Private Tales The Starling and the Bear

A private roleplay only for those invited by the first writer
Lynus soaked in her words, his hand recoiling as she swatted at it, and he moved away, giving her space.

Her heart? Had his leaving really hurt her so badly? What the fuck had she saw in him that had made her feel anything but frustration?

"You're not a--. You're not that." he insisted. "And I know you have a heart." he added, his voice quieted by shame. He'd seen it in the way she'd smiled at him and he hadn't been able to get it out of his mind ever since.

"I didn't mean to cause trouble." his jaw tightened. The guard had crossed a line, and his control had slipped. "I'm sorry.. I'll.. see that you're compensated." his brow furrowed. As though that would make everything alright..

His gaze fell and he shook his head, his shoulders rising and falling in a huff. "I know I have no right to be here, but I thought.." he frowned at her. "about you.. There hasn't been a moment since I left this place that you haven't been on my mind and I don't know what that means but I just wanted to see you. To talk to you." he shrugged. He didn't talk to many people, he tolerated only one or two, but something about her had soothed something within him and he needed more of it.

"Tell me to leave and I will, if that's what you want.. But I don't think that's what you want." his arms folded.
"it is okay. You can say it." Isla fought the urge to mock him while he already looked so defeated. "I am a whore. It is my job."

She stared at him while he spoke, a brow once again raised as he mentioned the man who had been in her bed. A guard? She looked him over. The man hadn't even told her what his occupation was. She hadn't asked. She did not care to ask. Nor did she care to overstep the privacy of her clients again. But...she was curious as to how Lynus and the client knew one another.

Selena. He had crushed something in the blonde when he spat the name at him.

"Have you considered seeing a shrink?" Isla broke her silence once again and patted a spot on the bed beside her, opposite to the side the guard had been on. "Sit and talk if you must." Her voice, an order. "And for what it is worth, I have thought of you as well."

She found it difficult to look up at him in her position, and barely concealed under the silky sheet.

"I had not spoken with anyone so casually since before my father lost his fortune. Perhaps in another life we would have been friends..." She tried to smile at the thought.

Indeed, they may very well have known each other a lifetime ago. As a child, she had attended events thrown by the royal family. Dinners, balls.... She was never in line to be a suitor for one of the princes, but she had played with them. Isla and the princes had been scolded on more than one occasion for teasing one another. Punished for crawling under tables and messing with the adults. Disciplined for pulling each other's hair when they refused to share toys.

"Go on, speak if you must." She waited.
  • Cthuloo
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Lynus looked away from her with a sneer. "You're not a whore for my disposal. All I did was talk to you." Even though all he'd wanted was silence. Now, he couldn't abide it.

He snorted at her quip, his arms folding across his chest as he watched her pat the bed. He stayed where he was, the tension in his body easing slightly as she admitted to thinking of him too. That she had perhaps enjoyed his company as he had hers.

Perhaps in another life we would have been friends...

"And what of this life?.." he asked, his voice softer, as he moved instead to the couch they had both occupied once before. He sat in the same spot, hunched forward with his elbows on his knees, his eyes rising to look at her. There was a vulnerability in his gaze that he couldn't hide.

"I don't know what I want to talk about," he admitted, shaking his head. "Perhaps I shouldn't have come. I just missed your company."

The room was silent for a moment, save for the faint sounds of the bustling brothel outside. He ran a hand through his hair, the frustration evident in his posture. "I don't even know why I'm here, Isla. Every day feels like I'm walking through a fog. I thought maybe seeing you would help clear it. But now I just feel... lost."

"I just... I need something real. You felt real to me. I don't know if that makes any sense. But it's the truth." his brow furrowed, a flash of jealousy in his eyes before he drew his gaze to his clasped hands. "Will you wash the smell of him from your skin and sit with me?" he asked quietly.
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"The life." She watched him as he chose the couch, far from her reach. "Before all of this." Isla rolled over onto her back, her head leaning off the bed where she watched him upside-down. Her golden locks nearly brushed the floor. "You say you thought of me, but surely you have not yet forgotten the pieces of my past. I was not born a whore, you know." Even upside down, there was a little more amusement on her face.

"My father was noble, I suppose. Forgive me, for its been well over a decade since I spent my time enjoying the finer things. Even for a mercenary, and even in your disheveled state, you do seem the type to have also been born into that circle." She eyed him, studying his mannerisms. "Am I correct?"

She flipped back over, a sly smile on her face. "Perhaps you can tell me about that part of you," She suggested, pulling the silky sheet with her as she stood. She wrapped it around her, preserving what little of her modesty she had left. If there was any such thing after what he had seen, walking in.

