles hard enough against the stone table that it would likely leave a bruise and tightened his grip on Mesteno's knee a little painfully (given their tendency to be creaky!) as if it physically jerk them both from that vicious reflection they were suddenly sharing.

It sufficed to command Mesteno’s attention beautifully. The clamour of doubts subsided sullenly even if a bubble of pessimism remained that refused to be squashed.

"Enough." The Elf’s voice was crisp, cutting, a slice through the tumult of the moment. Too harsh. He took a breath and eased his grip, dulled his tone. "I understand." A calmer assurance. "Now understand me. You wish from me a thing I have given no other. Something I have had others covet merely so they could know or say that they had had me. Something I find, to my own surprise, that I might finally be inclined to give."

Even setting aside from the flaw that made everything more difficult, letting Mesteno have him in that fashion would have been difficult. Adding in the layers of complexity from the Sadist's situation only made it that much more tangled.

"Do you understand, Mesteno, you have more of me right now than any has ever held? And despite the flaws and the incompatibilities and the absolute insanity of every part of the situation, I...want to give more. I have spent weeks doubting that conviction, doubting the very fact I can have feeling independent of what seems to be embedded into me. It is...daunting to find that not only can I, but that they can run this way given everything that has come before."

He snapped his jaw shut. He wasn't making enough coherent sense. He needed to think more before he spoke.

Mesteno was temporarily struck mute, uncertain what to say. He'd accepted Lexius' desire only to have things one way in bed, even understood his reasoning, but he'd foolishly supposed that perhaps there might have been a slip, an exception in his past where he'd made allowances. Perhaps for one of those men he kept portraits of in the hallway.

It was the confession that he had more of him just then than anyone had before that drew the necromancer’s hand to the one on his knee, and pressed it there despite the bruises he would sure he'd have the next time he looked.

"I understand." Quietly. Intently. "I know what it must cost you to even consider it. So be sure. Be absolutely sure. My wants shouldn't factor into it. This shouldn't be about making a sacrifice on my behalf. So if you want to, I'd welcome it. I'd do everything I could to make sure it wasn't something you regretted."

Even, one might assume, staying his teeth and ignoring those brute urges he had to break anything which surrendered to his vicious hands.

"And know there's no rush,” Mesteno went on. “Whatever you give me, whenever you're inclined to, will be enough."

Lexius had decided the situation was insane.

There were definite incompatibilities, and they were both quite flawed in their own ways. It was ridiculous, had been from the very beginning, to pursue anything more than a distant friendship, to indulge whatever foolish feelings either of them felt. Lexius had always been terrible at managing his own emotions and it seemed he'd grown no better at it. Ignoring them, suppressing them, was the smarter path. That was something he'd become quite skilled it. Yet when Mesteno reached to cover his hand (and the dissonance vibrated sharply behind his eyes) the Elf did not pull away as he knew he aught. Instead, the Elf gave a low, harsh chuckle.

"Your want is inextricably linked." A somewhat wry admission, that. "As with so many of the things I have already given, I would consider it for no other." He was studying Mesteno's face all over again. Even that thread he’d wrapped into the man's mind squirmed.

What was it about this particular man that had drawn him out of decades of self-enforced solitude and deliberate remoteness? He knew the reason he had begun, the logic behind why he'd first started talking to the Sadist in the first place, but that in no way touched upon his need to continue.

"I will be certain." He finally murmured, more collected despite the fact he could not find an answer written in Mesteno's skin or tucked away in a secret fold of his mind (not that he'd pierced that deeply!). "Your patience is..." unanticipated, amazing, incomprehensible, "...appreciated." He chose the mild word, of course.

The Elf did love his understatements.

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Re: Fault Lines

Post by Mesteno » Sun Nov 10, 2019 9:29 am

[Heavily adapted from live play with Lexius.]

November 6th, 2015

Lexius had been unconscious for nearly two full days.

The November cold swept through the cabin, riffling the fur of the throws heaped across his supine frame and painting exposed timbers white with rime.

Mesteno had done what he could, nailing tarp up over the jagged edges of his window frames and sweeping the debris of the shattered panes away from the path of unsuspecting canine paws. In the kitchen, the cracked liquor bottles had emptied themselves in sticky lakes over counter and floor, and an abandoned, stainless steel bowl full of murky, blood-tinged water sat forgotten in the sink beside blotchy gauze and tweezers tacky from probing.

He was accustomed to insignificant pains. He appreciated their echoes as he moved, the small reminders (reassurances?) that what had happened wasn’t some bizarre thing dreamt up.

While the Elf lay oblivious, a few inches off the floor on the sagging mattress, the necromancer had cleaned him, sometimes simply sat with him in silence, but most often searched for signs that the alarming thinness might be subsiding. Better to watch paint dry, for all the change he saw. He examined the sandalwood string of beads, more often found swaying from Lexius’ belt, and now wrapped with undeniable purpose around one limb, snug enough to leave an impression behind when at last they slid loose.

Mesteno found their presence a strange comfort. They’d a tendency to simply be present wherever he settled, be it draped over a book or swinging loosely over his porch railing as he gathered up the sorry remains of the cheap, plastic garden chairs that had stood out there, vine choked for years.

He suspected whatever entity kept watch of them through those beads, it knew something of his thoughts. Whenever they strayed into self-castigation, their sandy rattle served to distract. He was not unaware that this sound was in his head, and not actually physically created.

He considered the entire mess his fault of course.

Lexius had warned him that things might not end well, and yet he’d felt compelled to try.

“I have begun looking into the matter of resolving the problem.” The Elf had admitted to him as they sat speaking of his error-riddled rebirth. “At this point, the only viable option I have found would be to try again with a new body and more carefully prepared crystals set to cleanse any taint."

It was not an idea Mesteno had been enamoured with.

"That's a terrible idea," he’d told him bluntly. "Far too risky, and even if you did manage to resurrect yourself in new flesh, there's still a high potential that you'd come out with new flaws on top of some of your old ones. You’ll just have to think of another way." His tone had been nothing short of adamant. "Maybe Pharlen might know of some method to do it without you having to die all over again. Besides, don't you think you've changed flesh often enough by now?"

Lexius' smile had flickered to life at the rigid denial, a little wryness tainting the expression. The mention of Pharlen, though, had killed any amusement right off. It was he who’d shaken his head then.

"I've identified what I did wrong previously and would not repeat the mistake. But I am not inclined as I once was to take the other risks associated with trying that route." Not too terribly long before, it hadn't mattered to him if he died. Not too terribly long ago, he'd even entertained ideas about it that Mesteno would not have found comforting. Knowing that, he hadn't bothered to mention them. Instead, he spoke of the Time Lord.

"While I have known Pharlen since the beginning of time," and it had been only a mild exaggeration, "and would trust her with much, her particular brand of chaos is not something I would ever easily risk." Not now. Not with this. Suddenly, how he came out of the whole endeavour had become very important indeed.

Having seen Pharlen’s handiwork up close, Mesteno hadn’t been able to deny the potential for grisly error, and had agreed to let Lexius pursue other routes. Dangerous, but pleasing to know that he was determined to try and resolve the dissonance. Physical intimacy had enough complications as it was, without there being encoded inhibiting factors to overcome too.

But Lexius had managed, to a point, and it had made the necromancer bold.

His hand had slid a few inches along Lexius thigh as he’d asked, "I wanna put my hands on you, get you out of your clothes. You feelin' brave enough to let me?"

"That may end badly." Lexius had advised in a low, intent tone. But he hadn't said no.

And now this.

Mesteno had been too incautious. He hadn’t paid heed to things in his eagerness. The distraction of blood, the struggle beneath him, and the sure knowledge of the pleasure he caused that seemed fit to engulf the disharmony entirely. He’d been too busy with his hands and his teeth to consider that Lexius had been indulging in the root – drugging himself against the worst of the jarring dissonance. In no fit state, really, to warn him when too much was really too much.

The mental tie between their minds had collapsed.

The dogs had begun baying as the cabin’s walls began to groan.

The violent, psionic eruption of energy had only come in the aftermath, with both of them already spent. It had been force enough to send the necromancer flying, threads of his hair still caught between the Elf's fingers, and lying dazed where he’d struck the wooden trunk at the opposite side of the room, he’d watched as Lexius’ abilities had gone haywire, summoning the ghosts of past events, twisting the Elf’s body into shapes unnatural. The mattress had torn under a hand gone clawed, and the ceiling had begun to drip with something thick and translucent, spilling across the floor, the bed, Lexius himself as he lay curled on his side, victim of the havoc in his head.

Mesteno had been struggling upright, heart thundering in his chest as his eyes chased the chaos of the present and the nightmares of the past he’d hoped to forget. His first impulse had been to help, and yet a single word had cut past the Elf’s bestial snarls that he could understand.


It was entirely predictable of his contrariness that he’d decided instead that he would try and drag Lexius from the cabin with him, where outside they might be safer, but he hadn’t counted on another variable complicating matters. His own passenger, furious at the threat, roiling under his skin in its eagerness to be unleashed. He couldn’t risk coming a step closer, not if he wished for both of them to survive the mess.

Mesteno called the darkness to him a moment before every window in the cabin had come apart, exploding outward to litter the yard. The liquor bottles had shattered, even the cabinet doors down in the morgue had been reduced to glittering splinters.

The shadows had spat the necromancer out, stark naked at the treeline, just in time to see the last shards settling, flung hard as thrown knives. He’d heard the startled yelps of one the dogs – too clearly pained to be anything else – and then with an edge of hysteria in his voice, commanded them to him as he bolted headlong in the direction from which the sound had come.

He’d been half-way there, the dark shapes of the dogs visible rounding the corner of the cabin when his legs had suddenly buckled, landing him on his knees on a lawn as much glass as grass. The psionic invasion had been vicious enough to make him want to claw the grey matter out from under his skull, to uproot every stray thought that it preyed upon, and that had been the end of any self-control.

Lexius’ assault had been matched by something every inch as deadly, the primordial hunger Mesteno harboured shaking loose its restraints to reach out metaphysically and attempt to swallow the fragmented soul imperfectly reborn in the Elf’s flesh. It liked the taste of him. It had been too long starved.

Mesteno could do nothing to stop it. His hands spasmed where they clutched at his temples, and a thin stream of blood trickled from one nostril as he strained against the attack. His body was too human. Too frail.

Later he wouldn’t recall the demand he’d made of Lexius’ guardian, the entity that watched over him through those simple, sandalwood beads. It had complied though, to protect its favoured son, prising apart the jaws of the necromancer’s energy, unwinding the serpents of Lexius’ mental assault, and putting an end to their war.

It had been an effort to pick himself up again afterwards, to gain compliance from a body fatigued and punctured, a cut on his scalp from the scrape of his own nails, his upper lip sticky with blood. There had been no pause to pick the glass from the soles of his feet as he limped back through the cabin, and with nothing short of terror at what he might find, opened the door to the bedroom where he’d left the Elf. He did not think it had been his mind playing tricks, though perhaps something illusory, when his last glimpse of Lexius had seemed like something warped and scaled.

Lexius lay quiet, still, surrounded by ripped bedding on the torn mattress. All that remained of the chaos was a strange, silvery dust where the ectoplasm had dried to nothing, Mesteno’s few belongings overturned.

The beads were where he’d expected to find them, wrapped snug about their thin, naked Elf.

It wasn’t quite what he’d hoped for when he’d asked Lexius to spend the night.
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Re: Fault Lines

Post by Mesteno » Sun Nov 10, 2019 9:39 am

[Continued. We had permission from Gem's for letting us use a faux-Gem in this scene.]

Mesteno was out on his porch, and Lexius still dead to the world when it happened.

Perhaps it was just the weariness stealing over him after too long spent awake playing sentinel, but when Lexius’ sandalwood beads appeared, brushing between his fingers, the contact brought with it a compelling lethargy. Not even autumn’s enervating, incessant buzz could keep the will behind those innocuous spheres from claiming him.

The dream they ushered him into took place seamlessly within the world he’d moments before drifted off in. Still out on his frostbitten porch, only now with a visitor.

Gem was as beautiful and buxom as ever, with the exact same smile and shade of hidden worry in her amethyst colored eyes. Her hair might have shone a little too silver, her skin might have gleamed with some inner moonlight glow, but her voice sounded just like her voice, if whispered gently on the wind rather than coming directly from her lips.


His head snapped up sharply. No amount of lucid dreaming had prepared him to recognise the faults in this one.

"Cara mea," he managed to murmur to the question she made of his name. "Be careful, mind your feet." He rose clumsily to meet her and make sure her approach stayed safe. Days later and he still kept finding glass from the broken windows.

