Difference between revisions of "2020-07-28: Fraying Threads"

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Revision as of 23:26, 30 July 2020

  • Log: loren_on_memory
  • Cast: Loren Voss, Lan Lilac
  • Where: Damzena Desert
  • Date: July 30, 2020
  • Summary: You are [not] alone.

<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

    He doesn't even knock, in the end. He just lets himself in.

    When the door to Lan's room opens, it opens both suddenly and only enough to admit a single human being. Loren slips inside and closes the door quietly behind him, sliding over to lean against it.

    In other words --

    He's blocking the only exit, though of course he's not thinking about it that way.

    He doesn't think anyone saw him -- not that he doesn't have good reasons to not be here, not that he should be somehow avoiding the personal quarters of the Lamb he's minding. But still, the way people talk around here...

    The way they talk everywhere, really.

    "Hey," he says, as if he hadn't just come into her room without asking.

    "...I need to talk to you."

<Pose Tracker> Lan Lilac has posed.

    When he opens the door, Lan is sitting down - not in the small armchair next to the shelf, not on her bed, but at the small desk nobody probably ever assumed she'd use. There's a terminal there, the same that's assigned to most on-base personal quarters, and Lan is carefully typing a string of characters into the search box.


    Her doorknob clicks and Lan jumps in her seat, whirling around to- to-- she's not sure what, it's not like she was looking up anything wrong--

    --who would come in without knocking, is it an enemy--

    But... after all his fussing at her about the exact same thing, it's Loren.

    Maybe she'll understand how he feels now?

    "Agh! You scared me!" she complains, resting a hand on her chest. "I at least knocked first--"

    I need to talk to you.

    Lan stares at him for the span of a breath. Did her...?

    ...There's not even a window to dive out of. If she needs to.

    "...What's wrong?" she asks, forgetting the screen and swiveling the desk chair to face him.

<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

    There is a flash of irritation. "I couldn't linger in the hallway," he says, shaking his head. "Look, just..."

    And then he just sighs, lapsing for several long moments into silence.

    "What? Nothing's wrong--" he starts to say, as if by reflex, and then he just looks at her for another terribly long moment.

    "What do you... what do you know about the Ley?" She's a Shaman, right? "Do... you know anything about Leypoints?" It's true that Leah does know some, and there's something to be gained by going through their own database on the matter but...

    If she knew something vital, she would have told him. And he's pretty sure what's in the database is going to be sparse.

    "What about... overexposure to it?" Loren asks, finally pushing off from her door and taking a step towards her.

    ...What in the world is all this about?

<Pose Tracker> Lan Lilac has posed.

    Her eyebrows furrow as he stalls, stares, eventually finds the words. Lan half expects him to ask her--

    Ask her what? 'Do you remember?'
        'Are you still ours?'

    'Or are you his?'

    But he asks about something entirely different. "The... Ley?" All this about the planet's magic map?? Lan frowns a bit and doesn't stand up. Even if he's acting weird (even for Loren) he's still, well, Loren.

    "What's got you so worked up?" she asks, unable to keep a note of concern out of her voice. "The Ley is... think of leylines as rivers, and magic as water." It's the basis of how her mother had explained it to her almost two decades ago. "Or... veins." He's a medic, he'll understand the nuance of something carrying life.

    And like water, if you breathe it in - well no, that's not quite right either, but Lan isn't sure what he's even talking about to begin with. "Listen, what's wrong? I don't know what would happen if someone got overexposed to it but... I don't even know if it would be bad or good or what!"

<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

    Loren just looks at her, again in silence, again for a long moment.

    "I know that," he mutters, closing his eyes as if he's just received one hell of a headache. "It was in the-- well, we had to learn it before coming down here," he says, his shoulders slouching.

    It's the source, apparently, for Crest magic. Maybe other things, it's not like the packet went into a lot of detail. It's not like he's had to know all that much about it.
    It's not how Ether works, after all.

    Anaitis probably knows more, it occurs to him then -- if just as a consequence of using their Crests. But that means having a potentially ugly conversation he's not sure he wants to get into just yet.

