Setting: Cricket Bedroom
Time: Night 007
Summary: Anna sings Machi's injury away, collapses, Machi watches over her until she wakes and they talk.
Warnings: Fluff, LAMIROIR gets talked about.
Hot air rose. It was a basic fact of life. The attic was warmer than the rest of the house, if not by a great deal. Even so, Anna was unnaturally chilled. She felt cold and weak and sick, nauseous and disoriented, hollow and empty, like she had been carved out clean by a razor-edged ice cream scoop.
Off-balance and tired though she was--she didn't think she'd ever get used to dying, and hoped to God she never would--, she headed down the hallway as quickly as she could manage without falling, almost guilty for no longer feeling the pain of a torn throat. Her own fault or not, her death was behind her now, but the implications weren't. Just because she was healthy again--could talk again, could sing again, thank God--didn't mean Machi was. She had left him there, all by himself, for.... she didn't know how long. At least a day or two. Could he even get up? Take care of himself? Protect himself? She doubted it. She had to get back, make sure he was okay, make up for her absence.....
Machi had lapsed into deep, restless unconsciousness some time ago, well after Kairi's visit, and his wound had bled through the bandages and scabbed to the sheets, his rotted limbs soaking them through and into the mattress. He was unaware of his surroundings, deaf to the crickets, blind to the darkness--unfeeling of the pain and thirst that had plagued him before his lapse into blackness.
Anna ignored the hallway's stare as she closed the door behind her; the lack of a gaze from the boy on the bed was bad enough. Her throat twinged with phantom pain, tightening with anxiety as she reached his bedside and held her hand close to his mouth. Breathing, she could feel it. So he was alive, thank God.... She didn't know what she would have done if he had died. Alive, but in what sort of condition? How was she supposed to take care of this? This was no way to live, and she was no doctor or even nurse practitioner. He'd starve, or get infected, or.... or something. She didn't even know enough about medicine to know specifics about how this situation could kill him, or screw him over any badly than it already had. Obviously, she wasn't caring for him too well; her best just wasn't good enough. But what would be good enough? What more could she possibly do?
Machi didn't hear her enter--obviously, since he was hearing nothing, feeling nothing, existing hardly at all, a small, frail, unconscious form in a large, dirty bed. His breathing was shallow and very light; his chest hardly moved and his skin was paler than usual, sallow and clammy. He didn't stir, didn't move in the slightest... no flutter of eyelashes, no twitch of his rotted, monstrous fingers--he was utterly still.
Anna stared down at him for what felt like a long, long time, stomach twisting with worry and guilt. What could she possibly do to keep him safe and recovering? Maybe some kind of song.
Magic. Always fucking magic again now, wasn't it? As soon as she had a voice again, she went running back to it, to an ability she'd only had for months, since she had left home. Where the hell was magic when Avery had left? When she'd been raising the kids alone? When there wasn't any money left to stretch? When nobody and nothing else had been there for her? When Irenia had died? Where had magic been when it would have mattered, just to her, to her family, to her normal goddamned real life? This wasn't her. This wasn't how it always was, how it should be. There was no magical fucking fix to everything. Magic didn't solve problems as flawlessly as the fairy tales always claimed, it just seemed to create more. No matter how much good it did, it always seemed to leap right back to bite her in the ass..... Even if the bite consisted of driving home the fact that she was ineffectual with it and helpless without it.
But dammit, she had survived for forty-seven years without magic, living with her brains and beauty and voice and guts. She'd managed on sheer grit and determination before, a wing and a prayer. She was not her voice. She would not let her powers define her. She wouldn't. She couldn't. She had no intention of letting this shit rule her life more than it had to. But Machi.... if he died..... she had to.... she should have..... Irenia.....
She didn't know whether she wanted to scream, laugh, punch someone, crawl into a hole and hide, or just curl up and die. Eventually, she instead just squeezed Machi's arm and sat down at the desk, closing out the crickets from her mind as she stared at him, mind churning through the songs she knew to try and think up something to heal him with.
Machi remained unresponsive, a combination of overwhelming factors (pain, loss of blood, stress, shock, exhaustion--) having overwhelmed his body at last. Had he been awake for her arrival, he might have been glad to see Anna, might have been relieved, grateful for a real person, someone he knew, but there was no response--not even when she squeezed his arm, grotesque and decaying.
