A/N: I didn't spend as much time editing this as I usually do, so it's probably not as good as the other chapters, but quite frankly, I was just happy I wrote the chapter. I had writer's block for a while and finally got through it again, so hey, chapter. The quote is from Daniel Webster.
"Tiasal, did your father know about the people you see? The ones I can't?"
"People tell me I'm crazy, but I doubt I am yet. The things I see are there."
"I wasn't trying to suggest they weren't." For once, she and O-Chul weren't playing Go. She hadn't felt up to it. Instead, she was lying down with her head in his lap and his hand on her hair. She wouldn't have guessed that O-Chul would feel comfortable doing that with a grown woman, but if he had a problem with the arrangement, it didn't show. "I just wanted to know if you had ever told someone about them."
"Only Xykon. He told me not to tell anyone else."
The little girl was in the goblin's lap, dozing while he held her. The Azurian woman was leaning against his side, clenching his hand in a white-knuckled grip.
They both were staring at her with awful looks in their eyes.
"He taught me how to hide it. He said that Daddy couldn't find out. He said Daddy would use it against me and convince me to take things that would dull my mind."
"Do you trust Xykon?"
"He's the only one who would accept me, especially now."
He ran a gentle hand through her hair. "Even if you are correct—even if he is the only one—do you truly need someone to accept you?"
That provoked a long silence.
He kept stroking her hair.
Deirdre sat up, stretching and making no effort to cover her breasts. Terentius rolled on his side, back to her, and curled up in a ball, blocking out the world. "Oh gods!"
"Don't be so upset, Big Brother." Deirdre looked down at him, running a hand through his scruffy green hair, provoking a shudder. She wondered how long the time was between him waking up and breaking down. "It's natural."
"Oh gods…" He curled up tighter, hands on his skull, pulling his head to his knees so hard it was a wonder he didn't snap his own neck. "P-please… please get dressed."
Deirdre leaned down, kissing the back of his neck. He gave a soft whimper before she pushed the covers back, picking her slip from the ground and pulling it over her head. "How do you feel?"
He dug his nails into his scalp, ripping at the skin until it tore open. "I… I put… You…" He let out a high-pitched agonized whine, his voice coming in a pained whisper. "I slept with my own little sister…"
"Why is it so awful, really?" She sat next to him, resting a hand on his hip. "Neither of us were forced into anything."
"You're my little sister!"
"Hardly." Deirdre patted his hip gently, draping herself over his legs. "Mother adopted you and Octavius with Inkyrius. She gave birth to me with Father. We only spent the beginning of my childhood and the beginning of your adolescence together. What makes us brother and sister?"
That made him look up at her. The honest hurt in his face made something flicker in the back of Deirdre's head, right where she was still able to somewhat see things as they were.
"Don't say that. Don't ever say that." He sat up, forgetting why he was upset for a moment, and wrapped his arms around her, burrowing his face in her neck. "I'm your big brother and you're my little sister. It doesn't matter that me and Eight were adopted. You're ours, Tiasal."
"If I'm yours, then you shouldn't feel so guilty. There's nothing wrong with it."
He tensed, starting to tremble again. "N… not that kind of…"
"You shouldn't be guilty, Big Brother."
She twisted, gently pushing his forehead back and pressing her lips against his. His grip on her waist tightened until she was about to bruise, then tentatively relaxed before he kissed her back, his breath starting to come easier.
"I… shouldn't be guilty."
He let his hand creep up her side and he made the kiss more fierce.
"I shouldn't be guilty."
The shadows were swirling around them, screaming bad things in her ears. Calling her names. Telling her things.
"Don't trust the girl in white."
"Break the sapphires."
"They're going to poison you."
"Gouge his eyes out."
Disconnected images kept on flashing behind the surface of her eyes, playing directly in her brain and projecting out into the world, her nerves starting to spark painfully, shuddering, clenching, burning—
Terentius jerked away from her, his cheeks burning, before he looked at the open door with Tsukiko standing at the threshold. The genuinely disgusted look on her face seemed to jar something in him and he ducked his head, the shame coming back in full force.
"I'll make sure I knock from now on. Go get dressed."
Tsukiko closed her eyes with a very 'why me?' expression, telling the whole world that the things she had witnessed were branded on her retinas, and she ducked out.
Terentius brought his knees up and hugged them, resting his forehead against them in a fetal position.
