((From => Eric's Home))
Rogan opened his eyes. Cracks traced across the cheap plaster ceiling above him, sending crooked black lines through the discoloured, yellowing surface. Spots of black moulding gathered in one corner of the ceiling, where the damp had gathered over many long years. Outside, rain continued to fall, and the sliding door that led out to the tiny balcony rattled in is housing as the wind blew against it. The room was freezing cold and he shifted in his coat, shivering as he yawned. What time was it?
He sat up and stood from the bed, stretching and rolling his shoulders. Night still. On the bed stand, the clock told him in glowing red digits that it had barely been a couple of hours since he had lain down. After a moment he let himself sit on the edge of the bed again and closed his eyes, drawing a long breath and letting it out again with a sigh. The weight in his chest hadn't abated, and when he tried to sleep, images from that basement rose up in his mind, and then back further, to everything he might have done differently, around and around, again and again.
After a moment, Rogan stood again and walked to the curtains drawn across the rattling glass and twitched one aside far enough to look out. A lonely street, and between the opposite buildings, a small park, not far off. He couldn't see much. He should talk to her properly, he knew that. She'd be asleep now; it wasn't worth waking her up over. He shook his head and closed the curtain again, then wandered around the room, distracted. How could he even begin that conversation? How could it even matter, another part of him cut back, when he wouldn't be talking to her any more?
His steps carried him to the tiny kitchenette that was set into an alcove by the room's main door. He stood in front of it, staring down at the different implements for several long moments. After a while, he reached out and filled the kettle, then set it back on its stand. They'd done everything they could for Lyntael, and words wouldn't undo any of the things that their efforts... Eric's efforts, really... hadn't been able to. The girl now wasn't hurting, wasn't scared.... and the greatest mercy of all, perhaps, she didn't know, or remember, anything that had happened. She seemed... positive, determined... Happy, even. Sparing her that knowledge was important. He didn't know if it was a risk, but if so, he wasn't going to chance her recovering any memory of those brutal last minutes, or the horror that would surely come with them. His eyes drifted around the counter, and then, after another moment he blinked, and reached over to flick the switch on the kettle and set it heating.
As the white noise of the appliance quietly drowned out the rain, Rogan washed out a mug and dropped two teabags into it from the half-empty box nearby. He watched the water in the bottom of the mug soak slowly into them, but couldn't be bothered to fix the mistake. He wandered away from the counter, casting his eyes around the rest of the room instead while he waited for the kettle to boil.
The carpet in the hotel room had been replaced some time in the last couple of years, probably – it was less stained and worn that most of the other fixtures. It was an unappealing brown-and-beige shag, the kind that would hide most stains and spills reasonably well with minimal effort. The bedding didn't match, and the lacquer on the woodwork had chipped off in large swathes. The room was empty, aside from his shoulder bag and laptop, and the PET sitting on the night stand. Eric's home had a cluttered cosy atmosphere to it that was comfortable and well kept. Despite how it might have looked on the outside, Eric took good care of himself and his home. She would have been happier there. He rolled his shoulders and pushed the uncomfortable thought aside.
He couldn't go back. His brother... Eric... had made that clear, and while a part of him knew that their bond and their history wouldn't ever be entirely broken, he knew he wasn't welcome. He didn't know which was hurting him more, right now, and that knowledge alone was a painful regret that he couldn't reconcile yet. It should have been his brother – that loss should have felt the worst of any, and yet... right alongside it, the turbulent war of emotions surrounding Lyntael and his responsibility for her was every bit as destructive. For what had it been? Pride and stubbornness... other excuses, but truly, nothing more valuable that those, and what were they worth in the end? He exploited other people's excessive pride and stubbornness, took satisfaction in it even... when had his own pride and satisfaction become hubris bad enough to do the harm he had?
The quiet of the rain outside made Rogan glance towards the window, then back to the kitchenette. The kettle had boiled at some point. He returned to the counter and looked at it, eyes drifting between the kettle, his mug, the damp tea bags, and the other supplies set neatly against the back board. He'd need to talk to Varda soon as well. The sooner the better, really. Word would reach her rapidly; it probably had already, in some fashion. The sooner he reported to her, the easier it would be to handle the damage control. He had thought about blaming Varda and her family for everything, but the thought had passed by without taking hold. Her information had been flawed, and he and Lyntael had been the ones to suffer for it, but... there was little point laying blame unless it served a purpose. It didn't change anything about his own choices. He poured the water into his mug, watching it swirl and spin the teabags around. As he reached for the tags, he blinked; they were clipped to the teabags themselves, the strings folded up still, and spinning slowly in the mug now along with everything else. He watched the movement slow gradually.
Before she had gone to sleep, Lyntael had made him promise to eat a proper dinner and sleep properly himself. She knew things were wrong, but she seemed hopeful that they'd get better soon. She'd told him she loved him, before going, and he'd spent several long seconds stuck in uncertain, painful confusion, looking back at her, hands on her hips, head tilted and one eyebrow raised. Before he'd managed to respond, she'd just given him a wry smile and told him good night before disappearing. She was worried about him, and that much was so familiar, and yet...
Eventually, he extracted the drifting teabags carefully and dropped them in the bin. Should have used a spoon, probably. The water might still have been hot. He took a sip and grimaced. Luke-warm, bitter tannin water. Milk. With a shake of his head, Rogan retrieved one of the plastic milk shots and emptied it in, then took another sip. Better. Not much better, but a little. He drank it slowly, moving to look out the window again.
