|Isobel Brandt \\ Persephone (praxidike) wrote in paxletalelogs,|
@ 2017-07-23 10:07:00
|Entry tags:||hades, persephone|
well, i'm not scared
Who: Obed & Isobel.
What: Isobel stops by Obed's apartment for their discussion on her memories; of course, nothing goes as planned.
When: July 12.
Isobel paused before rapping her knuckles against the door of D3. Being back up here was more familiar than simply thinking back on her short trip upstairs to return Hanni to the man she'd believed his rightful caretaker. Being on this side of the door was stranger still, somehow, but Isobel couldn't put two things together to explain why she felt that way. So, instead, she'd held herself back as though rethinking the visit before forcing herself to proceed. Then, having announced herself, she took a step back, and glanced back toward the elevator as though pondering her escape. Mostly, she didn't want to seem overeager; she did want to be here, to find out these answers, to see Hanni and, of course, Obed again. There was just such an overwhelming sense of dread and guilt that she couldn't allay no matter how much she told herself she was being silly.
Earlier, she'd spent some time going through the apartment that everyone had said was hers. It didn't feel like hers, a thought that somehow bounced around in her head and seemed as familiar as Alice, Obed, and Hanni were, but she couldn't nail it down. All the clothes, all the pictures (digging into a closet, she'd found a few printed of herself and Obed out and about, wide smiles and glittering clothes showing a more elaborate lifestyle than her modest apartment now would allude to) and yet nothing sparked a memory in her mind. Then she'd come across an elaborate black box tied up with a bow (or had been; the ribbon hung limp now that it had been opened. Whoever had done so had simply replaced the bow with a knot to hold the box secure.) that she'd thought a gift, though from who anyone could have said.
She'd pulled it down from the shelf it had been stuffed into the back of, as though whoever had put it there had wanted to forget it. Carrying it to the small would-be dining area that shared half the space of her living room, Isobel set it down and picked apart the knot, setting the ribbon aside on either side of the dark parcel. Then slim fingers took off the top, revealing a very strange interior. A glove of sorts, made of metal and riddled with jewels, sat on dead leaves, of all things; Isobel held tight to the box lid for a moment, as though she were using it as a shield to defend herself against an unconsciously expected serpent. She took a deep breath, set the box lid down, and carefully reached in to pluck up the jewelry. It glittered in the light shed by the lamps in her apartment; the blinds were drawn, as though she'd not wanted any wandering eyes to see her go through the space like a thief.
The metal was cool to the touch, almost too cold, as though it had been sitting in a freezer and not a box on a shelf at room temperature. The jewels winked at her, looking both black and gray as the light played over their surfaces; she felt tempted to slip it on, and then guilty, palming and toying with someone else's things. And yet, this was the first to feel like hers.
She hadn't put it on, but the memory stayed in her mind. She turned back toward the doorway, though her eyes were unfocused, gaze canted down toward the floor. And that was how the flat's tenant found her, when at last the door swung slowly open.
For one brief moment Obed said nothing, only studying her face, searching her downcast expression as though it might help him decide how to proceed. Where Obed hesitated, Hanni did not; he danced around his master's feet, yipping uncontrollably as he regarded his absentee mistress. The dog's unfettered enthusiasm bled, in some small portion, into Obed's own. He smiled at last. The expression did much to hide the dark smudges of sleeplessness beneath his eyes.
"Hello, Isobel," he said. He tried to curb the note of warm familiarity from his voice, but it felt almost impossible when shaping that long loved name. "Please, come in. Can I get you something to drink?"
Isobel's gaze jumped up from the floor, first to Obed, then to land on the tiny dog that seemed overly ecstatic at her appearance. It was to that latter image that she smiled, though the expression carried up and over to looking at Obed again, and she shook her head as she followed him into the innards of D3. Deja vu struck her almost immediately, distracting her further from the signs of insomnia that her host did not wish her to see.
"No, I'm... I'm good." As well as can be, she added in her mind, not needing to belabor the point externally. She brushed past Obed, moving a little further past the entryway and into the apartment proper, Hanni dancing at her feet. Smiling still, she knelt to reward the dog's attentions with gentle scratches to his head, behind one ear as dictated by a tilt of his head. "And you?" She rose slowly, looking back at Obed. "I guess you've had time... To be ready? For all of this?" Her voice was hesitant, clearly unsure of what she was asking of him. It was uncomfortable enough for her, but she couldn't even begin to imagine what he was going through.
