Present Cares and Troubled Past
Dread Lady Nathicana
[ooc: Devon used with permission. Mostly to lay out some back history and such that I've had kicking around my brain for a while, and to illustrate current concerns ic'ly. Will see where this goes.]
Nathicana lay on the bed, stretched out on her stomach, idly going over the latest reports and missives on her laptop. Cupping her chin in her left hand, she uses the touch pad to scroll through the messages concerning the Triumvirate, and the trouble she'd seemed to stir up there.
"I'll be damned. Just goes to show, you never can tell where these things are going to lead," she murmurs, head tilting slightly as she continues to scroll.
"Hmm?" A sleepy voice comes from the other end of the bed, a body shifts, and a hand reaches out to idly stroke the back of her thigh.
She smiles, letting out a contented sigh. "It would seem, in my attempt to yank a few chains, I've ended up stirring up more than a few I'd no idea would respond as they did. It's ... interesting. Those I'd hoped the message would get through to seem not to have given it a second glance, if indeed, they ever gave it a first. So much for subtlety."
"Troubles in the Triumvirate?" Devon stretches, and sits up, moving his hand up along her body, coming to rest at the small of her back. He leans down a bit to peer over her shoulder as she tilts the screen to show him a couple of things.
"Here - the letter that started it."
I wish to bring a matter before my fellow Triumvirate members that has been weighing heavily on my mind for some time now.
The times we live in are chaotic at best, and often the lines between good and bad, right and wrong, justice and vengeance are understandably blurred. There have been many recent happenings that have given us all pause, some hitting through to the very heart of our nations causing grief and strife.
In this age of malcontent and ever-present war, I feel it is all the more imperative that we take the time to re-examine our goals, our ambitions, and the ideals under which the Triumvirate was founded. Have we strayed from the path laid out originally? Are we living up to the goals set forth in the charter? Do our nations properly represent the good name of the alliance, or do our actions cast a negative light on ourselves and our allies?
I hear disturbing whispers among the international community that the Triumvirate has become less than what it had aspired to. Actions taken by individual members have brought a scornful light on the group as a whole, and not simply among those who might be labled our enemies. In the political arena, facts seldom mean as much as public opinion, sad as that may be. We are in need, I think, of reaffirmation of our intent, our goals, and our commitment to this alliance, as individuals, and as a group.
This being said, I call on the leaders of this coalition to take a good hard look at us, one and all. And for the individual nations to ponder as well their aims, and the goals of the Triumvirate. A house divided cannot stand, they say - and I am beginning to see hints of divisiveness, if only in the paths we are choosing to take.
In hopes of a stronger, more unified alliance,
Nathicana D'Aquisto dal Lupo, Dread Lady of the Dominion
He nods, waiting for her to finish explaining, his expression thoughtful as he reads, his hand wandering over her back.
"Now, as you might imagine, my original intent was to call the attention to what I thought was obvious problem areas. Now I have several allies carrying out what reminds me of the damn inquisition. I had no idea so many of them had guilty consciences, truly." She idly sucks on the tip of her left pinky, chin still cradled in her hand, propped up on her elbow. "And more than one are voicing their willingness to be investigated by external teams."
"You realize, you may have just put your own head on the chopping block with this," he says quietly. "Depending on your 'records' from the past while, and what they make of them."
She laughs, giving him a sly look over her shoulder. "Records? What records? I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about, dear." Still, the corners of her eyes show a tightness at the reminder of recent events. She shakes it off, and moves on. Later. I'll leave those thoughts for later. Focus.
"Christ, I was only hoping to draw attention to what I saw as some problem areas, and hope that the rest of the group would make the leap. You know the concerns the council had about Angelus and Menelmacar in particular when they showed an interest in the NDA? This is what's had me concerned. Especially with all the interaction with Carlos of late, I find myself observing the actions of the elves, and finding them haughty and distasteful. So much as whisper the words 'elven oppression', and it's 'Gravships, Ho!' with them. Far too much power, and far too little care for how they use it. Angelus ... " She pauses, her brow furrowing. "They are another matter entirely. One I'm still not certain quite how to feel about. Their choice to get involved in the Melkor conflict cost them more than they'd planned, I think, and very nearly dragged the alliance in with them. I chose my first alliance carefully, valuing it for its stability, contacts, tech levels, and the respect it commanded. I've seen that slipping away of late, Dev."
He notes the concern in her voice, and the tension that has started to creep into her muscles as she speaks. Pushing aside his own concerns about some of what she's said, he leans in to nibble along her shoulder. "Put it away, Red. We can talk about all this in the morning." He reaches up towards the laptop, slowly pulling the screen down, then shut.
Nathi turns to him, her eyes flashing, jaw set. He gives her a lopsided grin, kissing her briefly. "Come back to bed."
Nathi grins in spite of herself, letting her eyes wander over him appreciatively. She places her hand over his, trailing it up along his arm til she reaches his cheek, tilting her head and drawing him in for a more passionate kiss. Their eyes meet, several unspoken thoughts clear in both. She absentmindedly moves the laptop to the seat of a nearby chair, tossing it over gently, then turning back to the matter at hand.