It took a while, but Anna finally had set down something she thought would work, and silently thanked her church for encouraging her to play the organ for them on occasion. Surprising how well she'd been able to use a simple hymn..... Amazing Grace was an inspiring tune, though she couldn't help but wish mere faith would get them out of this place. If only she had an organ now. Or a piano, or a guitar, or..... hell, anything. She would have settled for even a tambourine, at this point, just to have something for accompaniment, just to give her a boost. After all, with a wound that big, she'd need all the power she could get.....
Shaking her head at that--why waste her time and energy worrying and wishing, when those wishes wouldn't come true anytime soon? Nothing was handy right now, and that was what mattered--, Anna cleared her throat, relieved by the audible sound as she hummed a scale to warm up after weeks upon weeks of silence. She had relied on writing for so long--and then with the insect tearing her up as it came out--that it seemed almost surreal, even to her, to hear herself start to sing again. "To heal these wounds, I sing a song, that shall mend all this pain. Let music right all that is wrong, and health restore again. 'Tis song that makes him sound again, and song his ills relieve. Make strong his body, fair his skin, and make this rot to leave. So many dangers, toils, and snares he has, and yet shall face. Let song wash away all his cares, and leave joy in their place."
It wasn't much, but it was something..... She could almost feel a chord reverberate in her head, some great string plucked and resonating through her. But that feeling of movement was lost by the sudden, light-headed vertigo that roared up to overwhelm it. The edges of her vision blurred badly, and she could do little more than swear as the ground rushed up to meet her, even as the blackness came crashing down.
At first there was no response, but then consciousness returned, all at once, a flood of sensation--but the first thing that Machi felt (or rather, didn't feel)--was pain. Tghere was no pain. He had no pain. No pain, no--Machi opened his eyes slowly, then sat up, his monstrous, rotted hand going to his stomach, everything rushing back just in time for him to see a sudden flash of motion and hear the sudden, heavy sound of Anna's body hitting the floor. He turned instinctively, grabbing the edge of the bed, and saw her, sprawled on the carpet... unmoving. His breath froze in his lungs--then her namke tore free of his throat, unbidden.
"Anna!" He didn't--why--the wound! She--comprehension dawned suddenly and he literally threw himself out of the bed, landing on the floor crouching down next to her, panic and horror gripping his chest, his heart tight and constricted. She--was she--she was alive. A flood of relief, then new panic. What--what was he supposed to do? He--the bed was filthy, contaminated and soaked with blood and rotted fluids, he... he couldn't... even the sheets--but at the very least he could give her a pillow, watch over her...
Standing--unsteadily--he grabbed the pillow, warm and slightly damp from where his head had been and flipped it over, putting it on the ground before turning Anna carefully, trying to touch her as little as possible, brushing the hair out of her face with held breath as he bit his lip, sitting down next to her.
Please... please be okay...
Anna wasn't sure how long she had been unconscious, only that waking up now was not like waking up after dying. For one thing, she was on carpet; for another, she seemed to be resting with her head on a pillow. Her eyes felt gummy and full of grit, her mouth wooly and foul-tasting from sleep, throat painfully dry; a dull ache pounded through her skull even as her stomach felt like it was gnawing on itself. Dying and waking up from it definitely wasn't this unpleasant; you didn't get so many aches and pains and inconveniences.
It took her a moment to adjust to the light as she opened her eyes, and she shifted, levering herself into a sitting position with her elbows and hands. Her waistband slipped at the motion, sliding an inch or two down the curve of her hip thanks to a belt that was now quite obviously not tight enough. What the hell had happened?
Machi had hovered anxiously over Anna, hadn't left her side the entire time--occasionally he had risen and walked restlessly around the room, but he never actually completed a lap, returning to watch over her again before he had gotten halfway around. He had no idea how many hours he'd spent like this. The instant she stirred, however, he pulled back, waiting as she opened her eyes and sat up, his face creased with worry. Part of a huge weight was lifted off his shoulders when she woke, but only part--and a much larger one fell back onto him. Suddenly he leaned forward, distress evident in his voice, his greasy, dirty hair hanging in his face, giving her just enough time to recover before accosting her.
She had just regained her wits and remembered what had happened when Machi leaned forward and into view, disheveled as she remembered him being from before her own death; they both really did need a shower, she thought, probably quite incongruously. Maybe after she had gotten herself sorted out, she would suggest a bit of cleaning up, since Machi obviously wasn't hurt as badly as he had been before.