Will you wash the smell of him from your skin and sit with me?

She froze on her walk to the couch. Shame filled her, but she nodded. "Yes. Of course." She turned, sniffing the air, and walked away from him. Away from the door that led into the brothel's most expensive room and into the door, hidden on the opposite side of the bed. It blended into the wall paper and wooden paneling. A hidden feature if one wished to spend coin on what was behind it- a bathing room.

All Lynus would be able to see from the couch was the sheet, trailing behind her like a wedding dress as she filled the tub with hot water and various herbs that left the whole room smelling of vanilla and lavender. The quiet splashing of her feet as they entered the water was followed by her voice. "What has you feeling so lost?" She called, not entirely keen on sitting in the silence of her own thoughts while she scrubbed at her skin.
Lynus gave a huff and glanced up at her as she lay there upside down, gossamer hair spilling like sunlight onto the floor. “I haven’t forgotten.” he frowned. "I meant.. can't we be friends in this life?" he winced, realising how childish he sounded.

As she assumed his own upbringing, his gaze narrowed, but he gave her a quiet nod before averting his gaze as she stood, both for her own privacy and so that he didn't have to see the look on her face when he asked her to bathe. He didn't mean to offend her.

He looked up in time to watch her disappear into bathing chambers he had not realised were there. He listened to the sound of her drawing a bath and stepping in. A simple thing, but something about it soothed him. He fidgeted, ignoring the thoughts that crossed his mind, that he might visit with her there, though after barging in to her room already, he realised how terrible an idea that was.

He shook his head at the question she called out. There was so little he could talk to her about, and yet he claimed that was what he had come here for. "It's... complicated," he murmured, evasively and got up, wandering to sit against the wall outside of the bathing room door, so he could better hear her.

"You must think me an idiot.." he laughed under his breath and let his head fall back against the wall, staring at the ceiling. "Many do. It rarely offends me these days."

"I'm sorry I left things that way, before."
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She was relieved he did not dare to follow her in. Relieved he could not see the look on her face as she contemplated a friendship with him in this lifetime. A life where being associated with her would probably only bring him shame. She could handle it- the stares and whispers, but he didn't exactly strike her as the type who could let words brush past him. If she had been right, if he still had ties to the nobility Isla suspected, than it would certainly tarnish his reputation. It was not ideal to have a whore by his side, nor was it ideal for him to break the nose of every man to comment on it.

He would hear the pouring of water as Isla wrung out a washcloth and set it over her face, scrubbing gently to remove that man's kisses from her skin. She wiped at her arms, torso, and legs while she gave him the freedom to get on with whatever speech he had planned. A speech that never came.

"I do not think you are an idiot." She chimed from beyond the door. He would hear her dunk her head under the water, washing away the scent of the man's sweat and cologne. "A little confused. A little lost. But not an idiot."

She dunked her head again before reemerging. "And I do not blame you for how you left."

Selena. . . The sound of Lynus' hand colliding with the mans' face pulled back the memory of his hands wrapping around her own neck. When she had pushed him. Insisted some things about, whom she now assumed to be- or have been, his wife. The color was leeched from her skin and a horrible, nauseating feeling swept through her. Those words she had chosen to attack him with. . .

She deserved that lingering pain in her neck where his hands had been wrapped around. She deserved the faint bruise that lingered just as the one on her face did.

She was quiet for a long while. Even the gentle swishing of water had frozen to a silence. Then, after far too long, her voice broke.

"Your shirt." An order was given through the brittle voice. Her hand extended past the door. "Give it." Unless you wish to see me nude. She almost added on, but that name once again stopped her. A pang of guilt speared her again. He was not here for that. He was broken. They both were. But Lynus had been the only person that didn't eye her like a wolf after prey and Isla was unsure of how to handle how it had made her feel. She did not know how to handle men in any other way.

"Give it now and get in the bath. You still smell of sewage."
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Lynus gave a husky laugh at her reassurances, the sound more genuine than he had expected. It was strangely comforting to know she did not think him an idiot. Confused though, was putting it mildly. As he listened to the gentle slosh and splash of water from the bathing room, his eyes closed, and his simmering rage slowly ebbed away. The steady rhythm of her movements lulled him into a calmer state, each breath he took growing smoother.

When Isla's voice cut through the stillness, demanding his shirt, Lynus flinched, startled from his reverie. He blinked up at her outstretched hand, his brow furrowing in mild indignation. "You know, that's kind of rude," he grumbled, but there was no real heat in his words. With a resigned sigh, he shrugged off his hooded jacket, tossing it aside. His shirt, a fine black material that still carried the scent of his cologne, followed suit.