Quite a bit later, she's nestled comfortably in the crook of his arm, her cheek resting on his chest, listening to his steady breathing and the comforting rythm of his heart. Sleep slowly overtakes her.
And then the dreams begin.
Dread Lady Nathicana
"Mamma, when are we going to the giardino?" She stood up on tiptoes, watching her mother knead the seasoned bread dough with undisguised interest.
"When your father gets home from work, mia cara. We've some time yet before." The woman brushes back a stray strand of dark brown hair using her sleeve, smiling down at her little girl. "Want to help?"
Her eyes light up, bouncing on the balls of her feet in excitement. "Yes!" she says, then, remembering her manners, "Please, mamma, can I?"
Breaking off a portion of the dough, the woman helps her up onto a chair next to her, then quietly instructs her on how to properly work the dough with her little hands. She nods, her young face taking on a seriousness that belies her years, watching carefully the motions of her mother's hands, listening carefully to the instructions before trying it herself. She starts in tentatively, slowly, her eyes glancing back and forth from her dough to her mother's, mimicing in a typically childlike way, her brow furrowed in concentration.
Looking down at her raven-haired daughter, the woman smiles, murmuring quiet words of encouragement as they work. She shows her how to mold it into a uniform ball, sometimes placing her experienced hands over the girl's small ones, helping her shape it with gentle care. Once formed she helps her lift the little loaf onto the baking stone, then sets the larger ones along with it.
"Stand back now, bambi," the woman says, walking over to open the wide oven door. She comes back, takes up the baking stone, then returns to the oven, sliding it in and closing the door. She winds up the little white timer she always uses for these things, and sets it up on the counter, turning to her daughter with a smile. "All done. We'll have fresh bread waiting when your papa finishes his shift. Now go wash up. You can help me with the rest of dinner."
Smiling happily, she scampers off to the bathroom just off the kitchen, using her step stool to reach the sink, meticulously cleaning her hands and humming quietly. A crash and her mother's scream from the other room breaks her out of her reverie. Loud voices shouting, and frantic explanations from her mamma greet her as she rushes out, her hands still dripping.
Catching sight of her little girl, the woman's face pales, even as she struggles with the two soldati holding her.
"Nathi, run! RUN!"
She pauses for one anguished moment, her eyes darting from her mother, to the soldati who is not her father holding the woman, to the one quickly coming in her direction ... and she runs. Her little feet pound against the tile floor as the tears begin to flow down her cheeks. She darts past the soldati that leaps over the table to grab her, and makes for the back door, fumbling for a moment with the handle, then jerking it open and leaping down the stairs. Shouts sound to her left, and she looks over with a panicked expression. Three more soldati are there, and soon two of them are coming after her, shouting for her to stop.
Running. She ran as fast as her little legs could take her, not understanding what was going on, or why the strangers had come in their house. All she knew was that mamma had told her to run. She always tried to mind mamma. Papa had always said ... where was he? Why were other soldati scaring her mother?
Heavy, booted steps grew closer, her short little legs no match for their purposeful strides. Shouts and curses for her to stop grew louder. A pair of hands reach out, snagging her up, and then arms wrap tightly around her. She kicks, and screams, wriggling like mad in a futile effort to escape. The big man tucks in her legs close, preventing the wild kicks from continuing, his other arm restraining her from using her arms to flail about. Her entire body tenses, struggles, desperately trying to break free as she continues to wail, calling out for her mama, her papa.
Faces peer cautiously from windows and doorways, some sad, some frightened, some fixing themselves in a cold expressionless stare. Why were they not helping? Signora Malatesta ... Don Callisto ... she saw the faces of some of her playmates, tearfully clinging to their mothers, watching her carried off. No one was saying a word. No one was helping. She called out to them, pittifully begging someone, anyone to make them stop, to save her from the painful grip of the soldati who holds her.
No one did.
She is carried through the alleyway between houses, out to the front. Several large black vans are parked on the street. Into the back of one of them, the soldati are forcing her mother. Her struggles begin anew, her mother's as well, screaming out to her daughter, fighting the men and women forcing her into the vehicle. In payment for her efforts, one of the men balls up his fist, backhanding the woman solidly across the jaw, dropping her like a marionette who's strings have been cut. Unceremoniously shoving the limp form the rest of the way into the van, they shut the doors with a slam. The view of her mother being struck and shut away from her evokes more shrieks of panic, even as she's tossed roughly into the back of another van. She lands, sprawled awkwardly on the floor, scrambling quickly towards the doors even as they close, shutting out the light.
Beating her little fists on the doors, she sobs, calling out for help, for mama, for papa, for the soldati to let her out. Her only answer is the motion of the van as it pulls away from the curb, driving rapidly down the road ... and the now audible whimpers and sobs of the other children she finally notices huddled there in the dark with her.
Dread Lady Nathicana
The van speeds along its course for what seems like forever. The children continue to wimper and cry, some huddled together and whispering in hushed voices.
She sits alone in front of the doors, staring at them blankly. Her hands are sore from pounding. Her breath is still broken by the occasional reflexive gasp from crying so hard. What had she done to be punnished like this? Why was her mama taken away? Where were they going? Where was papa?