A little gold-eyed girl sat on the armoire, face downcast, clear liquid leaking out from her hairline, then her mouth, then eyes, slowly coming out of every orifice to splash on the ground, sizzling.
The purple-eyed girl leaned against the wall, eyes dry and judgmental in their damning gaze on her, and her skin began to be dotted with crimson until it leaked forth and dripped down her body, burning the floor, eating away at the room's very foundations until it started to warp.
"Don't leave us."
Strong hands rested on her shoulders, but the moment flesh touched flesh, her skin immediately started burning, blinding pain bursting out and the green meat started blistering from the heat. She wanted to scream, but her throat closed up, not allowing her to do anything.
The front of her hands were black.
"Don't become aware."
"I'm confident that you'll make the right choice in the end."
The owner of the painful hands didn't shift his grip as he stepped to her side, staring at her with serious blue eyes.
O-Chul? But he wasn't there. Not out of the cell.
They never were.
"You'll only destroy more."
Snow sat at the foot of the bed, humming while she cradled her stillborn to her chest.
Something was off about her.
"So what'll it be, Clash? You can't have it both ways."
"I… please get dressed."
Everything melted away and the room snapped back in its original form.
Deirdre looked down at Terentius, not making a move to do as he asked but not making a move to continue where they left off either.
"You'd never abandon me again, would you, Big Brother?"
He shuddered, hugging his legs even tighter, but a little tension left his muscles
"And you'd never do anything to hurt me."
He shook his head, but he didn't look at her.
She nodded without a word, then something clicked in her head again. "You're upset now, but the shame will go away soon enough. You've become a man since when we were children."
She smiled, licking her lips and swinging her hips as she turned and walked to her wardrobe. "You certainly know what you're doing."
He whimpered softly and curled up tighter, tension coming back.
"I suggest working to take your mind off of it. Once you do, you get a better perspective." She pulled out a dress and pulled off her slip, flashing her brother a smile. "Just give it a day. You'll feel a lot better."
He ran a hand through his hair, keeping his eyes averted.
Deirdre smirked and slipped on her dress. "I need to go to the plane of air. Maybe we should share a drink afterwards. We can discuss things."
"No drinking. You're pregnant," Terentius mumbled softly, staring at the wall.
"A meal, then." Deirdre cupped his chin and made him look her in the eyes.
Terentius swallowed, scenes from the night before playing over and over in his head.
"But don't wait up for long." She leaned forward and kissed him softly, the feel of her lips lingering like static electricity, then she was gone.
Lydia jumped out of her nap, landing on her hands and knees and looking around like a startled cat, her rather useless-at-the-moment wings wriggling under her shirt. Abram woke up a little more sedately, sleepily lifting his head up and swiveling it around, while Octavius practically slammed himself to the bars.
Terentius stepped off the stairs, something in his eyes a little off. He was wearing nice clothes, but they looked like they had been made for someone with a broader frame than him. Certainly not elven, and Lydia didn't think that they would have fit Deirdre either. Where did they come from?
"Eight." Terentius came to the bars, curling his fingers around them so he was touching his brother's hand. His lips curled up at the ends, but it didn't make a smile. "Are the bars keeping you from hitting me or hugging me?"
Octavius's face twitched, like it wasn't sure if it should scowl or grin, and it ended with some strange in-between. "What the hell? Why'd you leave?"
"You know the answer, Eight. Don't pretend you don't." Terentius averted his eyes and shook his head. "Something's… wrong. Tiasal needs her family, or at least what's left of it. I'm not going to leave her again."
Lydia frowned curiously, standing up and walking to the bars. Terentius wasn't looking at them. That wasn't like him. It was normal for him to be reserved, but they were all family.
Abram didn't seem to notice that there was something wrong. "Good for you for standing by her. Do you know if we can… un-brainwash her or something?"
Terentius looked at Abram strangely, as if he'd only just realized he was there, and he didn't make eye-contact once. "I don't know if she's brainwashed or not. She's keeping me out."
"T? Are you okay?"
Apparently, Lydia wasn't the only one to notice that Terentius didn't look too good.
Octavius frowned, concern breaking through to the surface in an increasingly rare bout of reason. "You look sick."
"Not feeling well."
Terentius attempted to smile, but he really did look a bit ill. "With any luck, I'm not contagious. I just cooked for Tiasal."
Octavius frowned in confusion.
