Love didn’t make much sense to Orpheus, either. He’d experienced it before, of course, and he was experiencing it now, but did he understand it? Almost definitely not. “Yes,” Orpheus returned, giving a tiny smile even though he didn’t quite feel like it. “Yes, that’s why I care so much.” He wasn’t sure if he was elucidating love for Elpis as well as he could be. “I think,” he murmured, lifting his gaze up to meet Elpis’, “that part of being human is that you can feel love, you can experience it, but you can never really understand it. It’s something even the best of poets can’t put words to.” Orpheus himself had tried for years, but he found he always came short. Perhaps that was part of the beauty of it. Orpheus was about to turn back to the checkers game when he heard Elpis. He couldn’t respond for a long moment, because, well… he hadn’t ever asked, he had just assumed. “I… well, of course I want him to love me,” Orpheus replied quietly, gaze drifting towards L’s body like he couldn’t quite stop himself. “But I don’t think he does. And… even if he did… it would be really dangerous for him to. And I don’t want to put him in that position.” He knew that trust was dangerous for L. How much more dangerous would love be? The thought hurt, so he pushed it away. It was easier to focus on Elpis and the game in front of them. “I don’t know how the House thinks,” Orpheus admitted, “but it seems like an awful lot of trouble just to create someone and destroy them minutes later. Besides, the House now knows that I like you, and it would be a lot more entertaining to keep you around just to see what happens with that.” He gave a small smile. “If anything, I hope I’ve gained you a few more days of existence.” He just had to hope that the House thought the way Orpheus hoped it did. Orpheus gave a tiny smile, then turned his full attention back to the instructions, reading them out loud clearly for Elpis. “It seems simple enough,” he finished, giving a tiny smile. “Would you like to go first, or shall I?” He knew the instructions stated a specific order, but he could break the rules a little bit, right? Or… well, if he wanted L back, maybe not. But it still felt better to ask. “By the way, Elpis… it’s my pleasure to try. You deserve someone who cares enough to try.”
Post by ®Hawkpath® on Jan 14, 2021 18:03:11 GMT -5
If Orpheus didn’t understand love and he’d experienced it, then Elpis didn’t have a chance. They didn’t even know who or what they were, how could they understand something as complicated as love? Yet they tried, they tried to understand, because it seemed so important to Orpheus and they wanted to know why. “Am I human?” They asked, eyes wide. “Or am I something else. Do I count as human if the House created me? It didn’t create you.” They weren’t sure what it meant to be human. Or what it meant if they were something else. But...they found they wanted to be human, if only because they wanted to understand what Orpheus was saying, and they were afraid they might not be able to otherwise. They nodded silently, not pushing too hard in spite of their curiosity. They couldn’t help asking a few questions, though. “Why would it be dangerous?” They questioned. “And why only for him? Wouldn’t it be equally dangerous for you, too?” If love was dangerous, wouldn’t it be dangerous for everyone? Why only L? They probably should have stopped with the constant questions, but they couldn’t quite make themself do it. They looked at the game, resting their chin on their hand as they considered it. “It might not be hard at all, for it.” They mused. “It might be very easy to create and destroy. But...I hope you’re right about that. I don’t really want to be destroyed.” They glanced at Orpheus at that, their expression falling a little. “I’d take a few more days,” they admitted quietly. “I want to treasure every moment I exist.” They listened quietly as he read the instructions, looking at the game. It seemed pretty easy, overall. Not too complicated. They hesitated, then nodded to the instructions. “You can.” They said simply. “It says white goes first, right?” They hesitated. Then a small smile lifted their sharp features. “Thank you.” They said quietly. “For treating me like a person even though I’m probably not.”
Orpheus wasn’t sure complicated was the best way to describe love. In a way, it was the simplest thing a person could feel. Everyone felt it in one way or another. His people divided love into several different categories. Though what he felt for L was far from platonic love and leaned more towards romantic love, that didn’t necessarily mean he prioritized romantic love. Even if it was… well, it was the icing on the cake of platonic love. And plenty of cakes were better not iced. “I don’t know if you’re human,” Orpheus admitted after a long moment, tilting his head. “I… well, I think you’re probably something similar to human. The House wouldn’t have made you look like you do, or give you feelings if it weren’t trying to approximate what it is to be a sentient, vulnerable creature with a capacity for empathy.” Was that what humanity was? He would have to think on that later, though he would be the first to admit he was far from a great philosopher. He was just a boy who had fallen a few too many times, who saw the world as it was but tried to make it better anyway. “It… would be dangerous for him, because his life in general is a lot more dangerous than mine. He makes the world a better place by tracking down criminals and making sure they can’t hurt people anymore. It means a lot of people who want to do bad things don’t like that he’s alive. If he were in love with someone… well, that person could be very easily used against him. It would make his life that much more dangerous, and… I don’t want to do that to him.” If L died for him… he cast a glance back at his body. Well… it was a bit late to think of that. L had already died for him. Orpheus shook the thought away. He was doing his best to bring L back. Orpheus managed to send Elpis a small smile, his attention solely on them. “I don’t want you destroyed either. I’ll do my best to make sure that doesn’t happen.” He finally glanced back at the board, then nodded. “Just because you aren’t human doesn’t mean you’re not a person. I would say… I would say you know an awful lot about being a person. More than the House knows, at least.” Orpheus studied the board for a long moment before moving one of his pieces. He was playing for L’s life. He had to be careful.