Keeping her back to the others she can hear but not see, she draws her knees up tightly against her chest, wrapping her arms around them and resting her chin atop. Her little face slowly hardens into a stubborn mask as she internally runs through her prayers, promising God, the Virgin Mary, and several saints her guaranteed good behaviour, if only they will help, and punnish the ones that have put her here. Her thoughts go full circle, and she scowls, muttering darkly about how sorry they'll be when her papa comes.
He had to come. No other answer was acceptable. He would come, and they would let her and mama go, and they would go home, eat dinner, and go out like they had planned. He would.
The van finally slows, then stops. The doors open, and she blinks her eyes, shielding them with her hands from the bright light that suddenly fills the back of the van. Several of the children begin crying again. She glares at her captors, even as they take her by the shoulders and lift her out, setting her down on her feet as they direct the other children to move forward. One of the soldati climbs inside to 'assist' in getting them moving, much to the dismay of many of them.
She stands obediently, still scowling as she looks around at the new surroundings. They are inside now, in what seems to be a tall garage, bright hallogen lights shining down on them from a bare concrete ceiling. Armed guards abound, and several other vans are present, each unloading a group of children. Very young ones and infants are carried by various personnel that enter in from a door at the far end of the garage. All the adults are dressed in strict militzia fashion, each with a shiny nametag that she's too young still to read. The older children are herded together towards the door.
Sullenly, she walks along with the rest of the group, her eyes constantly scanning for her father. He had to be here, somewhere. He would explain it all. Make it alright. She shrugs off any hands that attempt to guide her, avoiding as well the clinging grips of other wide-eyed children. She didn't want to be touched. She didn't want to acknowledge that she was a part of this group. She had a her papa, and he was a soldati. He would come for her, and mama. She knew this.
The group is ushered through the door and into a cold, clean building of greys and whites, dark-uniformed staff quietly walking the halls, everything speaking of efficiency and order. Their shuffling footsteps echo along the hallway as the group makes its way towards a 'T' juncture. A long table has been set up, with several official-looking staff members, piles of paperwork, a box of wristbands, and a tray of hypodermics and disinfectant wipes.
Her eyes widen at the tray, eyes flickering faster between the tall imposing forms of the staff and guards, anxiously looking for papa.
Of course, he is nowhere to be found.
"Name?" asks a pleasant-looking woman from behind the table.
Her head whips around as she realizes she's being spoken to.
"N...Nathi, Signora. Where's my pap--"
"Nathicana D'Aquisto, Signora. My p--"
"Your parent's names?"
Her brow furrows, and her scowl deepens, but she remains respectful, as she's been brought up to be.
"Stephano and Lucia."
The woman nods, continuing to make notes. She takes a wristband from the box, fiddling with some little contraption on the desk. Inserting a blue plastic tab, she noisily pushes the handle of it across and back, imprinting the tab with a series of letters and numbers. She attaches it to the wristband, and hands it to another waiting attendant.
"Name?" the lady asks the next child, as another woman takes her by the hand, leading her down along the table. The band is fitted on her left wrist, at the same time, her sleeve is pushed up. A spot along her upper arm is swabbed, and the woman is saying something about 'standard immunization' that she doesn't understand. She tugs her hand, trying to break the woman's grip, in vain. A hypodermic filled with some sort of clear liquid is picked up, and she finds herself suddenly wrapped up under the woman's arm, her left hand held out from her body by the wrist. The woman quickly administers the injection, and she wriggles and yelps, struggling against the burn, and thinking several very nasty things about the lady.
She's handed off to yet another staffer, who leads her down the left-handed hallway, with her ruefully rubbing her arm, scowling darkly.
"I want my papa."
"Of course you do, dear."
"I want my mama."
Her head feels ... funny. Her feet feel heavy. The woman's voice sounds fuzzy and distant, and she starts to feel like she's moving through water. Her steps fumble, and the woman stops long enough to scoop her up, carrying her the rest of the way to their destination.
The room, like so much of the rest of the place, is done in somber colors. Blank white walls make it seem more bright than it needs to be. In the background, soft music is playing at a steady, repetitive 50 beats a minute. Two rows of beds line either wall. There are no windows, and the pale flourescent glow from above seems weak and shaky here. Then again, she feels that way herself. She barely registers the fact that there are other children in the room as she's laid down on a bed. She fights to keep her eyes open, blinking slowly up at the woman, her words slurring, as she once again tries to ask for her father.
"We'll talk about it in the morning," is the last thing she remembers hearing before the blackness finally takes her.
Dread Lady Nathicana
We'll talk about it in the morning.
In the morning.
No, I need to know what ...
We can talk about all this in the morning, Red.
Wait, you're not ...
Nathicana sits up with a gasp, looking around the room, and not immediately recognizing her surroundings.
"Where ... " she begins, moving to get out of the bed, her eyes wide as she looks around, not quite awake yet, not really seeing clearly.
"Easy, Red." Treznor takes Nathicana's hand gently, but takes care not to crowd her. He's seen battle jitters before, but he's never seen Nathicana with them. "You were having a dream. It'll be all right in the morning. Just go back to sleep."