"I wanted to do something for her." He shrugged, something strange passing through his eyes. "I'm the only one she trusts to not poison her."
Lydia frowned. Poison her?
"Well, obviously if she doesn't trust anyone here, then she must be thinking of defecting, right?" Abram smiled. "Dad always taught me that things work out for a happy ending. There just needs to be a really bad middle to make it properly dramatic."
"Y… yeah. Yeah, there's always a happy ending." Terentius looked back to his twin, and briefly, Lydia could see some kind of deep dark conflict raging in his expression. "I'm going to try to convince her to let you guys out. I just wanted to make sure you weren't feeling violent, Eight. She doesn't trust easily and I don't think it'd take much for her to write you off for good."
"I wouldn't hurt her." Octavius sounded vaguely hurt at the implication, but his concentration was mostly on his brother. "I wouldn't hurt Tiasal."
"I think… maybe you shouldn't think of her as…" Terentius stopped. "You should probably be a little careful around her, too."
Lydia ran her tongue over her teeth, realization beginning to bud in her mind. "Terentius, how much has she changed?"
He grimaced, looking over at Lydia. "Does it matter?"
Terentius looked back at his brother, forcing a smile. "I'm going to try to get her to let you out, okay? She's got more sway with Xykon than I thought. She got him to keep some paladin they caught instead of using him for some kind of gladiator game." He pulled away from the bars. "I'll visit."
"If you can't get us out, at least bring down some cards. Or a puzzle. A bored Lydia is a scary thing."
Lydia paused from her close examination of her cousin to glare at her other cousin, concealed wings twitching gently in amusement.
That seemed to make Terentius crack the smallest real smile, even if it was haunted. "Sure thing. Bye guys. Bye, Eight."
Octavius's expression was strange, but he mumbled a soft goodbye.
He didn't talk much for the rest of the day.
"What are you doing?"
Right-Eye scowled, running his fingers along the wall. Tsukiko frowned, thrusting her hips to the side and crossing her arms. They were both alone in a long windowless hallway, identical to every other one in the tower.
"The spirits aren't acting right."
Tsukiko arched an eyebrow, cocking her head. "There aren't spirits here."
"In case you didn't get the memo, I'm still dead. Just in a body." Right-Eye looked down the hall. The elven child that had previously been scrubbing the floor had stopped, instead sitting straight on her knees and staring at him.
Her throat had been torn open. Blood stained her shirt and icicles gathered at the tips of her lashes. She wasn't like the others. Something other than Xykon or the cleric had killed her.
"I can see those kids."
"What kids?" Tsukiko made a derisive tut, rolling her eyes. "Listen, I'm a damn powerful theurge. If there were ghosts hanging around here, I'd know."
"What, is crazy genetic?"
He glanced at her, then down the hall at the ghost girl, suppressing a shiver. Tsukiko was just messing with his head. He didn't trust the human as far as he could throw her, so he really only needed to take what she said with a grain of salt. Right?
"Why did you come talk to me? I hope you don't think we're buddies, human." He looked back at the wall. The stones felt like they were vibrating with something Other. A strange scent floated off of it, but Tsukiko wasn't commenting so he supposed that was either normal or she didn't notice. It smelled like… myrrh? Cinnamon? There was more to it—it felt a little like a small apothecary—but he didn't know how to unweave it.
"Ha, you're just as bitter as Reddy. Whatever, I'm not interested in being friends. Her brother's in on this—he just thinks they're vitamins—but don't tell him anything. Don't even talk to him."
"You're telling me this, why?"
Tsukiko wrinkled her nose, shuddering. "You don't want to know. The truth is, you're the only halfway sane and mature adult around here. I'm not going to do this on my own, so you're lucky enough to be my partner. I need you to help make sure the crazy bitch and Xykon don't find me out. Seriously, my ass is grass if this falls through."
"Yeah, that's something new that I've been thinking of." He looked back at the theurge, frowning. "Doing the right thing even when you know you're going to get fried if it goes wrong, or even if it goes right. It's called being a hero."
"No, it's called being a vindictive bitch and/or an uncle with a guilt complex." Tsukiko smirked, turning away. "Tone down the delusions of grandeur, Righty. There's nothing heroic about either of us."
She walked away. Right-Eye didn't answer.
The bloodied elf child stood up, her bare feet making gentle splashing sounds on the water-covered floor, and she started to step towards him, big eyes from the autumn forest floor fixed, almost resentfully, on his face.