At the protest, she only smiled a little, shaking her head; she didn't intend to let him guilt her about doing what she thought was best. "I did it anyway. And it worked, didn't it? How do you feel?"
Machi blinked, looking startled and obviously not expecting quite that response--in fact, he was stunned to receive any response at all. Her voice... how... what? Hadn't... he'd known that... something had happened and that it had probably been her, but this confirmed it. But how...? He pulled back again, sitting on his decayed legs, his grotesque hands planted on the floor.
"I... I am... not... hurt," he managed somewhat frailly before narrowing his eyes, recovering his train of thought--he wasn't going to let her distract him from the point. "
"Good." Her smile widened a little, satisfied in spite of the sorry state she felt, and Anna rubbed her eyes to try and get the grit out, wondering how long she had been unconscious. As long as he was alright now and she was still okay, there was no reason to be upset over her course of action. After all, wasn't that what a mother was supposed to do, sacrifice for and give to her children? "I wouldn't have considered doing anything else. And besides, you can't change the past, you know." She wagged a finger at him, the gesture more playful and energetic than she really felt. Once she'd cleaned herself up, woken up further, and gotten something to eat, she'd probably be back up to snuff, but right now.... Guh, she wanted some coffee. And an aspirin. And a good meal.
Machi opened his mouth as though intending to protest, but then she wagged her finger at him playfully and he shut it again, averting his eyes uncertainly, slightly confused. "But..." He didn't know what to say to that--well, he knew what he wanted to say, but he didn't know if he should. No, he knew he shouldn't, but... why... how could she be so calm? Where had she gotten her voice back? Machi bit his lip. He compromised by saying it very quietly, using hardly any voice and hoping (half-intending) that the chorusing crickets would drown it out. "
Unfortunately for Machi, Anna did happen to have a very good ear--he had the threefold strikes of her being a musician, teacher, and mother to thank for that. Good enough to hear him, at any rate, and she shook her head firmly, expression unusually serious as she reached for him, to pull the boy into her arms and give him a firm hug--yes, gore, rot, and all. She could shower later. "Don't you ever think that. You're worth it to me."
If you lost sight of your own self-worth, if you ceased to value yourself..... well, you did start to lose the value you did have to begin with. Like a run-down house, losing its property values to neglect, people needed maintenance, attention, and loving care to stay in tiptop shape. If she had ever let herself really believe that she wasn't worth anything, that her own children weren't worth anything, that her family life wasn't worth anything..... Everything would have fallen to hell. She wouldn't have cared enough to put her children through college and make them successful, she wouldn't have struggled to keep making sure that ends met, she wouldn't have tried to maintain her dignity and self-respect, or her status..... She would have tried to settle for second-best and take the first man who came along and promised to rescue her. She would have went crawling back to Avery. She would have let herself be 'rescued'--and probably dumped out in the cold a few months later. She wouldn't have been able to be the woman she was today if she hadn't kept that intrinsic faith, and she would be damned if she let Machi lose that, too.
Unfortunately for Anna, Machi came from a very different context. He was too stunned to resist, allowing himself to be pulled into Anna's arms, blue eyes wide and startled. He had been caught completely off guard, and didn't even stiffen at first--by the time his mind caught up with the events it was too late to make any sort of resistance. Then slowly he raised one arm and laced a hand on her shoulder, gently pushing away from her--not to escape, but to keep a safer distance. He didn't respond, not sure what to do with such a message--especially since she hadn't specifically told him he was wrong. He glanced up at her, then shook his head a little.
Anna looked down at Machi, expression still serious, though a hint of a smile lingered. What was there to say? She didn't agree with him, and somehow, he didn't seem too receptive to what she had to say, either. Why would someone be so utterly convinced of their own lack of worth?
Machi met her eyes evenly but uncertainly, removing his hand from her shoulder slowly--he held her gaze for several seconds, then broke it, uncomfortable with prolonged eye contact and glancing away. He took a breath, taking his eyes from the wall to look down--he was still very close to Anna, physically speaking, but he didn't move away, staying where he was. Then he looked back up, focusing not quite correctly on her face, only looking in her general direction--then at her throat, rather than meeting her eyes. "
Anna felt no need to move, either; she would stay close for as long as he was comfortable that way. Her smile turned a touch rueful though; death was never fun to talk about, though she tried to force her tone to stay light and casual, unconcerned. "I died a little while ago. But I'm fine now, once I get cleaned up. You should probably get cleaned up too, and that bedding needs to be changed....." Focusing on other things was good, right?