He busied himself slowly closing and locking the door behind her. Hanni trotted after her, and Obed watched him, wishing he could feel the same uncomplicated pleasure in this uneasy situation. But he could only shrug, and walked after her, down toward the expansive living room. He was not fully aware of it, but his gaze flicked briefly far beyond, to the bonsai tree she had given him, so amateurishly kept in her absence. He had given that small plant his best; he would do no less for this difficult conversation.
"I suppose so," he said. He motioned for her to sit on one of their—his, he reminded himself—couches. His hands slipped deep into his pockets. "I… I'm not sure where to start. Did you have particular questions, or…"
Isobel wet her lips, just as uncertain of where to start. Instead of answering, she found herself following his gaze toward the plant. It looked a little worse for the wear, the tips of its leaves starting to brown from lack of water or lack of attention. Turning on her heel, she moved toward it, casting one glance back at Obed, but then remained firm in her decision to walk across the room closer toward the window. Even though she couldn't remember her past, her immediate past, anyway, she could still recall her love of plants and her interest in them throughout school. Hands carefully hovered over the plant, trying to assess what was the problem. Unbeknownst to her, the little tree seemed to stretch toward her.
"Did I leave this here?" She glanced at him again, her hands coming down and resting on the elegant box created to hold the plant.
One corner of his mouth twitched in answer. "Not exactly." He did not follow her across the room, though he wanted to. Instead he sat on the couch, one arm spread out along its back, and watched her as she studied his plant. "You gave that to me, in the spring. I'm certainly not the hand you are with plants, but I've been trying." He cleared his throat. His voice was too soft for his liking, too unsure, and yet he could not seem to change that. "I, um. Kept the note you wrote. It's in the cabinet, below." He gestured with one hand, feeling suddenly sheepish, more like a child than he had in decades. "If you think it might jog your memory."
Her brows drew together, uncertainty written over every line of her face; teeth nibbled into her bottom lip as she glanced down toward the cabinet that the tree sat on. The gesture seemed like a huge breach of privacy, but Isobel found her hands almost moving of their own accord as she reached down and opened one of the doors; it swung freely, well appointed to its task. Inside were pruning shears and a small spray bottle, along with a slightly larger watering can and a small 'how to care for your bonsai' booklet. Tucked gently and with much care between all of it was an opened envelope with Obed's name scrawled on the front.
Gingerly, Isobel removed it, bringing it up to the light. With one more glance in Obed's direction, as though seeking permission when it had already been given, she hesitated for a moment before pulling the small, folded note out. The same handwriting that had shaped Obed's name was here, talking about the tree as a gift and how it was to help him sleep. Clearly the gift had been selected with much forethought, and with deep emotion for the recipient. It wasn't pornography, but it felt like it, and Isobel felt her cheeks color a little as she folded it closed. She knew she'd had -- had? still? -- deep feelings for the man seated across the room, but it felt like having a crush on a TV star, someone distant and unknowable.
But his suggestion had indeed proved helpful; the idea that he had issues sleeping (which was already a known data point -- the dark lines under his eyes at the pool party had not receded in the days since) dragged up a memory of him in their bed, shuddering, trapped in a nightmare. Her eyes flicked to Obed's face.
"You have... you have night terrors." It was a stated fact, not a question. "You told me, after... After I woke you up from one."
A knot formed low in his throat, hard and heavy as a stone. He nodded slowly. He recalled all too well that night in stark detail: a flame that would not go out, ink dark and thick as arterial blood, and her name in a terrible book. At some point his hand had tightened on the back of the couch. He made no move to release his white-knuckled grip.
"I'm sorry that is something you remember," he said, sincerely. "I wish it were a better memory.
"The tree has helped, though. A little. I know it doesn't look like it. But I... it's been good, having that here."
Isobel nodded, glancing back down to the plant. The hand holding the note she'd allegedly written for him remained in her hand, though she tucked it into the planter so both palms could hover over the tiny but firm branches that wandered up toward what little sunlight filtered in through the large windows. Her jaw worked for a moment, unsure of what to say; a cloud outside passed overhead, eclipsing the sun enough to throw the room into shadow for a moment.