He notes her look of confusion and reads it correctly. "You're here in bed with me. We're in your villa, out in the country. You're safe, Red. No one can hurt you. I won't let them."
No, by the gods. I won't.
Dread Lady Nathicana
She jumps at his voice, and looks over at him, blinking.
"Dev ..." She nods haltingly, her brow creasing as she seems to work to understand.
Nathi slides back into the bed, pulling up the covers around her and leaning up against him, shivering slightly as she squeezes his hand back.
What was I ... no, that can't be right. No. Not now.
"Just ... just stay with me, Dev," she manages, not meeting his eyes. She snuggles back down onto the pillows, drawing him with her, taking comfort in his warmth, his strength. She shivers once again involuntarily, closing her eyes, not wanting him to see her like this, or wanting to see herself.
She concentrates on his breathing, using the soft, steady pace of it to soothe her back to sleep.
And in her dreams, she wakes groggily back in the room with the same music playing. The rows of beds. The quiet sounds of someone sniffling and crying somewhere down the line.
No, no, no, no ...
The little girl sits up, rubbing her head that still feels funny. She scowls darkly. Where was papa?why hadn't he come yet? It wasn't fair. She didn't belong here. She wasn't going to stay.
Tugging at her wristband angrily, she mutters childlike imprecations, becoming more and more frustrated as she fails to remove the ugly reminder.
"I won't stay here! You can't make me!" she yells agrily, reaching back and throwing her less-than comfortable pillow across the room.
And back in the villa, she does the same, chest heaving, staring blankly across the room.
"Damn ... oh damn ..."
Treznor groans and crawls to a kneeling position from where he landed. One moment he was sleeping peacefully, the next moment he was flying through the air to come crashing against the wall.
Damn her augments. I didn't expect to need an insurance policy just for sleeping next to her!
He twists carefully, wincing at the bruising he feels in his back and left arm. He'll be black and blue in the morning, but that's nothing new after a night with Nathicana. It's just that he normally gets to enjoy it more.
"Nath? Are you awake?" He approaches the bed cautiously. "Okay, Red. I'm up now. Wanna tell me what the hell is going on?"
Dread Lady Nathicana
Nathi puts a hand over her mouth, looking rather horrified as he walks over, her eyes wide.
"Omigod Dev, I'm so sorry!"
She quickly slides out of the bed and awkwardly tries to look him over, her hands obviously shaking, talking quickly all the while.
"Nothing, I'm fine, I just thought ... just didn't think, and ... God I'm sorry, that looks ... really, nothing. Haven't been sleeping well," she says, barely pausing for breath.
"Are you ok? Did I ... please, I didn't mean ..."
He's not buying it. She's certain enough of that.
"Dev, what do you remember from your childhood?" she asks quietly, sitting back down on the bed, and beckoning him to join her.
Treznor sits down on the edge of the bed and frowns. He wasn't expecting that question.
"My childhood? Hmm...I don't remember much about it. I wasn't born in the Dominion, but you knew that. My parents came here when I was very young, sometime after I learned to speak. I have vague memories of mountains and water. Then a lot of traveling aboard ships before we finally arrived here and settled down." He pauses, noting how Nathicana is paying rapt attention to his words. He strokes her hand lightly and continues. "The rest is kind of a blur, until I was nine. My parents were taken away by the soldati during one of the frequent purges, and I was placed in a special 'school.' I'm amazed I survived it, frankly. I was a hell of a troublemaker. I think that's why I ended up in the Army after I graduated. If Raphael hadn't taken an interest in me, I'd have probably died there on some pointless exercise or another."
Dread Lady Nathicana
She pales visibly at the mention of the soldati.
"I ... I didn't know that," she says softly. "How can you talk so calmly about it?"
And why can't I?
"Dev ... you know the actions I took recently. You know what I had to do. I've been remembering. Thinking back lately." She shivers again, half reaching out to be closer to him, but stopping.
"I've become what I hated most all those years. I've done the same things that were done to me." Her gaze drops, and for once he sees her completely at a loss, soft, and uncertain.
"I don't know what to do. The thoughts won't leave. Why can't I just let it go?"
Treznor shrugs and leans forward to take Nathicana in his arms. "It just is. I don't remember much; the schools were fairly successful in blurring my memories. I don't miss what I don't remember. And besides, one of the lessons Raphael taught me when he began my intelligence training was how to accept what is so I could move on to what could be. He called it 'stoicism,' and I have to admit it's been pretty useful.
"As for what you've done..." he pauses for thought, trying to find the right words. "Purges have been part of the Dominion for years. They happened before us, and they'll go on after us. I don't blame you for using a necessary tool to cement your rule. If you hadn't done it, you wouldn't be in as strong a position as you are now. You became what you hated because you didn't know enough about it to know why you hated it. Now you know the reasons why they were done."
He looks at her thoughtfully, noting the redness about her eyes. "I'm not the only one who attended one of those schools, am I? That's what this crisis of conscience is about?"
Dread Lady Nathicana
She nods quietly, woodenly letting him hold her close.
"I know the drills, Dev. I've been there myself. Different teachers, similar lessons. All these years and it's never bothered me. I wouldn't let it. Past was past, it had no bearing on the present."