"You're the one that should be minding." Gem chided Mesteno gently, but knowingly, as she lithely stepped onto the porch to come stand near him. She stretched out one hand and touched his chest, head canting back and up to meet his gaze directly with her own. Her eyes were pure jewels of color. She was, in that moment, far more stunning than even any Elf had a right to be. "You have a secret." She whispered. As if Mesteno only had one! Perhaps in this case, it was only one that mattered.

Smiling impishly, she stepped back and away from him and held out her hand before he could question her declaration. "Let me show you."

"You know the worst of mine," he reminded her, "and you've a hundred years on me to have piled up more."

He wasn't denying it of course, only pointing out that it was mildly hypocritical, even if he knew by that impish smile that she wasn't really chiding him. He did reach for the hand she offered him, but it was his intent to bring her to a stop there on the porch, rather than let her lead him from it. He didn't want Lexius to wake alone and think that he'd left him there. It might imply blame, and he wasn't sure he'd the skill to reassure him otherwise.

"Nunc non est tempus, mi amice," he told her, the Latin slipping out unchecked. He corrected though, grimacing for the error. He tried again. "Now is not a good time. I need to stay here - you can't tell me?"

Why Gem should look somewhat pleased that Mesteno balked rather than obliging her was a mystery, but she did. Perhaps it was just the sunny disposition she chose to show the world, a ray of brightness that swallowed all the darkness inside it. Her smile curled all the more deeply as her tiny fingers closed tightly around his own.

"Oh, chev," she murmured, sly and knowing, "you have no idea." As if she somehow knew more than the 'most' Mesteno had cited.

He frowned, finally accepting that there was something amiss, something more than just an addled mind. His hand went limp in her small one as he tried to get a fix on what it was.

She gave it tiny tug, so small it wouldn't even strain his fingers much less sway him from where he stood, as her glittering, amethyst eyes grew large with something akin to wonder.

"You have to see...” to see...see. Her words echoed for no discernible reason.

"Gem, something's wrong--," he began, barely even registering the strangeness of her words, and then all too fast he was falling forwards, thought he must be collapsing, and his heart seemed to lurch up into his throat.

Gem's eyes seemed to be expanding alarmingly. Or maybe he was growing smaller? Her tug pulled him on and, within moments, he'd fallen into the swollen pupils of her eyes and was left floating alone in a void of absolute blackness.

Mesteno had no form. He was consciousness itself without substance, awareness without body. He wanted to reach out, to find something solid, but he seemed to lack the limbs to do it. It was as if he were a dream voyeur, had the same strange lack of physical limits he'd experienced when attempting astral projection, only he was fully aware it wasn't him that'd compelled himself from his body.

"Gem?" He thought her name, rather than saying it, for he was lacking lips and tongue, but even the thought was a tentative whisper.

The blackness that surrounded him was absolute, unsettling and complete. This was not the Umbral plane he travelled, solid ground under his feet.

Instead he was one with the darkness. He was the darkness. Until he wasn't.

There, just ahead, a million miles away, something like light flickered briefly before the eyes he did not have, and he felt an echo of it flickering wildly inside of himself somewhere...before it exploded (he exploded) into countless pieces.

Had the Elf been awake and with him, he might have offered some mild commiseration. Perhaps even a quiet reassurance. Mesteno was suddenly walking a road that Lexius had been no more prepared to tread when he'd found it.

This time, though, that path had gone looking for someone, rather than waiting to be discovered as it had been by the Elf.

Mesteno, who'd once been nothing but awareness, was now everything at all at once. He was trillions of worlds being born in an instant. He was the light from countless stars and all the darkness that stretched between them. He was the matter of every planet, every moon, every comet and asteroid. He was the infinite energy of life itself and the endless finality of death. He was the thing from which all other things had sprung. He was existence. He was time. He was all.

He was going to crack, adrift in that endlessness. And then, quite suddenly, before the immensity of it could collapse his mind, he was nothing more than the mind of a man once more.

"Do you see?" Asked a voice (a million voices) from all around him.

The words offered a much-needed anchor, and despite the insanity of the multitude from which it seemed to come, he recognised them. He’d heard them before in a battle he’d been little more than a hapless bystander to.

There ahead of him, pouring forth from the beginning, he watched the universe and all within it being born, expanding, growing and changing as life begat life and coiled toward death only to be born anew. Each iteration was a little different, a little changed, a little...less, yet somehow more.

Too much, too much! he insisted, unsure why his mind might suddenly be exposed to it all unless the sheer unending enormity was supposed to send him bat-shit crazy.

If only he'd had eyes to close against it, he would have. He was have happily traded places with the unconscious Elf if it had brought him restive oblivion, but there was no escape, and so he faced it with all his usual bright curiosity torn and twisted into dread. He felt too large, his limits amorphous and intangible, and had never realised until then what a comfort it was being confined and small.

No man should see this, he replied, and had he been possessed of teeth, it would no doubt have been grated out between them. But that resentment was a good thing. He was feeling something other than fear, and so he latched to that, too. Why did you bring me here? he asked.

There. No tremor to his thoughts. Stubborn. He was gathering himself, petulant even now.

Not so many generations from the start, stretched between and coiled around the filaments of light (of life, of power) was a peculiar darkness that thrummed a note of perfect harmony to match the Sadist's soul. He recognised it intimately. He had no chance to strain towards it before it was gone again, and the missed opportunity left him feeling bereft. His essence went skating along those strands of energy that stretched far and wide through his universe.

Somewhere amidst the streaming strands of light he coursed along as if he were on a wild amusement ride, Gem's body resolved into being to float before him. She was made from stardust and power and wore the same impish smile on her lips as she reached out and patted the cheek Mesteno did not possess.

"You're right." She agreed, infinitely amused. "It really was made for a woman's eyes." Laughter broke the vision of her apart, but the sound of it lingered on in a wooden rattle somewhere inside his straining mind.

He understood now, that Gem had been plucked from his mind for the very purpose of calming him, luring him into the damned ride he was a helpless passenger to. It was just like some limitless power, that Divinity who’d claimed Lexius, to play with a man's head like that.

Knowing that it wasn't her, he offered no response to her amusement, and certainly not to her commentary about it being made for a woman to see. He was far too stubborn to offer a retort to a statement like that.

Mesteno travelled the light for a small eternity, touching down briefly on word after world, place after place, as he went. Here twin suns burned in an emerald sky where the light sank into the murky grey water of a swamp. There the light impacted the jagged peak of a mountain covered in strange blue moss that writhed and wiggled beneath a singular sun. Onward, to another place where the highway of energy Mesteno rode inexplicably reached into the miles deep bottom of a canyon. It gleamed on the floor of an ocean full of purple water and thrashing sea life. It shimmered in the centre of a long dead city gone to eons of ruin. It pulsed from the depths of an Amazonian-like forest. It glinted in the frozen ice of a racing comet. It winked like a shard of metal buried in the face of a meteor. It was on every world, in every place, and Mesteno seemed to visit them all.

With his earlier fear shed, with his pride so prickled, he observed it all with intent. He might not like it, this being dragged about, ragdoll-esque, but he'd be damned if he was going to waste the opportunity to see things that so few must. He'd rallied, and so had his curiosity, and in places there were things he saw things he suspected he'd seen before, but they were gone too quickly, and there was so much more he wanted to pause and see in more detail, his mind uncomprehending, or awed.

Finally, somewhere amidst hopelessly tangled skeins of power, Mesteno was set down on his last world, put back in his body in a most inhospitable environment.

Sand surrounded him, creeping onto his skin as if it was alive while a brutal (but familiar) sun beat down from the sky overhead.

Now he felt heavy, weighed down, and it took him a moment to realise he had his body back, even if it was just the lie of a body in his head. He shuddered, a vicious thing that rattled along his spine, and he slipped down to his knees, bunching himself as if to take root there with his fingers buried in the very sand which seemed to creep into his skin.

Familiar. Good.

He remembered what it was to breathe, to feel the heat on his skin, and everything he'd experienced out there, in that vast melting pot of creation, began to seem so surreal he wondered if he hadn't imagined being there.

He’d barely had a minute to collect himself before a russet colored jackal stood before him, tongue lolling from an open mouth as if it were laughing at him.

"No rest for the wicked." The jackal's jaws hadn't moved, but it was clear that the animal spoke the words.

Mesteno had tracked the jackal's approach with a suspicious squint, but aware now that this manifestation of his body was just a mental creation, he wasn't concerned about any harm it might do him. Nor was he surprised to hear that voice coming from its unmoving jaws. Better to hear it from an animal, than from the faux-Gem.

"You have a low opinion of me," he groused.

It came lunging at him, teeth flashing, to drive him up out of the sands and get him moving despite the oppressive heat.

"Pay attention!" The jackal advised in a familiar voice as it bounded away after the initial attack, trotting easily along the edge of a sloping dune. It left no paw prints behind and moved at a brisk pace.

Around him, the sea of red-gold sand dunes went on forever, with no clear visual markers with which to mark his location. He could be anywhere. But on the horizon, far ahead of their current location, there was a smudge of darkness that suggested mountains, maybe cliffs, the fanciful might mistake for the wings of some giant beast erupting out of the ground. The jackal was headed toward them unerringly when its body went over the peak of a dune and vanished.

What else was he to do but pursue? He wasn't going to sit there in the sand for the rest of his life, and he had this notion that might very well happen if he didn't play along.

"I liked you better when you were beads," he told the voice-in-a-jackal.
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Re: Fault Lines

Post by Mesteno » Sun Nov 10, 2019 9:42 am


Mesteno had no trouble keeping up.

It felt good to stretch his legs and remind himself of normal human travel, of weight and a speed which did not fling him helplessly from world to comet to stars. The heat didn't matter. He was accustomed to it thanks to both Sam and Lexius, and the salt flats that had surrounded the place of his birth.

"What's that ahead?" he asked, noting the smudge on the horizon, even his sharp eyes failing to make out its true form just yet.

He received no answer until he was striding up to the side of the dune when the jackal had disappeared. If the Sadist took the time to look, he'd be standing on the edge of that dune. It sloped away into a deep bowl of open space. No oasis down there. Not even a rock. Just a clear patch of bare ground, dull brown, with a jagged tear its centre that left him frowning in consternation. There was no logical reason that the sands hadn't covered this patch of ground, pouring into the hole and obscuring the spot from discovery. But there it was, nonetheless, perhaps just a fabrication of the dream.

There came a familiar voice spoke from behind him.

"You're not wicked?" Asked Ivanya, a pale giant who had no business being in the desert heat. He was the last person Mesteno would have expected the entity to pluck from his mind, and yet there he was, smiling his wolf's smile barely a step behind. "I am."

Mesteno barely had time to start forming a retort when the vision reached out, and shoved him unceremoniously over the edge and down the slope. The air left his chest in a grunt, balance absconding with words as he slid, the sand hissing after him. No matter how hard he tried to brace himself, there was no purchase. To his credit, he did not yell out, but his teeth were clenched viciously as the tear in the ground yawned wide to devour him whole.

It was not a sheer drop. Instead a tunnel delivered him into the cool of a subterranean world, the descent deep and his inevitable landing jarring. His knees throbbed from the impact, and he stood bent over with his hands curled over them and his teeth bared in a grimace.

"What're you trying to prove?" he snarled into the darkness.

It was not a true darkness though. A weak light was emanating from somewhere ahead, illuminating the cavern he’d been delivered to. As for the tunnel behind him, a resigned backward glance proved it had vanished as he suspected. Now he was trapped.

At the cavern’s centre, and roughly circular stood a well, made of sandstone bricks. The rim of it was waist high and the bricks were wide enough across the top to allow Lan to stand on them without falling.

The youth looked magnificent with his steel grey hair and wide smile that somehow suggested too many teeth behind his curved lips. Dressed in the desert style with the head wrapping pushed back and the veil dangling down across his chest, he balanced on the edge of the well with his hands on his hips and his multi-coloured eyes swirling ceaselessly as he watched Mesteno.

"Are you strong enough?" The youth asked him challengingly.

The young man’s presence didn't fit the pattern. Mesteno had met the youth once, hardly enough to consider him significant. Even Lexius had only spoken of him when prodded to. The necromancer couldn't imagine why he'd be there, since he wasn't someone he was closely acquainted with as the others had been.

"How can I answer that if you don't tell me what it is I need to be strong enough to accomplish?" he asked, moving closer. He felt a strange impulse to push the youth into the well. Everything in this non-reality was pushing him about after all!

The light was coming from below where Lan stood, below and behind him, from within the well. Whatever was within that circle of sandstone brick, it glowed with a gentle light, rippled with a deceptively mild motion, burned with the power of creation itself. It was the place where that conduit Mesteno had ridden touched upon this particular world.

Mesteno recognised his surroundings all at once.