    'What's wrong', she asks for a second time.

    He doesn't answer her at first, his gaze turned towards the sterile metal flooring.

    "I," he says eventually, "I was exposed to one. To it. That's why..."

    He hesitates on the edge of that metaphorical cliff for a long time.

    "...That's why I'm losing my memories." His right hand jerkily clenches into a fist. He lifts his head to stare at her. "You-- you knew, didn't you? That I was..."

<Pose Tracker> Lan Lilac has posed.

    He just stares at her some more, and Lan is strangely reminded of... was it in Spira? When he'd looked at her and Lan didn't know what he would do next.

    Ah. When he'd found his brother's sword.

    Something tilts just outside human vision, invisible. But she can feel it.

    Leylines aren't important to a shaman - at least, not in the ways that they are to Crest Sorcerors. A shaman calls directly on a Guardian's power, using their own 'self' as the conduit. The Medium is just part of that. She doesn't know what to say. He's not asking questions that she has neat, tidy answers to - at least, nothing that he'll probably find enlightening.

    Her eyes widen slowly as he explains it in halting sentences. That he was exposed to one. That he's losing his memories. Not just 'getting them jumbled', but actually losing them.

    You knew, didn't you, he asks her. Lan is very, very still in her desk chair.

    I knew? she can't say out loud. You mean the way you knew what that woman - Myyah Hawwa - did to me?

    Is that why he looked at her sometimes, as if he felt guilty?

    Her gaze travels down his arm to Loren's clenched fist.

    "...I knew something was wrong. I knew your memories were messed up." Lan takes a deep breath and leans forward, resting her elbows on her knees. "I asked Leah about it, when we got back from Spira." So long ago, now. "I asked if you had had a training accident like your brother did. And she said no."

<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

    He's always been interested in neat, tidy answers to things. But the world rarely deals in neat tidy answers...

    Like now.

    Tension rides him for a long terrible moment. He doesn't move but nearly seems to vibrate with the desire to. And then... what?

    But Loren's hand trembles for a moment before unfolding from his palm slowly. Since he'd learned, he'd suspected she'd known. In a sense, there had been a conspiracy against him -- while the two of them had watched him from afar, as if waiting for some sort of...

    "Why didn't you... you should have... said..."

    His shoulders don't so much sag as much as he crumples while standing still, any remnant of any sort of tidy posture a lost memory. It aches behind his eyes. He closes them and takes a deep breath.

    He remains like that for seemingly an age.

    "...I don't know what to do," he confesses at last, opening his eyes to stare down at the floor. "I thought... if you knew something..."

    The Major -- it's weird to think of her as Leah -- said to observe, to see what information they could collect. To record what he could remember and compare it against the past. But it feels... small. Like striking a match in the depths of some abyss and hoping it will be enough to find the way out by.

<Pose Tracker> Lan Lilac has posed.

    Is this how Leah feels, she wonders suddenly. Never giving an entire answer. Carefully watching the people she speaks to, trying to find a single clue as to their true feelings.

    Lan doesn't like it.

    "...I wanted to," she says quietly, finally. "I wanted to tell you, but I didn't know if it would make your memory even worse. I didn't know if you would get upset or lose even more of what you had left. Leah told me not to do anything that might make it worse, to not point out anything you got wrong."

    Should she even be telling him this? Lan stands up from the desk, and hesitates. ...But he knows that she knows. That Leah knows, too. That they lied to him, even if it was because they were worried for him.

    Lan twists her fingers together in front of herself, like she doesn't know what to do with her hands, and looks down at the floor between them. He knew, but Loren didn't tell Lan that she'd been brainwashed. Why would he? Would someone have had to kill her if she couldn't be anything but a liability?

    Would they have made Loren do it?

    Her shoulders slump briefly, a mirror of his own. "I wanted to tell you. It was cruel not to. But if it made you worse... So all I could do was try to help you in other ways. You already lost so much, and you were so alone..."