Machi's heart sank. He'd suspected--feared--but... he'd hoped... he didn't have a chance to say anything as she kept going, her tone upbeat--his expression probably communicated his feelings well enough, though. "...um..." He... hadn't bathed or cleaned himself at all since... since... it... there was no way he could have. He was fine with being foul if he was on his own--he'd been filthy for a long time, and--he couldn't clean filth with filth...
The word and expression were enough, honestly; she knew the problem his rotten limbs presented, in terms of cleanliness. It was difficult to live with such things, no doubt, even after she'd done her best to help.... Well, she could do a little better, at least. Maybe her spell had helped with the rot some? "We can at least wipe your face off." She offered. Maybe his hair, too.... He was too old for a real spongebath unless it were absolutely necessary, but she supposed just that much couldn't hurt.
Machi looked slightly taken aback, then a little horrified, then just made a face, scooting back a little. "I, uh. I am okay," he said, not much liking the idea of having someone else washing his face at all. He was fifteen--sixteen? Somewhere around there, and he'd rather go with a dirty face (and everything else) than having someone scrub at it like their first manager had when he wasn't satisfied with the job Machi had done. Having not heard her spell, he had no idea what kind of results could actually be waiting for him in the future--as far as he was concerned, he was going to stay like this forever... unless... dying had erased his injuries every time, and it had healed Anna's voice and throat... he cleared his own throat, which was dry and hoarse. "Just am want drink, only."
"If you're sure...." Anna frowned a little, slightly dubious (and rather confused) but deciding not to push the matter. It would have made her feel better, to have Machi cleaner and thus, healthier.... But as long as it wasn't causing any problems, she supposed she shouldn't push him too hard on it. After all, if he wasn't sick yet.... well, she didn't think being dirty was the worst thing that could befall someone, here. Either way, she certainly wanted a shower herself. "Either way, we should at least get those bandages off you. We can do that while we go get something to drink." She could definitely go for something to chase this taste out of her mouth, herself.....
The bandages she was referring to were soaked with blood, both wet and dried, and had scabbed to Machi's body--now perfectly whole, as though there had never been a hole at all, unscarred and free of pain (at least that pain), and it pulled at his skin every time he moved, even to so much as breathe. He did lighten up slightly at the suggestion that they get a drink, though, nodding slightly after a long pause and starting to get up. He failed and fell back on his butt the first time, then shifted into a crouching-crawling position and made it up from there, starting to offer her his hand out of habit and then stopping, awkwardly.
Anna smiled a little at the aborted offer, understanding; it was just like her instincts to speak when she had been mute. It was just.... no matter how thoroughly you knew something logically, the impulse to do what came naturally never really went away.
She opened the door though, looking around cautiously--the hallway looked back, scattered eyes staring unblinkingly. Other than that, though, the coast seemed to be clear, so she stepped out and waited to close the door behind them.
Machi had not seen the eyes--nor would he have remembered them now if he had, so when he started to follow her (taking his cue from her readiness to simply walk out of the room after just a look around), he was entirely unprepared for a hallway that stared back at him. He made a small, strangled sound and fell backward, his 'knees' twisting horribly; he would have hit the ground immediately, but he grabbed the doorway as he fell--a gambit that normally would not have worked, but the overlarge, monstrous hands and the adhesive quality of the rot held him up long enough for his knees to collapse backwards and swing him forward slightly so that he had to catch himself the with other hand, which he planted on the ground "
Anna turned back at the noise, moving to help a little too late; Machi was already catching himself and exclaiming, and she remembered too late that he hadn't really been fully conscious to see the hallway yet. "It's okay--they won't hurt you. Are you alright?" As far as she knew, at least, the eyes just stared, in a fashion that was rather unnerving but ultimately harmless. It was almost a relief to see them, once the shock wore away; seeing something harmless meant it hadn't been replaced by something dangerous.