Post by ®Hawkpath® on Jan 19, 2021 18:14:37 GMT -5
If it wasn’t complicated, it was at the very least confusing. Elpis wasn’t entirely sure they understood it, but they wanted to. They wanted to understand what it meant, what Orpheus meant by it. They couldn’t remember ever experiencing it themself, which made sense since they assumed they hadn’t existed before this room. They hadn’t had time to feel it, or know what it was. “You’re probably right.” They murmured. “Still, I...wish I knew what I was. I wish I knew whether I’m human or not.” They looked sideways at Orpheus, considering him. “Unless it just wanted to make you more comfortable.” They added, frowning a little. “It’s probably easier for you to talk to someone who looks similar to you. And you were supposed to kill me, so...it probably wanted to see if you would kill someone who looked like you.” They pursed their lips, unsure how they felt about that. They wanted to be real so badly, they wanted to understand, but they didn’t think Orpheus had those answers. They listened quietly as Orpheus continued, letting their worries slide for the moment. They weren’t quite sure they fully understood, but...then again, maybe they did. “I see.” They said softly, nodding a little. “So...if he loved you, someone could hurt you to get to him?” They hesitated. “Is that why you haven’t asked him, then?” They asked carefully, tilting their head a little. “Because you don’t want to put him in danger?” That made sense...they supposed if love was that dangerous, then protecting someone by not telling them was a very selfless thing to do. “Only...what if he’s already in love with you?” They added, looking Orpheus in the eye. “Then he’s in danger anyway, so not telling him doesn’t help. Right?” They hesitated again, then gave a tiny, touched smile. “Do you think so?” They asked, green eyes widening a little. “What does it mean to be a person? How can I tell whether I am one?” The glanced at the board, considering their next move, unsure. The problem was...they desperately wanted to live. The problem was that they didn’t want to lose. But...they glanced at L’s body again, then back at the board. And then they made their move.
“I don’t think I can answer that,” Orpheus admitted softly, shaking his head. “I don’t know what you are, but that’s possibly because I don’t even know what I am. We’re all just people. You included. That’s… sort of what we have to figure out for ourselves.” He managed a small smile, hoping Elpis wouldn’t be terribly offended by him suggesting that they go out and find their own answers. He didn’t know if they would ever be able to, but… if he could make one impact on the House, even if he could never make it even… he would free Elpis. He wouldn’t tell them that now, because they might put too much faith in him and not play the game to the best of their abilities, but… if they lost, he would tell them. He would promise to find them a way out, and he would make good on that promise. “Exactly,” Orpheus murmured, staring at the board rather than Elpis. It was easier to think about love, about L when he didn’t meet the eyes of the person that saving him would hurt. “What?” So much for not making eye contact. His gaze shot up, locking on Elpis’. “If he’s already in love with me?” Orpheus glanced at the body once more, though he had told himself he wouldn’t keep doing that. It just reminded him what was at stake. How much he really stood to lose. He wanted to simply say He’s not. Elpis wouldn’t accept that as an answer, though. Orpheus had figured that much out already. So… what was the answer? “I think,” he managed, “If he’s already in love with me, then he’s doing a great deal to get rid of the feeling. It would be cruel to tell him in that case. Because… well, it would be like giving him hope that he can’t really accept. It would be like… well, like dangling something right in front of him that he knows he shouldn’t take, that I know he shouldn’t take, and offering it anyway.” “I think you’re a person, Elpis,” he returned after a long moment of silence, very carefully moving one of his pieces. “I think… if you want to be a person… that’s a pretty sure sign you’re a person. You have thoughts and hopes and questions that nobody told you to have, that you just… have on your own. That seems like a person to me.”
Post by ®Hawkpath® on Jan 19, 2021 22:25:47 GMT -5
“But you’re human, right?” Elpis blinked, puzzled more than anything else by Orpheus’ answer. If he knew he was human, then didn’t he know what he was? “Or...aren’t you human?” They added uncertainly. If he wasn’t, that was okay, but they wanted to know. Besides, if he wasn’t human either, then maybe they were more similar than Elpis had assumed. They nodded a little. “I’ll figure it out if I get free, then.” They decided, expression earnest as they watched Orpheus. It made sense, what Orpheus was doing. More sense than Elpis had expected, actually. They started as Orpheus looked up, their eyes widening as green locked with hazel. Was that so impossible? Why? Why was Orpheus so surprised by the possibility? They hesitated, unsure how to answer, then stayed quiet as Orpheus continued. “Oh.” They said softly, and finally, they thought they understood. L was likely to be trying not to be in love, due to the danger. That meant Orpheus must be trying to help him with that by not bringing it up. It all clicked together in their brain, and they stared at him, trying to think of something to say in reply. “Would it really be that bad for him?” They asked finally, their tone hesitant, “are you sure? And...wouldn’t it be okay to let him decide that?” They weren’t at all sure they were a good person to be giving advice, since they didn’t even know what love was exactly, and they’d come into existence less than an hour ago, but...they couldn’t help speaking their mind. Maybe Orpheus would be angry with them for trying it, but they found they couldn’t help it. They looked back at the board, then moved a piece, unsure whether it was a good move or a bad one. They may have decided to lose, but that didn’t necessarily mean they could win even if they wanted to. “I want to be a person.” They said softly, looking at Orpheus again. “I...would like to know what exactly I am. But if nothing else, I would like to be a person.” They hesitated, then nodded seriously. “I believe you.” They said simply. “Besides, you know what being a person means better than I do.”
“I’m mostly human,” Orpheus replied, though he hadn’t really been referring to his species. “I just meant that… well, it’s hard to know who or what you are, even if you know in technical terms what you are. There are humans I’ve met that have behaved like animals, and others that have behaved in ways that only humans are capable of, but in the worst way possible. There’s a lot of leeway when it comes to being human, I think. Every human is different. Every person is different. In the end, Elpis, I don’t think it’s as much about your species as what you choose to do with your life and the feelings that come with the experience of living.” He shrugged, hoping that made any sense at all. Elpis had bad luck meeting a poet on their first day of life. His thinking tended to be abstract and roundabout – not entirely clear for someone who was just trying to figure out life for the very first time. “My mother was a god, though,” he added after a long moment. “I think technically that makes me not entirely human, but I’ve never actually given it much thought. Like I said… it doesn’t really matter what species you are. There are gods who act like humans, and gods who think themselves better than humans. But what we all have in common is that we’re all trying to figure life out. We’re all trying to figure out where we fit in the world.” Orpheus had been rambling. He blushed a little bit as he realized it, hoping Elpis didn’t mind very much. “I don’t know,” he admitted after a long moment of silence. “I could tell him, but… I think I’m afraid. And I don’t know if I’m more afraid that he feels the same, or more afraid that he doesn’t. It’s easier just to assume that he doesn’t, and he doesn’t want to. And then I don’t have to worry about putting him in danger either.” Would he tell L, given the chance? He was beginning to feel more and more like he would. If only to make L understand the sinking feeling Orpheus had felt in his chest when L had died. L had seen what Orpheus was like after Eurydice died. Would he understand that Orpheus was having a very similar reaction now? All it would take was losing this game – what had the instructions called it? Checkers? – for Orpheus to fall back into the wretch he had become after Eurydice’s death. He couldn’t fail L. Not like he had failed her. Orpheus shoved the thought away, meeting Elpis’ eye as he made his own move. He didn’t know exactly what he was doing, but he thought he could take two of Elpis’ pieces if he could get them to move a certain way. And that was the goal of the game, right? “I hope you get to find out for yourself what it means to be a person.”