He suppressed a flinch, swallowing past his dry mouth.
The child rested a small bluish hand on the stone wall.
Slowly, like some kind of imprint, words written in scrawled handwriting began to glow softly on the wall.
One may live as a conqueror, a king, or a magistrate; but he must die as a man.
The words faded away along with the stones, leaving only a long dirt path downward. Somehow, he didn't think this was on the tower's architect's blueprint.
The elf looked up at him, an ugly look of hate in her eyes, and turned away, walking to her scrubbing again.
Right-Eye frowned, looking down the dark tunnel and grimacing.
Well, Big Brother had always told him he was an impulsive idiot.
He started walking down the dirt path, the stones fading in place behind him, and for a moment, there was complete darkness.
Torches at the wall flared to life. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see that there was something off about the fire. It was white and didn't make any kind of traditional 'fire' sounds—no cracks or snaps, just unearthly auditory shimmers. He didn't know how to describe it beyond that.
For some reason, they made him very uneasy. He decided to not look at any of the torches directly.
With any luck, he wasn't locked in here.
He started walking. The only sign that he was making progress was that the stone wall was getting further and further away with each step. The shimmers got louder, making the world around him fracture, slowly but surely, until he had to start wondering if he was going mad.
There was a loud bark.
Right-Eye jumped, spinning around to see where the bark came from.
There was another bark.
The goblin turned forward again, walking a little faster. He wasn't sure if he was going towards or away from whatever was making the sound, but—
The tunnel split off in two directions. At the fork sat what was probably one of the biggest dogs he'd ever seen. Or a wolf, he wasn't sure.
It was sitting on its haunches, unsettlingly pale (nearly white) gray eyes staring expectantly at him. Its fluffy white fur glimmered like powdered snow in the firelight, and the only variation in color was its wet black nose, twitching lightly as it sniffed. He got the strangest impression that this was a puppy, but if that was a puppy, he'd be terrified to see an adult.
It wasn't growling, which was probably a good sign.
The dog stood up, and for some reason, not a speck of dirt marred its fur.
"What did I get myself into?"
The dog blinked slowly, then turned its head to the right, looking at him expectantly.
"You want me to go that way?"
The dog huffed softly, blinking again, and padded down that path to leave Right-Eye to make his own choice.
Well, obviously, the dog wanted him to go right. He'd hate to piss it off, so he supposed he was going right.
He rubbed his temples gently, wondering if he was dreaming, before he finally went down the right path.
The flames flickered, then as he descended, they faded. He could hear moans of pain further down, sounding very male and human. Right-Eye grimaced, beginning to wonder if he had been stupid to go through that strange door in the first place. Well, maybe he should have started thinking about that a while ago. He never was considered the smart sibling.
Suddenly, the flames went out and there was nothing but darkness.
Well, that was what Darkvision was for.
He grimaced when his eye readjusted and stopped short. The path ended just a yard in front of him, dropping down what had to be at least ten feet into a roughly fifteen-by-fifteen room. The groaning was louder, echoing off the stone walls and floor of the room, and Right-Eye could make out a dirty huddle at the center.
The goblin frowned, walking closer to the edge and kneeling down. "Hey? Hey, are you okay?"
The huddle snapped out of its ball, a filthy but disturbingly familiar face looking up at him. "Someone. Someone here." Two yellowish hands reached up at the wall, clawing it, and he could see that the nails had already been torn away to bloody nubs at this point. "You're here to save me? You must! She's kept me in here! I thought she was only charismatic, but she's a devil! Possessed!"
Right-Eye's mouth fell open slowly. "It's… you."
The human licked his dry mouth, clawing the wall hard enough to make the tips of his fingers start to bleed again. "You must get me out! They call me a monster, but I'm no monster! She is! I've been trapped in here with no one to talk to and for the love of the gods say something to me!"
The goblin stared, then set his jaw. "You're the bastard that abused my niece."
The cleric pounded his dead fist on the wall, his eyes watering and tears leaving streaks on his dirty face, and it didn't seem as though he was really listening to the goblin. "I thought I could control her, but I couldn't! A dog, a snake, a horse, a human, she ate me whole! She'll devour you too!" He dragged his hands on the stones, his lip shaking. "Please, please help me. It's so quiet…"
Right-Eye's face got red.
"Get me out of here! Save me! I'll give you anything you want! Money, women, power, anything! I can't stand the silence anymore!"