This was where he’d been sent when he’d touched the Obelisk out in the Grey Wastes, trying to saved Aiden and Ares. He'd thought to stay and let the Wastes consume him, that terrible apathy that had engulfed him surpassed by the horror of all that he'd been shown in its vicious visions. It only served to darken his expression when he realised. He knew it had been the beads talking to him, but had never really registered what the well represented, nor spoken of this particular part to Lexius, who might at least have been able to explain it.

Above Mesteno, Lan spread his arms wide and laughed, his body transforming abruptly from a lean and solid youth into the massive shape of a steel coloured dragon hunching over the top of the well, its wings fanned out to each side to brush against the cavern walls. Only the eyes remained the same, every colour in existence churning within their depths. The creatures craned its frilled neck about and stretched it snout toward Mesteno's chest.

"Are you strong enough to devour the dragon?" A million voices whispered the question as the dragon breathed its hot breath against Mesteno's face.

The necromancer backed, unwilling to be under the dragon’s belly or its wings, and taking himself neatly within reach of the snout which stretched towards his chest. The heat of its breath reddened his skin, and his hair fluttered fitfully around his face, but there was no retreat. Instead he looked back towards the well it crouched on, as if he'd decided that was the voices' origin.

"It wouldn't be the first time," he murmured. This was not Lexius' dragon. He knew it had been a red, an almost-ancient evil. The steel hued, overgrown lizard dwarfing him now was not what the Elf harboured. "But how am I to do it without taking what's yours?"

They'd called Lexius that, laid their claim as surely as a dog lifting its leg against a tree.

"They're too enmeshed, too complex. I couldn't forgive myself if I harmed him instead of helping him."

Was it steel coloured? The Sadist's thoughts seemed to have changed that. In a wave of motion, the scales from its nostrils on back shifted in hue from grey to red. Only its eyes remained the same, though Mesteno could only see the one canted his way for the proximity of the beast's head. In the whirling colour of that single, massive eye, a vision played out in still frame flashes for the Sadist to watch.

The endless stretch of sand dunes. The winged mountains. The gaping hole in the earth. Mesteno and the Elf together before the well, the beads strung between them. The endlessly swirling waters of light and dark energy within the well itself that shifted and shuddered to take on that particular yin yang shape which was then ripped asunder.

The dragon touched the tip of its nose against Mesteno's chest, its massive head filling the entirety of his vision, and with the contact came the burn. Mesteno's flesh charred and smoked even as the creature spoke.

"Keep quiet, little dragon, and eat well." And then the great beast opened its maw and closed its jaws over him with a snap, spitting him back out of the dream and into wakefulness with the scent of burned skin in his nostrils.

Mesteno's trip to dreamland had taken no more than an hour, though it felt as if he'd lost a few years during the journey.

He returned with a souvenir burned into his chest, not so different than the tattoos that decorated Lexius' skin, though this was etched into skin by the heat of a divine touch rather than done in ink. The symbol was distinctive with its wavy line cutting through the centre of the circle, one side darker than the other. Despite the smell of charred flesh, it was strangely painless and quickly fading into one more scar amidst the collection, a spot that would be smooth and just a little bit warm compared to the rest of his body.

The beads slithered away as he woke, out of his lap to disappear from the porch.

Lexius remained unconscious and unmoving through it all, still wrapped beneath the salvaged furs on the necromancer’s wrecked mattress. He remained that way for several more hours, with the beads taking up a new wrap around his arm as the sun sank away into darkness and Rhy’Din’s twin moons made their climb through the night sky. About the time their silvery, pale light was beating at the barrier Mesteno had erected across the open window frame of the bedroom, Lexius finally stirred.

The transition to wakefulness was abrupt. One moment he was lying there motionless, the next his eyes slit open and his breathing stuttered, stilled, then drew long and deep. He blinked once, muscles tightening when he realized he was not in the desert and that he was decidedly naked. His memory was foggy, mind struggling to catch up with body, but he didn't lash out immediately. Instead, still tense, he assessed both himself and the situation in silence as bit and pieces of what happened came filtering back into his awareness slowly.

The Elf was not alone. Perhaps three feet from where he lay, the pale shape of Kalari was tucked into a pair of abandoned jeans left carelessly crumpled on the floor. Her eyes seemed strangely lambent, despite the fact that light in the bedroom was minimal. The November winds were rippling the edges of the stretched span of tarp, creeping in around the gaps, and it was cool enough that a warm chest full of breath might cloud the air. Other than these small oddities, and the mess that the mattress and throws had become, the bedroom looked unharmed. All that had been toppled or strewn was set to rights, and the trunk which had been teleported from its usual spot beside the closet had made a return.

Lexius’ gaze caught on Kalari's pale form nestled into the jeans and held there as he processed the conditions of his external world and his internal landscape.

"Vith." Softly muttered, that curse. Enough memory had returned to prompt it. Or maybe it was a response to his awareness of the beads which were tightening around his arm beneath the furs.
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Re: Fault Lines

Post by Mesteno » Sun Nov 10, 2019 10:01 am


The Elf didn't linger over pushing himself out of the bed, but he did pause long enough to reach and stroke a thumb over his watch-cat's furred head. She permitted it with her usual wintery appraisal, restrained a swiping paw, and watched as he pulled on the pants Mesteno had folded beside the mattress for when he woke. The room only swayed a little bit, but Lexius’ stomach certainly had a thing or two to say about his extended nap, as did his physical form. He ignored it all, setting his jaw and heading for the bedroom door with carefully controlled steps and the trousers only barely clinging to his hips. He needed to see Mesteno, because he didn't quite trust himself yet to reach out with a mental thread to find the man.

After his unexpected trip, Mesteno had come around feeling all the more exhausted, his head full of things he might have thought for a fever dream if not for the lingering smell of burnt flesh and the brand he'd found, discreetly placed amongst the scars on his chest.

He was furious, but it had been ephemeral. There was not enough energy in him to sustain that kind of rage, and he'd made his way into the leaf strewn living room, deciding to put quill to paper simply to record what memories he could while they were still vivid, spider scrawl penmanship beside bold bullet points; things seen, things spoken, what had been suggested...

That part troubled him more than anything.

So it was when Lexius woke, Mesteno was not there to offer reassurances. He was sat on the bare floorboards not far from the hearth in his living room, where he'd actually taken the time to start a fire.

Instead of the argent moonlight, there was a ruddy gleam to the sparse contents of the room, and shadows danced like sooty devils as the breeze swept in and made the flames lick wildly upwards, brittle leaves cast about like fragile pinwheels. After the windows had shattered, Mesteno had relocated his notes, and the books he kept in there room down to the morgue where they'd be safe from the elements, and it made the space seem more barren than ever. The warmth was a small pleasure though; he could almost imagine it was just camping, with the view out into the woods.

Out in the living room, a tiny little pygmy owl winged silently into place in the empty frame of a window, chirping quietly as he landed.

Despite the muted roar of the flames, the owl's chirp was enough to bring Mesteno's eyes up off his work to observe the little herald with a somnolent blink. The owls didn't generally come anywhere near him unless Lexius was around, so his head canted toward the hallway behind him expectantly, the quill abandoned to smudge ink on a half-written page.

He'd spent so long waiting, and now that there was a chance Lexius might be awake, he found himself anxiety bitten. The worst of a multitude of scenarios he'd conjured up over the past forty-eight hours came squabbling for attention at the forefront of his thoughts; What if he decided he didn't want anything to do with him anymore because of the risk? What if he'd been mentally damaged by the war they'd waged?

What if?

Lexius senses were particularly sharp in those moments, as if the physical and mental ordeal had left them scraped to raw acuteness rather than smothering them to dullness. He could smell Mesteno on his skin despite the careful washing the man had given him while he lay unconscious, could scent the wood burning in the other room. He could hear the crackle of the fire (such an out of place noise in his limited experience with the man) and the softer scratching of the quill, the quiet call of the owl. He could taste autumn on the brisk air and, beneath that, the Sadist's flavour and something like ash. He could feel the grains of the wood beneath his bare feet and against his palm as he touched the hallway wall to keep himself steady. What he couldn't sense was Mesteno's mind and that was already making him just a little bit crazy.

Mesteno might have laughed if he realized how precisely his own thoughts were being mirrored by a typically more rational elven mind. But, really, what was so irrational about the Sadist deciding all of this was far, far too much trouble to go through? And if he hadn't been damaged yet, why would he want to chance becoming so at some point in the future? Mesteno had yet to show any true fear of him, but this incident was bound to breed a certain level of caution, if nothing else. As it should. Lexius was not looking forward to bearing witness to it.

He paused at the exit of the hall, one hand still on the wall there, when he spotted the Sadist situated before that fire he’d smelled. Plainly he’d dressed to combat the chill in lamb’s wool, leather and jeans, hair loose to provide an extra layer over shoulders, neck and back. The fire picked out the threads of colour in it violently, left it burnished whilst gave a ruddy faience to his reflective eyes where the light edged around the sharp cheekbone and angular jaw on one side.

His chin was up tilted so he could get a better view of the newly woken Elf, but there was no sign of alarm upon seeing him, and no hostility that suggested he wanted him gone sooner, rather than later. Lexius' grip tightened on the wall as he finally met Mesteno's gaze directly.

"You are well?" His voice was rough with disuse and dryness, but the tone was as intent as his gaze. It didn't seem he would relax until he had the answer.

Mesteno’s first impulse had been to reach up towards him, perhaps stretch far enough to catch him by the wrist and draw him down to sit, but good sense intercepted action before it could begin. Touching him now that he was awake felt like something he should wait for an invitation for, the extent of his instability still uncertain. The absence of the mental link was proving a true inconvenience.

"I'm well," he replied, chin dipping a faint nod. "Better for seein' you up and about again. I wasn't sure how long to leave you passed out before goin' t'get help."

Lexius' eyes narrowed into fine slits, as if he didn't quite believe the man completely. Mesteno would say he was well even if he was actively bleeding! He gripped the wall just a little bit more strongly to stave off the urge to reach out and pull off the man's clothing so he could have a look for himself! Never mind the renewed, more insistent temptation to wind thought to thought and inspect the Sadist's mind with his own. To simply feel that connection, if nothing else

"You need a drink," Mesteno told him, the dryness of throat all too obvious. "Sit, I'll get you some water, or get the water heatin' for your coffee if you want it." He was already snapping the notebook he'd been writing in closed, leaving the quill sandwiched amongst its pages to play bookmark.

"No." The denial was swift and, perhaps, a little bit harsh. Lexius heard it and took a breath to smooth out his next words. Mesteno did not deserve more harshness, especially when it seemed he wasn't harbouring any ill will for what had happened.

Pessimism danced a 'told you so' throughout Mesteno’s unmonitored thoughts, and though he attempted to school his features into serenity, it wasn't happening. Worse yet, Lexius had turned his gaze away, and he mistook it for displeasure.

He set the notebook down, and rose with as much dignity as he could muster under the circumstances. "That's fine. I left all your things together," he managed evenly.

"I need to return to the desert." Lexius spoke a bit more smoothly now, gaze shifting back to Mesteno and the fire.

All that hair, the gleam of his eyes. Too many damn clothes. And his mind, which might as well be a million miles away. It was better he go back. He could remain here, but it would slow his recovery. He'd been unconscious as long as he had been because he was here, not there. And despite Mesteno's equanimity, he was probably ready for the Elf to be gone. Yet...

"Come with me?" He hadn't meant to ask, to presume upon the Sadist even more, but the words just up and marched themselves right on out of his mouth without his permission. He didn't try to take them back, but that subtle bit of relaxation was gone as he braced himself for the refusal.

The subtle displeasure thinning the necromancer’s mouth seemed to soften, the severity of tight drawn brows smoothing. Now he was plain confused, and the tension he saw in Lexius' stance did nothing to enlighten him. They were back to the awkwardness of mixed signals, and he wasn't sure if joining him then was the wisest choice to make.

Mesteno had never made such bold claims as to consider himself wise though, and he nodded, agreeing despite all the good reasons not to. None of them stacked up well against 'don't care, want to go'.

"Sure, s'probably warmer than here. Let me bank the fire so I at least got something to put the new windows in." Rather than leaving the fire untended and return to a burnt out shell of a cabin, he meant!

Lexius wanted to relax again, give in to the near giddying sense of relief that coiled somewhere across the back of his brain. Mesteno had, against all good sense, agreed! But there was clear displeasure in the Sadist's expression, even if it was fading. Confusion begat confusion. It kept the Elf pinned in place, fingers still tightly curled around the edge of the wall as if the wood might ease the itch in his palms and fingertips.

