By Amber Michelle K. and Rune Grey
The owner of the boots cursed quietly under his breath, his gaze sweeping the hallways as he searched for another living soul he could force his irritation on. There was no one around, of course; there were only a handful of people on this world who would even begin to dream of confronting Lacan in a rage. And none of them were roaming the hallways at the moment, leaving Lacan to stomp down the corridor in frustration.
He had left his helm and mantle back in his quarters, unwilling to have to carry the weight of the costume about when he did not need to. He supposed it would be more natural at some point in the future, but for now he was perfectly willing to do without. All of his armor that he wore were the greeves and bracers, as well as the metal plates that were fused wth the fabric of his tunic. That was enough to give him a fearsome countenance, for even without the demonic helm and cape he could still make a lesser man tremble in terror. Few people, even his old friends from Nisan, would recognize him as Lacan at this point. Even though his vanity had caused him to take a body that closely resembled his original, it was still different - lighter skin, shorter hair, and a slightly different build.
"Damn the woman... why can she never be where I can find her when I need to speak with her?" Lacan growled to himself as he stopped in the center of an intersection. His hair swirled around his shoulders slightly as he checked for any other human beings he could question - or intimidate, he admitted to himself - about her whereabouts. It was not that unusual for Miang to vanish for days at a time, but she was usually polite enough to leave a note when she did so. Which meant that she was still in the base, and the most likely place for her to be was talking with Krelian in his quarters.
That idea did not appeal to him in the least.
At least it was not far to Krelian's suite from where he was. That may have been a good and a bad thing; good that he would be able to arrive there quickly, bad that his temper would not have significantly decreased by the time he arrived. That thought echoed through his head as he set off at a brisk walk, his footsteps again echoing through the corridors and giving fair warning to all that the man who had orchestrated the Diabalos Collapse was again on the move.
The door was not even locked, he noted after a moment. That was certainly unusual, as Krelian valued his privacy. Were they expecting him and had left the door open in anticipation of his arrival? It was possible, but that still did not make this any easier, Lacan muttered quietly in his mind as he reached out with one hand and activated the sensor that would open the door and permit him access.
"... usually not this cooperative, Krelian." Miang's voice drifted through the dimness of his quarters, a softness that barely penetrated the walls and rooms separating her from the entrance. Too soft, too dim. "May I ask what the occasion is?"
There was a long pause, long enough that it seemed there would be no answer. But then, somewhat dryly, "I might ask the same of you, dear Miang. I would not venture to call you frigid or coy... but this...?"
"You can't resist mocking me... even now..."
The faint laughter that followed that statement was genuinely amused, though still as reserved as any sound that left Krelian's lips. "... Offended? I think not... Tomorrow you'll be telling me I'm just another pretty face... won't you, now...?"
There was the very faint sound of leather creaking as Lacan tightened one fist, his eyes narrowing as they adjusted to the faint light inside of the room. He walked slowly across the floor of Krelian's foyer, the boots that had been almost unnaturally loud in the hallway hushed by a scrap of ether.
The door to Krelian's inner quarters was open, which was the only reason why Lacan could hear what they were saying from further inside. He slipped down the hallway like a shadow, now moving as silently as a falling leaf as he approached the last open door in the hallway. The lights were dimmed here as well, the door left slightly ajar. Lacan lightly bit his lip as he stepped up to the entrance, one hand resting on the frame as tried to discern what was going on inside.
"You... think too much, Krelian." The breathy little giggle was telling; a rustle of starched linen clinched it. "Be nice..."
"'Nice'?" His smirk could practically be heard; his voice grew softer still, only a whisper heard by virtue of the silence and isolation of his quarters. "I know you intend to manipulate me, my dear... but..."
"... But?" Cautious, that whisper - but inviting at the same time. "Why allow me this... then?"
"... No reason..."
There was a moment of silence, only the breathing of the occupants of the room breaking that thick blanket that hung like a concealing cloak. Lacan closed his eyes for a moment, his teeth clenched in anger? Or was it rage? No, not that... something he couldn't - or wouldn't - put a name to.
In that moment he pushed the door open, the faint light from outside not quite enough to reveal his presence. He could hear Krelian start to speak again, but his voice cracked out into the stillness like a thunderbolt.
"No reason except that he is nothing but a child, crying for a Mother he never had." Lacan's voice was almost acidic as he spoke, and it was a miracle that he did not spit the words out. "My pardon... am I intruding?"
