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Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Dead)

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He wished he had never set foot in that horrible place.

The Haunted Glen was the setting for the worst mistake that Shikai had ever made in the three decades that comprised his life so far. It had been on a mission to find Quinnlan Nash, the woman who would later become the shinobi's lover. Phoebe Marshall, First of The Dead, and a woman that he both liked and deeply admired had been with him. Everything had seemed fine at first; hell, he had even been in surprisingly good spirits for trekking through the kind of humid, soggy hellhole they were in. Perhaps that should have been his first clue that something was amiss. If he had just stopped and thought about things, maybe he could have stopped what happened. He thought a lot about how he could have prevented that days events. In hindsight there seemed to be a thousand things he could have done differently; but at the time he hadn't suspected a thing.

So fucking stupid...

Whatever fell presence possessed that jungle had told him exactly what he wanted to hear; played on his weaknesses expertly. It convinced him that he was strong, powerful, and deserving of everything that life had to offer... including Phoebe. That suggestion had snapped him back to reality, but it had still been a desperate struggle to control himself, to not act on the horrific thoughts that lingered in his mind. He had gone so far as to knock himself out, banging his head against the muddy ground to make sure he couldn't try to hurt her. But right in the middle of his struggle he had felt himself restrained by an invisible grip. Looking up, he met her gaze and his worst fears were realized.

She knew.

In a life full of death and mayhem, he felt more ashamed at that moment than at any other point. Before he could try to apologize, she had used her psionics to help him purge himself of the Glen's influence in what had been one of the most agonizing experiences of his life. Once it was all over he had tried once more to express his regret, but she had brushed him off. Their relationship had never been the same afterwards. For a while she avoided him at all costs. Even once she had regained enough trust to work with him again, she kept him at a distance. It hurt... but he knew he had no one to blame but himself.

Even though he never would have considered such a thing without the Glen whispering in his ear, it didn't change the fact that he had thought about it. The guilt gnawed at him every day. Quinn definitely knew something was wrong, but she didn't press him for the details. Sometimes he would go out to the store so that he could find some quiet rooftop and weep until he was numb enough to go on. When he got home, he would just say that there had been a long line. He felt bad keeping secrets from his lover, but at the same time he feared what she would think of him if she knew. If she looked at him the same way Phoebe had... he wasn't sure he could take it.

Now he walked into one of The First's strongholds, The Seraphim Complex. It was the place where Phoebe was at her most powerful; where she could crush him with a passing whim if she so desired. The statement told him everything he needed to know about her feelings toward him right now. But at least she had agreed to see him. He desperately hoped that he could make things right, atone for his sins. He would do anything if it would make The First like him again. Of course, he knew that the opposite was just as likely; that she would decide she wanted nothing more to do with him. Shikai had no idea what he would do if that happened. But he feared he might find out...

Walking into the office, the shinobi felt instantly out of place. The meeting had been scheduled a week ago; and it had been one of the most nerve wracking weeks he had ever experienced. He barely ate anything, causing his already lean frame to become a bit more gaunt. Days without sleep had caused his eyes to become hollow and sunken. Barely able to bring himself to get up and shower every morning, his face was unshaven, which combined with his unkempt hair to make him look like some kind of vagrant. Normally his posture was upright and attentive, but today he was slouched over like there was some great unseen weight upon him. In a sense, he supposed there was. Perhaps most noticeably, the happy smile cheerful warmth that sparkled in his eyes was nowhere to be found. At least he had managed to dress well.

After speaking with the receptionist, the young woman guided him into a sterile corporate meeting room. Shikai knew that Phoebe's actual office was a good deal more cozy, but knew she didn't want him in there. He sat in the chair furthest from the door, eyes cast to the floor, and waited.



@Noko @DarkHorse

Authors note: I included Dark because this is a pretty big moment for Shikai, and it might be useful for future reference! 

 

 

Edited by danzilla3

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"Quin forget her self-control again?"

The vampire's deafness to the word 'stop' (or screams, or flailing, or unconsciousness) was well known, tossed in front of Phoebe as she entered, one hand wrapped around the thick, burnished metal handle which extended up the center third of the heavy wooden door she entered through.  Still, it was laughably inapplicable to one like Phoebe, who could read Shikai's low tumbling aura like the funerary dirge it was, and know its source.  He bathed in despondence like a drunk in whiskey, but it meant nothing to her; he had wrapped himself in loyalty and obedience before, like a trained dog, yet something in him still longed to bite.