She lets out a slow, shuddering breath, hating admitting, but needing to at least hear the words. Needing someone to understand and possibly give some guidance.
"You know I haven't been myself for a while. I've gotten soft. Even you've thought so. My marriage has been crazy, and I'm still not sure how or what to think or feel there. All that went along with the damned occupation," she shudders. "And afterwards, a slow downwards spiral of losing my grip on myself, my methods ... dealing with people with such different views ... Dev, there's been so much. I'm not sure what to hang on to, and what to let go."
Nathi stares absently at nothing in particular, trying to gather her thoughts. "Do you realize, for the first time since I was a very small child, I've had friends? Real friends who don't look for reasons to use or exploit. Laugh if you will ... these people are different. And I find it ... unsettling, and oddly comforting sometimes. I've even managed to find family of sorts along the way," she goes on quietly, knowing he won't be pleased.
"Shodey's like the sister I never had. We're a lot alike in many ways, but ... It's been odd to say the least, realizing that she, a non-organic, has more morals and dare I say humanity than myself on occasion." She gives Devon a wry grin. "I know you'd argue that. I can't blame you. It's just another thing that's given me pause, caused me to question."
Her expression goes cold for a moment. "You know, I killed Mateo."
She pauses again, her brow furrowing further. "I took all week to do it, but I did. And through it all ... I felt nothing. At the end, Dev ... I lost my taste for it. Lost my nerve. That's never happened before ... " Shaking her head slightly, she moves on.
"There's Jaime. I know I haven't said much, and I know you've wondered more than once about the whole 'why' of that. We're nothing alike, however much he'd have be believe otherwise. Dev, when he walked into my life, at that time of crisis ... he was like everything I'd never had in all those years. Does that even begin to make sense? It's so I'm not sure if I feel the way I do for him, or for that. He's always so quick to say 'I love you'. Me, I'm still not sure what I'm feeling is. I'd never felt quite that way before. Is it love, or some desperate need for comfort I didn't realize I needed before?"
She closes her eyes and just rests against him, unsure of quite how to go on, and feeling ashamed and foolish for already showing so much weakness. In a very quiet voice, she continues.
"And then there's you, Dev. What on earth do I do with you?"
Nathi gives him a quiet squeeze, hoping to convey whatever thoughts she's having have nothing to do with his removal.
Treznor sits quietly, rocking Nathicana gently in his arms as he listens. He scowls when she refers to S.H.O.D.A.N. as a sister; he still doesn't trust Electronic Intelligences, but he doesn't argue. This isn't the time.
When she finishes, he takes a deep breath and ponders for a while. Eventually, he opens his mouth and says slowly, "It isn't about me. It isn't about me, or Jaime or Mateo or S.H.O.D.A.N. or anybody else. It's about you. Nathicana D'Aquisto, Imperator of the Dominion. The same little girl who misses her mother, I suspect."
He shrugs and climbs out of bed to fetch two glasses of water with ice from the wetbar. He hands one to Nathicana and sips at the other.
"I don't miss my parents. Sometimes I wonder about that. I think of them and I feel...nothing. Then again, I feel that way about most people. I don't really need them, I suppose. The only exception is...you. I don't know why. It's why I keep coming back to you, even though I know our affair is going to blow up sooner or later, and not just because we're explosive people. We're different people on similar paths. I'm drawn to you whether I like it or not, because I can't resist your flame.
"I wonder about you a lot, Red. I admit it. You do things that baffle me, and it fascinates me. Your relationship with S.H.O.D.A.N., with Jaime, even me. None of it makes sense, yet all of it is uniquely you. You contradict yourself at every turn, and at the same time you seem to move through them with effortless grace. It's a pleasure to watch. You take my breath away."
He leans down and kisses her lips softly.
"There's nothing wrong with you, Red. You're changing, and it frightens you. You're not the woman I fell in love with all those years ago. You're something more, and it's all I can do to try to follow you. Some day you'll rise so far I won't be able to keep up, but for now I'll just enjoy what we have."
I concurz :shock:
Dread Lady Nathicana
She quietly listens to his words, saying nothing, but thinking much. This wasn't the first time she'd had these dreams. They'd started the night after the raids. It had almost been a comfort in Iraqstan, watching over Carlos. It had given her something else to worry about, something else to take up her time. And she'd been too busy to sleep much.
Since, though, it had been another story. She'd purposefully pushed herself during the days, hoping to wear herself out enough to just crash. Many a late night had been spent pacing the halls of the Dominion offices as she tried to force the memories back down to whatever depths she'd managed to push them before. All to no avail.
Missing her mother? Yes ... and her father, though she'd learned to hate both when she was younger, almost as much as she'd hated the system that took them from her in the first place. Over the years, the indoctrination had taken hold, as much as she'd tried to fight it. Her stubborness had earned her only pain, an increased regimen, and harsh reprisals. She had adapted, done what she had to to survive, as had they all. She'd burried her emotions and memories deep, and moved on - what else was there to be done?