Miang froze the moment that all too familiar voice rang into the silence, eyes widening slightly as they stared up into Krelian's. There was no way to move, pinned by the weight of his lithe frame, or any way to pretend that this was not as it appeared... and their visitor was apparently very aware of things...
A long, brittle pause stretched taut in the room; only after another few moments - moments that seemed like hours - did Kelian's gaze shift from her face to the side, as he tilted his head just slightly in Lacan's direction. A curtain of indigo hair fell between them, sheltered her somewhat... but it might as well not have existed for the other two. She could feel the hostility of their meeting gazes.
"Really, Lacan... Haven't you learned the courtesy of knocking, yet?" Krelian's voice was smooth, oozing with thinly veiled contempt. "Or better yet, perhaps waited for a more appropriate time? It's hardly polite to burst in like that, 'friend'."
His hand, twined into her hair, shifted just slightly - toward his sword? She knew he still kept it hidden beneath his pillows, as he had in the old days. Although she didn't wish to see them fight...
Krelian would need an advantage - Lacan could jump into another host, but Krelian could not.
"It seems you are still the angry little boy that you were before, Krelian..." Lacan replied, his teeth on edge as he looked at the two of them. "Always trying to cause trouble, and trying to take things that don't belong to you." There was a very soft patter on the floor as Lacan clenched one of his hands so tightly that his fingers bit through his glove and into his palm, sending several drops of blood falling to the floor.
"And you are no 'friend' of mine, Krelian. Go ahead and reach for that sword of yours. This has been a long time in coming, ever since we met back in Nimrod."
"Come now..." Soft, lethal, Krelian's voice seemed only a breath on her cheek. He did not move, and she was afraid that if she tried, it would only add fuel to their anger... though precious little could make the situation worse. "Surely Miang is her own person... she does not 'belong' to you any more than she does me. I thought Sophia's plight would have taught you better, Lacan."
Miang tightened her grip on his shoulder, her fingers biting into Krelian's skin almost hard enough to draw blood. But she received only a flicker of his gaze in return, before he continued again. "If you think you're capable of holding your precious jealousy in check for a few moments, Lacan... wouldn't you prefer that we continue this in a better state of dress?"
"Since when did your 'state of dress' ever mean anything to you Krelian?" Lacan snarled in reply, a very faint crackle of energy running over his hand as he spoke. "And if you dare to speak Elly's name to me again, I swear I will incinerate you where you stand Krelian."
A moment of silence passed and when Lacan spoke again it was in a quiet whisper, barely loud enough to be heard in the silence of the room. "But if you would like to die well-dressed, I suggest you grab something to wear quickly. I don't want to keep the ghosts of all the people you helped kill waiting, Krelian..."
And Lacan took a single step foward into the room, his eyes almost glowing with barely constrained power and intent.
Krelian looked amused of all things! Miang braced herself against the mattress and shoved him over and onto his back, turning away from Lacan in an effort to shield her companion. My, but this wouldn't look good... yet what else was there to do? She needed Krelian - she couldn't let Lacan kill him in a fit of petty jealousy. And Krelian wasn't helping at all - he looked as if he was enjoying the display.
Well, she knew his 'reason', didn't she? Or maybe this was just a pleasruable bi-product of his intent. Either way, he was going to regret his behavior here... assuming they both survived the incident intact.
"Enough! Lacan, step away. Please." Her back was bared to him - only her heightened senses told her he was there at all, so silent was he, but for the ether that pulsed in his fist. She draped her arms over Krelian's shoulders and bent her head forward, doing her best to act as a barrier between the two. "This isn't the time for a fight."
There was a very soft growl from behind her, the sense of rage being pulled back a notch - reluctantly, and almost unwillingly - and the feeling like that that came before a breaking storm seemed to decrease slightly. Lacan turned his head to the side slightly, his teeth clenched, but he made no other move in response.
Slowly, still afraid that he might burst at any second, Miang sat up, legs tucked beneath her, and pulled Krelian up with her. There was no way to cover herself decently, her dress and Krelian's robe draped over a divan agaisnt the wall behind Lacan, but she did her best to appear unfazed... difficult, still entwined as she was in Krelian's grasp.
Why did he have to choose now to bait Lacan? Miang sighed, and shifted until she was once again situated between them - or as close as possible.