He knew he should not be carefully gathering his aching Will and stretching the more-than-sore muscles of his mind. He absolutely should not be thinking about reaching mentally for the Sadist right then and damn the consequences. That's what had gotten them in trouble in the first place, his own ability to ignore the consequences. Another look flicked over the room reminded him of that and dashed cold water onto the idea of doing anything mental. But he could talk, at least. Speak deliberately.

"Mesteno." He said it like he was tasting every syllable of the man's name, with a certain grave undertone that infested the sincerity of what he said next. "I wish to touch you," in so many ways! "But I am not certain it is welcome. Or advisable. I apologize... for what happened." There. He did relax a little then. It was said out loud and plain. Lexius straightened from his lean against the wall. "I will get my things."

Mesteno had moved to crouch by the fire, moving the remaining logs further apart and using the ash to smother the flames, adopting the shadows in place of any fireside tools, their added chill and manifest solidity helping to further extinguish heat and light. The room cooled rapidly after that, and the warm, rosy ambience was replaced by the same, milky light by which they'd got themselves into trouble two nights before. He wasn't so fixated on his task that he didn't hear the Elf though. In fact that grave tone with which he spoke his name gripped him as if by the nape, assured he turned his eyes back to him as the embers faded. He was convinced he was going to hear something he wouldn't like.

The necromancer wasn't prone to owlish blinking, but for Lexius' confession he wasn't lacking in obvious reaction. His chin sank low, and he lifted a hand to plaster wide-splayed fingers across brow and eyes. He shook his head, the ends of his hair swaying heavily.

"I thought--," a solitary shake of shoulders, coupled with a sound that probably passed for relief and soft laughter together. "Your touch is welcome, Lexius. Can't comment on advisable, but that won't stop me being glad of it. Now quit makin' me think the worst. You got me all tied up in knots." And he wasn't going to explain what he meant by that!

"As you say." The Elf replied. There was a breath of amusement in those words, more self-directed then aimed outward, then Lexius moved down the hall back the way he'd come.
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Re: Fault Lines

Post by Mesteno » Sun Nov 10, 2019 10:09 am


When Lexius returned at last, clothes donned and belongings in hand, Mesteno gave him a fleeting once over, unable to keep from noting the loose hang of his clothes. He said nothing, but tipped his head towards the kitchen so that they could head below.

"In case you were wondering, you were out for two days," he told him as he opened the panel to punch in the code with his index finger. "If I'd thought you were actually getting decent sleep, I'd have been jealous." He stood aside to let Lexius head down the steps first, though not without a light touch to his arm as he passed, one that could almost be called shy in other circumstances.

"You've not slept at all." The Elf remarked, proving he was paying attention, but he just might have stopped listening when the man braved the cautious touch. It put pause to his passage, his gaze shifting from the contact to Mesteno's face, and actually brought the curl of a smile to his lips. His skin had twitched, the disharmony had pinged, but those negative reactions were sluggish and slow and easily shuttled aside in favour of the pleasure the action wrought. "You will tonight." He promised.

"Was there more damage than the windows and the bed?" Lexius asked as he descended the chill stone steps toward morgue and lab in succession, sure footed but careful in his motions. He was already making plans to replace everything.

Mesteno trailed him towards the teleportation circle. It appeared things down there were neatly ordered still, and despite there being glass equipment - lenses, microscope slides, jars and vials, the thick, natural rock between the cabin's foundations and the sterile world they now walked through had kept his equipment safe.

"Most things were just tumbled over, not broken," he assured, deciding there and then that it was not the right time to mention that Koji hadn't come through it without some new scars. Iberus hadn't called him to report any issues in recovery, but he knew the sedation risks for older animals were higher. "Let me see... Oh, my liquor collection burst." Though he knew full well that most people would probably consider that a blessing, considering his drinking habits. Katt wouldn't be pleased that the four bottles she'd given him along with the throws hadn't even been tasted before they were destroyed, but that would have to go unmentioned, too! "Nothing else though," he confirmed.

Lexius stepped onto the circle and moved to the back of it, fully expecting Mesteno to step within the bounds right along with him. A good excuse to crowd in close behind the man as he worked the circle for them both. An arm slid around his waist to keep him steady through the transport. "How unfortunate." There was a certain humoured dryness to his tone about the liquor that had nothing at all to do with his need for a drink!

Mesteno needed no encouragement to step in with him, even if he was keenly aware of their nearness. "Are you... are you feeling okay? In the head I mean." He didn't want to doubt the composure, but he'd been awake and aware when those threads had come attacking, and wanted to be sure his countermeasures, even if not deliberately inflicted, hadn't caused him any serious or lasting harm.

"I feel...sluggish. But everything is contained as it should be and I am sure more clarity will return once I eat. Take us." The Elf encouraged.

"Hold on tight," Mesteno suggested, letting the Elf secure himself however he thought best, before applying his Will with an effort which made him realise how truly jumbled his mind had become since the events. They made it safe to the other side though, emerging in the alcove ready to receive them.

Lexius coiled the arm around the man's waist and stepped in boldly, snugly, against Mesteno's back. He’d spent a good portion of the journey bracing himself for that much contact, though none of their skin touched anywhere. It wasn't precisely wasted effort, but the dissonance responded lethargically once again rather than snapping a sharp denial. So Lexius risked a little more and pressed his face to all that loose, glorious hair, breathing in deep. He didn't say anything at all until they'd completed the teleport.

"I have you." He murmured first into Mesteno's hair as the man reached out, groping at the wall for balance. Lexius’ arm tightening all the more. He wasn't unaware that the trip had been a bit more difficult than it should have been, but he remained steady despite any weakness that lingered from two days laying prone in a bed. It would be good to sit, to eat, to have some coffee. It was better in those moments to take advantage of the hold he had on the Sadist and to drink in just how it felt while he could.

Pride dictated Mesteno not take advantage of the situation and pretend to be more disoriented than he was just to prolong the feel of Lexius pressed against him. For that minute he was grasped though, he let the tension uncoil from his muscles, and he soaked up the heat somehow permeating the jacket he wore with undisguised relief. The necromancer was not a man with a fondness for being touched by many, but those individuals he took to his bed, those he desired it from, were free to be as tactile with him as they wished. He drew his hand from the wall he'd meant to trust with his balance, and folded it instead over the back of Lexius' forearm, squeezing tight enough to imply he'd best not let go too soon.

"I should have carried you through when you were asleep," Mesteno admitted darkly as his vision steadied. "I thought about it a couple'a times, but I wasn't sure what'd happen with you out like a bear come winter. I'll remember if somethin' like it ever happens again."

"I recover more quickly here." Lexius agreed, though he did add a caveat! "But you must feel steady enough to work the portal." The cavern was warmer than Mesteno's house had been, without a doubt, and the dry air tightening his skin seemed to give the Elf a fresh burst of energy that allowed him to lead the way from the circle with a brief tug to Mesteno's arm that encouraged him to follow.

"I think I could have at a push," Mesteno admitted. "But hindsight's a fine thing. I probably wouldn't have known what to do with you when I got y'here anyway."

If there was a bed in the caves somewhere, he'd not seen it. Whilst he knew Lexius had no need of one, he'd admitted the caves had been a permanence he'd added to his life at someone else's behest, so perhaps one had been installed for them, once upon a time. "I'd probably have tried making coffee to see if the smell would wake you up."

"Tried to make coffee?" Lexius shot the man a severe look back over his shoulder, chastising the Sadist with a single glance for daring to even tease about the idea of wasting his precious coffee in that manner! Yes, Lexius was definitely looking better, more vigorous, even thought they'd arrived only minutes before. It had as much to do with the way Mesteno had responded to his hold as it did with the geography. "You stay away from my coffee." He sounded so serious, but there just might have been a tick to the corner of his lips to betray him.

Lexius left his things on the first table in the lab, gaze sweeping over the room to check whatever experiments he'd left running, though he kept right on walking through toward the library. "I will see about replacing your windows. And the bed." Mesteno was on his own with the liquor, though! "What of the dogs?" He looked back, realizing Mesteno hadn't mentioned them or spoken of their care in his absence. But really, he would only be gone a night.

"I don't need you to replace anything, Lexius," he snorted as if the very notion were something he found amusing. "What happened was not your fault. I got carried away, shit happened. Besides, I got more money'n I can spend, so it's a non-issue." And as for the dogs... "They're with a friend." No lie! Just an omission.

As they passed from the library to the hallway, Mesteno noted that Lexius had taken down two of the paintings. The one of himself was still in place (if he hadn't rearranged them!) and still covered on the wall. The Elf paused at the end of that hall rather abruptly, turning to face Mesteno with one hand to the rough, sandstone wall. It was less about maintaining his balance than about feeling the desert through the rock.

Mesteno reached out, the touch of lean fingers feather-light against the Elf's chest, instinct to brace himself in case his feet didn't brake swiftly enough.

"What happened was, indeed, my fault." Lexius’ level look certainly did hold any subtle teasing right then! Frustration tightened his eyes, drew his lips toward a frown. He could have addressed this sooner if he'd been linked into the man's thoughts and had detected that lash of self-recrimination. Who was he kidding, that was only part of the reason. A good part, to be sure, to know the man's mind, to maybe share himself along the link. Really, though, he just wanted to feel the Sadist there. It was a somewhat new twist on his desire for another, like so many things with this man were.

"Y'ever heard that old expression, 'It takes two to tango'?" Mesteno asked, willing to allow a share of the blame, even if he wouldn't permit him to lay claim to it all. "Don't frown," he added quietly, the hand at his chest lifting so he could touch the pad of his thumb lightly to the downturned mouth. "There's nothin' done that's not fixable."

Mesteno caught Lexius by surprise in many ways. The reach to touch that lingered instead of pulling back, the reply that offered a compromise of blame rather than a stubborn insistence on hoarding it all for himself, the quieter, reassuring tone and words that coaxed and promised all at the same time. The Elf tensed automatically when the Sadist reached to touch skin to skin, however lightly, in the brush of thumb to lips, but still the dissonance barely stirred. It was still there, a fitful flicker of discord roiling sluggishly deep inside his brain, but it felt distant and weak as if it, too, had been taxed by the battle that had taken place between them.

Lexius breathed out a slow breath across the Sadist's fingers and allowed himself to relax, though his gaze searched Mesteno's face intently for several seconds of silence. One hand still pressed flat to the sandstone wall, he let his fingers dig into the rock there to draw the strength of the desert more swiftly into himself even as he ghosted a touch along that jacket Mesteno still wore.

"You risk much." He finally murmured. But the frown had disappeared, at least. "I cannot say I am displeased with that decision, even if I should be." He tugged at the collar of Mesteno's jacket then, loathe to lose that little bit of connection where the man was touching him, hesitant to return himself just yet despite how little negative reaction it was currently inciting and still fighting the urge to reach out mentally and establish a link. "Remove this," he gave the jacket another tug, "sit and tell me what happened." He knew what had happened on his end, but he wanted to hear Mesteno's version. In the meantime, he would eat and reassess his state.

"I'll decide what's worth taking risks for," was the necromancer's smooth response.
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Re: Fault Lines

Post by Mesteno » Sun Nov 10, 2019 10:12 am


Night reigned in the sandstone canyons beyond the cave's entrance, casting the striated stone into silver and grey bands beneath the touch of Rhy’Din’s twin moons. The gaping entrance of the cavern overlooked that stunning view with nothing but the twin pillars of rock masquerading as a doorway to hamper the sight. Despite all that open air and the vague drift of a dry, dry breeze from without, the cave still maintained a comfortable temperature.

The cave was redolent with the rich scent of the spices Lexius used in his food and his coffee, both of which he was making the most of. He’d joined Mesteno at the table, where the man had seated himself on the rug, rather than upon the cushions, the Elf’s beads crawling stealthily over his arm.

The necromancer had recounted (to the best of his ability) what had happened, filling in Lexius’ patchy memories, though he struggled when it came to the metaphysical battle that’d ensued. "I thought it was all over, went to get the dogs away from the glass, but there was this feeling like-- like something was trying to get into my head."

His mouth adopted a similar frown to his brow, and he shook his head in auto-admonition. "No, it was you, or parts of you, that thing that makes you feel bad when we're in physical contact, the flaws or maybe what's left of the red dragon. Maybe all of it. It was trying to choke me, metaphysically speakin', and you know how that had to end up. My life's threatened and I have precisely zero control over what's in me, so it was trying to swallow you, like it was reaching along some kind of bridge. Or maybe just the mental tie?"

He was hypothesising as he went, but had recalled then that the tie had severed the moment Lexius came. "I don't know what, but there was some kind of link," he insisted, as if he thought Lexius might not be willing to hear of it. "Anyway, your friends here intervened," he gave the dangling beads a little shake before letting them pool back on the table. "Spoke in my head again to remind me you were theirs, and whatever was going on just stopped. When I came in to check on you, y'were out like a light and all the crazy shit going on in the bedroom had stopped."