<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

    The Major -- Leah -- had told her not to. His hands, still hanging at his sides, twitch.

    Of course.

    She had been doing her job as a Watcher well.

    He doesn't look back up at her. The irony of him accusing her isn't entirely lost on him --

    After all, she hadn't been entirely the same person she'd been before... whatever had been done to her. Not a full 'rearranging', but something else. Something that had made her more pliable, more helpful, more...

    Even if it was for her own good, even if was even an 'honor' as they'd put it, even if it was better than her dying, it was still something that wasn't...

    ...wasn't quite right.

    Even if he's been the benefactor of it. Even if he's continued to rely on her helping him out, in all the ways someone of his class shouldn't need.

    Except... he kind of does.

    'Guilty' doesn't even begin to cover it.

    But it's one thing to think these things in the depths of your own heart--

    --and another to hear it spoken by another.

    He jerks upright, staring at her for a moment.

    "What... what do you mean by that," Loren states more than utters, scrutinizing her as if he could decipher the hidden meaning in her words if he looked at her long enough.

<Pose Tracker> Lan Lilac has posed.

    "What do I mean by what?" she sighs tiredly. He's so touchy. Even now. Maybe especially now. And maybe she deserves it, just this once. Even if Loren has maybe never particularly liked her, he's depended on her. She'd depended on him, too.

    He's her only real connection left after all these months of captivity.

    Lan paces to her bed and sits down on the edge of it, almost reaching for the soft reassurance of the plush toy they'd won just a few days ago. Her hand moves toward it, but settles on her knee instead.

    "Because of what happened with Engil," Lan explains, elbows flexing helplessly in a half-shrug. How is she supposed to say 'because everybody is cruel to you, and you're cruel right back'? "Because you're always on your own except for me and Leah. How is anybody supposed to go on alone like that?"

    How wasI supposed to go on, alone like that?

<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

    He just watches her as she walks on over to the bed, feeling suddenly extremely awkward and extremely frustrated in the same heartbeat.

    "By... that," and even he'll admit that's being petulant. But he can't just let this one go either. "'Being alone'. I'm not..."

    And he trails off because even with some of his moorings gone and a few of his former morals the worse for their absence, there are still some lies he can't tell out loud.

    "..." Loren looks away from her as she underlines that wretched fact.

    Engil. It takes him a long moment -- too long -- to place that it was his brother's name.

    There's his parents. There's Anat, he wants to say. But he doesn't, because it's only deflecting from the essential point.

    "It's not... that bad," he tells her, and this is itself a lie but one that is easier for him to trick himself into mistaking for the truth.

<Pose Tracker> Lan Lilac has posed.

    It's not that bad, he says, and even Lan doesn't believe it. She's quiet for long moments, watching him from the edge of her bed.

    She doesn't know what to say, or even what she could ask him. Because Lan knows the truth, or at least enough of it. Maybe she should have never brought it up. Maybe she should have pretended she didn't know, that she'd never heard of any of it. No Leylines, no amnesia, no lonely prickly nerds that make her want to... want to...

    ...well, want to save him.

    "...You aren't alone now though," she tells him after a silence that stretches on too long. "You've got me and Leah." And maybe Anaitis, though Lan has never met the engineer and thus can't judge for herself. "And... and your folks, if you send them a letter or use the terminal." Lan lets her head droop slowly, staring at the floor between her bare toes. "..."

    Is that all she's got? Is that supposed to comfort him?

<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

    When she puts it like that--

    It kind of is a bit depressing, isn't it? But he's past that actually mattering in any sense -- that all ended the day he graduated from Jugend.
    He'll keep telling himself that until it sticks.

    "I was going to say that, you know," he huffs instead, because it's easier and better than lingering on that feeling. "But I figured then you were going to say 'that's not enough' or something," Loren continues, folding his arms over his chest defensively.

    "Anyway-- forget it," he says, glancing away. "None of this is important. If I keep losing my memories..."

<Pose Tracker> Lan Lilac has posed.