"Why have you come here, Lacan?" she finally asked, voice subdued. There was no good way to ask... "We had not arranged a meeting today, to my recollection." Thankfully, Krelian remained silent.
"Do friends need to have meetings to talk, Miang?" Lacan asked after a long moment, turning slightly so that he was no longer facing her. He closed his eyes after a moment, a long sigh escaping his lips. "I thought you were speaking with Krelian, but I was not expecting you to be... otherwise occupied."
The note of hostility returned to his voice, again directed at Krelian as Lacan glanced back towards the blue haired scientist. The look was enough to raise the hair on the neck of a normal man - Krelian simply looked back dispassionately. Lacan held his gaze for a moment before he continued.
"I had hoped you would be free soon... although it seems you are planning something a little different in that regard."
A thin, slight twitch curved Krelian's mouth into a barely perceptible smile, hidden from Lacan by the fall of his silken hair, but quite obvious in his eyes: contempt, satisfaction... She dug her nails into his shoulders again, and earned a faintly reproachful look in response - but wisely, he kept his thoughts to himself.
"My dress is on the cushions behind you... May I ask you to bring it over here...?"
Lacan scoffed after a moment, but turned around and picked up the dress, the silk fabric running through his fingers as he turned around to consider her for a long moment. Without a word he tossed the dress across the room to her, anger evident in his expression.
"I hope that you are satisfied..." he growled, his voice still low and obviously angry. He gave no indication of who the comment was addressed to before he turned around and pushed the door open. For a moment Lacan seemed to pause, letting his eyes drift closed in pain before he walked through the door and out of sight.
But rather than walking to her bedroom, she stopped a few steps in, all too conscious of the silken dress clinging to skin still damp from nerves and other ventures. The place was too quiet... It was not just the silence of an empty house, but the heaviness of an accusing gaze as well...
"I know you're here," she spoke up, standing very still. Every little noise could have been the owner of those darkly burning eyes... and she knew that wariness was warranted, tonight.
There was a soft rustle of cloth as someone moved across the room, and a faint glow suddenly appeared in one of the soft, smokey glass spheres in the room meant for the purpose. Lacan pulled his hand away, not turning to look at Miang as he spoke.
"Of course... you could always tell when I was around. Until earlier tonight, apparently..." he said quietly, a soft, bitter note in his voice. He let his eyes drift closed as he leaned against the wall, his back to her. He struggled for a moment, almost adding something to his previous comment, but in the end chose to remain silent.
"What made you pursue me tonight? What made you walk in there...?" She padded forward, hugging herself tightly. No mistaking the note in his voice - she knew him well enough to read his emotions. His voice cut unexpectedly deep, and she stopped long before she reached him, at the edge of the circle of illumination.
"Why? Because I know that you have dealings with Krelian, but I hoped that I would at least find you leaving. As I said, since when did friends need a reason to talk?" He shook his head, his face obscured from her as he continued to speak. "Must everything have some ulterior motive, Miang? Must there be a motive or plan behind everything? I would think that you would treasure a moment of peace, away from the planning and 'destiny'..."
Her gaze fell to the floor, the ring of light obscured as her vision misted. "Some chances have to be taken when they present themselves. I've learned that the hard way." This shouldn't have bothered her... how many times had she done it in the past centuries, aeons? It was a matter of course. Her life was her plans...
The room was unbearably cold... she hadn't left the heat on, either. Not that it would have mattered... whether it was just her or a product of Lacan's mood, she had the feeling it would settle into her very bones. This had not turned out as she had planned. If he refused to listen... he would never know...
"Chances... was it a chance when I freed you from the dungeon in Shevat, when even your own children were willing to let you spend the rest of eternity in a block of ice...?" His voice was still low, but there was a note of emotion, a very faint catch that she might well have been imagining. "I should have expected this... but..."
Lacan turned so that his back was pressed up against the wall, his gaze cast down towards the floor. "Why do you need to control him? Krelian has already said he is willing to 'help'..." He almost spat out the last word, contempt evident in his voice. "Was he there for you when everyone else was willing to abandon you...? Krelian has done nothing..." Lacan trailed off, turning his head to the side and away from her.
She opened her mouth to reply, but closed it again before she could say anything. Now was certainly not the time to defend Krelian... No, it was time to gather the scraps of her plans together and hope that things hadn't been completely ruined by this mistaken encounter...