Machi blinked at her, recovering but vaguely surprised--she saw them...? He'd thought she hadn't that it was just him, as so many other things had just been him, but she... either he wasn't seeing something, or... "
"It's fine." Anna smiled encouragingly, offering Machi an arm for support. There was no need to be scared of them, once you realized that they weren't going to hurt you--after all, you were WALKING on the things. If that wouldn't provoke something dangerous, then what would? She nodded in agreement with the sentiment, starting off towards the east wing. They'd have to avoid the hands there, she remembered, but that wasn't too hard either....
Machi shook his head at the offered arm, crossing his rotted arms in front of his chest and eyeing the floor uncomfortably, trying not to feel them beneath him--he didn't trust anything in this house, and the less natural or normal it was, the less he was willing to accept. He followed at Anna's side, staying close, expression suspicious as the eyes (thousands of them) tracked their progress down the long, oddly empty hall.
The hands came next; Anna skirted away from the doors, kicking at any that ventured too close for comfort as they approached the stairs. Machi seemed definitely uncomfortable, but not hurt or too upset at the things, so presumably they were doing okay....
It would have been more unusual if he hadn't been uncomfortable, really--this was as unnatural as anything the house had thus far produced, like something out of a horrible nightmare or--he didn't know, he could think of nothing even remotely resembling it and wasn't trying but then the doorway--he recoiled, intending to stop Anna, but she... falling back onto all fours he scrambled up the walls like a spider. He eyed the doorway through narrowed eyes, then followed, but just the act of moving this way near her made him taste bile, hate himself, just a little, and he crawled back down--he didn't care any other time, but around her, he felt disgusting and disgraceful. This... this was different. Bad different. When... why had--for a brief, delusional second, he wondered if somehow it was his fault, then realised that was foolish and shook it off, glancing at Anna to make sure she was okay.
Anna was startled to see Machi fell back, turning to watch as he scrambled up the wall like some strange spider. It was strange and a little disorienting, and made her just a hint nervous..... but it also was probably a safer way to travel than on the ground, really. She moved on as she saw he was traveling with her, on the wall then on the floor. Why switch when it was probably safer that way? Either way, as long as they didn't dawdle around, the hands weren't much of a threat, and the stairs proved to be safe enough to go down; the only things to head there were more hands once they got to the hall downstairs.
Machi seemed much less perturbed the second time, pausing for just a second, holding his breath before dashing through the doorway far faster than he was normally--humanly--capable of moving. He bit his lip once on the other side, though, shifting slightly and waiting for her. His dry throat dissuaded him from saying anything, though he wanted to--he was perversely and irrationally afraid his voice would break--but he was dwelling heavily on what she'd done... he couldn't afford to be distracted right now, though. He shoved it down.
Anna hurried through as quickly as she could manage, sidestepping the hands; they weren't too fast, so she would probably stay safe, as long as she kept moving. The sounds of breathing were readily apparent as the pair reached the threshold of the Grand Room, and Anna gave it a skeptical look over, searching for the source with some suspicion; it sounded like a great many creatures were gasping in huge gulps of air. Soon, it became apparent that nothing was hiding, but that the furniture itself was breathing, gently swelling and contracting as it breathed in and out.
For Machi, the second detail was much less readily apparent than the first--he'd heard the breathing well before Anna did, but failed to realise it was from anything but himself; it wasn't until the Grand Room, and Anna's critical reaction that he paused, craning his neck from his spot on the wall to try and see what she was looking at, deliberately avoiding the piano as he did so. Unfortunately it took him nearly a minute longer to realise it was the furniture moving, inhaling and exhaling like a living thing... yes, even the processed what he was seeing. He felt irrationally guilty--like it was somehow his fault, because of him--for a second before quashing it down firmly.
Anna couldn't help but cringe a little at the furniture--it was bizarre, and a little more unnerving than the eyes for the simple fact that it was that much more inexplicable. She reached for the nearest chair, not sure why--to see if it was warm, maybe, to see if it was alive and had a pulse and could feel--, but drew her hand back before she could actually touch it. She had just died; she didn't want to again just by underestimating what sort of danger the furniture could have.
Shaking her head a little, she went to move through the Grand Room, carefully skirting all the furniture. Thankfully for them, the dining room and kitchen seemed normal enough, save for the soft scuttling in the cabinets, nearly drowned out by how loud the construction was from the basement staircase.