"I'm glad," she finally spoke, as shapes morphed and altered in the darkness. It seemed she might speak again, the sound of her mouth opening and her throat working piercing through what could not be seen; and then she gasped, whatever words she meant to say garbled. Another sound intervened, a tinkling that almost sounded like water over stone, or jewels on cloth. The darkness parted a little, enough to make out that Isobel was no longer standing next to the plant, but a figure about her size, garbed in black. A veil covered its features.
"I," it seemed to pick up where Isobel left off, "am not."
Obed sat up with a start. Short hairs rose on his nape and all along his arms. He leaned forward until he sat quite literally on the edge of his seat; then he stood, his lips softly parting, and took in this strange—but not wholly unfamiliar—presence before him. Hanni yipped cheerfully, his little black tail waving like a flag. A single word danced at the tip of Obed's tongue, hovering at the very edges of his consciousness, but he could not bring it to bear.
"And why is that?"
The cloud draping the scene in black removed itself enough to reveal blue sky and enough light by which to see this new figure by. Isobel was nowhere to be found; instead, the sound of metal shrieking tinnily on pottery marked the woman's movements as she stepped around the planter box, a hand shielded with a guard similar to the one Isobel had received on April Fool's Day dressing her right appendage. It seemed she'd kept some of the shadows with her; a voluminous black dress fell to her feet, covering every inch of her with the exception of her hands. Her veil covered her face, leaving only the most minor outlines to hint at what might lie beneath. Still, a frown was apparent on her lips.
"I am unhappy that we are even in this situation, Aïdês," she replied. "But you were always this difficult, now that I think on it. Willing, yes, but difficult." Her eyes strayed from Obed's form on the couch to the small dog happily panting in her direction. The expression on her face shifted immediately, warming.
"Come, Cerebus," she said, kneeling slightly; her dress poofed out around her, spreading, leaving behind some marking on the floor. Hanni trotted forward, and the woman plucked him up, holding him fast in her arms; the hand couched in the guard drew nails gently across his scalp, leaving the tiny dog in bliss. "Were you only this small when I knew you before."
Those names scratched across his psyche every bit as sharp as her metal-clawed hand. They echoed in his mind, familiar in ways that were utterly impossible. Obed shook his head. He pressed the heel of one palm into his eye, rubbing at the migraine he felt fast approaching. He was asleep, he was certain, and yet the pain of the continued pressure in his eye did nothing to wake him. When he looked again, both woman and beast remained.
"Persephone," he said at last. Beneath his own voice there was the echo of something more, something other. He cleared his throat, but this was not a phenomenon so easily dismissed. "May I ask how I've been… difficult?"
The woman made a clucking sound with her tongue, shaking her head as she continued to pet Hanni.
"Then, or now?" She asked, teasingly. She moved toward the couch, her dress rustling and glistening with each step. "I thought my vessel was clear, but I will repeat myself—this once—since I know this is a trying time for you. I've done what I could to readjust things, to give you another chance, Aïdês, but you're being slow about it. Then again, the swiftness of your relationship before certainly seemed more harmful than it should have been.
"I think my husband's influence on you has made you more cold than need be. Isobel does not have my patience, nor all of eternity, to learn to abide it."
A chill snaked down Obed's spine. He did not shrink from her, did not take a single step back. He desperately wanted to. But he squared his shoulders and willed himself to look at her, to stare into the veil that concealed a face he knew all too well.
"You—she knows I love her," he said. "Or she did, before…" His brows drew together, a deep crease between them. "Are you why she doesn't remember me? Are you the cause of all this?" Some commingling of anger and concern made him foolish. Forgetful. He took a step closer to the veiled figure. "Tell me how to help her. If you did this, you owe us both at least that much."
Persephone sighed, giving Hanni a few more scratches before gently releasing him to the floor, her knees half-bent so that he had less distance to cover. The motion was deceptively slow, leaving her standing and staring at the man with whom she was conversing; the next had a metal-clad hand around Obed's throat.