But it was hard, this time, to be cold-blooded about things... She couldn't even steady her own voice - when she finally did speak, she sounded hopelessly meek, like a child who had been caught doing something she wasn't supposed to do. And maybe that was right...
"He's... he's too independent... I need something... some kind of leash, so he will not strike out on his own again. I've never known a better way to manipulate a man like him, than emotion... or attachment, or even... even addiction, if..." Her nerves were getting the better of her. She bit her lip to silence herself, before the flood of words could speed up, and fall out too quickly for her to catch.
"And you were not willing to even discuss this with me?" he asked in reply, his own voice a little more level now as he looked back at her, his golden eyes narrowing slightly. "After all that we have been through together, you would do this without even mentioning it..."
He shook his head, disappointment plain on his face before he spoke again. His voice was barely a whisper, hardly audiable in the quiet expanse of the room. "Do I mean so little to you, Miang?"
"Don't start down that path, Lacan..." She turned on her heel, once again baring her back to him. Every word was another slice through her facade... she didn't even know why. She'd done this before, this was... a matter of course... "I knew you would object - I know how you feel about Krelian."
Maybe it would have calmed him, if he had seen the tear that gathered at the corner of her eye... maybe. But she wasn't here to manipulate him... She wanted to salvage whatever was left of their relationship, such as it was, and that could not be done if she tried to pull his strings the way she did with Krelian.
Miang tilted her head back just a little, staring at the ceiling and willing the droplet to slide back into her eye before it could be seen. She had no right to cry... she was the betrayer here, not the betrayed. "I didn't do this to hurt you..."
The silence behind her was almost deafening. For that moment, it seemed like time stretched into infinity, a second becoming a year, an aeon, an eternity. But it ended almost abruptly as a hand hesitantly touched her shoulder, feather soft and almost afraid that she would jump away.
"But you assumed that I would not understand... Miang, you know that I do. I might object to what you are doing, but I don't own you. And we might have... avoided what happened tonight, if you had only taken the time to mention it to me. What hurts is that you decided that you could not trust me... I know what it feels like, with the years stretching out ahead and behind. In the end, trust, compassion, caring... those are among the few things that endure."
He gently raised one hand and brushed the tear away from her cheek, holding the shimmering drop on the top of a finger as he waited for her reply. He seemed calmer, and where there had been a visage of fury and hurt only a short time before there was now understanding and compassion.
"I'm... sorry..." It was rare, that an admission like that would escape those perfectly formed lips. Rarer still that it was as sincere as that small, unsteady tone made it to be. She shouldn't have been sorry for it... what right did he have to object to her workings, as long as it acheived their plans in the end? What possible reasons could he have...?
... But Miang was sorry. And she was afraid to touch him, lest his hurt and anger return... This was her fault... She'd have deserved death, if he had decided to pass that sentence upon her in that room... Friends were not supposed to betray friends... and this was only the tip of an iceburg of betrayals and injuries she had caused in her life.
When she made no move beyond those two quiet, tortured words, Lacan gently wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her against him. "I forgive you. Please don't shut me out again, Miang. We can trust each other, can't we?" There was a very faint touch against the back of her neck as he leaned foward, letting his head rest against hers as he held her. "Friends, partners, can always trust each other..."
Eyes closed lest any other renegade tears threaten to make a fool out of her, Miang leaned back into Lacan's embrace, seeking a comfort there she knew she would never receive from Krelian. Sharp relief made it impossible for her to say anything, but she twisted around and pressed her forehead hard into his chest, trying to convey in motion what she couldn't in words - that she understood. That she would not make the same mistake again - for whatever reason, she stood to lose more than it was worth.
Fabric rustled as Lacan gathered the purple haired woman against him, one hand running reassuringly through her hair. Through everything they had endured, they had become almost the same - both trapped by fate in a cycle that neither could break. A long moment passed before Lacan reached down and gently cupped her cheek in one hand, his gold eyes looking down into her brilliant blue ones.
"We may have to do many things we regret. We may lose what is left of our humanity before this is over. But we do not have to lose each other..." he whispered quietly, before leaning over to brush a feather soft kiss across her lips. "Never forget..."
Note from Amber: For those of you who expressed wishes to see more during the proofreading stages... well, too bad. ^.^ Miang said this fic was done, so it's done... and you'll have to reason with her if you want to see an extention of this fic. ^_~ Besides, it'd just be cheesy romancey stuff... and if you want that, there's always another fic waiting over the horizon...
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