She takes the water from him with a thankful nod, her expression smoothing somewhat at she quietly sips. She had been like him once. It wasn't all that long ago in the grand scheme of things, though it felt like an eternity. Trust no one entirely, rely on no one fully but yourself, use who and what you need to get what you want, do what must be done to achieve the results you require. Simple.
I'm the exception, Dev? God help you if that's the case. Though, all things considered, I'm glad you do keep coming back. I only hope I don't end up burning you as I have so many others along the way. Too many, perhaps? Not enough?
When you've paused long enough in your casually ruthless ways to let your feelings show through a bit, you've always put me on an unreachable pedestal of sorts. Whatever would you do if you knew in some ways, I've been watching your actions with a touch of envy and admiration myself? You've honed the edge I've lost to a keen sharpness. The raids brought a good bit of that back, as did that bastard Mateo. I should probably thank him for that at least, even if it did go somehow wrong in the end.
I need some of what you have back. Even so, I think you'd be disappointed to know that even I can't be quite so cold. Not anymore.
Of course she didn't make sense. As firm and reliable as she was in some things, she'd always been rather mercurial in nature. It was how she'd survived. It was how she'd gotten through the indoctrinations without losing her fiery temperment. It was how when older, she'd gotten through the humilitating 'private sessions' with some of the instructors, learning to use her looks, her body as a tool, a weapon, rather than let it shame and weaken her as they'd hoped. It was what had let her move effortlessly between graceful negotiator, hardened soldier, and ruthless murderer.
His kiss brings her out of her reveries, though she's listened to every word. She looks at him intently as she gently kisses him back.
Love? Perhaps. She still wasn't sure. Did it matter?
"Some day you'll rise so far I won't be able to keep up, but for now I'll just enjoy what we have," he says, and she nods, taking one last sip of her water, and leaning down to set the glass on the floor.
Firmly setting her thoughts aside, yet for once, not trying to repress them again, she takes the glass from his hand as well, setting it down next to hers.
I will work through this. He's right. I've survived worse. Change does not mean destruction. Without change, there is no growth. No growth, leads to stagnation. And that way, ultimately, death. I will work through this, and come out the stronger for it. Wherever the path takes me next.
She looks back up at Devon, her eyes thoughtful, even as the corners of her lips turn up in the barest hint of a smile. Reaching out, she takes hold of his hand, drawing him closer.
"I think, perhaps, I have a less lofty goal you can strive for in matters of 'keeping up', Dev. At least for tonight." She lets her eyes wander over him appreciatively, in a slow, meaningful way. "That is ... if you're up to it?"
Later. When he's gone. For now ... just enjoy what I have.
Treznor grins at Nathicana, although his eyes scrutinise her a bit more closely than usual.
I don't think I solved anything, but at least she's back in control. That'll do.
He leans forward to kiss her once more, then winces at the strain to his back. He twists his left arm around to see the mottled bruising already coming up. "I can rise to the occasion, but be gentle, please? I have to shuttle back to Devonton for an afternoon meeting with Reploid Productions, and I'd like to be able to sit still for it."
He winks to take the sting out of the words. He guesses she'll feel guilty about it, but he proceeds to reassure her without words that he doesn't hold a grudge against her.
No, I never have. I can't imagine that I ever will.
Dread Lady Nathicana
She kisses him back softly, going for a more confident look in her eyes that she just wasn't quite up to feeling yet.
I'd not believe him either if he'd just tossed me across the room. Why he puts up with it all ...
She grimaces, biting her lower lip as he winces and examines his latest battle wounds. She draws him close with a suprisingly gentle touch, and in between the kisses and quiet sighs whispers softly, "Let me try and make it up to you."
Nathi spends the next long while doing just that. And in the brief hours after, she lays close in his arms, taking comfort in his closeness, watching the darkness fade, and the steely grey light of morning seep into the room. She doesn't move, not wanting to disturb his sleep.
I'll give him a ride back ... give him more time to rest before his meeting. And after ...
She watches the shadows slowly change in the room, silently beginning the process of recollection, carefully cataloguing events, faces ... memories. Habit. Training. Later, she resolves go over them all. She continues til she feels him start to stir next to her, then greets him with a warm smile and gentle kiss.
"What do you say to a bit of breakfast, boy? Lord knows after last night I could do with a recharge." She reluctantly pulls away enough to grab the phone from the bedside table, dialing downstairs to the kitchen where she knows her small staff have most likely already eaten. "And ah ... I'll have something sent up for your back. Certain we've something or other to at least help."
Treznor yawns and rolls over, a sleepy smile crossing his face. "G'mornin' Beautiful." He starts a slow, lazy stretch and winces, his languid motion arrested by sore muscles.
Dammit, forgot about that. Well, I'm awake now.
He slowly props himself up to a sitting position and quirks a grin at Nathicana. "Coffee and an aspirin would make for an excellent start. After that I'll have what you're having."
He crawls out of bed and pads to the toilet for his morning abulations. He sets the shower for steaming hot, hoping to ease the ache in his body and whistles tunelessly as he steps in, remembering another shower in another place.
That seems like so long ago, now.
"How are you this bright, cheerful morning?" he calls to her, beckoning for her to join him.