Lexius had watched the Sadist through the telling, gaze flicking to the way he toyed with the lax string of beads before returning to study his eyes, his face, as he explained what he'd experienced. He nudged the coffee mug he'd filled for the man a little closer to him with a carefully precise push of thought even as he refilled his own and digested both the food and the information. He curled one hand around his mug and dropped the other carefully, deliberately, to cup his palm over Mesteno's knee before he spoke.

"I should not be alive." It was not a promising beginning. He said it so matter-of-factly, too, as if commenting on an inalienable truth. Thankfully, Lexius went on to explain himself. "What I did when I died, is within a psion's power to do. But there is a limit to the amount of time one's soul and mind can be housed in such a way before everything begins to deteriorate. I existed in that state well beyond the limit. That, in addition to the crystals being...improperly prepared," improperly was putting it mildly! “and the taint of the dragon I tried to remove through the process..." Lexius trailed off, shook his head and eyes the beads again. "It all should have negated any possibility of a rebirth."

Yet, there he was, live and in the flesh!

His gaze lifted back to the Sadist's, sombre and weary. "I suppose they," he paused, changed the wording, "...it, was not done with me and they knew of no other way to put me back together but with the flaws I now hold." He still had secrets despite how many he'd revealed to the Sadist, Lexius murmured another he'd been musing over for some time. "When I first met you again in RhyDin, learned what it is your soul does, I pondered for some time if they'd brought me to you to allow it to cease, to take back the mistake of allowing me to exist again." It sounded like he might be pondering that idea again. It had, for a time, held no little bit of appeal.

Mesteno reached and settled his free hand lightly, briefly over the Elf's to let him know the touch was welcome, before it joined its twin around the mug. The coffee had cooled enough while he spoke to allow a tentative swallow. A moment later and he shook his head, a denial that the beads would have ushered him to an end.

"You're wrong," he sounded almost belligerent. "Or were wrong, to think that. They're way too possessive, way too invested in keeping you alive for such a thing. They probably have some masterplan for you that neither of us can even guess at, but I do know that they want you fixed."

And he was going to have to explain that, wasn't he? He couldn't just claim it was a gut feeling, couldn't lie about something so important.

"Today, a few hours before you woke up, I was sat out on the porch and it felt like I was startin' to fall asleep. The beads were with me," he used his mug to nudge them, "all fussy and clinging, when f'most of the time they've been clinging to you like an anxious nanny. Anyway, long story short, they were in my head, talking through the faces of people I know, telling me I had to see things. And they took me so long and so fucking far and filled my head with so much I thought my brain was gonna burst."

Lexius’ gaze had drifted to the beads again. His expression had shifted to a full on scowl, both for their lack of behaviour and Mesteno's mention of his brain bursting.

Gaze snapping back to the Sadist, Lexius finally reached out mentally to establish the tie. A thread of thought snaked out, swift and sure, to tangle itself into Mesteno's mind and burrow its way on in as if finally coming home. The sense of the Elf's worry came with it, interwoven with strings of relief and a sort of thundering satisfaction at finally establishing that missing connection. Finally!

"What did you see?" Lexius asked, intent and already examining for himself that everything was as it should be, that all the patterns he'd become so familiar with, that all the parts he had touched and adjusted himself were still there and undamaged.

Mesteno had become astute at recognising the tie when it established by now, and he lifted his eyes from the beads as he felt it slip into place. He offered a sense of welcome, of something like the bump of heads wolves might offer in greeting, that lean and rub, affectionate.

It was mildly surprising to the Elf, and once again Lexius felt the urge to make that connection more permanent. But no. He banished the thought as quickly as it came. As flawed as he was, it risked too much. That didn't stop the thread from engaging itself a little more snugly where it had taken hold.

"I saw too much," Mesteno told him quietly. "It was like I was bodiless, just pulled about from place to place. One moment I was everything, connected to it all, to time, to light and death, a part of every scrap out there, the next I was hurtling through it, watching planets grow and stars being born, visiting worlds that look nothing like this one. It was all a rush, not nearly long enough to study it all, but I started writing some of it down before the memories could fade," he admitted. "If you want to see when I'm done, I don't mind."

But of course there was more. "It brought me to the desert in the end. To a tear in the ground and to The Well. Same place I had to crawl through when I was at the Obelisk and you had to call me out of whatever head-fuck it inflicted on me." He suspected, but could not be sure, that Lexius knew of what he spoke, but he called it forth into the forefront of his mind anyway, and let him see Lan there, morphing into the steel grey dragon. The details of it were hazy, as if he were recalling a dream rather than something actually seen with conscious eyes, but it was the best he could manage, and he let it drop as the tattered edges became hazier.

He lifted the mug to his mouth again, and this time gulped the liquid as if the heat and spice were helping to settle some unspoken anxiety. "It asked me if I was strong enough to devour the dragon. And the dragon Lan became, it started turning red, then it ate me. Well it charred me first, then it ate me."

Lexius’ eyelids had dropped heavily over his colourful eyes as he concentrated the bulk of his vision on what he could 'see' along that tie. The surprise came again, veined through with streaks of concern. There were changes in the patterns of Mesteno's mind despite the lack of damage. Maybe the lack of damage was a surprise, as well, given what the Sadist was describing that he'd seen. It was too much. Lexius remembered it well. And no mind could experience it without being changed, expanded, broadened and awakened in ways that could prove unpredictable. The Elf spent a long time cataloguing the differences, unconsciously rubbing a hand along the top of Mesteno's leg as he did so.

By the end of the tale it, was Lexius who was in adamant denial mode.

"There will be no devouring." He stated flatly. He'd welcomed the idea not so long ago. But not anymore. Not just yet.

"Relax," Mesteno told him, as if that flat tone had indicated he thought he might be about to try devouring things at any given moment. "If I'd been inclined t'do it, I would've while you were unconscious. I didn't do anythin' inappropriate, up here," he tapped his own temple, "or anywhere else."

Still, he wasn't going to leave the subject alone without adding a little. "To be honest, I don't think I could selectively remove those flaws from you anyway. I don't have enough control over that kind of feeding to do more than take a little or a lot, or target a specific person. Trying to pry apart what was right and wrong in you to leave the rest unharmed?" He shook his head as if he thought it impossible. Maybe given time, practice, guidance from someone else with similar feeding habits he might have stood a chance, but not now. "The only other way I could think it would work would be for me not to be selective, but for them," and the way he said it implied the voices playing mouthpiece for the divinity, "to drag the parts they did want back out of me, as if I were... a filter?" He wrinkled his nose as if he weren't sure on the metaphor.

He'd talked a lot by this point, and left little out, so he was watching Lexius expectantly, hoping he'd offer a little more back than that laconic, dark reply.

There was something in what the man had just said, in the idea of acting as a filter that had Lexius contemplating it. The problem was, what would the Sadist lose in the process? He was rather sure there'd been no mention of that part of the process at all! Never mind the fact he hadn't been 'assembled' so well the first time. He had to wonder what made them – it - think it could do any better now. Lexius knew for a fact his existence was carefully guarded and the knowledge of it sometimes chaffed, but not nearly so much as now when they were trying to drag Mesteno into it, as well.

"You will lose something." He finally predicted. "That it has been in you as much as it has thus far has already changed you. To invite it in willingly..." He let this trail, held up his hand for Mesteno to see. A hand that had once belonged to an albino, a drow, an entirely different being altogether. "It will change you." He wasn't precisely grim about it, but his tone was certainly heavy.
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Re: Fault Lines

Post by Mesteno » Sun Nov 10, 2019 10:15 am


"Maybe so," Mesteno agreed. "I mean, aside from what they might do to me, freeing you up from me, you're a little like a lump of bog iron." he remarked, before realising that making such a comparison was probably going to require some explanation to keep it from offending. He cleared his throat and surged on before Lexius could protest. "The iron is impure, so you melt it down to get the pure stuff out at the bottom, separated from the slag. If I were to play filter, those parts in you that are undesirable and left behind, feed me. I don't know in this instance whether the force of that malignant dragon lingering in you would be toxic, or whether it would serve as an enhancement."

He paused, considering adding a little further explanation, and seemed to decide it was worthwhile.

"There was a dragon, the ice breathing kind, with a mind to kill me'n Evander once. We got the better of it, and once I felt its soul sever from the flesh, I consumed it. You can't imagine the rush..." His eyes seemed a little brighter, even recalling it. "That changed me, made me stronger. I flew that corpse for three days straight with us on its back over some damn mountains, with not a touch of rot setting in. I'd never have been able to puppet something so huge, so intricate, for so long before it. We don't know that devouring your leftovers wouldn't be a good thing."

There was of course a question for the Elf, though. "What did it do to me already that I don't know about?"

Lexius took a drink from his neglected coffee as Mesteno spoke, one slanted brow arcing Spock-like for the somewhat hurried way the Sadist offered an explanation for his analogy. His fingers were still tapping some unknown rhythm upon denim and there was still a lingering sense of stubbornness in the tie that linked mind to mind, but he was listening closely to what the man had to say, as well.

"A mind has a certain...pattern to it. The pattern is created and arranged by many factors; how developed the brain is, the flow of energy within the owner, time and experience and natural gifts. The pattern will alter and shift in small ways to reflect growth and change, but most do not develop beyond a certain point that is, interestingly, usually determined by a being's race." Lexius could wax on about that kind of thing all night. He'd done a lot of researching!

"Your pattern is different than it was before. Broader. You have the potential to develop in way you might not have been able to before. They, it, opened you up, after a fashion."

There was a sense that he was attempting to examine his own mind to find those changes Lexius spoke of, but he was no accomplished psion, and could no more identify changes in the pattern than he could create a link of his own volition. His attempt came to a fruitless, resigned end, but he didn't seem horrified at the idea of the changes, mainly because he wasn't aware of them, and thus supposed that they wouldn't have any great effect unless he tried to accomplish anything with it deliberately.

Thoughtful, he tipped one cheekbone into the upraised curve of a palm, elbow still on the table's edge, and watched Lexius closely. "They changed you to an extreme, physically. Their interest in me is purely as an aid to furthering whatever plans they have that involve you, so there's really no need for them to try and change me to any extent. Once it's done, they'd have no further use for me." It was all hypothetical though, because as far as he could tell, Lexius had no interest in even entertaining the idea given the risks involved, and he certainly wouldn't ally with the beads - the divinity that was, to do anything against his will.

"We can find some other way," he offered at length with a one-shouldered shrug. "You've lived with it this long, so it's obviously not going to be an issue that we have to solve imminently. If it seems like it's going to be an issue that arises due to too much physical contact, or because I can't keep my teeth to myself, we'll just have to set some ground rules. No more resorting to those roots y'chew instead of telling me to give you chance to gather y'self together, that kind of thing." Like a safe word without the BDSM, though he didn't offer the comparison. Of course he'd never dreamed for a minute that he might agree to any kind of physical relationship where he wasn't free to act as he wished, but then he was making all sorts of exceptions for the Elf.

"Do you ever try and initiate conversation with them, instead of waiting for them to talk to you?" he asked curiously, slanting a look across the room to see if he could spy them lurking.

"Often." Lexius admitted. "But I have learned over the decades they will speak only when they wish to speak, and when they do, it is never a straightforward conversation. They usually offer images when I meditate." Visions that could just as easily be creations of his own expansive mind, yet he knew were not. "I would not be so quick to think their interest in you is only confined to how it effects me." It may have been that way to begin with, but Lexius was less certain of that now. At the very least, whatever plans there might be concerning Lexius might now include Mesteno, willing or not!

"I will read your notes once you are finished writing them." He'd probably also take a trip through Mesteno's memories on the matter. But not that night. Watching Mesteno settle himself a little more comfortably against the table was starting to distract the Elf. He reached again, slowly, to capture some of the man's loose, colourful hair and thread it between his long fingers. Again surprise flickered when Mesteno spoke of making compromises in their physical relationship. The Elf' brow furrowed anew. "I very much enjoyed your teeth." He murmured quietly. But as far as the roots, he was in total agreement there. His gaze dropped to study the shimmer and slide of the Sadist's hair across his knuckles, but Mesteno might get a sense of his thoughts from the slow bloom of heat that spread along the link. "And I wish to enjoy them again without the threat of losing control. This thing that has started, it will grow worse. It is not something I wish or can afford to ignore as I do not wish to step backwards from where we are now."