"I owe you nothing," she replied, her voice calm and controlled in the midst of closing her grip on the man's windpipe. "What I have done was for the good of myself, and her. For one who says she knew her value to you, you might be surprised. She gave you warmth, kindness, as much of herself as she dared. And in return?" The metal edges bit into Obed's skin, though did not draw blood. Yet.
"Silence, and secrets, and space." Persephone spat each word, like curses. "All of which only breed more, which she returned to you in spades because she found her efforts so wanting. So, yes, I intervened, but only because I had to, before I was left living inside a woman too broken to function." Her grip began to force Obed to his knees. He crumpled beneath her touch, bare feet skidding against the hardwood floor.
His hands rose to her wrist, but he gripped her only loosely; he knew well this was not the woman he knew, and he feared how she might retaliate were he to overstep. He tried to speak, but only a strangled gust of breath came out. He swallowed hard, his adam's apple shifting against her metal-enclosed palm. At last he managed to speak, his voice harsh and halting. "What… what do I have to do?"
She loosened her grip a little when he placed himself where she wanted him. "First, to show the deference that is owed to a queen. I may not have a kingdom to rule over any longer, but that does not make me less than what I am." Her metal-clad hand traveled up his throat, her thumb toying at his chin before passing over his lips. Eyes guarded beneath the dark veil followed that same path.
"Second, you would do well to learn to listen, even to things unspoken. Your choices to sit, and wait, and watch serve you well in other areas, but that is not what is called for in this arena. You must act, with purpose, and accept the failure if that is what it results in." Her thumb pressed harder at the slit of his mouth, pushing it open.
He tasted metal on his tongue, cold and sharp. It sent a tremor through his body, one he could not hide from her. This small lapse, this shame, distracted him enough that he did not notice the quiet thrill that answered from deep within him: the same sensation that had stirred when Persephone called that long unheard name.
"All right." His voice was barely a whisper. Questions tore through his thoughts, but he feared giving any one of them voice. He wanted Isobel back; not this creature of power and shadow, but his Isobel, who smelled of sunshine and warm earth and green, soft things. But it was clear they were one and the same, as tightly intertwined as Obed himself and his now frequent, sweat-soaked nightmares. So he nodded, ready to agree to anything, even as he struggled to understand how he would make good on his promise.
"All right," he repeated. "Let me go, and I swear I'll do whatever she needs. Anything."
The figure remained still, her metal-encased thumb tracing gently over his lower incisors. If his words held sway, they did not move her immediately; instead, her thumb pressed deeper, the sharp edge of its dressing slicing a millimeter against his tongue. Blood welled in the cut and spilled down the back of his throat.
"Words are so easy to come by," she murmured, more to herself than to him; then it grew stronger, clearly addressing Obed. "Would you do this, for her? Beg for her? Debase yourself? If I'm not mistaken, Aïdês, I might think you like this sort of play. But you did before, didn't you? The small games you and she played at. Were only the stakes higher..." She sighed, pressing the pad of her thumb down, all but nailing his tongue to the floor of his mouth.
"Still, I would be hardpressed to find better vessels for me and mine. I know he's in there, my Aïdês. And you will swear to me that you will do everything in your power to see that we are not separated?"
Her hand moved back, instead lovingly cupping the side of his face with soft, chilly palm, the fingers of her handguard pressing into the flesh of his cheek.
He willed himself not to feel relief at her words. That they wanted the same thing, at least on the face of it, was too much to hope; there had to be some catch, some terrible loophole that made this too good to be true. But he nodding, scratching his stubbled cheek against the sharp edges of her nails. He wondered if she could feel the warmth of his blush as well as he could. It was an unfamiliar sensation, this not wholly willing helplessness. She was right, of course: it had only ever been play before. This was something altogether different.
"Yes," he said, decisive now. It was work to meet her black-veiled gaze, and yet, with effort, he did. "I swear it."
Her quiet stare was his only reward; the barest hint of movement, of lips pressing together beneath her veil, was the only acknowledgement of his promise. Her index finger drew a line down his cheek, pressing hard enough to part flesh, unzippering to the blood and muscle beneath a near inch. Red flowed over his pale skin, wetting her palm.