Elpis listened quietly, considering that. Almost human? Well, Elpis had asked, and they didn’t mind the answer. Besides, it seemed that being human was less a species and more...something else. Something not entirely clear to them, if they were honest, but it was okay. They wanted answers, yes, but more than that they wanted to know what Orpheus really thought. And if he thought that being human was less about species and more about your choices, then Elpis would do their best to make human choices. They weren’t entirely sure how they could do that, under the circumstances, but...they wouldn’t give up. What small choices they could make, they would make as human as they could. And then maybe they would be one. It was comforting, thinking of it like that. Hearing Orpheus describe it as if it was okay that they weren’t human, that they could be a person anyway. Maybe they could. Despite having only just met him, Elpis trusted him completely, and they trusted that he wouldn’t lie to them, especially not about this. “Even the House?” They asked tentatively, looking at Orpheus. “Is the House like that, too?” Maybe they shouldn’t ask so many questions Orpheus couldn’t answer, but how could they help it when they had so many things they didn’t know? “Why would you be afraid that he feels the same?” They questioned, frowning a little as they processed that, it didn’t quite make sense...hadn’t he said he wanted that? Why would he be afraid of something he wanted? “Are you...afraid of hurting him?” They added after a moment, trying to piece it together based on what Orpheus had already told them. “Afraid of him being hurt if he feels the same?” They didn’t know what Orpheus was experiencing any more than L had when he had been alive. They didn’t know how much rode on this game. What they did know was that Orpheus was the only person they had to learn from, and so far, everything he had done had been selfless and kind. The human choice...the human choice was to do what L had done, what Orpheus had done. They made their move, falling right into Orpheus’ trap. Maybe Orpheus had warned them that friends didn’t often make those kinds of sacrifices, but maybe...maybe he was wrong about that. Maybe that was exactly what friends did. And Elpis wanted nothing more than to be Orpheus’ friend. “I hope so too.” They said softly, meeting Orpheus’ eyes even though they understood that this meant they wouldn’t.
“I think so,” Orpheus admitted, “but I don’t know for sure. I’ve never met anyone who’s actually had the House talk to them. Or… well, I guess… anyone who’s had a conversation with the House. I don’t think any of us really know how it thinks. I’m sure it would be offended by me suggesting it has anything to figure out, but… I don’t think I’m wrong about that. That’s part of what being alive means. If you have it all figured out… you aren’t really living.” He didn’t dare say it out loud, but he had a feeling that the House used its blinkers to feel powerful. To justify the position it had given itself as a god. Orpheus had met his fair share of petty gods who used underlings just to make themselves feel more powerful. The House wasn’t that different. Orpheus glanced down at the board, watching Elpis’ move as he considered their words. “I think,” he began after a long moment, fingers drumming a pattern at his side. If it formed the words only L would understand, the words he had kept from L for so long… who could blame him? “I think,” he continued, “you might be right. I’m afraid of hurting him. But I’m also afraid that I’ve convinced myself for so long that he doesn’t feel the same, and that I’ve just been wasting time if he does feel the same. And… well, I suppose it’s rather silly, but I’d rather waste more time than find out now. I guess that’s a thing human minds do. They don’t make much sense sometimes.” Orpheus had never been much for logic. At least… well, at least until he had learned that sometimes, logic was how L communicated. And then he’d been very interested in learning how to apply it. “I don’t want to make him feel like he has to start something with me, even if he feels the same. I don’t want to taunt him by telling him how I feel, and I don’t want him to get hurt.” Orpheus hadn’t actually considered the possibility of Elpis falling into his trap. He hadn’t anticipated the guilt that flooded him as he took their pieces, as he physically took away their freedom. It didn’t feel like the spear L’s death had plunged into his hart, but it did feel like dozens of tiny knives. “You know,” he managed after a long moment, waiting for Elpis to make their turn, “If you continue to exist… I might find you again. And… maybe we can rematch when that happens. With slightly different stakes, perhaps.”
“Never?” Elpis blinked, surprised. “Never even had a conversation with it? How long have people been blinking in, do you know?” They couldn’t quite imagine how that was possible, but then, the House seemed to have a mind of its own. So far, it hadn’t seemed to follow any of the rules Orpheus had put down. Or not rules, exactly, but...he had explained things and Elpis had listened, and from what they could tell the House didn’t act human, as Orpheus had described it. They didn’t notice the pattern. They were too focused on first the game, then Orpheus’ face, as he spoke. “You’re afraid you’ve wasted time, but...you don’t want to stop?” They asked softly, confusion showing on their sharp features. “I don’t really understand. But if that’s how human minds work, then I’ll try to.” Orpheus was right about it not making sense. But then, they supposed they didn’t have much to go off of. Maybe it made perfect sense and they just couldn’t see it. “It sounds complicated.” Elpis murmured, unsure they were understanding completely. Still, they thought they knew enough. “I hope you’ll get another chance to decide what to do, then.” They looked back at the board. Losing was going to be even easier than they’d expected...at this rate, it wouldn’t take long at all. They moved a piece, setting up a double jump for Orpheus, then looked up at him, their eyes wide. “Do you think so?” They asked, hesitant. “If the House doesn’t destroy me...I would like that.” Did Orpheus know what they were doing? Quite possibly. L had been careful, subtle, made sure to win a few times to throw Orpheus off. Elpis was not nearly as careful with their attempted loss.