He hesitated for a moment, clutching a chain around his neck with a ring dangling from it. After a brief pause, he removed it, slipping it into his pocket before handing his shirt to Isla's waiting hand.

Lynus got to his feet and stretched, waiting for her to leave the bathroom. His bare torso, now exposed, bore several battle scars, each telling a story of past conflicts. The most notable mark was a brand on the inside of his forearm. A cross, the mark of a slave.
"Thank you." She called, disappearing behind the door once more to put the black shirt on. She grimaced in the mirror at herself. It was well crafted, she could not deny that. And it certainly did not smell of anything other than him and his cologne. She twirled to get a better look at it, squeezing the rest of the dripping water from her hair. She looked ridiculous. The garment looked like a tent on her and ended just past the top of her thighs.

But she supposed it was better than the lingerie that had been left in a shredded pile on the floor beside the bed.

Finally, she exited the room and called over Lynus to hop in. She should have been ashamed, finding herself looking him over as he stretched. Should have. . . But she found herself not admiring his body, but rather curiously glancing over the scars and markings. He had not been lying, Isla supposed as she stared at the old scars, that he really had been a mercenary at some point.

Her eyes froze on the cross branding his forearm. She wanted to reach out and grab it. She wanted to inspect it further. She had come across such a marking once, but only once. But she stood still and ushered him in before she took that spot against the wall. "Tell me the stories of your scars." Another demand.
He turned on his heel and froze as she left the bathing chamber, her hair still damp, the oversized shirt clinging to her slender frame, the warm glow of the room casting a gentle light on her soft features. He forgot to breathe; his gaze lingering on her form longer than he intended. There was something almost surreal about the moment. There was an undeniable intimacy in the way she wore his shirt, a silent exchange of comfort and vulnerability that lingered in the air between them. It was an adorable image that struck him with an unexpected sense of protectiveness. He never wanted to think of another man touching her again.

Lynus rubbed at the back of his neck and then at his jaw, realising how long he'd been staring for. He'd been intent on arguing with her about the bath until now, but found himself quickly complying. He glanced over his shoulder as he undressed, and stepped into the tub, the warm water and fragrant herbs instantly soaking into his tired muscles.

Her request was met with a quiet laugh.. "Make me re-live my pain and failures why don't you?" he mused, and drew in a deep breath as he settled down into the water and bathed. "Alright.. Let's see I have.. An arrow wound in my shoulder from an elven ambush on the road.. One self-inflicted slash on my thigh from when I got blind drunk and tried to sheath my blade into my breeches.. An blade wound in my side, from the rebellion.." he paused for a moment as he looked over his torso. "One on my arm from a bar fight, and a few others from training and tournaments." he finished casually.

"Thankfully I've been in way more fights than I have scars." he snorted, and submerged himself beneath the water for a moment, washing his hair and face as he sat up.

"What am I supposed to wear now, exactly?.." he frowned.
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He laughed, but Isla cringed silently when Lynus mentioned re-living his pain. She did not apologize though. She listened to each story and that little flicker or whatever she felt during the stories he shared weeks ago returned. She found herself giggling quietly at the drunken story he shared.

She wished she had a history to share too. Something that made her as interesting as he was to her. But she had shared all that was relevant during their last encounter.

"You're a man. You can be shirtless." She huffed from beside the door. She stopped herself from adding another detail- that he was certainly not the first mad she'd seen naked. "You looked like you might vomit seeing me covered by a blanket, but you can have your shirt back before you leave. Deal?" She did not wait before asking more questions.

"What is that cross about?" She fought the urge to peek inside, to see the brand again. "Is it from a mercenary band?"
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His lips twitched in amusement. He rather enjoyed the sound of her laughing at him. It made him wish he remembered how to be humorous.

"Fair point." he answered, deciding against teasing her further about her intentions with the shirt. As she spoke about his reaction earlier though, he felt a pang of guilt, and his smile faded. "I wasn't going to vomit." he muttered, realising how his discomfort must have appeared to her. "It was him, not you." he added quietly, hoping to reassure her.

Stepping out of the bath, he reached for a towel to dry himself off. He quickly pulled on his breeches, then ran the towel through his hair, huffing as he swept it out of his eyes. With a deep breath, he peeked around the doorway to look down at her, sitting where he had, a faint smile on his lips.

"You're quite the interrogator." he teased. "Tell me something else about you, and I'll tell you about the cross," he challenged, his tone playful as he wandered across the room to settle onto the couch.
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"Mmmmhmmmm." She drew out her doubtful noise. Playfully, but still full of doubt. The reassuring addition did little to settle the knot in her stomach. Isla had become good at putting herself- her mind, her soul- somewhere else while she spent her time in the arms of another man and Lynus had unknowingly pulled her from it all. Brought her back to that room. Face to face with the blonde man, eyes full of disgust.