The reply left Mesteno introspective, curious to attempt dialogue with them in case they chose to humour him. "A couple of times I've heard them speak to me, you've been mentally tied to me," he remarked. "Either they're good at shielding themselves from other invasive presences or what you establish buffers other links of communication and denies you the ability to hear them." Because Lexius had always been surprised to hear that they'd spoken to him, never admitting to already having been aware. Maybe both factors played a part in it!

Speculation ceased when he caught the faint movement at the ends of his hair, and his focus slipped down to where fingers were threading amongst the tangled, vivid strands. They were safe, exploring down there rather than close to his scalp, so there was none of the induced, bedroom-eyed trouble looming as a result. He did nothing to deter him from it, but he was watching him closely, as if curious to see what he might do left to his own devices.

"Don't think of it as backwards steps," he suggested voice quiet, smooth as a polished river stone, "think of it as adaptation. A temporary solution until we can find a way to remedy what you can't ignore." He liked the feel of that slow blooming heat. It was something he basked in, at least mentally, like a sleek and stretching feline.

Left to his own devices, Lexius twined a bit more of that hair through his fingers and drew it across and through them once again, his gaze seemingly glued to the sheen and shimmer of it in the meagre light. He was remembering his arm wrapped to the elbow in the masses of it, fingers dug in close to the Sadist's scalp. It was one of the last clear memories he had before the bite and the events that had followed it. That heat might have spiked just a little bit. And so, too, did the discord ping a little less sluggishly. Lexius ground his jaw briefly before he spoke, risking no more than what he was doing.

"The former sounds more likely. I would be able to detect another connection, at the very least." He looked up to Mesteno's face, though the glinting color of his eyes was more masked by the low drop of lids than not. "A ripple in the pattern." He explained, attention only partially on that particular subject. He'd be thinking about it, about the idea that had been posed, quite enough in the days to come, he was sure. He didn't need to devote a lot of attention to it right that moment. There were other, more cirtical matters to discuss!

"How long before you become bored, being so limited?" Lexius estimated it was a fair question given their discussion a few weeks before on the matter of likes and dislikes. He wasn't purposefully trying to poison whatever it was that was growing between them, but he was trying to be realistic about it. Given his poor track record in this area, he thought it might be better to ask bluntly than try to figure it out on his own!

Lexius' question caught seemed to have taken Mesteno by surprise, if the sudden angle one brow took was any indication. Becoming bored wasn't something he'd considered, but he couldn't blame him for asking it. "I've never parted ways with someone because I became bored with our sex lives," he told him honestly, "it's always been due to other incompatibilities, things we couldn't fix."

Still, he wouldn't go claiming it was impossible for him to grow bored. He simply had no accurate way of answering him. "I'm a patient man, Lexius, at least when I think someone's worth the effort for more than the physical aspects. If I thought y'were sittin' on your laurels and not intending to look into finding a way to fix what's troubling you, then I'd be giving it a long, hard think about whether we were settin' ourselves up for trouble. But you are, and I can see you want for that dissonance to be gone, so have a little faith in my interest in you."

Quite what would stir another outburst was something they spoke of at length, and while the return to the desert strengthened Lexius, exhaustion stole inevitably over the necromancer before the dawn arrived, the Elf’s fingers still toying with his hair, thumb stroking across his brow.

"I promised you rest and have been denying you,” Lexius remarked quietly. “Will you let me help you sleep?" He'd been bent on doing it earlier and that hadn't changed.

Mesteno’s eyes closed briefly, and the sigh issuing softly from his mouth was one of contentment. He should have looked innocent then, in the way that sleeper's do. All the sharpness of his eyes was hidden, the muscles so often arranging his features into grim lines relaxed, but in truth that same savagery lingered; there was no dulling the blade of it. He couldn't help reaching towards Lexius with one hand, touching with the very tips of his fingers where he'd left the marks at his throat as if he found the imperfections he'd left in that dusky skin fascinating.

His response to the offer was a nod, a low grunt. "Only don't let me sleep too long. I've business to be about over the next few days and can't afford to laze around." A pause. "Do something for me?" The fingers he'd used to touch the marks drew away, and he shifted onto his side, head propped on a curled arm and with his eyes particularly intent. "Would you lie next to me?”

It was something he'd missed, that closeness before slumber, being able to reach his arm around a pliant and welcoming body. He wasn't even sure whether Lexius would normally permit such a thing.

Lexius shifted to stretch himself out on the rug and the pillow, facing the man rather than turning his back. He didn't seem inclined to give up the rubbing of Mesteno's temple and he was even, after a moment spent internally gauging, twining their legs together carefully, precisely, and urging the Sadist in close to his neck.

"You're very accommodating," Mesteno murmured, though there was a thread of surprise travelling through that mental link when he realised Lexius intended to face him instead of turn to face away. It was undoubtedly a rather intimate position, one which became all the more so when their legs entangled. "I'll do my best not to drool on your cushions," he told him, with another stray twitch of a smile.

He might have added other things - don't let the hurrums get in my clothes (or the beads!), don't worry if I look like I'm dead - but he'd a sneaking suspicion Lexius didn't need such warnings. So instead he obeyed the urging which brought him closer to the Elf's neck. And impulsively, because the temptation proved far too great, he touched his mouth to the skin there, warm and just a little damp.

It wasn't a thank you. It was entirely selfish.

He stretched an arm over the narrowest point of Lexius' waist, just north of his hip, and was less tentative about pulling him in so that they were as close as they could get without being able to lie comfortably. He kept his eyes open deliberately, even if only a hooded sliver of them showed, because he wanted to see - even if his view was limited to the Elf's throat and shoulder. Maybe he was just imagining it, but that close he fancied he could almost catch the scent of his blood beneath the skin, see the flutter of a pulse.

For the Elf, it proved a test against that core part of him that writhed in protest at just that sort of contact. It was as much to prove to himself he was in control of that rebellious aspect of his mind as it was to prove the same to Mesteno. It was as much to remember that feeling of closeness that he had purposefully denied himself for far too long. It was almost too much, especially the touch of lips to his neck.

Lexius breathed through it, allowing the automatic tension the actions had induced to bleed out of him as they both stilled to silence. He knew he wouldn't have been able to stand it had it been any other, had it happened any other way. He rested his chin lightly to Mesteno's bent head and didn't send him off into slumber too soon. He rather thought the Sadist might just enjoy a bit of savouring himself. That mental thread wound itself a little deeper, settling in before the Elf put it to work.

Lexius gave no warning when he did finally twist his will across Mesteno's consciousness, nudging the man right into sleep. He might even have lingered in that hold for much longer than the Sadist would have predicted.

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Re: Fault Lines

Post by Mesteno » Sun Nov 10, 2019 12:27 pm

[OOC: Adapted from live play with Lexius.]

November 18th, 2015

It had been more than a week since Lexius had returned to the desert for his recovery, and Mesteno had been absent for a portion of it, off-world entirely to visit the city of Madrid. The Spanish capital was a far cry from Rhy’Din’s nexus tangled streets, but it concealed more threats than the uninitiated might suppose, and the Turk had warned him it might bring trouble. Not that it had dissuaded him from going.

It'd been a success, this single day's visit, but he'd yet to contact Koyan about the matter of his findings due to the minor issue of his battered old phone having died in the psionic blast. The screen, like every other scrap of glass was quite shattered and it had been his intention, this night he left the temple where he worked, to reluctantly source a replacement.

Silent as a scrap of insidiously drifting smoke, he made his way along the familiar streets with reckless inattentiveness. It was not overblown confidence which kept him from his usual watchful habits, merely a distracted mind, and one he'd berate himself for before the night was done.

It was bound to happen given Mesteno often took the same route to where he parked his van. That he didn't stick to a particular schedule had temporarily hampered the efforts of those interested in his comings and goings, but the right time and the right place finally happened as the stars aligned for the Gods rather than the mortals. The city had too many eyes and a more than a few of them were concentrated in the district Mesteno went to work. Lips passed on what eyes had seen. The Titan-tainted man had finally been identified and placed.

Dressed in the usual monochrome palette the temple preferred, the sleek, cliché blacks bearing traces of grave dust, his breath rose in coiling clouds, and he kept his shoulders hunched beneath the thick wool greatcoat, a double breasted, brass-buttoned affair which offered the lie of civility to off-set the untended mane of his hair. He wasn't very far from the temple at all when the attack came, completely out of the blue and from the air.

They'd looked like nothing more than gargoyles perched atop the ancient structures in that section of the city, but they proved to be far swifter and less stony than the image of the creatures they'd been cast into. Two bronze beasts, man-shaped and be-winged. He heard them before he saw them, the descending effigies closing in quick enough he'd no opportunity to consider tactics. They descended with clawed hands reaching to try and snag him off the street, and he, irritatingly swift as ever, threw himself low against the rain-slick cobblestones as they snatched at him. Brass claws scraped across the front of his coat, but failed to seize him.

It bought him a few precious seconds as his boots slithered for purchase to see him upright, as furious as he was startled, and he swatted at one of his attackers with a wave of shadow as they swept over him in a rush of heated air and metal wings, screeching metallic protest for his escape. It was caught across one wing and sent sprawling onto the cobblestone street not too far from a group of passer's by who screamed all too humanly as the brass creation rolled their way. What few other people that were on the street scattered, though some only far enough to lurk and watch the events unfold. RhyDin was a constant train wreck waiting to be observed.

The gargoyle he'd downed scrambled back to its feet, broad wings flapping and gleaming in the meagre light of the street lamps. A good seven feet tall, it loosely resembled a disfigured man standing upright, until it fell to all fours and came charging Mesteno’s way, eyes gleaming the bright red of the forge where it had been created and wings propelling it as it leaped the last dozen feet.

The first brass gargoyle was still in the air, circling around for another try at a swoop and capture.

It was the ruddy, forge-fire gleam which brought his mind rattling to an immediate conclusion: Creature's wrought from the furnace of Zeus' master craftsman, those very same constructs which Aiden had been sent to find weapons to defeat.

He offered no warnings to the other locals who'd tucked themselves aside to watch his little street brawl, but charged straight towards them instead - or rather to the alley they'd clustered in because he wanted that gloom.

One foot in with the thing on his heels and he vanished, the air suddenly frigid and any breath expelled sinking in a crystalline twinkling frost vapour.

The cunningly crafted, brass gargoyle did not expect it, and it landed hard in the mouth of the alley, colliding with an observer that'd been too afraid to move.

Of course he hadn't gone all that far. Too risky to try and get all the way home from the Temple District through the shadows, and he wouldn't chance having them find him at the inn, one of his few refuges. Instead, he'd eyed up a balcony hastily, on the opposite side of the street to which he'd vanished. With a clear mental image and such a short distance to travel, he stepped out almost instantaneously, teeth clenched about the urge to rattle.

He wasn't sure yet whether the damn things had detected him via more than sight, whether it was the titan taint they'd used to pursue him, but for the moment he simply dropped to a cat-like crouch on the balcony, a delicate, aged piece of masonry thrust out from the side of some female only temple. It had likely only been intended for decoration, not for holding an adult man's weight, but it held for now, and gave him a good view of the street so that he could get a better look at the constructs.

Overhead, what had once been a clear night was quickly becoming overcast with dark, hulking clouds. Those clouds gathered too quickly, grew too thick, to be anything natural. The first ominous growl of thunder rumbled in the heavens. Now that his mind wasn't fixed on things of a more mundane nature (like where the hell did one get new phones) he was shrewd enough to take note. Thunder clouds. He suspected the odds he'd be dodging lightning bolts within the next few minutes were high.

Mesteno had a fine view of the gargoyle’s back, where wedge shaped protrusions marching down its spine were glowing with the same sort of gleam in its eyes. It snatched a terrified bystander up in its clawed hands and seemed about to lift off again, before it realized what it held was not its true prey, and tossed the shrieking man down the alley.

The other beast, still airborne, had already honed on Mesteno's new location and was swooping down from beneath the pregnant belly of the clouds to try and snatch him off the balcony. Mesteno barely reacted in time.

"What do you think you're doing on the property of Fair Ferluna? This Temple is off limits to--!"

The scantily clad priestess of whoever ‘Ferluna’ happened to be gave a scandalised gasp as Mesteno shoved past her and into the perfumed parlour she'd just opened to him without full knowledge of what went on outside. Going out there to investigate the silhouette she'd assumed belonged to some pervert spying on her and her sisters resulted in a rogue male bolting hell for leather through their irritating, sheer draperies and tripping all over their tacky, tasselled cushions as they scrambled their half-naked selves out of his path.

The priestess had barely a breath to realise the gargoyle was in pursuit before she shrieked at thrice the volume the thrown man wailed, and darted aside in her satin slippers to avoid a direct collision. If the gargoyles wanted him, they were going to have to chase him through belly-dancer boudoirs that smelled as if someone'd set fire to a hippy.