“I’m not actually sure time works the same for the House as it does anywhere else,” Orpheus admitted, shrugging. “The first blinker hasn’t even been blinking in that long in her world, but there are a couple people who have been blinking in for… possibly centuries? It’s hard to tell. We can’t really go off time in our worlds, because it doesn’t match up very well. Except… well, I guess for L and mine. Our worlds seem to remain fairly consistent with time. Perhaps that’s a gift from the House.” Orpheus met Elpis’ gaze, wishing he had better words to explain it to them. How could he explain something he didn’t even really understand himself? “Love makes you think differently,” Orpheus replied after a long moment. “It makes some things make perfect sense, like the rhythm of a heartbeat, or why we find beauty in sunrises and sunsets, but it makes other things far more confusing. As I’m sure you’re seeing now.” He gave a nervous laugh, shaking his head. “Love would be very different if you asked someone else to explain it to you, I think. Everyone experiences it, but we all experience it in different ways.” Orpheus’ gaze settled back on the board, and he frowned just a little bit at Elpis’ move. He eyed the double jump, then very carefully ignored it in favor of moving one of his pieces to a vulnerable spot. “You don’t know me, Elpis,” he managed softly, eyes meeting theirs. “You don’t know you’ll ever get a second chance, no matter how hard I try to give you one. And I promise, I won’t stop trying. If… if you throw this…” his eyes were wide, hazel searching green. “If you throw this, no matter how optimistic I am about you still existing, about you getting a chance to have a real life… it might not happen. Do you understand that?”
“Who’s the first blinker?” Elpis asked curiously. Not that they would have ever met her, but they were curious and wanted to know her name in case they ever did. Or...assuming they survived this, anyway. Which wasn’t a given. “Oh. That’s odd.” They continued, considering the idea that time wasn’t the steady thing it currently seemed to be. “The House really is powerful, then.” They mused, unsure what that meant exactly. Besides the obvious, which was just that the House could apparently do whatever it wanted. They nodded a little. “Does love make you not make sense all the time?” They had to ask, in case they were right the first time and Orpheus’ reasoning hadn’t quite made sense. They paused, then continued very seriously. “If I ever experience it, I’ll try to write down what it’s like, so other people can find out too.” It seemed like something they would have liked someone else to do for them, so...maybe they would do it for someone else, instead. For the next person who didn’t understand. They glanced at the board, and hesitated. So he did know...well, that wasn’t unexpected. What they hadn’t expected was for him to miss their double jump. They stared at the move, frowning a little, unsure what to do next. They could take the piece, but that would bring them closer to winning. They looked up, and when they met Orpheus’ eyes, they had to pause. “I understand.” They whispered, their voice very, very soft. “I understand that. But, Orpheus…” they managed a small smile. “You love him. And even if he doesn’t love you the same way, I know you’ll do what you have to do to save him. It’s okay, Orpheus. I understand.”
“Her name is Arlo,” Orpheus replied, managing a small smile as he remembered his first encounter with the girl. She’d been nice, and she had answered the few questions Orpheus had that L hadn’t quite gotten to the first time they had met. It seemed like ages ago, but Orpheus knew it had only been a few years. He shook his head, meeting Elpis’ eyes as he tried to parse out what they were thinking. “It is powerful,” he confirmed after a long moment. But that doesn’t make it better than anyone else. It doesn’t make it worth more than me or you. Every life is worth something, Elpis.” Orpheus didn’t know why that seemed important, but it did. Perhaps it was just in case Elpis grew hopeless about getting free of the House. Orpheus wasn’t going to stop until he found a way. Orpheus thought about that for a long moment, then cracked a small smile. “Yes, love can make you not make sense sometimes. But… I like to think I make sense at least part of the time.” He at least hoped he made enough sense for Elpis to begin to get a sense of what they wanted from life. For Elpis to start being a person in a way the House had probably never anticipated them being. Orpheus found no small amount of satisfaction in that possibility. There, between them, was the game. The game that Elpis was trying to throw, because they were kinder and more selfless than most people Orpheus had ever met. Because they deserved better than what the House was giving them. Something blossomed in Orpheus’ chest, something that didn’t need words. In that moment, he loved Elpis. “Philia.” Orpheus murmured after a long moment. “Agape.” He stared at Elpis, not looking away. “These are both words for love, where I come from. The first is the love you have for friends. The second… well, it’s universal love. It’s wanting others to succeed and flourish. I feel… I feel both for you right now.” He swallowed, still not breaking eye contact. “I made a promise, once, to L,” Orpheus continued, his gaze intense. “I would try to make the House even. I would… I would make the good as prevalent as the bad. I… promise this to you, too. And I promise that I’ll try to free you, no matter what it takes.”
“Arlo.” Elpis repeated, committing the name to memory. They didn’t plan on forgetting anything Orpheus had taught them, in the short time they had known him. It all seemed so important, somehow, and they wanted to remember it, they wanted to know everything they could possibly know. Every life is worth something. They nodded slowly, expression serious as they agreed. The House was strong, but why would that made it any better? It was still just alive, the same way they were, right? As far as they could tell, anyway, no one was better than anyone else. They couldn’t think of a reason why they would think so. “You’ve made sense most of the time.” They reassured him, smiling just a little at him. “I understand more now than I did before. Thank you.” They hadn’t understood anything before, to be fair, but still, they were grateful to Orpheus for teaching them things they couldn’t have known otherwise. They didn’t know yet how to be the kind of person Orpheus might have thought they were, but they were getting there. They were making progress already. They looked at the game again. This time, they didn’t hesitate before moving a piece, gently herding Orpheus back towards the double jump. No need to make this take any longer than it had to, even if they were enjoying the sensation of existing. They looked up again, unsure what the words Orpheus had just used meant. Until he explained, and their eyes went very wide. “Me?” They said softly. It seemed...well, it wasn’t what they had expected. They’d only just met Orpheus, and although they considered him a friend, they hadn’t thought he would return it. Maybe this was what he meant when he said he was afraid to tell L. Maybe he just assumed, as they had assumed, that it wouldn’t be returned. Well, he shouldn’t have assumed that. Elpis wanted him to know he should never assume that again. But they didn’t quite work up the confidence to say it out loud. “I believe you.” They said instead, their voice quiet. “I think you can do it. If you can make the House listen to you and give us this game, if you can love me, and fight for me...I think you can probably do anything.”