She stood from the floor and followed him to the couch. They each seemed to occupy the same spots they had ended their last meeting in naturally. "There is so little to know about me." She frowned. "I could lie to you. Make up a fun story to make myself seem more interesting if it pleases you." Her laughter was dark and it was quiet until she would either share more or fabricate her history for him.

She wouldn't tell him the details of every pale scar that decorated her skin, but she would share the details of one. She pointed at a faint line along her own forearm. "When I was younger, I spent a lot of my time around other higher born children. I was an only child for many years and my parents thought it would be better to socialize me after they found me playing alone out in our garden." She smiled at the memories of the flowers and the trees. "They thought I was a wild little terror. I used to climb all the trees. When they caught me attempting to climb the lattice up the side of our home, they thought it was time I learn to play more. . .properly, I suppose."

Her finger traced along that scar. "God I remember the punishment I received for bringing that wildness to a party with the Anirian royalty." She twisted her arm, the scar wrapped around and upward like a vine. "All of the adults had been kissing the asses of those more important than us while the children played out on the grounds. Hide-and-seek was the game." She chuckled and shook her head. "The boy who was searching for all of us had spooked me while I hid in the tree and I fell. Landed right on my arm. The bone had popped through my skin."

She loosed a sigh and dropped her arm. "Poor boy damn near passed out at the sight of blood and exposed bone. I was more afraid of the look on my mother's face as she dragged me off to see a healer. Oh...she screamed at me for ruining their reputation. Not because I was hurt and careless. She just cared about their image."
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Lynus settled comfortably into the cushions, pulling Isla against his bare chest and keeping an arm wrapped around her. As he'd suspected, it was instant comfort, instant calm, and a sigh tumble free as he listened to her speak.

He looked down at her arm as she began the story as to how she acquired her scar, his hand reaching to draw back and forth his fingertips over the fine, silvery line of it. His movement paused however as she mentioned royalty, and the memory hit him all at once, knocking the air from his lungs.

He had known her. They had played as children, many times in fact. He remembered her, the little girl with laughter in her eyes and mischief in her smile. How he had teased her, unable to resist the urge to provoke a reaction from her, because he liked her, even then. But the memory of her fall from the tree, of her screams of pain, brought a wave of guilt crashing over him.

His hand faltered and drew back from her arm, as though he might suddenly hurt her again. Fuck. He cleared his throat, realising he'd lapsed into silence. "What a little bastard." he commented with a sigh.

Turning his arm to the show her the cross on the inside, he explained, as promised.. "It's one of the slave brands. When I was younger I was wandering the streets alone.." - when he most certainly should not have been, but he'd had a knack for sneaking out.- "Four lads picked a fight with me, beat me bloody, and they weren't done but another kid showed up, took all four of them down and sent them running. He was a slave and had been living on the streets since his old master had died. I took him back home, convinced my parents that he should live with us. Arryn taught me how to fight like he did. Many who seen this cross on his arm treated him like less. He wasn't less. So one day I pressed the same mark into my arm, so they'd have to treat us both like less.. Or leave him alone.." he shrugged, and a laugh tumbled free. "My parents were furious..My Father clipped me around the ear so hard." he recalled with a wince.
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"Indeed," She agreed, not knowing if he was referring to the wild child Isla, the cowardly little boy, or her mother as a little bastard. She figured he was referring to her. She had been a little devil as a child. It was a miracle the lady had been able to. . . train the trait out of her. She would have bet money that her father wished for such a power when she was younger. He probably would have been able to marry her off to whatever rich prick was willing and save his sorry ass from the poor decisions he would make.

Isla studied the brand, her thin fingers wrapping around his forearm to maneuver it while he spoke. "I've seen it before." She traced her fingers idly along the shape of it. "Only once, though." The way she spoke was thoughtful at first, searching her memory for the face that accompanied the arm.

She could not recall it. Only that they had met briefly in her first few months of work. Many, many years ago. He had been a cheeky prick for sure, but Isla took whatever he threw at her and gave it back tenfold. She chuckled at the memory. How much she enjoyed hurting everyone the way they hurt her. The Lady had given her a black eye after he'd left in a huff, half naked and raging through the halls about something horrible Isla had, no doubt, said. But despite the threat of unemployment, the Lady had raked in too much money selling out the little noble bitch.