The lights rose with Phoebe's entry; the vents kicked on, sending a delicate citrus scent into the room as Seraphim's pulse trailed her into the room.

He got his first full look at her as she let the door go, her fingertips trailing its polished surface until they reached the edge and fell off to let it drift backward on silent, arcanic winds that listened to her like she were their Aeolus and they were her puppets.  She was all severe angles; all edges, carved in body-hugging black: a blazer atop pants creased with a razor's edge, and a silk camisole that blended seamlessly.  It was an outfit that went anywhere, could be anything, and so it was perfect for her.

Her hair fell in dark waves that shifted as she set a cool green gaze on him, taking in sallow cheeks on a gaunt frame, the way his clothes hung like a burial shroud and even the orange scent Seraphim loosed to enliven meetings seemed to sour.

"You look awful."

Great.

Her footsteps echoed on the wood as she crossed toward the room-spanning table, eyes and attention drifting to the sea of sparkling lights visible through the entirely-glass western wall.  Last Chance was beautiful at night; silent, as far removed as they were, its lights dancing like the remembrance of fireflies long banished from the urban landscape.  She considered for a moment- how long had it been since she'd seen Shikai in any capacity?  A bit, she thought, as her fingertips set atop the chair across from him and she pulled it out, smiling her best executive smile.  Had she been avoiding him?  No, but she hadn't sought him out - the taste of him was too rank, the taint of the Glen sat about him like stink on a skunk and she wanted so badly to rip it free for daring to consider her prey.

Logical?

No, enraged.

But it was Shikai, so she sat.

"What can I do for you?" she wondered blandly.

Edited by Noko

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Someone who didn't know Phoebe probably wouldn't have noticed the subtle pleasure she took in his disheveled appearance and maudlin demeanor; but he did, and it caused a fresh stab of pain in his chest when he did. It was followed by another when she flashed him the same meaningless corporate smile that he knew she used for clients and marks. The First was never overly affectionate, but there used to be genuine warmth in the smiles she gave him. Knowing how far he had fallen in her estimation was still painful; even though he had suspected it for a while now. Doubt began to creep into his mind. Perhaps it had been a mistake to come here, and it had been nothing but hubris to think that she could forgive him for his trespasses. Yet he knew he had to try. Even if he left worse off than he had arrived, he needed to express his regret, his shame. Whether or not she could forgive him, he needed her to know.

"I... I know we haven't talked about what happened back in the Glen," he began slowly, "You probably didn't care to hear anything I had to say... and I had no idea what to say anyway. Still not sure, really. How do you apologize for something like... what I did."

Tears threatened to well up in his eyes, but he did his best to fight them down. He didn't want her to think that he was trying to gain her sympathy through some kind of cheap ploy. 

"I want more than anything to say that what you saw that day wasn't me; that it was just the Glen messing with my head. But we both know that would be a lie. Because it was me... the darkest, ugliest, most shameful part of me that I can honestly say I didn't know was there; but a part of me all the same. It sickens me. Scares me. If the Glen could reach it, who's to say that something else couldn't? Or something else..."

For the first time, he looked up at her, gaze filled with equal parts sadness and resolve.

"That's why I'm here. I want to apologize, but I have no right to ask for your forgiveness. Not until I've ensured that what happened in that hellhole can never happen again. I want you to take it out of me. Use your powers and burn it out."

 

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"...How do you apologize for something like... what I did."

She tried.

Phoebe had decades of training behind her-- as a rule, her beautifully adaptable expression revealed only what she chose to, and she chose only what she needed, and needed only what she wanted, and could be relied upon only so long it benefited her.  Her truths were imaginary architectures built on the foundations of lies.  If she smiled, it's because it was useful- if she wept, it was only to water seeds she planted years ago.

Yet, she flinched.

The break was the smallest of movements-- just a shiver across an ice sculpture, visible as a blink which shaded her cool green eyes slightly longer, hardened and flexed across the line of her jaw and shot a tremor down the length of her sculpted arm like she forced back some bone-deep reflex.  She stood in one smooth motion, pent up energy shooting upward like a bolt of black lightning as she covered the flare of anger in the flex of her hands and the curl of her fingers until each was drawn in to have its knuckle popped beneath her thumb.

Her aura roiled, boiled like cursed seas, and spilled across the room in a torrent.