Orpheus managed a small smile, relief spreading over his features. “I’m glad I’ve helped, even a little bit.” He glanced briefly at L, then lifted his gaze up to meet Elpis’ once more. “You have a whole… well… several thousand dimensions to try to understand, if you want to tackle them. But I’m honored to have been here at your start. To have helped you at the very beginning.” Orpheus believed Elpis could become something – someone – great. He believed that of everyone, but after the conversation they’d just had? He especially believed it of Elpis. Elpis, who had spent the first several minutes of their life trying to understand. Elpis, who had tried to help Orpheus navigate love, who had tried to help even when they didn’t have to. Elpis, who was throwing away an entire existence because Orpheus was in love, and they understood, somehow, how powerful that was. Elpis, who was selfless, and kind, and honest, and curious, and everything else the world tried to crush out of people. Elpis, who deserved more. More than being the House’s chew toy. Orpheus cast his eyes back down at the game. There it was, the double jump. It wasn’t a winning move, but it did set Orpheus up to crown a piece. It set Orpheus up to win, if he wanted. If Elpis insisted on throwing the game, even at the cost of their own future. “Yes, you,” Orpheus returned, the game no longer important. “I’ve told you that I see you as a person, but you… you’ve already proven yourself to be so much more human than plenty of people I’ve met before. And you must know that being human… I consider that to be pretty high praise.” Orpheus smiled, nothing forced in the expression this time. It was soft, and genuine, and all for Elpis. His friend. Orpheus sighed softly, then completed the double jump. He didn’t want to hurt Elpis. He didn’t want to send them back to be played with by the House, to meet who knew what sort of fate. All he could hope was that they would be guaranteed some sort of existence after this. “I wish you could meet L,” Orpheus whispered, still tapping against his leg. “I wish I could show you what you’re choosing to do this for. I can’t do that… but I can say I will never stop loving you for it. I will never stop loving you for who you are, in spite of everything. I will remember you, Elpis.” Orpheus glanced at the board. He could see how to win. It would be so simple… he wanted to stall. He wanted to let Elpis have just a few more moments of freedom. Of life. He hoped, secretly, that they would stall on their turn. Just a little bit.
Post by ®Hawkpath® on Jan 20, 2021 10:39:13 GMT -5
Elpis gave a small nod. “I’m glad you’re the one I met first.” They told him, expression serious. “You told me that plenty of other people would have killed me...I’m grateful to you for finding another way. For giving me a chance to be a person, even if it’s only for a little while. They weren’t entirely sure what they believed. Maybe they thought that what they’d done wasn’t all that special. They had learned from Orpheus, after all, how to do it, and they believed him when he said that love was important. Of course they were trying to help him, of course they were willing to do what they had to do to make this right. They understood the cost. They understood that they might just be...well, gone, after this. The House had created them...it could destroy them just as easily. But still, they gave a small smile and tried to be brave, even if they were scared of what came next. Scared to die, or be destroyed, or whatever term you wanted to apply. They looked back at the board for a long moment. They knew, they knew how Orpheus could win. How easily he could take their pieces now. It hadn’t ever been difficult, since Elpis had done their very best to make it easy. They looked up again, eyes widening a little at the praise. “That’s all I want.” They murmured, expression soft as they tilted their head just a little. “To be a person. To be human.” I want to exist just a little bit longer. The words almost escaped, but Elpis pushed them back, refusing to allow them out. Not when saying that would just make this harder on both of them. Orpheus already knew they wanted that, there was no point in saying it. No point in stalling, in dragging this out. The double jump brought Orpheus’ piece to the very edge of the board, and Elpis crowned it with a spare piece, then glanced over the possible next moves. They could see a way to hold on, just a little bit longer, although winning was probably not an option anymore. Good. They didn’t want the temptation. “I wish that, too.” They murmured, eyes flicking up to meet Orpheus’. They managed a small smile in spite of everything that was about to happen. “I think I love you, too.” They added, uncertain whether that was okay or not...they hoped it was. It was the truth. They looked at the board again, and let out a tiny breath. Stalling wouldn’t make this any easier. Stalling would, in fact, just make it harder to do what they had to do. They moved a piece, setting up Orpheus’ win. Then they looked at him again, expression gentle. “It’s okay.” They said quietly, in case he hesitated. “You can do it. It’s okay.”
Orpheus didn’t want to let Elpis go. As much as he wanted L back, as much as he wanted to hold him again, to tell him his sacrifice hadn’t been for nothing. To promise him that he wouldn’t let him die like that again, not if he could help it. “You’re welcome,” he managed, not looking away from their eyes. “You would have been a person, even without me,” he added after a long moment. “Nothing can stop you from being a person. And… even if you don’t remember that, even if you don’t remember this room… you’ll be a person. And I’ll remember for you.” He couldn’t stop the House from taking his memories, if that was what it wanted to do. He knew that saying he would remember was practically asking for it, but… he didn’t care. He would remember. He would remember for Elpis, for the person they could be, if they were allowed just a little bit of freedom. Would the House be cruel? Would it take Elpis away, destroy them, destroy the little spark it had created in this room here? Orpheus felt indignant anger rise up in his chest. He couldn’t promise Elpis they would survive this. He couldn’t promise them they’d be alright. Was Orpheus’ fate to leave behind a trail of bodies, each of them a person he found himself loving? He hadn’t known Elpis that long. Elpis hadn’t existed that long. It wasn’t fair. It was so far from fair. Of course it was okay that Elpis loved him back. There was the way you loved strangers, the way you saw their humanity, the ways they tried. And there was the way you loved friends, and Orpheus felt them both pulling at his heart, making it beat just a little bit faster. The game was so close to won. All it would take was one move. Orpheus steeled himself, then stood up suddenly instead of making his move. He moved to Elpis’ side of the table and wrapped them in a fierce hug, his embrace strong around them. “Thank you,” he managed, the words breathless, almost strangled. “I will find you. I will free you.” Orpheus’ heart was racing, the severity of what he was about to do hitting him. A hum built in the back of his throat, a song about hope, about the future, about the impossible. Orpheus didn’t plan it, the melody was one nobody had ever heard. But it was for Elpis, all for Elpis. Were they ready? Orpheus knew he wasn’t. He closed his eyes, feeling Elpis’ warmth against him for a long moment before he glanced back, extricating one arm from the hug to jump the last of their pieces – a stunning triple jump that felt more like a crushing weight than a victory.