She broke through her thoughtful silence after a while, a small smile on her face as she played with his forearm. "That was a noble thing for you to do. Your father sounds like a dick if he would be furious over that." She snuggled into him, taking in that vanilla and lavender scent they were both embraced in. It mixed well with his cologne on the shirt Isla tugged at now, pulling it to cover more of her soft thighs.

"I know my opinion isn't much but I think that was an admirable thing for you to do. I wish I had been more selfless in my life." She admitted, her gaze drifting from the cross on his arm up to his face. "Another thing for the next one, I suppose."
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Lynus watched her as she studied his arm, the soft tips of her fingers soothing an ache that had not been there in a very long time. His lips curled at the thought, but the mention of having seen such mark before wiped any amusement from his face. There weren't many slaves who could afford to partake in such frivolities, and he knew Arryn had enjoyed the bordellos on odd occasions..

It could have been anyone. He thought to himself, but he couldn't shake the disturbing image of his best friend in her bed, nor the irrational anger at Arryn regardless of whether he'd done wrong or not. It could have been anyone..

And then she was calling the King a prick and nestling into him, and looking up at him like that, her eyes a deep ocean he'd happily drown in. His tension eased and he let out a long sigh, his thumb caressing her shoulder as he studied her.

"Your opinion means more than you think." he commented, though it puzzled him as to why he cared so much what she thought of him, torturing himself about the pain or shame or anger he'd caused her. She dealt with enough shit in her life, and she deserved peace.

"And, there's still time in this life. I think dealing with my bullshit counts as a good deed.." he laughed quietly, and he reached to gently push a tress of damp hair from her face, his knuckles gazing her cheek as he withdrew his hand. She had a unique ability to calm him, and send his pulse racing all at once.

He swallowed as he recalled what she had said to him earlier. 'You thought I wanted you to come back? Thought I wanted another few hours of misery while you get belligerently drunk and play with my heart?'
He hoped she wasn't miserable, and at least he wasn't belligerently drunk..

"I meant what I said, when I said you are beautiful. I wasn't just drunk.." he frowned. "I know you likely hear it often, but, I don't find much beauty in anything.. So I mean it more."
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Isla did not know how to respond to a compliment- a genuine one at least.

She was quiet for a moment before she reached to squeeze his hand. “You know,” she stared at him as she spoke. “For a while, I was glad that when you left I realized you had never told me your name. I had nothing to hold on to. I could not go around and ask other girls if they knew you or had seen you like I might have wanted to.” A look of shame clouded her ocean eyes and she looked away before she continued speaking.

“And I was glad I didn’t know your name because I was worried that I might be feeling the way I did when I first came here.” There was another pause. “Looking back, I realize how naive I was back then. I knew why I was here. I knew what I was doing. Yet, I fell for one of my clients.

“He visited so often. Showered me in jewelry and gifts,” Which the Lady had taken from Isla the moment he left the establishment. “Nathaniel Wes was his name. He worked as a blacksmith somewhere on the outskirts, he said.”

She spoke as though she were in pain at the mention of his name. “He was older than me by half a decade, but the way he spoke to me. . . He had always been kind. He always complimented me. Told me he wanted to have me to himself- to take me away. He promised he would one day.” There was a muffled sound, possibly a sniffle. She still refused to look at him as she spoke, her voice had shifted into something colder and something broken.

“The contraceptive tonics the lady gives us didn’t work always. I told him I was with child and he left. I had never seen someone so furious, never seen anyone scream at the Lady so angrily.

“He had a wife. Two kids and a third on the way. A fourth, too, I suppose.” She shrugged. “But I learned what having feelings for people cost me as she held me down and forced a whole pitcher of that foul tonic down my throat. Nothing could have survived that.” Not even Isla’s wild spirit. She was quiet again for a while and her shoulders moved as though she were fighting back sobs.

“But you made me feel that same way before you left. Like someone cared about me. And I knew if I had known your name I would hold that against both of us for the rest of my life.”
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He returned a gentle squeeze of her hand, though as she explained that she had been glad not to know his name, his brow furrowed, and fuck he hated the shame in her eyes before she drew them away from him.

He was silent as she spoke, his heart clenched at Isla's words, each one echoing with a weight of pain and injustice that threatened to crush him.

A muscle feathered in his jaw, and the rage he felt at the guard from earlier was nothing in comparison to what he felt as she recounted what she'd endured. He was furious at the injustice she had faced, at the callousness of men like Nathaniel Wes (a name he duly noted), at the cunt of a Lady for putting her through such a thing. It was a story he had heard variations of before, but hearing it from Isla made it all the more real, all the more personal.