Machi followed her, keeping his face turned away from the piano as he climbed along the walls, his features pale and drawn. Why was it so hard? Of all the things... why was that the hardest? It didn't hurt, but it ate at him nonetheless. He'd been ignoring the piano, trying his best to avoid it, but now he couldn't and it was... the house... he bit his lip angrily, then suddenly skittered ahead, compensating for the fact that he was moving along the full perimetre of the room and heading into the kitchen ahead of her, where he stopped suddenly--he could hear the scuffling clearly despite the other sounds in the house and he narrowed his eyes before backing out slightly.
Anna narrowed her eyes a little at the scuffling, but after determining that it came from the cabinets, simply opened the dishwasher instead, fishing out two glasses for them. "What would you like?" If they stayed away from the cabinets, maybe whatever was in there wouldn't come out.... it had shown no signs of trying to do so yet, anyway.
Machi was a lot less confident--or accepting--than Anna seemed to be and remained near the doorway, alternatively glancing warily behind him and at the cabinets. Then he turned to her and studied her face for a second before looking back towards the source of the scuffling. "...water, only," he managed, coming further in, his eyes still locked on the cabinet doors. He seemed reluctant to touch the floor or anything normally used by other people, staying on the wall in as human a position as he could muster, which wasn't very.
What he really wanted to do was broach the subject again, to talk to her about what she'd... done for him, how she shouldn't do it, how... he... he should thank her somehow, he needed to let her know--but... what... maybe he'd already done so, in a way, except that... hadn't been his intention. Wasn't his intention. He wanted to protect her, not have her--if he said anything, it'd undermine his point. She'd endangered herself needlessly, sacrificed when she didn't... for him, except that... he frowned, distracted and unaware that he was staring at her.
Anna nodded at the request, filling a pair of glasses with ice water and moving to set them at the table. The cabinets were glanced at every so often, but other than scuttling, she could hear and see nothing else--no scratching at the door, no squeak of hinges, no twitching of the doors to even suggest they were trying to get out..... Whatever "they" were. So everything seemed safe, for the moment. She pulled out Machi's chair for him, sighing and dropping into her own. Tonight had been..... tiring, to say the least. Tiring and very stressful. It was nice to finally just relax some. Getting something inside her was very welcome too, even if it was just water.
Machi came down off the wall slowly, placing his feet on the floor and peeling his arms off the vertical surface cautiously before approaching the table--he sat down with unusual delicacy and wrapped his large, rotting hands around the glass of water, looking away from Anna only briefly to glance at the cabinets before taking a sip.
The water felt good. Really good. He had almost forgtten what it was like to be thirsty-- really, painfully thirsty, had forgotten what a blessing and miracle tap water was, cold or otherwise, even though many people around him disdained it. He knew better, and brought the glass to his lips, drinking greedily, trying to pace it just enough that he wouldn't get sick; he'd done that once and that had been enough. He drained the glass of its cold bounty before he realised it was empty and sat dumbly for a moment, the drained vessel still in his monstrous grasp, before setting it down with a soft tunk.
...what was he supposed to say?
Anna sipped at her water with more reserve, watching and quiet for the moment, to let Machi drink his fill. She considered offering him more, then thought better of it; probably was smarter to wait a few minutes, let all that settle first so he wouldn't get sick from it all.... Wouldn't do to have so much water thrown up now, right? Maybe now this godawful taste in her mouth would go away.....
Finally, she spoke; the question had flitted around her mind for a while, though unexpressed; after all, Machi had hardly been in a position to answer it lately. "Machi.... who is Lamiroir?"
Machi froze. It wasn't terribly obvious at first because he'd been still to begin with, but it was a mental freeze as well as a physical one, so it wasn't until a couple of seconds had passed that it became evident--a complete and utter stillness that ended when he lifted his eyes from the glass to look at her from across the table. ... w--
Machi had a poor recollection of what had happened at best, at least as far as specifics--he didn't remember Anna per se, but he remembered apologising, and pain, and a sensation of not being on the ground, but everything else was a haze and he certainly didn't remember saying Lamiroir's name... he hardly remembered what he'd said at all. Lamiroir... he couldn't explain that. He couldn't possibly. She was everything, she was--had been--the only person, she... she'd been his life. His stomach knotted. "... why?"
A long freeze.... Anna wondered why. Had she hurt him? Was he upset? Maybe Lamiroir wasn't someone he liked to talk about. Then why had he mentioned her at all? Why had he.... she wondered just how she should feel about it, and resolved to try to suspend judgment until she actually knew who this person was. "You were confused, I think.... You called me that a few times."