Post by ®Hawkpath® on Jan 20, 2021 13:26:06 GMT -5
Elpis gave a tiny smile. They wanted to believe Orpheus was right, they wanted to believe that it was possible that they could be a person, that there was nothing that could stop them from being a person. The idea of forgetting was frightening. They didn’t know what it would be like, they didn’t want to forget this, forget Orpheus. But...if Orpheus would remember them...if Orpheus promised to free them...they believed him. They wanted to believe it would be okay, even though they understood it might not be. They didn’t want to be destroyed. They wanted to live so badly it hurt, but they wouldn’t let themself take it. They weren’t even sure whether they could have won, but they understood that any chance they’d had was long gone, and they didn’t regret it. How could they regret it when they had made the most human decision they could think of. They knew it wasn’t fair. Their first impression of the world was that it wasn’t fair at all. They had never had a friend. Never had anyone they even knew before, and here they were, loving Orpheus, trying to believe that he could free them. Find them again when it was all over. They were so close to the end now…. Elpis looked up, startled as Orpheus stood up. What was he… Then he wrapped them in a hug and then hesitated, then tentatively hugged him back, holding on like he was the only person keeping them alive. Like he wasn’t the one who was ending them. Because he wasn’t, the House was to blame for this, the House was the one who had decided to do this to them both. They didn’t blame Orpheus, not even for a moment. “I know you will.” They murmured, leaning against Orpheus and letting themself be held. The hum calmed them, and they relaxed a little, breathing out. It wasn’t familiar, but it felt comforting, gentle, like coming home. Like being safe. And in that moment, they believed in Orpheus completely. They knew he would find them. They knew he would free them. They weren’t ready. Of course they weren’t. But they were calm, now, and they were okay with this. They were okay with what came next. And then it happened. The triple jump was effortless, and then the game was over. And Elpis was gone without so much as a last word.
The warmth of Elpis vanished from Orpheus’ arms and he sunk to his knees, forgetting entirely about the game of checkers. About what he had won. About everything but Elpis, sweet, gentle Elpis, taken somewhere by the House. The only kindness Orpheus had was that he hadn’t had to watch them die. They might still be alive, somewhere. Orpheus had to believe that. He had to believe that the House wouldn’t destroy them, if only so it could use them later as a pawn against Orpheus. He sighed softly, finishing the song in a broken tone. He would write it down, when he blinked back. He would honor Elpis in the only way he knew how. He would protect their memory. It took a few moments for Orpheus to push the thoughts from his mind and stand up, breath still coming in shuddering gasps. Crying over Elpis, while they had certainly deserved that, wasn’t productive right now. He had to make sure the House kept good on its end of the deal. Watch him suffer over losing Elpis, over failing to save them, and give L back. Orpheus was grateful L wasn’t too far away. It meant he could take a few stumbling steps in his direction and fall to his knees there, gently pulling L back into his lap. His skin was so cold now, his face too pale. It had been so long since he had died… could the House even bring him back at this point? Orpheus cradled him close, lightly tapping on his arm. “Come back. Come back, I’m here, please. Please come back.” He didn’t say anything out loud, not at first. He just held L and rocked back and forth, trying his best to keep from losing hope. “Please, love,” he whispered quietly. If L didn’t come back… then losing Elpis had been for nothing. Another failure to add onto Orpheus’ long list of good intentions that had ended only in more pain. If Orpheus were a god, he would be the god of false hope. It seemed all he was capable of giving. To Eurydice. To the workers of Hadestown. To himself, to L, and now to Elpis. “I need you,” he managed breathlessly, a sob rising in his throat and threatening to break free. “Please come back to me. Please.”
Post by ®Hawkpath® on Jan 20, 2021 17:28:50 GMT -5
It didn’t happen immediately. For a long moment, L was as cold and lifeless as he’d been before, laying in Orpheus’ arms, not breathing, not moving. Then his heart leapt to life, his skin warmed and his eyes snapped wide open, staring around in shocked confusion and trying to take everything in, trying to understand what he was seeing. His mouth opened and he sucked in a huge breath, gasping for air he could actually have enough of now, sucking in breath after breath and trying to to convince his brain there was enough of it. He didn’t know where he was. Panic made his muscles tense, panic left over from his death, because for him it had been just a moment ago, he didn’t know how much tie had passed. He coughed, shaking as he tried to understand what had happened, tried to get his brain to work.
Orpheus’ eyes widened at the sudden feeling of L’s heartbeat against him, the beautiful sound of L’s breath, however gasping it was. However desperate and uncertain. Orpheus held L close, making sure his grip wasn’t so tight that L couldn’t break out of it if he wanted. “Hi, Λ,” Orpheus managed softly, rocking him back and forth, trying to keep him calm, trying to remind him that things were okay now. “You’re back,” he whispered, one hand gently combing through L’s hair. “You’re alright, it’s alright now.” If his voice broke… could anyone blame him? He had experienced more loss in the past hour than most people did over many years. He ignored the checkerboard still in the room, ignored anything but L in his arms, L breathing, his heartbeat strong and pounding. He was alive. Was it worth Elpis’ life? In a way… Orpheus had been responsible for Elpis’ demise after all. He didn’t know if they were dead, but… with how quickly they had been spirited away… he wouldn’t have been surprised.
Post by ®Hawkpath® on Jan 20, 2021 18:18:50 GMT -5
L didn’t try to escape Orpheus’ arms, though he could have if he’d wanted to. His eyes caught on Orpheus’ face and he breathed out, not looking away for even a moment as he stared up at him, trying hard to understand what was happening. Then it came back to him. The game, the game within the game, his loss, his death. And now, apparently, his life. “Orpheus.” He managed, searching the other blinker’s face, trying to read him, read his expression. He wasn’t sure he understood exactly what he saw, but he was alive and Orpheus was alive too and that was what mattered. They were both okay, “I’m sorry.” He breathed after a long moment, still not pulling away. Still staring into Orpheus’ eyes, “I’m sorry for lying to you...I didn’t want to. I never wanted to.” His breathing had steadied into a better rhythm by now. He was no longer dying. And though he didn’t know the cost of his life, he was grateful for it.