His chest ached with a fresh surge of protectiveness for her, a fierce determination rising within him to shield her from any further harm. She was precious. A songbird with her wings clipped, vulnerable in a world that had treated her so cruelly, and he couldn't bear the thought of her suffering any more than she already had.

He couldn't begin to imagine the agony she must have endured, forced to undergo such a harrowing ordeal alone, robbed of the choice to nurture the life growing within her. The thought churned his stomach with a mixture of sorrow and righteous fury.

"I'm so sorry, Isla." he whispered, his arm instinctively tightening around her in attempt to offer her what little comfort he could.

Turning her chin gently to meet his gaze, his hand cradling her face, he ensured she saw no judgement, only sincerity and a simmering rage for those who had hurt her. "That's not me," he declared firmly, his voice laced with resolve. "I never came here for that in the first place, and I don't believe in promises."

His tone softened as he continued, a hint of vulnerability seeping into his words. "I... wish I could explain how much I care about you. You were something I did not expect.." he admitted, his gaze searching hers for understanding.

"And I won't tell you my name until you trust me enough to ask for it," he added, his voice firm yet gentle. He wanted her to know that he respected her boundaries, that he would wait for her to take that step when she was ready.

"But, I am keeping you to myself. If that's alright with you."
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The apologies were unnecessary. Like everything else she shared, it was a part of her past and she bore the scars to prove it. Her bloodshot eyes darted around his face while he cupped her chin and tried to reassure her. They lingered on his lips before settling again on his own eyes.

“I know.” She sighed, releasing a breath she held to prevent herself from breaking down. “I know you never came here for that. You just needed an escape and ended up in the right place, but for the wrong kind of escape.”

She laughed, a tear finally escaping and sliding down her cheek.

“You don’t have to apologize. None of that was your fault. It’s just a job.” She repeated just a job over and over in her head. “I’ve found ways to cope. I’ve found ways to put my mind far away from my body.” It explained the blank look on her face when he first barged in.

He could keep her to himself.

She froze for a moment, but then Isla nodded. There was hesitation in her voice, her face, and her body when she spoke again. “I am scared.” She hadn’t said those words in far too long, too afraid to admit to herself or anyone else that she was not okay. “I am afraid of feeling again. And it scared me, looking into your eyes. Kissing you. The way you hold me. I’m afraid if I let myself feel, I will be broken and I will never be able to fix it again.”

Not when she hadn't been given a chance to heal after the first time.

For the first time in a very long time, Isla felt fragile and vulnerable again. A horrible mixture. It made her nervous.

She took a few deep breaths to calm herself, moving slightly so that he could wrap his arms tighter.

“Your turn. Tell me something else about yourself.” She needed the distraction, an excuse to pack up all her old misery and store it back in her memory where it could continue to fester.
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He smiled softly to hear her laugh again. Every day. He wanted to hear that every day.

"It wasn't my fault. But it doesn't make me any less sorry, or any less furious." his brow knit. "It's not your job any more." he told her, his jaw set.

His expression softened as she admitted how afraid she was to feel anything, something in his chest cracking as he brushed the tear away with his thumb. He understood that fear, as it was his own, it was why he had near drank himself to death, to stop feeling, to forget, but it never worked. He hadn't felt anything real in over a year, and yet now, she stirred something in him that wasn't anger or sorrow or pain, and that terrified him just as much. He had lost so much already, that he had never wanted to have anything to lose ever again. But he wanted to keep her safe.

A quiet sigh tumbled free, his arms wrapping securely around her as she shifted against him. The question that she asked stirred a little panic within him. She had shared so much with him, had admitted her fears and explained why, and she deserved to know that he felt the same way, and why.

"I.." his words seized in his throat, his heart stumbled in his chest. As though talking about what happened would make it real. It was real, and it had been his reality for some time. He swallowed. "I haven't wanted to be in anyone's company for a long time. I didn't care what anyone had to say, didn't want to spend my time enduring anyone. I wanted to drink, and I wanted solitude and silence. I didn't want to feel anymore, either." he explained, his chin resting gently atop her head.

"I had a wife, you see. Her name was Selena... She died, giving birth to our son. They died." he told her quietly, his voice thick with grief.
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It's not your job anymore.

Isla must have looked as confused as she felt, but didn't ask him to further explain what he meant. Keeping her for himself was fine. He'd sank enough money into this place and the man who'd shared her bed had already paid. There was time. But if he thought she could just leave. Isla had no home. What she earned kept her sleeping under a roof. And whatever little was left over was, to her knowledge, sent off for her mother and younger brothers to keep them alive.

She could ask later. She would have to because his next words, strained and broken, had frozen Isla in his arms.