The gargoyle crashed into the balcony mere seconds later, and lunged its way through the open doorway and past the caterwauling woman, batting her aside with its brassy wings as it passed. Blood stained the flimsy drapes as the creature shoved its way further inside and across the room without a care for who it trampled along the way. Gauzy curtains fouled up its half folded wings and bits of brightly coloured fabrics caught in the sharper edges of its body as it chased Mesteno through the room with another metallic shriek. Lucky for everyone involved it hadn't been sent to kill Mesteno, but capture him, so no flames came streaking from its mouth toward the Sadist's back.

Outside, the second Gargoyle was battering at the main temple doors, shattering the locks and splintering the wood to get inside, chasing the signature feel of the Sadist that had somehow been forged into their metal brains from below. It splashed through wading pools and crashed through fanciful topiary as it went, giving out a brassy cry of its own as if coordinating the chase with its partner above.

The call from below had the Gargoyle chasing Mesteno finally letting free a jet of fire, but the gout of flame would shoot off to the Sadist's left to drive and drive him to the right down a curved stairway.

He almost slipped up in some glistening pool full of sweetly rising mist and scattered flowers, but managed to grasp the shin of a gracefully splayed statue's leg before he pitched face first into the water. He'd a gun he might have employed, if the damn gargoyles chasing him weren't metal, and the temple was too full of fanciful candelabra and lamps for him to draw enough shadows to him to successfully step from sight again. But where would he have gone anyway? He'd tried desperately to recall the particulars of the street where he'd parked his van, but unable to conjure up any useful details, he knew he'd only end up lost on those frigid walkways in the Shadowlands and end up a block of ice.

So he ran, and did his best to barge through places that might hinder his pursuer more than he. Unfortunately the damn thing seemed determined enough to simply destroy anything in its damn path, and there was enough noise and caterwauling from below that he suspected he was going to be ambushed if he attempted to descend any steps and make it back to the street.

"Sanctus futue!" He spat, instinctively lurching away from flames, although perhaps not so far as the gargoyle intended for him to go. He saw a window, turned his shoulder to plough straight through it in a cacophony of shattering glass (windows had a poor survival rate around him lately) and right out onto another of those ridiculous little balconies, this time overlooking a different street.

Two floors up seemed like a bad idea, given his knees, but even had he the time to reason with himself, momentum would never have stopped him in time. He went barrelling straight off it, and as all men did, succumbed to gravity.

He crash landed onto a wagon parked near the rear service entrance of the temple. The small door had been left open and the workers had already abandoned the scene given the commotion. There was no one there to witness him go bouncing off a fresh load of pillows and then slamming into some clay pots of scented oils... which shattered promptly upon impact, dousing him in myriad clashing floral scents.

Up above, the curtains clinging to the window he’d leapt from had gone up in flames as if they'd been doused in gasoline. The fire spread quickly, given all the combustible materials scattered about, and even began to burn along the creature itself as what cloth was caught in its body ignited too. It spread its wings again, the effort was hampered by the cloth wound through the metal, but that was quickly burning away. Somewhere inside the temple, the other creature was sending up fresh shrieks of terror and outrage as it tried to find a way into and through the kitchen and down the narrow service hall to the back. It bought Mesteno a few precious seconds, even as thunder growled through the sky again.

Scrambling backwards, out of the crushed clay and the splintered wagon frame, he lurched unsteadily away from the temple and out of sight down an adjoining alley, not wasting anytime in glancing back to see if the creature were in pursuit. There was darkness here, enough darkness he could use it.

He shadow stepped again, just as the gargoyle launched itself after him from the balcony, and lightning finally crackled down out of the cloud heavy sky to slam into the ground directly on his heels.

He emerged in the Marketplace, and not just in the now mainly empty space where the merchants set up their stalls for the day, but outside Lexius' favourite little cafe, right at that table he always had the owners keep clear for him, and stumbling all over their cushions with his stinking self. The static electricity travelled with him, so that he emerged amidst a shower of sparks and rippling energy.

It garnered him more than a little attention

The place wasn't as busy at night as it was during the heat of midday, but there were plenty enough people gathered under the awning (many of which had been leaning to catch a glimpse of the strange, exceedingly localized storm erupting over the Temple District) that his electric appearance among them caused quite the stir. People gasped in surprise then immediately regretted it for the stink Mesteno was clouding the air with.
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Re: Fault Lines

Post by Mesteno » Sun Nov 10, 2019 12:32 pm


Electricity darted jaggedly about Mesteno’s feet, nipping at him with little shocks that made his muscles spasm as he attempted to escape the flashes. The oil had turned to an icy fringe on his coat and in his hair, the intense cold of the umbra filling his lungs with air so frigid he felt as if he’d been breathing needles. Shuddering, he turned his eyes not towards the alarmed guests, but toward the familiar skyline of the Old Temple District, where a succession of furious lightning strikes were raining upon one particular locale.

It wasn’t difficult to determine that he’d narrowly escaped the wrath of Aiden’s father.

Syra, the café’s owner, was bellowing with an impressive set of female lungs. "Keep calm!" The woman ordered in her strangely accented voice, appearing in the entryway to peer at the oil-drenched Sadist and her scrambling customers without.

The staff was staring, opened mouthed, but Syra clapped her hands sharply at them as she bustled out. "Help the guests." She told them as she bravely headed Mesteno's way, her dark eyes flashing a fire of their own as she took him in. What could have dissolved into chaos was saved by her swift appearance and assured and sensible commands. That her nose bunched up in a disgusted wrinkle couldn't be helped.

"Come then. Before you draw the flies." She shooed Mesteno toward the entranceway.

Disoriented enough to permit Syra to herd him, he escaped from the concerned patrons and went indoors with his flowery miasma, his heart a little quicker than it ought to be and his eyes still fever-bright. Thankfully he hadn't gone far when he realised the potential trouble he was calling down on the hostess and her staff, and his petulant, surly mouth twisted into a grimace.

"Do you have a rear exit? I should keep moving in case I draw trouble here. I'm real fucking sorry, this was bad planning." Or no planning. He'd simply needed a fixed position in the marketplace, and the cafe was a nice, stationary establishment which didn't vary in position like so many of the stalls did.

No one else seemed to have recognized Mesteno, but Syra did. She had an eye for detail and a sharp memory and she recalled the Sadist from his occasional visits with the Elf, no matter how long ago that might have been. She wasn't shooing Mesteno toward a rear exit, but rather was pointing him toward a discreetly hidden door just beyond the bar. They got more than one look as they passed, but the staff had recovered enough (especially in Syra's presence!) to do their jobs and Mesteno was fortunate in the fact people would remember more what he smelled like than what he looked like.

"You go down. The wards will hide you." She said it matter-of-factly, but not overly loud. And then she was commanding again. "Talk less, walk more, young man!" She got a sly look about her almond eyes as she opened that door swiftly with a silver key from around her neck. Oh, the events of his evening would surely boost her business!

"I need t'get home, not get shut up in a basement even if it is warded, lady. I'm not sure any amount of protective shit is gonna keep you safe with what I got chasing me." He'd put on the brakes outside the doorway she'd unlocked. His suspicious nature was balking at the idea of letting some woman he only knew via association shut him up anywhere.

Syra paused, looking mildly confused. Mesteno's hadn't come here to hide? Apparently, that wasn't such a foreign concept to her. Being turned down, though, was. All slyness vanished as she eyed the Sadist thoughtfully, debating not how much danger might come knocking in Mesteno's wake, but just how remiss she would be to let this particular man, who was obviously in need, go without providing aid!

"You go then." She decided, putting herself in the doorway. Apparently, she was going down there even if Mesteno wasn't! "You have a message to pass?"

"A message?" he asked her, and this time it was him confused until he realised she likely had some system set up to contact either Lexius, or perhaps his business associate Jason. "If you mean to Lexius, I've my own ways, though the offer's one I'm grateful for." He didn't turn to go immediately though, just in case he'd guessed wrong all over again.

Syra nodded easily enough, still a little confused but taking on some amusement, as well. Her eyes were beginning to water, and she did not hesitate to point toward the swinging doors beyond them that led into the kitchen. "Through there. Off with you then. You stink!" She said it laughingly.

He didn't argue with her criticism, and slipped off through the kitchens smelling like a French whorehouse, into the alley which ran alongside the establishment with a murmur of apology to whatever staff he might have disturbed with his passage.

He didn't loiter out there once he was back in the cool, night air, loping through the narrow, labyrinthine alleys until he was far enough from the cafe that he could dump his coat, transferring everything from the pockets into those at his hips. It got rid of the worst of the oil smell, since the coat had taken the brunt of the dousing, but some still remained, clinging to him obstinately as the distance grew wider between him and the Temple District. He was confident enough by then that he'd lost them that he dug out the little crystal Lexius had given him.

Palming the shard lightly, he willed his mind into some semblance of order and staved off shivers as he did so.

Lexius? Gentle, the queried name.

The storm over the Temple District continued to churn, though the lightning seemed to content itself dancing in the clouds now. They illuminated strange shapes within the roiling mass that Mesteno watched warily as he waited for the reply.

I have you. The Elf's reply was crisp and clear and the only warning Mesteno got before threads of thought came whipping (almost wildly!) from across the distance to snatch Mesteno right off the street in a very abrupt teleport. Mesteno appeared at the cabin, on the porch, where the Elf had been waiting for him. Lexius caught his arms in a strong hold the very second the teleport completed, though he coughed immediately at the scents that assaulted him.

Without Lexius there to grasp his arms, Mesteno would probably have pitched forwards onto his hands and knees. Too many teleports, too much cold, too little time.

Lexius wasn't the only one who disapproved of his fragrance. Kalari, Mesteno’s cat, sneezed thrice, then shot off and into the trees looking as if she'd taken personal insult. Koji the Doberman, back from his stay with Iberus and with a few notable bald spots where neat rows of intradermal sutures had tended his lacerations, made a sound half-growl half-yawn, and stuffed his long, greying nose beneath the blanket Mesteno had left out for him.

Steadied by Lexius' grip, Mesteno braced one hand on the Elf's shoulder and cautiously locked his knees as the world spun about crazily. Some ten seconds gone, and he was supporting himself again without any questionable wobbles. "I know - I reek," he muttered before complaints could be made.

That teleport was rougher than usual for more than one reason, though the Elf didn't regret the expenditure of power or the backlash of mental pain it cost him. Lips parting, his found breathing through his mouth was only marginally better, but he couldn't afford to disperse the aromas with his Will just yet, no more than he could use it to sink a tendril into Mesteno's head. A visual inspection would have to do, so the Sadist received one as he found his balance. Lexius kept a strong hold on him no matter the smell or the renewed steadiness.

"Jason informs me," he didn't belabour the obvious, but went after the heart of the matter, "there was some sort of disturbance in the Temple District tonight." He kept one hand curled around Mesteno’s bicep, but dropped the other to turn and try and draw the man into the house. A shower was in order. "You do reek." He added blandly.

Mesteno knew immediately that Syra had been talking about messaging Jason now. Understanding flickered across his sharp featured face, helping to shed a little of the agitation.

"Some flyin' metal fuckers came after me," he confirmed, not offering any protest about being drawn inside. "I think they must've been the smith's creations. They looked like somethin' mythical hammered out into metal, glowy eyes 'n shit." He gestured vaguely towards his face with his free hand. "'Bout the same time they showed up the storm clouds started gatherin' right over the Temple District. Real subtle right?" Such a withering note to his soft-spoken tone. "But I managed to give 'em the slip. Bastards must have been tracking me out of work. I wasn't more a block away from it when shit started."

Nowhere in Mesteno's home was a particularly long walk. It wasn't as if he required much space for his few belongings, so they made it to the unremarkable (save for looking almost as sterile as his morgue) bathroom just as his story came to an end.

That Lexius was displeased was a forgone conclusion, but the emotion centred more on the events of the evening rather than the Sadist's reaction to them. He knew that Mesteno was neither naturally inclined to ask for assistance nor was there an easy way for the man to contact him mid-battle. He wasn’t about to chastise Mesteno on either matter, even if it made his jaw grind briefly as he listened to the details of the encounter.

"That is troubling." He understated it, of course, sounding more thoughtful than annoyed. "As yet, it does not seem they tracked you to the cafe. You stepped through the shadows there, yes?" He'd received a rather full report, it seemed! Eventually, he'd have to explain what he and Jason had going on in the city, but right then he was more interested in the details of the evening. "It does not explain why you reek, however." He was endeavouring to keep an even temper as he closed the door to the bathroom and finally let Mesteno go.