Orpheus met L’s gaze, trying to read what he thinking. Trying to figure out what he could do to help. He wanted to help. More than anything, he wanted to help. “You don’t… you don’t have to apologize,” Orpheus replied, pulling L just a little bit closer. He could feel L’s heartbeat. He was fairly certain L could feel his as well. “I just… there might’ve been a way around it. We could’ve found a way around it. We could have both survived.” His voice was tight and hurt, though he couldn’t blame L for what happened. “Next time,” he managed softly, pulling back just far enough to take L’s face in his hand, his hand cupping L’s cheek as gently as he could. “Next time, please tell me. We’ll figure it out together. We’ll make sure neither of us has to die.” He hesitated for a long moment, searching L’s gaze. Reveling in the feeling of having him back. Of succeeding. “Promise me,” he added softly, his voice low, almost inaudible. “I can’t… I can’t lose you again, Λ.”
Post by ®Hawkpath® on Jan 20, 2021 18:55:36 GMT -5
“Maybe not. But I’m sorry anyway.” L murmured, leaning against Orpheus, feeling his heart beat steadily. It was soothing, a rhythm Orpheus hadn’t even intended. It seemed fitting somehow that even his body had something musical about it. Something soothing and gentle and wonderfully alive. “I didn’t...want to risk that.” He said softly. “I couldn’t risk you on a hope. Not when the House is the way it is, not when it would take you from me. Sometimes there’s no way around playing the game. And...I expected to return.” He knew it wasn’t much, but it was all he could offer as explanation. He had known it would hurt Orpheus to watch him die, but he had also known he would at least be alive to feel it. How could he risk losing that? Even if he was dead, it was preferable to losing Orpheus. His eyes widened a little, and he let himself lean against Orpheus’ touch, his expression unwavering as he looked into Orpheus’ eyes. “How could I promise that?” He asked softly, not looking away for even a moment. “I have to protect you. I have to keep you safe at all costs.” I love you.
Orpheus hesitated for a long moment, his eyes locked on L’s. He didn’t want to lose him. He didn’t want to feel that pain blossoming in his chest again, the knowledge that L was gone, that he was nothing but a body, that everything that made him L, everything that made Orpheus love him was gone. “But you could risk yourself?” Orpheus asked, unable to keep his voice from breaking. “You wouldn’t risk me because I might not come back, but you could risk yourself because you might?” His voice was gentle and quiet, but he wasn’t backing down on this. It didn’t make sense. L had people in his world who still needed him, things he needed to do, people to save. Love can make you not make sense sometimes. That’s what he had told Elpis. But… but no. Elpis couldn’t be right. L didn’t love him. He… he couldn’t. “Λ,” Orpheus whispered, not daring to look away. He felt, almost, like he was drowning. Like L was a lifeboat and the ocean at the exact same time. “Please. Please don’t make me lose you.” He leaned forward just a little bit, his forehead meeting L’s. “I already lost one soulmate. I can’t lose another.”
Post by ®Hawkpath® on Jan 20, 2021 19:35:58 GMT -5
L didn’t answer right away. What could he say? Orpheus was right, of course, it didn’t make sense, his logic was not ad good as it generally was. But he couldn’t help it. Orpheus mattered too much to risk him, Orpheus mattered more than he could ever have explained, even to himself. He wouldn’t risk him, he would never let that happen. How could he explain without saying those words he had told himself he would never, ever say? How could he possibly make Orpheus understand without telling him the truth? He couldn’t tell him, even now. He couldn’t tell him when he understood the chances of Orpheus feeling the same. He understood how poor they were. He wouldn’t hurt Orpheus, even now when he had just died for him. Now, when he was probably entitled to some selfishness. He was still afraid, too afraid to confess. Dark eyes met hazel. His expression was open and vulnerable, he wasn’t hiding anything but the thing he had always hidden since he’d first understood what it was. The thing he was very, very good at hiding. Then his forehead met Orpheus’ and he heard the words, and he stopped breathing. Because that wasn’t possible. What held heard...wasn’t possible. “What do you mean?” He whispered. His heart was beating faster now, and he couldn’t help it, but he didn’t move away. He didn’t want to move away, even if he didn’t understand.
L was giving him a chance to back out, if he wanted. A chance to smile and say it must have been a slip of the tongue, to ignore the fact that he had put it out there. That he had put a voice to something they both had probably understood for… well, months now. At least in Orpheus’ world. He could back out now. Something, though, a voice in his head (a voice that sounded an awful lot like Elpis), urged him to continue. “I mean,” Orpheus whispered, his forehead still pressed up against L’s, his heart pounding, beating so fast he was terrified it would run away entirely. What was he thinking? Why would he risk everything on this? He wasn’t subtle. L had probably figured it out. And if L hadn’t said anything, then it probably meant he didn’t want to hear anything about it either. “I mean,” Orpheus began again, shaking the doubts free from his head, “that I love you, L Lawliet. That I don’t know how to continue to live without you, that the thought of you gone from my life is incomprehensible because you’ve been here for three years and I’ve loved you for at least a third of that. I mean that when I started playing again it was for you, that you gave me hope, that every time I blink in I look for you here because I want to hold you. I mean that I’m no good at lying, and you’ve been kind about this, but that I can’t stand the thought of you gone forever without me saying this at least once. I… I mean that you remind me why the Earth continues to turn even when the bad things happen, that your smile is more precious to me even than spring. I mean that I love you, and I can’t lose you. I mean that one word and I’ll love you in silence instead of openly, as long as you stay with me. Please.” Orpheus let his eyes close, his voice breaking off from the quiet, earnest, longing tone he’d been unable to quiet before the words came out. He waited for L to tell him to leave. He waited for L to push him away. But he would make L tell him he didn’t want him there. He wouldn’t leave of his own accord. He would see this through.