Isla had gone pale and there was that nauseated feeling creeping back up into her as the guilt from all the horrid things she had said to him rushed forth. She sat up, pulling herself out of his arms. "I am so sorry." She whispered, swallowing hard as though she might actually throw up. "I didn't know."

What was there to say that didn't make her feel worse? What was there that could remedy the situation and make it seem like Isla wasn't just a horrible bitch? Perhaps she should have just asked for his name, rather than reopen so many old wounds for the both of them. "I am sorry." She repeated herself a few more times.

It was almost comforting, the shared grief. The way he described his coping, was how Isla wished she could have grieved her own losses. But Isla had never had the luxury of solitude, silence, or refusing company. "I wish things got better." Isla whispered, pulling her legs in close to her chest. "I wish I could wash the feeling of people off of me like I could their cheap cologne and sweat." She sniffled, "Or that the stupid tonic killed me instead."
  • Stressed
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He looked more aggrieved that she'd pulled herself out of his arms. "I know. You don't have to be sorry. I'm just.. trying to explain that, you're not alone in being afraid of feeling things." he frowned gently, watching her curl in on herself, worry in his eyes that he'd made a terrible choice to tell her at all. "I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable." he added, resisting the urge to pull her back against him for fear of her pushing him away.

His heart broke all over again as she admitted her wishes, his jaw clenching as he shifted himself to face her, taking her face in his hands and drawing her eyes to meet his once more. "Never wish that." he shook his head at her. "I wished things got better too. They don't, but they get easier to deal with, just a little bit more every day. I wished for death too, but all I'd be doing is passing my pain and grief onto the few people that care about me."

He studied her for a long moment, realising he'd do anything he could to never see her cry another tear again. It was a tragic thing, to see something so beautiful be so broken. "Why don't we get out of here for a while?" he asked, his fingers combing into her hair. There was no way anything could even begin to feel remotely better for her whilst she was in this room with her memories.

"We can both be miserable elsewhere." he smirked in attempt to lighten the mood.
  • Spoon Cry
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"I said horrible things about you. About your wife and child." Whatever mascara hadn't been washed away in her bath streamed down her face as she spoke. She admitted, "I wanted to hurt you. It was never your fault. I just..." She shook her head. "I should have left you alone. You asked as much, but you were also the only person who had spoken to me without ripping my clothes off and I didn't know if I should be offended or relieved." Her mouth twitch in a sorry attempt at a smile. "We both know which I chose."

Like a poor, scared animal, Isla had attacked.

She allowed him to swivel her face to look him in the eye. And she wished, so badly, that her nodding in agreement had been genuine. She wondered when it would start to get easier to deal with. "I don't think anyone would even notice if I was gone." Another admission that felt like a blade to her heart when the words were said aloud. "My mother hasn't spoken to me since the day I left home to work. I missed my baby brothers growing up. I don't think they would even know who I was if I found them again."

She leaned into him again, loosening her grip around her knees and letting one leg fall towards the floor. She was the perfect portrait of hopelessness. "What do you mean get out of here?" She wiped at her nose and her eyes. "I would love to, but the Lady does not permit me to leave." She pinched the black shirt she wore as a dress. "And I'm not sure how either of us could leave looking like this."
Lynus' hand absently combed through her damp hair as she poured out her remorse. He shook his head gently. "We were both horrible to each other. I was an ass, and you couldn’t have known. Fuck, I’m glad you decided to talk to me anyway," he said, a laugh escaping under his breath.

When she said nobody would notice if she was gone, his shoulders rose and fell in a sigh. "I would. I would notice," he said firmly. "If you want to find your family, if you want to visit them, I can help you do that." He curled a lock of her hair around her ear.

A dimple appeared in his cheek as he smirked at her. "Get yourself dressed, and I’ll take care of the 'Lady'" his tone clipped with a razor-sharp edge. He leaned to press a kiss to her forehead before he let her go and stood, lifting his jacket from the floor and pulling it on and drawing the hood up. "I’ll be right back."

The Lady in question was glaring at him as he wandered into the foyer, her arms folded. "You know you lost me a regular client today."

Lynus ignored her, drawing a leather purse from an inside pocket and tossing it on the table beside her with a thud. "You’re about to lose more than that," he said, holding up his hand as the woman seemed about to spit venom at him.

"That," he pointed at the purse, "is more gold than your establishment makes in a year. You’re going to take it, and I’m taking Isla wi—"

"Out of the question! She belongs to me, and she’s not for sale. You can keep your gold and get out of this establishment before I—"

"Before you what? Call a guard? Have me arrested? Beaten?" Lynus laughed, drawing his hood away as he stepped into her personal space, the woman’s eyes wide with recognition. Good, she knew who he was.