The goblin knelt down so he could look closer at the human's ugly tearstained face, anger radiating from his only eye. The pathetic creature didn't even realize he was dead.
"Rot in your own hell, human."
He spat on the human's head, then stood, turning away and walking up again.
"NO! NO, STOP!"
As he ascended, the flames got brighter.
"PLEASE! PLEASE, STOP! DON'T LEAVE ME ALONE AGAIN!"
He didn't look back.
"Are you alright, little one?"
"Why do you ask?" Deirdre smirked, things whispering in her ears, and touched her hips against the bars. "Do I seem sick to you?"
O-Chul was sitting on the ground, his legs crossed, his hands resting on his knees, while Deirdre was standing, dress even more revealing than usual, and staring down at him. The Azurian woman lay draped across her sleeping goblin, a strange look on her face, and the little girl was nowhere to be found.
"No, but you are acting a little different than I'm used to, and I believe it is only right for me to ask about your health, considering the news you shared with me."
"Oh. That." Deirdre swung her hips gently as she walked back to lean on the wall, facing the paladin. "Yes. Xykon tried to make me miscarry."
O-Chul stiffened and his face turned white. "That abomination did what?"
"He punched me in the stomach, but apparently, that's not actually how you're supposed to do it. I'm still pregnant."
That did nothing to return color to the paladin's complexion.
"It would have been better if he had succeeded, though. The girl will be miserable. Completely and utterly unloved."
O-Chul stood up, frowning tightly. "It doesn't have to be that way."
"I won't be able to be a mother. I can hardly take care of myself. And no one else will be able to see her as anything more than a monster."
He walked to her, placing warm and calloused hands on her arms. "Don't think about your child that way. If you bring someone into this world, you need to see to it that it's taken care of."
"And you think that anyone here will take proper care of a child born from…"
She paused, a strange smile flickering across her face and her eyes somewhere else.
"From what, Tiasal?" O-Chul frowned, squeezing her arms gently to get her attention. "Are you okay?"
Her eyes went back to his, the smile turning into a smirk. "Why wouldn't I be?" She leaned forward, resting her head against his shoulder, her breath brushing his neck, and she rested a hand on his bare chest, curling her fingers in the hair there.
He tensed. She could feel his heart pounding against her hand.
"I don't seem sick to you, do I?"
"Little one…" Whether he was about to ask her to step away or not, he didn't finish. He just gently wrapped his arm around her. "I don't think the Snarl is good for you to hold inside of you. I feel something deteriorating."
"Mm. You noticed?" She traced little circles in his chest, causing a suppressed shiver, and fireflies were bleaching her eyes again. "Why should we talk about it? The Snarl can be tamed. I've proven it."
"Chaos can't be tamed, Tiasal. It can be controlled temporarily, but never tamed. This isn't going to end well."
Deirdre smirked, her traces becoming firmer until she was stroking his skin. "Now you sound like Father. Talk like that didn't end well for him, either. We shouldn't talk about it."
"You don't get it, do you?"
Deirdre looked up to see the Azurian woman standing beside them, her arms crossed, something strange in her expression. It seemed like a mixture of pity and something she couldn't name. "You don't know what's happening right now."
The hybrid straightened a little, scowling. "What are you talking about?"
"What are you doing right now?"
Deirdre frowned in confusion. "What does it look like?"
"Tiasal, who are you talking to?"
"That's what I thought. I don't know if it's right to pity you, but I do anyway." The Azurian woman shook her head. "You don't know what's happening to you."
Deirdre scowled, pulling away from the confused paladin and staring at the woman. "I don't need your pity."
The woman only shrugged. "You need more than you know."
"Why did you show me that?"
The elf girl was still scrubbing the floor, continually washing away the blood that dripped from her throat.
"It was pointless for you. I could have let him out."
The girl paused in her cleaning, tilting her head so her eyes could rest on his face.
But you didn't.
She stood up, her pants stained with pink suds, and stared at him for another long moment. For some reason, he got the sense that she had been testing him. And he passed.
The elf held out her hands, opening her mouth to let out a rush of air that would have been words had she had a throat, and something shimmered between her palms, weighing her down until the image materialized.
It was a heart locket.