Outwardly, she smiled.

She had hunted enemies to the ends of Valucre for far less than what he had considered-- surely he knew, surely he remembered.

Shikai went on.

Midway through his confession, Phoebe slipped her hands into her pants pockets; her attention fell on him like an avalanche, heavy and unceasing, coming to rest only once its full weight beset the General.

"...like what I did."

"...thought."  She cut him off at the knees, unwilling to let the suggestion of action persist for any longer than the breath with which he issued it.  If he had acted, had even a single muscle fiber attempted to realize his treacherous, hateful wants, either she or Feedback would have scoured and burnt his consciousness bare, back to the first memory of his first breath, and then cauterized a meter more just to be sure.

"...who's to say that something else couldn't? Or someone else..."

He was still talking, framing his failures as if they were threats to the Organization, and he was right-- they were. 

Reflecting, Phoebe wasn't sure that helped his case.

"That's why I'm here. I want to apologize, but I have no right to ask for your forgiveness. Not until I've ensured that what happened in that hellhole can never happen again. I want you to take it out of me. Use your powers and burn it out."

"Oh, I see.." she began- her words were agreeable, but the tone too flat for any semblance of warmth or assurance.  She pressed her lips together until they were a thin, pale line and nodded to herself before turning from Shikai and walking off.  Long, strident steps carried her further and further from him, from his excuses, and his pleading, until even the furthest reaches of his plying aura no longer reached her.  

The room gave her plenty of space-- sixty feet from end to end, it afforded her a broad swath of nothingness with which she could buffer her disgust.  Anywhere else, she might have had to project to be heard, but here Seraphim natively ensured her voiced carried easily.

"So, when you said, 'Not until you've ensured what happened can never happen again',"  Phoebe lifted air-quotes, surrounding the phrase as she continued to put distance between them.  "What you meant was 'once I've fixed your problem for you'.  

Is that correct?"

Edited by Noko

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Shikai couldn't read auras, but he had survived by learning how to read people; although, it wouldn't take a social genius to see that Phoebe was furious with him. In that moment something broke inside of him. The last bit of hope he hadn't even realized he was clinging to crumbled under the withering intensity of her gaze. Suddenly he felt like he was freefalling, waiting for the impact that would take away the pain. But he knew it wasn't coming; knew that he would have to live with the weight of his failures. First to stop himself back in the glen, then to make amends. 

"I shouldn't have come," he almost whispered.

If he couldn't make things right, then he could at least spare The First any further discomfort by removing himself from her presence. One last gesture of the friendship he had hoped they might one day share. Standing shakily to his feet, he took a moment to steady himself. He would break down later, but he refused to subject her to that pitiful side of himself. Walking slowly to give her time to put distance between them, he paused for just a moment at the door. Looking up at her, green eyes shimmering with barely contained tears, he managed to choke out two words.

"I'm sorry..."

Then he walked through the door and made his way back out onto the street. Once he was certain he was blocks away, he made his way to the top of the tallest building he could find and stared out at the skyline. His emotions boiling over, he wanted to scream. All he managed was a strangled cry before he fell to his knees and wept.

 

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Sorry.

He was sorry.

Words, words, words.

They were worth as much as the paper he didn't write them on.

Even this, even the attempt at reconciliation, was ephemeral and fleeting, lacking even the permanence of blue ink on a scrap of parchment and the time and effort it took to think through the words needed to fully accept and make right his sin.

Instead, he was just sorry.

Phoebe turned, her gaze shot over a shoulder as Shikai's words passed through Seraphim's arcanic weaves and echoed in her ears.  He was sorry, but he came empty-handed and begging like a pauper looking for a handout, so concerned with the consequence of failure that he never made an attempt to succeed.  He would hand it off to her, instead- let his incompetence be hers, the sins of which in this case were grotesque and intolerable.

It was just as well that Shikai couldn't read auras, for he would have seen hers slam shut like the Iron Gates of Alexander.

She saw him out with frigid efficiency, staring at the door long after it had closed, before she expelled her air in a sharp breath and sunk to rest against the polished lowboy, gripping its edges until it pressed a line into her palm.

When she spoke again, her voice was flat and tinged by exhaustion.

"Seraphim, reserve SAM.  Calibrate to Tia, using today's environmental conditions, and set the antagonist to the Choisel faction.  

I'll be there shortly."

<Acknowledged>

<fin>

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