"Good, call them. Because I think, if I’m not mistaken, you’re mistreating your girls, holding them prisoner in this establishment and, apparently, enslaving them to servitude." His head tilted. "How many laws are you breaking?" His lips pursed in mock consideration.

"How dare y--"

"You're going to take the gold, stop treating these girls like animals, and keep your mouth shut, or I swear on my name that I will bring this fucking place down around you. Decide not to do as I say, and I’ll know. Do we have an understanding?"

The woman's eyes were glassy with tears, perhaps fear, perhaps fury, probably both. Her hand trembled as she reached to pick up the laden purse and she clutched it to her chest.

"Wonderful." Lynus flashed a smile at her and turned away, drawing his hood back over his head until he knocked on Isla's door, and waited.

"Time to go."
  • Aww
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"You would not have even met me. How could you possibly have known if I was missing?" She was blunt. Honest, but blunt, when she spoke and followed it up with, "I don't want to see them again, nor they me. Believe me, the shame of what I do lives in them as well. They used my name as a way to lure people in. Acted like I was some sort of animal or carnival attraction."

Her nose crinkled as he wrapped the hair behind her ear. Isla was ticklish. "I guess it worked though. Everyone got what they wanted." As he pressed his lips to her forehead, Isla fought hard to let herself wonder if possibly she would, too, now that this strange man had stumbled into her life. Maybe that fate they spoke of during their last encounter wasn't just a crock of shit.

She raised a brow, staring with round doe-eyes as he got up and left the room. She followed suit, keeping to she shadows and weaving between the other ladies who paced around with trays of drinks. She flinched when the yelling started, but quickly made it to her tiny room and shut the door.

It had only taken a moment to slip into something else- something less than suitable for the public. Isla had so few belongings. Most gifts she had received had found their home in the Lady's office, or in a pawn shop probably. It was unfortunate that she had only a few too-revealing outfits, a blanket her grandmother knitted for her before passing, and a small golden ring with an aquamarine stone set in the center. She shoveled them all into her bag and slipped the ring on her right hand before she heard the knocking at her door.

Time to go.

"Shit." Isla couldn't rely on the stranger's generosity forever. She would need new clothing if she wished to keep the perverted gaze of men away from her. She would need money for housing, toiletries, gods what do people need when they live outside of a prison?

"Give me one second," She opened the door and looked outside, shoving the shirt in Lynus' hands and motioning for him to give her his jacket. "You stay here. I'll be right back."

Isla gave no time for Lynus to object or question her as she slipped through a door across the hall. It was clearly marked with the Lady's name. It had never been locked. A temptation, though it seemed no girl was stupid enough to try to steal from her. No one except Isla. She thought it would be more difficult to find some valuables, but almost immediately upon entry she was greeted with a small open chest. Her entire body felt like ice as she approached it. The Lady had kept the gifts from Nathaniel.

There was no time to hesitate, so Isla fought the sick feeling back as she shoveled them all into her bag and left the room. "Okay. Let's go."
  • Peek
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"I have now." he countered, and his lips pressed into a thin line as he nodded in understanding of her choice.

He turned his back to the door as he waited for her, as though the foul matron might go back on her word and send some form of security to stop him from taking her. "One second.. right.." he murmured sarcastically as he shrugged out of his jacket and swapped it for his shirt, still warm from the heat of her skin. "What are you d--" he sighed. "...doing."

His throat cleared as he listened to her shuffling around, but he did as she asked and stayed where he was, watching the hallway. He felt exposed without his hood here. He recalled the relief he felt when Isla hadn't recognised him, but he'd already been seen here by two who had, and there were only so many threats he could make.

Lynus's grin was instant as the door opened, and he reached to take her hand to hurry her along the hallway and through the Foyer. The Lady's eyes followed him with a sneer, and he offered her a quick wink before wrapping an arm around Isla and leading her out of the front door and into the dark street.

The lamps were lit, and men stumbled in and out of taverns and brawled in the streets, and women called from windows. Lynus kept to the shadows, his steps hurried as he led Isla down some quieter alleyways of the lower town's labyrinth, ducking his head each time he passed under firelight.

It was at the end of an alley that he near skidded to a halt only moments before he'd almost stepped into the path of two wandering guards in full uniform. He swore under his breath and pulled back to press her gently against the wall, leaning his arm by her head as he leaned in, their noses touching.

The guards gave a quiet whistle as they meandered on by. "Give 'er one for me, lad!" A muscle ticked in his jaw as they laughed. Another nose he'd consider breaking if he set eyes on the man again.
  • Nervous
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