    And maybe once again, he's completely sidestepped her real point. Isn't that what she'd wanted, though? For him not to feel so bad? To Lan, that's an abysmally small number of people to be able to count on. Four or five other souls on the face of the entire planet (and in the sky as well)... can somebody really be all right like that?

    Maybe she's the one who's got it entirely wrong.
    But somehow, she can't make herself believe it.

    "I mean," she tries again, looking back up. "I don't think it's enough. But... you're not me." Almost unconsciously, her body attempts to mirror his, her arms making a move to cross themselves before settling down at her sides.

    She's quiet again for a moment.

    "...Hey," Lan ventures. "If you lose all your memories... what will happen? What if you're happier not remembering?"

    Would he even still be Loren then?

<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

    At that response, he only bristles at her. "Make up your mind," he remarks flatly. "Either it's good enough or it's not." Loren doesn't look at her.

    Being irritated is an easier emotion than...

    Than a lot of things, honestly.

    And then she suggests something that may as well be anathema.

    He rounds towards her, unfolding his arms to gesture sharply at her with his left hand. "What-- what in the world are you talking about?!" he utters, shaking his head. "Better without-- what do you think is going to happen to me if I'm just-- just some empty shell?! If I lose everything?! I'll be lucky if I don't end up in some care facility!"

<Pose Tracker> Lan Lilac has posed.

    Make up her mind. Or what? Someone will make it up for her?

    Lan tamps down the latest twist of her anger. "What's good enough for one of us isn't going to be good enough for the other!" she counters hotly, hands balling up on top of her knees. "I just-- I don't want you to be sad! I don't know what to say to you!" Being irritated might be Loren's most comfortable emotion, but it isn't the same for Lan.

    Maybe they're just to fundamentally different, after all.

    Lan would give anything, after all, to forget the Stranger. Wouldn't Loren want to forget everything that made him unhappy? Even if nothing really changed, wouldn't it be better to start over?

    The idea that he was losing all of his memories didn't even occur to her.

    Lan blinks when he turns back to her, questioning her. "But... You can start over," she offers, but it's not half as confident as it might've been just a few minutes ago. "...Can't you? I thought you were just forgetting the past. All the things that happened back then. That sometimes you just got kind of confused about more recent stuff."

    It can't be. The world couldn't be that cruel. The world she'd said didn't hate him.

<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

    "Too late for that," he snaps, before he can keep that one in check. Something like 'apologetic' flits across his face; he shakes his head. "Sorry," he says, and follows that remark quickly with, "Just forget it. ...I'm fine with the way things are."

    He's used to it at this point -- discordant memories aside. He can take what he's got and try and mash it together into something that's 'good enough'. As long as life doesn't hand him anymore surprises, though, that is--

    He was angry for an instant there.

    And as she asks him those questions of her own, he sags, like a puppet that's had its strings snipped.

    "I don't know," he admits. "If it was just medical, I could make a prediction. But I can't find anything like this in the literature. I can't even find folkstories, lore, anything."

    He's quiet again for a moment, then slowly settles down onto the floor, his legs sprawled out as if he weren't quite sure what to do with them.

    "I can... barely remember his name. What am I gonna lose next...?"

<Pose Tracker> Lan Lilac has posed.

    The weight of it all seems to be too much for him. Lan couldn't bear such a burden herself, either. As much as there are things she'd love to forget...

    There are things are are precious to her, even still. Dawn breaking over the horizon of the Badlands. The glow of the lamps in Little Firelight. The smell of frybread. Lan takes a deep breath and eases off of the edge of her mattress, sitting crosslegged next to him, so close her knee almost touches Loren's. Her long hair pools around her hips.

    There's really not anything she can do for him, is there?

    "...I don't know," she admits softly. "I'm sorry. But you won't lose me. And I can't imagine you losing Leah or your parents either." She doesn't say Anaitis's name.

    But Anat... "...Isn't Anaitis a Crest Sorceror? Did you ask them? And if they don't know there have to be way more people out there who might. Adelhyde has a lot of Sorcerors too. If we were to go back to the mainland - to Ignas - we could hunt down rumors out there, right?"