Later, the dark sky took on grey false-dawn edges and Rogan turned back to look at the hotel room, pulling back the curtain properly to let the beginnings of light creep in. He should set up a meeting with Varda. That was the next thing that he needed to do, before anything else. With a nod to himself he retrieved his laptop and sat at the one desk in the room, and tried to focus.
A city in a storm, A room that isn't his.
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Lyntael didn't open her eyes. Snuggled under the covers, she shifted slightly and rolled over, enjoying the feeling of her pyjamas against her skin as she moved. The lingering fragments of dreams drifted in her mind as she grew steadily more aware of her bed and less of... whatever it was she'd been dreaming about. It had been... there were pancakes involved, she was sure of it... and there had been... the details faded away despite her semi-conscious efforts to hold onto them.
She sat up and shuffled out of her bed, stretching and fighting back a last yawn as she began to unbutton her pyjamas and slip out of them. Rogan hadn't called on her yet, though it was easily what anyone would count as morning by now. Maybe he'd actually slept properly for once... though somehow she doubted it. After her night clothes were neatly folded up and set back on her re-made bed, Lyntael skipped through to the shower to wake herself up properly.
Rogan still hadn't called for her by the time she was fastening the buckles on her vest in front of her mirror. She paused and looked at herself. Nothing seemed out of place. She'd spent so long wishing, hoping, longing for Rogan to just look at her, and see her... and now something had happened, something she couldn't remember, and for the first time, ever, he was looking at her like he was seeing a person, but... but something was wrong and she couldn't tell what it was.
With a sigh, she scrubbed fingers through her hair one more time and turned from the mirror, heading for the kitchen instead. They were hurting and upset, and now they'd severed ties with each other, and she was caught in the middle of it all, somehow. She couldn't recall anything past the first day or two they'd spent in the Yumland jungles... it went from the evening with the storm, to a foggy, confused few hours glimpsing an airport hotel room, and then Eric's home, and only came back into clarity, and details she could be certain of when they had both been down in the basement with her together. She was lucky to be alive, she knew that much... but she was, and she didn't feel like anything else was wrong with her. How to reconcile the two?
As she made tea for herself and looked out the window at the gently falling rain in her garden, Lyntael pondered the problem. It was difficult when they didn't want to even talk to her about what had happened in the first place, but she could only suppose that, for now, whatever else had set them at odds was probably a bit raw still.
While she waited for the tea to draw properly, Lyntael set about making breakfast and a few minutes later moved through to the living room, to curl up on the couch with a steaming drink and a full plate. She glanced about the room as she blew on her tea and took a sip.
It was pleasant enough, but maybe a bit too much blue? She remembered picking everything out so carefully, getting it just right, but now that she looked at it, it wasn't quite as perfect as she'd thought at first. It might be time to redecorate a little bit, perhaps. Maybe later though. Why did he see so upset, when he looked at her? He was putting on a brave face but after they'd left Eric's home he'd been unable to hide at all how fragile his stoicism was. She wanted him to see her, but now when he looked, it was wrong. Once or twice, when she'd been talking to him during the day, he'd looked at her like... not like she was nothing; that she was used to... but like she was there, and a stranger to him. Somehow that was worse.
She sighed and brushed the heavy thoughts aside as she finished her breakfast and washed up. This was not a good way to start the morning. Maybe she could send a message to Aurora. She and Eternalis had been through some pretty difficult times, between themselves; they might have some ideas she hadn't thought of yet. That was something she could do. She nodded to herself.
“Lyntael... Are you awake?” Her head perked up as Rogan's voice reached her and cut through her other thoughts.
“Yes, sir. Have you eaten yet?” She finished putting her breakfast things away as the grin curled across her lips, then moved back to the living area in case he needed her. There was an extra moment of hesitation.
“I- No, Lyntael, not yet. I'll get something on the way. I have some errands to run, but if I am not mistaken, you still have an outstanding bounty contract.” She nodded in response to his query before realising that he couldn't see, without the screen active.
“Ah, yes. We didn't get very many, but I've got enough recorded for a small hand in. Um... did you want me to work on that more?” As she spoke, Lyntael frowned. The usual trepidation she felt at the very thought of dealing with viruses was... quiet. She was still nervous about the concept, of course, but the anxiety she remembered feeling was gone. A moment later Rogan answered, though he sounded distracted.
“No, no Lyntael, that's alright. I'm heading out, but I may have you clear that bounty and hand in what you can while we're out. The... reserve that we've set aside for your upgrades has built up quite substantially, and I–” His voice faltered. “I really should have...” There was silence for a few moments before he started again. “Regardless, it's time we got to work.”
From where she stood in the middle of the living area, Lyntael frowned and folded her arms. More things he didn't want to say to her. She didn't mind him keeping his secrets, but when they were explicitly about her, that wasn't fair. A moment later she sighed and shook her head, then stepped up to the view screen and activated it, slipping out into Rogan's hotel room.
When Rogan turned back to the desk to claim the last of his possessions, Lyntael was standing on the edge, just beyond where her Pet rested, waiting for him. He shouldered his bag and settled it, checked the room one more time, then scooped up the device and slipped it into his pocket while holding out his other hand for the small program. As she swung up onto his palm he lifted it to let her leap across to her favoured purchase on his shoulder. The action came almost by instinct, identical in every way to the behaviour they'd developed months ago, and the small giggle of laughter that escaped amidst her clambering made his chest hurt all over again. She still preferred being out, in her hologram, with him, than staying away in the PET, when she could. He fought the painful sensation off and left the room.
((To => SciLab))
((Lyntael Branch To => Bounty Shop))