Dread Lady Nathicana
Giving him a wry grin, she nods, putting in the call for just that, along with requests for a hearty portion of eggs, sausages, a loaf of warm bread, cheese, some fruit ... oh, and why the hell not, waffles, with all the fixings. Add to that a pitcher of juice and she felt all was in order.
"Just knock and leave the trolley outside the door," she directs, watching him cross the room to the spacious bath, a smile on her lips.
Him and that whistle of his ... Her smile broadens.
Stretching a good bit herself, and trying to rub the tiredness from her eyes, she pads quietly to the bathroom herself at his cheerful beckoning.
"I'd love to." She steps in slowly, pausing only long enough to brush her body against his, briefly kissing his lips, taking his hand in hers, and gently pulling him along.
Gods, when he pulled this before back in Iraqstan ... she chuckles softly at the memory.
"Maybe this time I'll let you dry me, boy."
Treznor grins at the reference and fetches soap and hand towel. He lathers up and proceeds to scrub at Nathicana's back.
"I accept no responsibility for any wrongdoing at that time. You could have informed me that it wasn't necessary at any point before or during that shower. I recall comporting myself as a gentleman throughout the entire affair."
After soaping up Nathicana's back, Treznor steps in and wraps his arms around her waist from behind for a close hug.
"You didn't answer my question," he murmurs in her ear. "Are you feeling better after last night?"
Dread Lady Nathicana
She stretches contentedly as he scrubs her back. "Still have the touch, Dev ..." she murmurs softly. She grins back at him over her shoulder at his comments on their little enounter.
"Aye, I could have. Your point? As for gentleman ... bah! You were a damned tease and you know it," she says with a chuckle. "You had me well and truly--" she softly clears her throat. "You had me going there, boy. Lets hope you don't have any such ridiculous notions of chivalry today, hmm?"
Nestling back against him and wrapping her arms over his, she nods at his repeated question.
"Much better, thank you. I'm sorry, really. Didn't mean to burden you with my silly troubles nor toss you across the room like that." She turns, facing him, slipping her arms around his shoulders, very gently kneading his back as she holds him close, letting the water wash down over them soothingly.
"You doing ok?"
Treznor grins at the banter and continues his work. He shrugs off her apologies with a chuckle. "I don't mind listening to you. It's gratifying to know that you trust me so much, and even more that I can help you in a small way. As for the rest, well, you've done worse to me. You still carry the knife you almost killed me with, I note. Awfully sentimental of you."
"You doing ok?" she asks.
His grip tightens slightly and he buries his face in her neck.
"They stole my mother's eyes, Red. I never really thought about it until we talked last night, but the bastards stole my mother's eyes. They were beautiful eyes. I remember staring at her for hours just watching her eyes. They captivated me. I thought they were the reason my father married her. Maybe they were. But they didn't just take her name away from me, they stole her eyes. I never thought such a simple thing could have such an impact on me, but it hit me this morning when I got up.
"I dreamed about her last night, after I went back to sleep. I don't remember much about it, but I remember seeing my parents again. They were hazy, insubstantial. I kept looking at my mother's face, trying to see her eyes but they weren't there. I started crying because they'd taken them away. I couldn't explain it; the words wouldn't come to me. I just stood there staring at her face and crying."
He sighs and strokes Nathicana's belly.
"It must have been just before light. I vaguely remember opening my eyes and seeing you awake, but I went straight back to sleep. I'm surprised I still remember anything."
Dread Lady Nathicana
"Hey, you're the one gave it back to me, remember? It's the least I can do, to carry it with me," she says with a little smile, remembering all too well his entrance at SilverCities. How she'd longed to take that knife and slip it through his ribs into his heart at that moment.
It all seemed an eternity away.
She's totally unprepared for his reactions to her simple question.
Hesitating only a moment, she gently holds him close, lightly stroking his back with her fingertips.
"Dev," she begins, lamely not knowing quite what to say to him. She'd never seen him like this. Ever. Even when she'd been her worst to the boy - and she had, admittedly, been rather horrible on occasion - he'd never shown anything like this. It took her aback, and yet, she found it comforting to know she wasn't the only one with old fears and clouded memories, as screwed up as that seemed.
And how many other children have I just done that to? How many lives have I irreversably ruined? I've become what I once hated most. What I've killed others for being. What right do I have to feel so cheated? Look at what such actions have done to us.
"Staring too long into the abyss," she says quietly. "I'm so sorry, Dev. I shouldn't have said anything. Shouldn't have burdened you with my petty thoughts, nor dredged up old pain for you to relive." She kisses her way along his neck, pressing in close. The only reaction she feels comfortable with, a physical one.
"It would seem we're more two of a kind than I'd thought, boy," she murmurs against his skin, not wanting to meet his eyes just then, too consumed with guilt, and unwilling to let it show.
Just don't let it throw you off your stride, Dev. It's hard to break back into a steady pace.
Treznor shakes his head, droplets of water flying from his short hair. "No, it's not you. You didn't do it to me, and it isn't necessarily a bad thing. Would I have become the man I am today if I could remember her eyes? I don't know, but I suspect not. In a way, the Imperator of twenty years ago did me a favour. He stripped away my life to pave the way for a new one. If they hadn't sent me to that school, I wouldn't be here now. I doubt I'd be in a position to shake up my corner of the world the way I am now. It's...exhilarating."