"I will hold you to that," she finally said in return. "Don't think I won't." Her finger moved to stroke his face again, to ram home her point once more, but a rustling sound from the couch behind them drew her attention away. A rapping coincided with the movement, followed by a tapping that almost seemed like someone was at the front door, had it not been coming directly from the couch itself. Persephone frowned, but before she could investigate or make any other decision, everything that she was fell away. Her black gown, her veil, each slipped to the floor and evaporated upward in a puff of ashes, scattering to nothingness until only Isobel remained in her place, her hand on Obed's jaw.
She pulled her gaze down from the couch to the man kneeling before her, her eyes as wide as plates as she struggled to comprehend how she'd come from standing across the room near the planter to this.
"What..." She jerked her hand back a little, but then paused, moving forward again with worry at the sight of the blood. "You're bleeding -- is there... a first aid kit...?"
Obed's first inclination was to reach for her hand, to draw it back to his wounded cheek. But he kept perfectly still, only watching her, silent, for a moment. Persephone's words still rang in his head, pinning him to the floor more effectively than any bonds might have done. "I'm fine," he said. He made no motion to wipe the blood from his face; he only smiled, small and uneven, staring up at the woman he still so desperately loved.
"You don't remember any of that, do you?" he asked. He shook his head, already knowing her answer. "It's all right. I think I understand now, at least a little bit. Maybe I can help you now." He brought his hands to rest atop his thighs, as though waiting for some signal, some permission, she had not yet granted him. "Something jogged your memory. The note, the plant, I'm not sure. Whatever it was, I…" Again he shook his head; he pressed his teeth into his lower lip, focusing himself as best he could. This was perhaps the most he had spoken since their breakup; quite possibly since before even that. And once the flow of words began, he could not seem to stop them.
"I'm sorry, Isobel. I know when we were together I was… withdrawn. Quiet. I probably made you feel like you had to deal with a lot on your own. So… whatever you need from me now, whether that's answers or support or anything else, you'll get. I promise."
Isobel remained stunned for a moment, before nodding; the full weight of his promise was somewhat lost on her, though she could recognize the gesture for what it was. Had she her full memory, she would have understood and perhaps have been more deeply moved, but for the moment, it was enough to make a pang of sympathy reverberate in her chest.
"Please, get up," she said, her hand going to his face; first, his cheek, then to his chin to make him tilt his head back. "I'll get some paper towels, and where's..." She sighed, shaking her head, and finally just made sure he was where she wanted him to be before disappearing. Her movements were slow as she carefully placed each room, finally finding the kitchen and the required item before removing herself back to the living room. Hanni followed in her wake, dancing on tiny paws, his nails clicking and telling where she was. She pressed the folded paper towel to the wound on his face, after cleaning up a little along his cheek, and motioned for him to sit. Then she took the spot next to him, much closer than before.
"OK, first; what just happened? Why... How did any of that just happen?" She swallowed, studying Obed's face as her brows knitted across her forehead.
Gingerly he took the paper towel from her hand. He held it pressed to his cheek, then placed it in his lap, folded neatly in his hands. He looked to Hanni, giving the dog a little smile; for his part, the dog did not seem flustered in the slightest by the turn this conversation had taken.
"I don't know how, really," he said. "But I can try to explain the rest. You and I and at least several others here have some connection to…" He drew a slow, deep breath. If she had truly forgotten everything of her time so far in Pax, as seemed to be case, this was going to be a difficult conversation for the both of them. He tried to consider what he might have wanted someone else to say, had he gotten the chance to be oriented into this strange new life.
"Gods. Some connection to gods. All the weird dreams we share, all the bizarre things that have happened in this building, it's all tied to that somehow." He gestured to Isobel. "You tapped into that. I don't know what triggered it, but you were… her."
"Persephone," Isobel breathed, worry and realization in tandem passing over her face. "Alice told me," she my quickly explained, before any questions might emerge from his mouth. "I pried it out of her. She told me that we all were having weird dreams, and that she'd dreamt she was an Asian deity, and that I said I'd dreamt of being Persephone." Nibbling on her bottom lip, she reached forward to gently skim the pad of her thumb under the cut on his face.