L hadn’t understood. He hadn’t understood what Orpheus meant, why he would lose another soulmate if L died, because that was how unlikely L found it that Orpheus could possibly love him back. He just couldn’t quite understand that it could mean him. That he, of all people, could possibly hold Orpheus’ heart. How could he? How could L have ever done anything to deserve that, how could he possibly have ever been given that? He knew that Orpheus held his own heart. He was aware of how dangerous that was, both because of his job and because of his status as a human being. It was frightening, he’d decided long ago, loving someone. Giving them the power to destroy you, and somehow trusting them not to. But that wasn’t why held stayed silent. He hadn’t said anything because he trusted Orpheus, but not himself. Because he wanted to believe that it was possible Orpheus could love him, but he thought he knew better. If only one person of thousands in his world was capable of loving him, of even liking him...how could he possibly believe the odds were good? He’d been lucky to count Orpheus as a friend. Lucky to have met him. But he didn’t believe in luck, and even if he had...some things were just too improbable. But then the impossible happened, and Orpheus spoke. And L lay still, frozen in place, listening to every word. He didn’t interrupt, didn’t pull away, didn’t move. And when he finally understood what Orpheus was saying...he didn’t think he had words for how it felt. How deeply he felt it, how much like a blooming flower it felt inside of him. He had been dead only six minutes ago, and yet he felt more alive than he’d ever felt before. He let a moment pass after the words finished coming. As he searched in vain for the words that would explain what he was feeling. “I didn’t know.” He murmured at last, his voice soft and fragile and honest. “I didn’t know. Is it...is it okay now to tell you that I love you, too?” He searched Orpheus’ face. Anyone else and he would assume they were lying, assume the House had done something to them, get them out of the room as soon as possible. But not Orpheus. Because one thing he knew about Orpheus was that he was a terrible liar, and right now the House was as from from L’s mind as it could get,
Orpheus felt his heart thud to a stop at the silence that met his words. He pulled back just enough to search L’s expression, to try to read what he was thinking, to decide how bad of a misstep he’d just made. At least L hadn’t shoved him off. And at least he knew that, though there were people in L’s world who hated people for who they loved, L wasn’t one of them. At least… well, Orpheus hoped that their friendship was strong enough to pull through this. As unlikely as L had considered Orpheus’ feelings to be, Orpheus hadn’t even considered there was a possibility L would ever feel the same – or if he did, that he would want to keep feeling that way. A heart was a dangerous gift, and one that Orpheus wouldn’t have held it against L if he hadn’t wanted to give it. “What?” Orpheus’ voice was soft, easily broken, but still whole. For now, still whole. He thought he had misheard at first, thought maybe it was his imagination telling him what he wanted to hear instead of what L actually had to say. Perhaps… perhaps Elpis had been right. How had they seen it before Orpheus had? Elpis, who had no concept of humanity at all? Orpheus considered for a long moment whether he was just that oblivious, or whether there’d been no reason to hope that L would feel the same. “I… why wouldn’t it be okay?” he asked after a long moment of silence. He hadn’t managed to look away, not since L had taken his first breath. “So long as you mean what you say,” he added after another moment, his voice scarcely more than a whisper. He didn’t doubt L’s words. For the first time, he didn’t doubt that L could love him back. It was just… he didn’t understand why L thought it might not be okay. L… loved him. A giddy smile spread slowly across Orpheus’ face, lighting up his eyes and erasing the tracks his tears had traced down his cheeks. L was alive, so alive, and he loved him. “How long?” Orpheus asked after a long moment, lightly pressing his hand against L’s chest, searching for the familiar pounding of his heart. “How long have I been blind?”
It might not be okay because L was still half convinced he wasn’t someone people could love. Still half convinced that something would go wrong, that he had misunderstood somehow, that...but he hadn’t misunderstood. It was...somehow…okay. Orpheus loved him. Orpheus loved him and L believed him, believed that it was possible. It may have been a dangerous gift, but it was one L chose to give. That was the thing about trust. He trusted Orpheus with all of him, trusted him not to break what he’d been given, that hadn’t been a reason not to tell. That had never been a reason for his silence. “I don’t know.” He admitted softly, still pressed against Orpheus, still feeling him hold him and wanting to stay close. He supposed it hadn’t made sense to ask if it was okay, but somehow he didn’t feel like he was making much sense at the moment anyway. He didn’t mind that. As long as Orpheus understood him, it was okay, it would be okay. “I mean it.” He continued in the same soft, gentle voice, focusing on Orpheus. His expression was open, and for once he didn’t have to mask the way he was feeling, didn’t have to pretend. “I love you.” Somehow...Orpheus loved him. Somehow Orpheus felt the same, had for a while now. How had he missed that? Had he been so convinced it was impossible that he hadn’t seen the signs? Had he missed it because he wasn’t looking in the right place, hadn’t been watching for it? Still...he was supposed to notice everything. To have missed something this major was...well. He would think about that later. Right now, he didn’t want to let his mind wander, right now he wanted to exist in this moment more than anything. “Do you remember the room with the boat and the fish?” He asked after a moment, searching Orpheus’ gentle eyes. “With the sun and the trees. It smelled like spring, and there was a breeze, and...and I looked at you and I figured it out.”
NOTE: Excessively spamming the shoutbox may result in a 24 hour ban. Other forum rules still apply. Please do not advertise by linking other websites. Members are encouraged to report offending content to the moderators by PM.
Cloudy Sky: Seeing the name gave me flashbacks to certain events that happened about two weeks ago.
Jun 22, 2021 4:51:35 GMT -5
Violetsky: Her name is Tika. She's a Cymric, or long-haired Manx.
Jun 22, 2021 6:27:08 GMT -5
Violetsky: I left the gel pack in the freezer overnight and now it's a solid thick sheet of ice.
Jun 22, 2021 6:32:05 GMT -5
Violetsky: Cymric is the technical term for a Manx cat that has long hair.
Jun 22, 2021 13:48:50 GMT -5
Violetsky: Technically they are Manx's as well; they are not a separate breed but an alternative variety of traditional Manx's, which are short-haired. They're also called longhair Manx's.
Jun 22, 2021 13:50:11 GMT -5
Violetsky: It's okay, I thought she was a traditional Manx for a while
Jun 22, 2021 14:02:13 GMT -5
Violetsky: Well, she is. It's like if brown bears that lived further up North had thicker and longer fur than their southern counterparts. If that was true, then they would be the same species and "breed", they just have different adaptations.
Jun 22, 2021 14:02:52 GMT -5