<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

    He doesn't move when she settles down next to him, remaining as still as a statue.

    Almost, almost, it's as if there's something there -- when she says that he won't lose her, that she can't imagine him losing Major Sadalbari or his parents. And like a firefly, it's there and then it's gone into the night.

    His hand, resting on his right thigh, tenses for a moment.

    Loren turns his head away from her as she mentions Anaitis' talents.

    "Yeah... they are. I..."

    He shakes his head. "It's dumb. I know. But... I don't want to tell them yet. I think..." he starts, then stops. "...Never mind."

    He's pretty sure that whole relationship will end at that point. It's too much to think that someone he likes -- who likes him back even -- will just be okay with all this and the burden that comes with it. It's been a doomed relationship from the start, really.
    After all, Anaitis is Second Class.

    "Sielje," he mentions, at length, when Lan speculates about Crest Sorcerors elsewhere who might know something helpful. "They put out a lot of Crest Sorcerors, apparently. It's to the north."

<Pose Tracker> Lan Lilac has posed.

    It's dumb. He doesn't want to tell them.

    "...You think...?" she prods, as gently as she knows how. Because it probably is dumb. Putting it off won't make things any better. But she'd spent so much time telling him to think about other people's - well, one other person's - feelings that Lan feels the need to speak up. "If Anaitis were sick, even if there weren't anything you could do, wouldn't you want to know about it? Even if it was just to be there for them."

    She wants to believe that Loren isn't the kind of person who would just... ditch someone he liked once they got to be too troublesome.

    "If there were something wrong with me or Leah, wouldn't you want to know?" She looks at the wall, at a clumsily-framed square of more lace she'd made.

    "Then let's start with Sielje. I'll go with you. If there's anything we can learn there, we'll find it."

<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

    His response is to bury his head in his hands. "I know! ...I know it's stupid. But, for just a little bit more... I want to pretend everything's normal. I'm not-- I haven't..."

    It might be the only real relationship he gets to have in his life, however much might be left of it.

    "I think..." he continues, and boy, does he feel like the dumbest man alive for putting this into words. "...I think it might end things." The 'but I don't want it to' is unspoken but might as well have been.

    He drops his hands back into what passes for his lap, as ungainly a seated position as he is in now.

    "...I know. I know." He closes his eyes, he grits his teeth.

    But at least there's a slightly better place to start there.


    "Yeah. ...I'll see if the Major will give us official clearance."

    She will, he's pretty sure.

<Pose Tracker> Lan Lilac has posed.

    Lan tilts her head back to gaze up at the ceiling, careful not to look at what she's pretty sure is the surveillance camera. He wants to pretend for a little longer. And isn't that human?

    "I'm sure she will if it's for something this important. She might even come along. You never know, right?" Whether or not Lan finds that as comforting as she used to...

    Well, even she can't really tell.

    Getting up on her knees, she shuffles over to the bedside table and tugs a handful of things out of the drawers. "For tonight, we'll pretend, if you feel like it." Lan presents him with a choice...

    Cards, or the ball of thread and the hook. "It might make you feel better to take your mind off of it. And it might help you hang on to your memories a little longer to learn something new." Of course he'll say no if he doesn't want to. But this is what Lan can do for him, right here and right now.

<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

    "Yeah... she might. Non-Ether magic's an interest of hers," he admits, shaking his head. He himself knows enough to get by (read: not confuse systems or make stupid blunders) but he doesn't know the technical details largely.

    Major Sadalbari, on the other hand...


    "Pretend what?" he asks, tracking her as she shuffles over to the table and produces--

    He starts to reach for the deck of cards, but hesitates.
    What would he do with that, except play a game he already knows, or build yet another house of cards?

    "Something new..." Loren exhales a breath, as if steeling himself for some trial. Then he nods. "You might have a point. Okay. Then show me how you do it."

    Perhaps he will be able to experience the joy of swearing at thread for himself.