Right-Eye frowned in confusion. The girl was holding it from a silver chain, letting it dangle in the air. It had a very strange but unsettling design—incredibly detailed carvings and paintings of every hardship, vice, and suffering that plagued the world, from gossip to hunger to murder. The graphic despair and suffering made him recoil a little, something within him instinctively trying to get away, but the black keyhole at the center of the heart was trying to pull him close, tempting him into opening it up.
The elf girl made another hollow gasping sound, letting the locket hang from one hand, the heart swinging gently, and bringing her other hand to her throat, gripping it tight, blood oozing between her fingers.
"It's hidden in the doll. It's her heart."
He suppressed a shiver at the sound. It only contained a trace of what the girl's voice must have been—it was only rasped and breathed out now.
"Remember that before he takes it away. The gods only want power and revenge."
Right-Eye knelt down, the frown etching itself deeper in his face. "What do you mean? Listen, I really don't want to be going crazy, and saying lots of cryptic stuff isn't too reassuring."
"You'll be able to open it," she continued, as if she hadn't heard him, "but you have to take it all. No choosing. And once it's opened, you can't put any of it back in."
"I think I can help you." Right-Eye cocked his head, his eye fixed on the blood leaking through the cracks in the girl's fingers. "They're destroying them, but there are afterlives. You can go to them."
That made her pause.
"…There are no afterlives for us." She looked away, seeing something he couldn't. "Never evil. I was wrong. Never evil, just manipulated and corrupted." Her eyes went back to him, the blood starting to flow faster.
"But we've all earned our special place in hell, haven't we?"
A sound like thunder slammed against the tower, shaking the floor and making Right-Eye jump with curse, slapping his hands on his ears and falling on his back.
For a moment, he couldn't hear anything but a loud ringing.
Then he could hear his heartbeat.
"Uh… Why are you on the floor?"
He opened his eye, the glare of light obscuring his vision for a moment.
"Newsflash, Right-Eye, you don't need sleep when you're dead."
He let his hands fall away from his ears.
He quickly sat up, his head spinning for a moment, and the lich crossed his arms, cocking his skull with an aura of bemusement floating off of him. "What's wrong, Right-Eye? You look like you've seen a ghost." He let out a rattling laugh. "Or a skeleton. Whatever."
Right-Eye glared fiercely, getting to his feet and glancing at the floor. There was only a puddle of pink suds. "Get out of my face, lich."
That only provoked another laugh. "I can't tell who's more fun—you or Reddy. Too bad you both got so much less responsive after I get you to murder your family or watch loved ones get driven crazy. But that doesn't mean you don't have entertainment value anymore." The lich put his phalange to his chin, as if thinking. "I guess it depends on whether I find psychotic tantrums or paranoid breakdowns more amusing. It's so hard to choose!"
"Did you just come here to get a rise out of me?" The goblin's lips drew back, baring his tusks, but he swallowed the snarl growing in his throat. If nothing else, he knew that getting a response only encouraged the lich.
"Not really, but since you're here, why not?"
Right-Eye scowled, trying to hide how his body was trembling, and started to walk down the hall. "I'm not in the mood. I'm checking on my niece."
"Yeah, if busting your lip wasn't enough, let's see if she'll go for your—"
"Not in the mood."
"And when did that ever stop me?"
Xykon laughed again, the hollow sound bouncing off the stones. "You're starting to figure it out, eye patch. You're trapped. Trapped in the tower, trapped with Deirdre, and trapped in a body that isn't yours. And guess what? You're never going to escape it."
Right-Eye had to shudder at that.
Xykon was still laughing when the goblin finally ducked away.
"Did you finish everything? The food, the water?"
"Yes, of course. Why do you ask?"
Deirdre was lying on her side on her bed, her eyes closed, and Terentius sat at the foot of the bed, averting his eyes. "I just want to make sure you're taking care of yourself. If you don't get all the nutrition you need, it's bad for the baby."
"You worry too much," she said dismissively, forcing her eyes open. "I'm feeling a little drowsy."
"It's probably nothing. You, uh, didn't get a lot of sleep last night."
She chuckled softly. "Isn't that true?"
Terentius swallowed, then lightly rested his hand on her hip. "You want me to leave you alone?"
"No, you wanted to ask me something." She propped herself up on her elbows, looking up at her brother and arching an eyebrow. "Thank you for fixing the armored clothes for us, by the way. I had almost forgotten how good you were with a needle and thread. Xykon is more convinced of your usefulness."