Mesteno was muttering, startled. His own reflection stared back at him, whole instead of splintered and unrecognisable from the bathroom mirror. Lexius had been busy fixing all the glass. His expression shifted to mildly self-conscious when he realised with that closed door that the Elf meant to stay in the bathroom while he rid himself of the stink.

"The shadows, yeah.” He put his thoughts back on track to answer. “Syra's place was the only fixed location close enough I could bring t'mind with clarity. Not sure I did much to help her takings today," he admitted, stooping to unfasten the buckles of his boots so he could kick them off beside one wall. "The gargoyle constructs were chasin' me for a while before I went there. Might have caused a small rampage through some belly-dancers' temple while I was trying to shake 'em-- oh and then I jumped out of a window and there was a wagon at the bottom full of smelly girl stuff." And there was the desired explanation.

He padded barefoot across the cold tiles to reach in and turn the shower on, letting the temperature reach the kind of needling heat he suspected might be required to rid himself of the oil. It didn't take long to start steaming up the inside of the Perspex cubicle - Lexius wasn't going to get much of a view while he cleaned up! "You know I'm still not sure why the Hell they'd want to catch me. I don't think they meant to kill me, 'cause there were times when I think they could've. Bait? Surely a mortal doesn't hold enough value to be used as a bargaining chip! And it's not like Aiden's dad or his lackeys could know about how you negotiated with 'em for protection, so they wouldn't use me as leverage for that."

Off came the sweater next, destined to be thrown in the incinerator down in the morgue because he wasn't wasting the time washing something that reeked so badly. Landing on top of the clay jars had left him with a few blue-black bruises on his right shoulder and chest, but otherwise he'd come through remarkable unscathed.

Closing the door might not have been the wisest course of action given the smell, but Lexius didn't change his mind and open it again. He stood, hands folded before him (thankfully without the beads dangling from his wait!) and watched Mesteno strip and move about as he explained the rest of the evening. He didn't seem concerned at all that Mesteno might have ruined the cafe's business.

"Whatever she loses today," he murmured, gaze tracking across scarred skin and taking note of every little bruise and scrape! "she will make up for in the weeks to come. It is RhyDin. People will flock there if only in hopes of some similar event occurring." He pondered the man, the events, in silence for awhile longer before he continued. "Still, it is rather public and should they have been able to follow you there, it would have been a different situation." He, too, wanted to know what they sought from Mesteno, though the mere idea the man could have been more seriously damaged, let alone killed, had that possessive streak in him twisting harshly. Lexius ground his jaw again and actually took to concentrating on that horrid scent to remain somewhat calm.

"Typical RhyDinites," Mesteno murmured, sounding almost fond of their reckless, suicidal habits. Who could blame them for wanting to be at the heart of the entertainment? It was a local spectator sport! "Still, I'll apologise when I see her next. I'm sure I left a stink up her nose at the very least."

"There are several places in the city you may go if need be,” Lexius told him. “I will make you familiar with them. As for why they wish to take you, I suspect it has to do with the Titan." And the taint. He might have been trying to look into Mesteno's body rather than at the outer shell. "I had hoped to wait until the equinox to investigate that matter further, but we may need to visit the mountain sooner." Lexius finally extended a thread of thought to nestle into place inside Mesteno's mind. "I am going to search through your recent memories to see the events." He was already doing it, but at least he told the Sadist what he was about.
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Re: Fault Lines

Post by Mesteno » Sun Nov 10, 2019 12:38 pm


Offering no protest to the mental invasion, and trusting him entirely not to delve deeper than the most recent memories, Mesteno thumbed open the fastenings of his jeans and slid them down off his hips, glad of the steam beginning to rid the room of its usual chill. "Bolt holes, huh? They'd be useful enough.”

Once Lexius had been able to look at this sight with pure dispassion, but it wasn't so any longer. Even as he 'watched' the memories he'd accessed from Mesteno's mind, even as he catalogued the fresh stains of bruising across the man's skin, even as a part of his brain processed possibilities and reasons and formulated plans and responses, Lexius was not oblivious to the particular allure he held even when he was trying to be alluring in the slightest.

Stepping out of the jeans pooled at his ankles, Mesteno tugged the door to the shower cubicle open. "The taint is just a marker though, right? It doesn't actually have any value to them because it doesn't do anything."

Ignoring the sting of the water against new aches and turning about until his skin was slick and his hair clamped heavy to the sleek, hard lines of his wiry frame. He was nothing more than a darkly tanned blur beyond the steamed barrier, vigorously attempting to cleanse the oil off his skin with a bar of soap that turned patches of his hide white with suds.

I will show you all of it. Every little bolt hole and secret Lexius had access to in the city were his for the taking! And I am uncertain as to what value the taint may have to them. There is something to it, though. Or to you, specifically, that they find of value enough to want to capture you alive. There was just no way to be certain of their reasons or motivations, but Lexius would be pondering it at length.

"I will bring you clothes." He didn't touch the discarded sweater and jeans, but twisted his will again to send them elsewhere. Then he was turning to slip from the bathroom and go invade Mesteno's closet.

I was being careless, Mesteno confessed darkly as he his skin reddened in places for the vicious friction. I'll have to start carrying more than a gun and a knife. Neither of them would've been effective against those things.

Grenades, perhaps. Lexius suggested as he investigated the contents of the other man’s wardrobe, brushing a hand across clothing carelessly piled and toeing aside the length of chain snaking over boots in the bottom. Now that they know the area of the District you haunt, they will wait for you to reappear there. He knew Mesteno wouldn't simply abandon his work the way he’d given up visits to the city himself. What is your plan? He asked as he carried the clothing back and eased into the heavily clouded bathroom as quietly as he'd left it.

I wonder whether Aiden had any luck finding something in the tech sector. If not I'll go hunt around there myself. Mesteno was just rinsing the shampoo from his hair when he heard the muffled sound of the bathroom door again. I'd like to find out what they want me for. I suspect the only way to get answers is to go play nice with our protectors, or I'll be avoiding the Temple for as long as this takes to clear up. Using a glamour won't help, they'll still sense the taint even if I look different, and I don't think there's a back way into the temple. Besides, they'll probably be watching from a birds eye view. Won't matter how I try and get in. S'fucking inconvenient.

The water ceased abruptly as he fumbled the button off, and wet fingers plastered up against the door before it bumped open far enough for him to reach out for a towel off the rack. He did them both the favour of getting it twisted securely around his hips before he exposed himself.

Lexius set the folded clothes on the counter by the sink then leaned back against it, fingers curling in a loose grip to either side of his hips. There was the ghost of a smile on his lips for some reason or another, but his blue-violet eyes were serious and steady. The idea of either of them interacting with the rebellious Powers was no more appealing than dealing with those on the hostile side.

A fine, slithering snake of anger escaped the Elf's control as he continued to contemplate the matter, recognizing once again how close Mesteno had come to being snatched up and taken. Realizing that, in his current state, he couldn't be as much help to the man as he could be (as he would need to be!) was downright galling. His hold on the edge of the counter dug hard into his palms as his fingers tightened, a new kind of frustration left bubbling in the wake of the anger.

"Will you return to the mountain with me?" He asked it out loud, his gaze tracking over Mesteno openly and boldly. It was a small favour, that towel.

There was a second towel on the rack Mesteno snagged up to start rough drying his hair with. "You don't want to wait until winter, huh?" he asked somewhat wryly. There was no showmanship in the way he dried himself off, though it didn’t take long for him to catch the way those hybrid eyes were roaming so boldly, and he reacted before he'd even chance to count the numerous ways in which things might go wrong. He tossed the towel aside so that it draped sloppily over the side of the bath tub, and with the other still wrapping his hips, he stepped in close to where he leaned against the counter, leaning to set his hands to either side of the Elf's. No touching, but the proximity was a dangerous thing.

Lexius' gaze stopped its wandering to snap back up to Mesteno's eyes. The Elf went still. Still of body, still of mind, as if thoughts and lungs both had seized up and halted.

"If you think it'll be worthwhile, fine,” Mesteno agreed. “Maybe you'll even discover a way to hide the taint, or diminish it so they have to be closer to locate it in the first place. Listen to me though, if I think that anger is for what I think it is," because of course he'd felt it! "rest assured I will be careful. I will do my damnedest not to be where they'll think to look for me. There's nothin' else either of us can do, and the fault is entirely mine for fuckin' around with things I shouldn't have in the first place."

There was a heartbeat where he hesitated, as if his common sense had finally caught up with his reflex actions and warned him off anything physical, but he went and did it anyway, smudging a kiss against Lexius’ mouth before he could offer any answer, lips only faintly parted. There was a strange fierceness to it though, as if he were meant more to impress upon him the depth of his determination, rather than seduce.

The disharmony in Lexius quivered in outrage, but he returned it regardless for the few seconds Mesteno lingered, and he growled displeasure for its premature ending.

"How do I smell?” Mesteno asked. “Tolerable? You know it'll be faster if you dry me off."

Lexius kept his hands latched to the counter lest he give in to the urge to paw the Sadist like some beast. Mesteno wore marks he hadn't put there and, though he'd been trying to ignore that fact and his resulting response, his anger was driven by that little fact as much as everything else. It was a new sensation, not one the Elf was used to feeling in quite this way and he wasn't quite sure how to properly deal with it.

Lexius licked his lips of the meagre taste Mesteno had left him and breathed in again only to release a low, brief laugh. That question certainly invited him to do more than just hang onto the counter for dear life. He leaned a little closer to sniff at the side of the man's neck, endeavouring to remain critical about it. He mostly succeeded. "Tolerable." he agreed. "But if I put my hands on you, there will be no more talking." And they needed to talk. The Elf drew back. "I believe it would be worthwhile. We will deal with whatever we find. But I will need you to prepare. The stones I was carving are for you. You should keep them with you."

Agreeing with the caution, Mesteno turned his back when he loosened the towel about his hips, his hair clinging to his back like bloody rivulets. Drying off was never going to be a graceful business. "I'll carry the stones with me if you say to - is it going to attune them to me or something? What're they for?" The thought of that table and the ominous feeling it had dredged up as he approached it was returning far too freshly, and it bled away any trace of good humour, self-consciousness or desire that might have been lingering about his face.

"Yes, it will attune them to you,” Lexius confirmed. “Energy flows in certain predictable ways in most races. From what I have seen, yours is no different in the basic patterns. The stones will anchor it, help me pinpoint the places where your energy and body and soul are tied together. They will help me see what there is to be seen. They will make you aware of these tie points and patterns, as well.”

"Gotta admit," Mesteno told him as he dried his toes, "I'm a little worried about what you mind find in there. What if it's something really fucked up? What if it's something you don't like?" Something that made him wash his hands of him and decide that all those months of learning to trust him had been a waste.

Mesteno’s concerns were fair (if negatively inclined) questions, Lexius supposed. The Elf pondered his answer before he spoke, gaze steady.
"Then we will decide how best to deal with such things." He paused again, just a moment, lightening his tone a touch. "You'll not be rid of me so easily." That Mesteno was still willing to pursue this thing between them wasn't something he was going to squander away on whatever difficult truths he might discover. And of course, there were already things he didn't like that he was dealing with. Speaking of which...

"How did your trip to Madrid go?"

Feet dry, Mesteno rose from the edge of the tub, and moved across to the counter where he'd noted the change of clothes waiting for him, jeans pulled on, comfortably loose as all his clothes tended to be; they required no snake-hipped wriggling to get into.

"It went well, actually," he admitted. "Some good news for Koyan." He snagged the sweater next, shaking it out to find the hem so he could pull it on overhead. He turned a hip against the counter to eye the Elf. "You're uncomfortable with me doing things like this?" He didn't sound angry, but he was making it plain he knew of the fact he didn't like it.

The serenity about the Elf slowly thickened, and he turned his gaze to the shower stall, schooling his features into brutal neutrality while, within him, the dissonance sang a bitter sweet tune.

How best to answer the question was difficult.

"I am...concerned for your safety." Not a lie. "His situation is dire." Mesteno probably knew far more about it than he, but the Elf had seen enough to be certain of the knowledge. "I would not try to impede you, Mesteno." He looked back to the Sadist as he said the last, grave but firm. He wouldn't try to step into the middle of the Sadist's friendship with Koyan and what the man felt he needed to do because of it.

It was a truth Mesteno was appreciative of, since he’d entirely no intention of revoking his aid, nor his friendship. He’d too much to relay to the Turk about his findings in Madrid, things that wouldn’t wait.

The usual reassurances, the promises that he could handle whatever came his way, were not something he’d been able to give with his old certainty over the past few months, and he wasted no breath on such lies for the Elf, who would be able to sense otherwise anyway. Quite how badly things would turn in the days to follow, he couldn’t know, but their own troubles proved more pressing, and it was Lexius’, not the reckless necromancer who faced the greater challenge.

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