He'd... called her... suddenly his face reddened and he shrank in his chair, almost crossing his rotted arms over his chest protectively before stopping himself and shoving them downward so that he was gripping the legs of the chair tightly. He... had he really...? Embarrassment flooded through him, then shame, then guilt, and finally anger. Why had he done that?! He'd already stopped... he'd thought... he'd left her behind already! He'd even--he realised suddenly that he was biting his lip painfully and stopped, trying to find words without meeting her eyes. He couldn't tell her... he couldn't tell Anna, not like that, she'd be upset... or jealous... or something. "She... she is... friend. Person. I... I sorry." His voice cracked on the last word, the apology, and he mentally kicked himself, shame flooding through him again. Was he so weak!?
Anna blinked in some confusion. Embarrassment? Upset? She wasn't quite sure what that reaction was supposed to mean from the simple question. Obviously there was something she wasn't understanding, and she didn't think that 'friend' was beginning to cover whatever it was. "It's okay, Machi.... What kind of friend was she?" It sounded like something he could use talking about.
Machi hesitated, almost taking his hands off the chair legs before deciding not to and leaving them there. For some reason he couldn't look at her face, and he stared down at the glass instead--its surface was dirty from his hands, smeared with mysterious fluid and pieces of decayed skin. "She... um..." What could he say? What could he say that wouldn't make Anna upset--wouldn't offend her or make her...? It was dark, but he could see (or thought he could see) the ice in the glass melting a little, water beginning to build up in the bottom of the glass. A year ago the idea of being ashamed, embarrassed by this would have been unthinkable. "
There was definitely something she wasn't getting here. A friend he had met in Borginia and played the piano for.... Someone he was close to..... Why would that not be a good thing? But the way he had said it.... They were close....
Her stomach twisted brutally. Were close.... Not are close. Twinkling shattered glass like so much scattered stardust, the tortured scream of twisting and tearing metal, blond hair floating like champagne silk in the wind from the impact....
She felt a little sick. Anna made an effort to choose her words, regardless. "She sounds like a lovely person."
"...." Machi hesitated, then let go of the chair, holding himself as though he wasn't certain what to do with his hands for a second before wrapping them around the glass again, watching his monstrous fingers cover the transparent surface completely. He couldn't see them very well, but he knew they were wet with decay, that the right ring finger had a small strip of dead flesh hanging from it, that there were no fingernails. "
So quiet.... It only seemed to confirm her suspicions, the way his voice dropped so low, the way he stared down at his hands, him fumbling for words.... Even Machi's sentiments, painful though they were. She weighed the comments. "....Well, as long as you're both happy...." As long as they could both move on without each other, one to a better place, one to a place infinitely worse.....
She doubted that this house was Hell, but sometimes, it seemed very close.
"Ah..." Machi, on the other hand, strongly suspected--no, believed--that it was Hell...or rather something with a similar concept. Having a very poor and loose understanding odf the religious concept of hell, it would have been more accurate to say that he thought he was in a place that was punishing him because he had done bad things. "
...happy. Happy? ... was he... happy? Was this being happy? He was disconcerted and a little bitter to find that he didn't actually know. To him, happiness had always been Lamiroir, had been playing the piano... now he didn't have either of those things... was this happiness without either? If so, it was...
He glanced at her, then looked back at his hands with a small, ironic half-smile. When he spoke, it was after hesitation, nervous and resigned. "
"Machi...." She didn't know what to say. What was there to say, to someone who thought that they had killed someone? What could she possibly do that wouldn't make things worse, when she had no context? He hadn't even said if he was happy or not....
She smiled back, feeling somehow helpless, not quite sure how to feel or what to think about being considered as such in place of a dead woman. There didn't seem to be much to say to that either. She returned some of the warmth in her smile as well, uncertain though she was, reaching out to gently squeeze his forearm.
Machi pulled back slightly but didn't resist, hesitating and lifting his free hand haltingly before placing it on hers, looking up with a shaky smile that gradually broadened, growing brighter and more trusting. He was relieved, it was true, but part of him was oddly dissatisfied, disappointed and almost frustrated by the lack of climactic upset. He'd been bracing himself for anger, disappointment, rejection--something. But this... this was okay. It was good enough. It was... nice.