"I like working with that kind of stuff. Besides, I need something to do here. I'm guessing I'm doing that kind of thing regularly?"
"Probably." Deirdre crossed one forearm over the other, looking up at him with firefly-free eyes. "What did you want?"
Terentius rubbed his free palm on his knee. "For Eight, Abram, and Lydia to be let out of their cells."
"Hmm. Probably should have expected that." The woman looked at the wall, cocking her head as the shadows crawled across the stones and whispered bad things to her. "Is Octy still feeling rowdy?"
"He's gotten a lot better, Tiasal," Terentius said quickly, "his mood swings less and he's not as violent. The shock of this whole thing made him regress for a bit, but it was only temporary."
"Color me skeptical." She lay back down and rolled on her back, resting her hands on her abdomen. "I'd need to think of some use they could all serve. Xykon can ignore them when they're down in that dungeon, but if they're walking around, I need to use them for something or he'll torture them for his own entertainment."
"I'm sure we could think of something. Abram has a thing for carving and carpentry he picked up from Uncle Belkar, Eight could be a bodyguard or something, and Lydia could be an advisor…"
"Do you really think that they would be working to help me? They don't care about me, Terentius. They care about this… artificial moral code the gods pasted on the masses to keep them in line. They'd only try to trick us. Trick me." Deirdre sat up, one or two fireflies starting to appear in her eyes, and wrapped her arms around his waist. "I can't trust them."
"You can trust them more than you know, Tia." He turned to look at her, trying to keep his blush down. "Abram is really good at hiding things and pretending stuff is alright because he sucks at dealing with real serious emotion, but you lived with him. For all intents and purposes, you're his sister too. He might be able to act like he's taking stuff in stride, but I'd bet my life that when push comes to shove, he wouldn't be able to leave any more than I could. Same goes for Eight. He was devastated when you left."
Her frown became tight. "Be careful with your words, Big Brother."
"You thought he was unstable before you left? You should have seen him after. You have no idea how much therapy it took for him to just get back to the place he was in before you were gone. And Lydia…" Terentius paused for a moment, "Lydia's hard. She deals with people through calculation, not really emotion. She says she's Good, but I think that's just to make the family happy. She's Neutral. I think she'd put you ahead as long as you weren't threatening anyone else in the family. Family's always first, and you're family."
Deirdre played with the collar of his shirt, causing him to shiver, and she nuzzled his neck gently. "Lydia's too smart for her own good, sometimes. I don't think it'd be good for her to be out here."
She pulled away, smiling at him, the fireflies fading. "I'll see what I can do to get them out of the cells and in something more comfortable. Maybe I'll let them roam the tower if they behave and I can think of justification for Xykon." She paused. "And Lydia would probably appreciate something to keep her mind busy. Maybe I can find some puzzles."
"Thanks, Baby Sister." Terentius smiled, leaning against the bedpost. "I know Eight hurt you, and I'm grateful you're willing to give him a chance. I think they'll be glad to be able to talk to you. All of them."
"Mmm. We'll see, won't we?"
Deirdre kissed his neck, resting her hand on his cheek so she could turn his face, brushing their lips together. His breathing hitched, his muscles tensing up against her, blood rushing to his face.
"Tia, I-I really d-don't know if I—"
"You can stop me if you really want to, but I don't think you do." Deirdre kissed him again, wrapping her arms around his neck. "Last night was nice. I'm sure I wasn't the only one enjoying herself."
Well, she was relatively sure. It was the first time she'd had sex with both partners consenting.
"I-I enjoyed it, but I just—"
"Come on. It's our secret. If Tsukiko doesn't count, which I don't think she does." Deirdre smiled, something seizing her chest for a moment, the shadows on the walls starting to pull themselves off. Terentius still had a deeply conflicted and reluctant expression, but he didn't push her away when she kissed him again. "The world didn't end last night, did it? Touching me didn't ruin our relationship, and I know you want to do it again."
Terentius hesitated, then let his hand drift low, tilting his head downward to kiss her neck. "Y-yeah. The world didn't end. Th-there's nothing wrong with it."
"You're getting the idea." Deirdre smiled, digging her claws into her back and staring at the blood starting to leak from the cracks in the stone wall. The shadows were screaming at her. The gold-eyed girl was sitting at the sill, staring again, expressionless.
"It's just our secret."
She hid her face in his neck. Maybe if she held him tightly enough, the things would go away. Maybe.