"So... I became her? I..." Her hand fell back, head shaking as though that would help her mind make some sense of it all. She closed her eyes, both hands coming up to rub at them before hovering near her head as she looked down, and then back up to Obed. Her hands went to rest in her lap. Obed opened his mouth, but closed it just as quickly. "Maybe we should... Just take this one thing at a time."
She paused, clearly ticking back through the long list of questions she'd come up here to have answered, before events had introduced new ones. "Before, when I came up here with Hanni, you said there was a medical issue. Is there something wrong with me? Do you think that's why I forgot?"
Obed was quick to answer. "No. No, there's nothing wrong with you. And what happened isn't why you forgot. It was an extra stressor, I think, but no more than that." He paused a beat, his gaze dropping to his folded hands as he tried to delicately frame these revelations. Persephone's presence still loomed large in his thoughts, and he worded everything accordingly.
"You forgot because of her," he said. "Persephone. She wanted a new start for you. For us. A clean slate. I don't know how much she even wants you to relearn." He shook his head, feeling adrift and unsure, uncomfortable sensations to a man used to being so in control. But she had asked, and he had sworn to answer. "You had a miscarriage. I mean it, Isobel, it was not because of anything you'd done."
She remained still for a moment, shellshocked by the information. Her brows rose and then fell, her lips trying to form words.
"Well," she finally said. "Between that and whatever's going on with Bryan, I can see... How I was stressed out. And you..." Her gaze came back to rest on Obed. "Being withdrawn certainly wouldn't help. Did you... Was it because I was pregnant, or were you..." Is that just how you are seemed like a ridiculous statement. She instantly wished she hadn't said what she had, but there it was, and a voice inside of her—her own mental voice, Persephone, or something else—insisted that the answer was worth knowing.
Put so starkly, the truth of Obed's behavior seemed to embarrass him. A faint flush brightened his pale cheeks, set his chilly blue eyes into starker relief. He glanced down to his hands, but found her gaze quickly enough. He would not shy from this; he had promised, after all, and now was far too soon to fail. "No. I was glad you were pregnant. I was… looking forward to it, even if I was nervous about it. But I've always been this way. Quiet and watchful and… well, creepy, I'm sure more than one neighbor or relative thought, when I was younger. Maybe they still think that now." He smirked.
"You'd been worried we were moving too quickly. You'd proposed to me, which I'm not sure you were ever completely comfortable with, and then you got pregnant, and we'd certainly not been planning on that so soon. I think you felt we were rushing things, and then Carver being Carver and my being quiet and Bryan pulling all his bullshit closed off only exacerbated things."
Isobel's lips moved to form the question Carver?, but instead she closed her eyes and sighed, again.
"I think... I think that's enough, for now," she said, her eyes opening again even as one hand rose as though to impede further explanation. She met his gaze evenly, though, her eyes nothing but clear and wide. "Thank you, for being honest with me. I know this must be hard, and...ridiculous. And unreal..." He nodded, in full agreement with her. She shook her head, her eyes falling on Hanni again. She put a hand to his furry head, scratching it; he ducked his head against her palm, his eyes sliding half closed against the touch. Then she looked back at Obed.
"I want to put some Neosporin on that," she finally chided, moving to stand from the couch. She took a few steps away, still looking at Obed. "Is there a first aid kit in the kitchen, or the bathroom...?"
"The bathroom," he said, "under the sink."
He fell silent, then, as was his wont. He watched her go, wondering if he had said too much. Already this promise was proving difficult to keep, and still more difficult not to second-guess. He chewed the inside of his lip, busying himself with petting Hanni in her absence.
Isobel returned quickly enough, a small, transparently-blue box in her hands. She took a seat next to Obed, busying herself with getting the Neosporin out and checking to see if there would be any applicable bandaids.
Shaking her head in slight disappointment that there wasn't, Isobel took Obed's chin in her hand, tilting it back gently to give herself access to the cut.
"Just for the record," she said, finding herself talking before she realized what she was saying, "I don't think you're creepy. There's nothing wrong with being quiet." He smiled softly. Her thumb smoothed over where she'd applied the cream, making sure it was on the cut itself and not necessarily resting above. "There aren't any bandages that would fit this, but I think as long as you don't touch your face, you'll be fine."
She didn't comment that her own touch was overly long; his skin was cool, but not unpleasantly so.