He grins and kisses her. "I won't forgive them for what they did to me, but I won't waste my time crying over it either. Thanks to you I understand more of what's happened to me, of what made me who I am. That's a powerful gift, Red. Thank you."
Dread Lady Nathicana
Nathi kisses him back, her eyes questioning and understanding all at once.
How does he do it? Damn the man, he always makes it look so easy, so effortless. And I'll be damned if I'm going to tell him that.
Or that I love him for it.
She shakes her head slowly, gracefully wiping water from her face, grinning at him wryly.
"How do you manage to say just the right thing every now and then, Dev? And why so often lately, do I seem to have a hard time seeing the obvious?"
She takes the cloth and soap from him and begins returing the favor, slowly, taking her time, enjoying the feel of him under her hands.
"I'm ... glad, Dev. I'm not sure I quite understand, but for you, I'm glad. If you're happy, I'm happy for you," she says with a smile, "Though I'm not sure I can take credit for this one, whatever you say. You're welcome, nonetheless, for what it's worth."
He's right, you know ... you are who you've been molded to be. Not all my choices, but how I reacted to them was. Play the hand dealt you, and play it to the best of your ability. Now ... to integrate it all. Accept it. Blend it. If he can, surely I can. I've always been the stronger.
Treznor winks at her, then says with perfect solemnity, "Years of practice. After so many years of playing spin doctor, I've learned to think on my feet."
He grins to clue in he's joking and hugs her. "Seriously, I don't say the right things all the time. It's just that when it comes to my own mind, I've had a lot of time to reflect on who I am and what I want. Realising that I lost the memory my mother's eyes doesn't change that, it just gives me a new perspective on it."
Then he turns around to accept her tender ministrations with soap and towel.
"I'd say we're pretty much even. Any good relation is about give and take, right? Speaking of such things, once my meeting with Reploid States is over, would you like to take in a concert in Devonton? Unless you've got pressing business tonight."
Dread Lady Nathicana
"I never said 'all the time', boy," she says, chuckling softly, scrubbing his back gently, wincing at the bruising there.
She pauses in her ministrations at the invitation to the concert, and she blinks before continuing.
"Concert? I ah ..." Idly scrubbing, she ponders for a moment.
Options - sit here and work through things alone, or spend more time with Dev. Thinking can be done regardless of location. Sharing is not neccessary, though at times, appreciated. Give and take ... and good lord, a date? She laughs softly at the thought, leaning in against him and wrapping her arms up around his chest.
"I'd love to come. I can give you a lift in the shuttle, get you there without rush. No pressing business on this end that won't wait, and I've a few days yet before I leave for a week. Which reminds me ..."
She reaches up on tiptoes and kisses him lightly on the cheek. "Mind keeping an eye out for trouble here while I'm out of town? I'm ... well, going on safari. Roughing it, you know. Hunting big game. No tricked-out guns or the like, mind - we're going more primitive on this one."
"Deal," Treznor says with satisfaction, steeling himself against the pain of his bruising.
"On safari, eh? Okay, I can do that. If something goes wrong, who do I contact? Somehow I can't imagine your people willingly surrendering control to me in the event of an emergency."
Dread Lady Nathicana
"Marik," she says. "Barring that, work through Jas' orgainzation - they know what to do, and I'll pay you back with interest the fees. My people all have their instructions, and I trust them to be followed implicitly. This is just in the event of an unforseen emergency. Need to know I have someone with wit and knowhow running things behind the scenes. I'll be out of radio contact, or I'd not bother asking you."
She finished up, giving him a teasing pinch, then moved her attentions higher. "Not too painful, I hope?" she says, one hand gently stroking near the injuries she'd inflicted. "I'm certain the food is out there and waiting, along with that pain relief you asked for."
Treznor nods. "Not a problem. I've got Jas on speed-dial, now that he's accepted my retainer. And since you've been kind enough to leave my people unmolested in the Dominion, I'll instruct Ben to give them top priority. I presume Marik understands that I'll only bug him if I think it's truly necessary?"
He rises up to his toes at the pinch and twists his head around to give her a mock glare. "Wench. No, you did just fine, thank you. I was dreading trying to wash my back by myself."
He shuts the water off and reaches a towel to open it and wink at Nathicana. "How may I serve my Lady?"
Dread Lady Nathicana
"I figured - he's been rather tied up of late. Hope you're making him earn his keep. Pricey bastard, but well worth the cash. And ... thank you, dear. We did agree after all, to play nice. And yes, Marik is more than dependable, and capable. Don't let the silent act fool you. Most folks recognize him around here as a bodyguard. Now you know better."
She winks at him at the glare, and gives him a knowing smile as he holds out the towel. This was an old game of theirs, and it had always ended up in ... Nath laughed softly at the memories.
She moves with a slow, sensual grace, wringing the excess water out of her hair, her eyes never leaving his. As she straightens, she delicately lifts her arms, stretching in the process, offering him the best view of her shapely form.
"Dry me, boy."
Dread Lady Nathicana
<bump for reference>