--- The only times Orpheus ever felt real were the times they were allowed to be themself. All of their memories in place – including memories of the things the House had done to them – and none missing. They could feel the spaces when the House took memories away, and they couldn’t stand them. They wanted to be whole. They wanted to be as much themself as they ever could be given the circumstances. The fact that they were themself now was a surprise. They were allowed a few moments of reprieve in the House, but only in between rooms, or right after they died. This feeling was different. This place was different. It was like the living room, but still a little bit blurry. “Elpis?” Orpheus asked, voice tentative. They didn’t see their friend, but they had to assume they would be here. This… well, it had switched locations on Orpheus as easily as a dream. They were having a hard time adjusting. Had Elpis managed to wrestle them back from the House, even for a few minutes? It was an extraordinary feat. It said more than words ever could. They were still trying. And that was all Orpheus could ever ask.
It hadn’t been easy, taking Orpheus back after that first time. The House didn’t seem to appreciate them stealing its toy, and they’d worried they wouldn’t be able to pull it off a second time, when they’d already attracted its attention. They couldn’t tell for sure whether the House had allowed this, or whether they’d genuinely stolen them again, but it didn’t matter. They were here now. That was all that mattered. “I’m here,” they said, and they were. It was hard to tell when they had gotten there, or if they’d always been there and just been standing out of sight. They moved forward, now, green eyes resting on Orpheus. They were still wearing a sleeveless black shirt and black pants, though this time they also had a red thread looped a couple of times around their right wrist, tied off at one end. They smiled a little, lifting a hand in greeting. “You’re okay?” They asked, searching Orpheus’ face. “Or at least.,,you? You know me?”
Orpheus didn’t know if the House had allowed this, either. They just knew… well, that they were free, for just a moment. If the House still had its claws in them, they couldn’t feel it. If they hurt Elpis… well, they wouldn’t ever forgive themself. But they didn’t have any urge to. And they remembered everything, which the House very rarely allowed them to do. “Okay is a relative term,” they managed, giving a smile they didn’t quite feel. “I just… Yes, I know who you are. I know who I am.” They shifted, hugging their arms to their chest. “I don’t… want to hurt you,” they added in explanation, biting their lip just a little bit. “Were you… looking for me? Or did the House just send me here…?” That possibility was frightening. If the House had sent them here, it was likely a trap. They were both the bait and the weapon. They shook the thought away. They were jumping to conclusions. It was entirely possible that they were here because of Elpis’ power and Elpis’ power alone.
Orpheus looked frightened, Elpis realized suddenly. They looked like they were trying hard not to seem too scared, but they were definitely scared...Elpis breathed out. It was easy to pretend nothing happened to Orpheus when they weren’t with Elpis. It was easy to try to pretend that this was just a friendly visit, but Orpheus’ fear took that away. Orpheus wasn’t okay. Orpheus was never going to be okay unless Elpis could fix this. “It’s alright. I did this,” they replied as confidently as they could, shaking their head and stepping forward. “The House didn’t do this. It was me.” They couldn’t exactly have blamed Orpheus for not believing them, though. They hoped it would calm them a little, at least. “You’re safe for now,” they added quietly. “I’m monitoring the wall I put up. I’m not gonna make it easy for the House to find you again.”
“Good,” Orpheus murmured, their voice barely audible. They believed Elpis. They had to believe Elpis, otherwise they thought they might just lose their mind. If Elpis had a way to monitor the wall, then Orpheus wouldn’t have to worry about the House using them against Elpis here. It was one thing to be used against all of their former friends in the House (former only because Orpheus doubted any of them would want to rekindle a friendship after what they had been forced to do to them all), but it was quite another to be potentially used against their one way out of this situation. “I believe you,” they added, in case it wasn’t obvious in their expression. It was still tight, just tinged more by relief than by abject terror. “I just… I don’t want to be used against you by the House,” they said, leaning back and letting their head lean against the wall. They pulled at the uncomfortable shirt the House had given them, longing for the familiar comfort of the shirt they liked to wear with the soft tug of the bandana around their neck. The House rarely, if ever, let them dress as they wanted. “Thank you,” Orpheus said hurriedly after a few moments, realizing the words hadn’t yet escaped their lips. “I know… I know it’s dangerous for you to try this. I’m… I’m so incredibly grateful.”
Post by ®Hawkpath® on Jun 22, 2021 17:10:39 GMT -5
“I don’t know for sure that you even can be used against me,” Elpis replied, frowning a little at the idea. “I mean...theoretically there’s really no way for you to hurt either me or the House. The House can probably hurt me, but I don’t think it would use you to do it...it would probably just hit me with super lightening or try to make me explode or something like that.” It did occur to them that Orpheus could still be bait, but they kept that thought to themself for the moment. They seemed upset enough without Elpis confirming that yes, their fears were probably partially valid. They eyed them, hesitating a moment before they continued. “Do you want...me to give you your clothes back?” They asked tentatively. “Your real clothes. I did that last time. This time I tried not to change you at all before I brought you here, so hopefully the House didn’t notice until the wall was fully up. It’s sort of a complicated process, but I think it worked.” They wanted to help. They wanted to get Orpheus out of this, more than anything else. They did realize that explaining probably wasn’t going to work, though. It eas hard for them to find words in any language that would cover it. Almost like the House, and therefore Elpis, wasn’t quite knowable to other minds. They looked away, rubbing the back of their neck. “It’s the least I can do, really,” they murmured in reply. “You gave me everything. I wouldn’t just abandon you.”
“I think the House could probably do a lot that neither of us are aware of,” Orpheus replied quietly, not quite looking at Elpis. It didn’t matter if the House could use them to physically hurt Elpis – perhaps Elpis hadn’t yet learned that some of the most painful wounds weren’t physical at all. Of everything the House had done to them, the things Orpheus regretted the most weren’t the times they themselves had been hurt, but the times they had been used as a weapon against other people. Against people they had (and still did, though the feeling wasn’t mutual in most cases) considered friends. The House could make Elpis hurt Orpheus. It could make them watch as Orpheus was hurt. They could still be used against their friend, even if it wasn’t the way Elpis seemed to be thinking. Orpheus didn’t say anything. It was relevant, but they didn’t want to bring down Elpis’ mood when their friend had risked as much as they had to free Orpheus from the House, if only for the briefest of moments. “Oh,” they whispered, their hand tracing the part of their neck that usually had the bandana. “I mean… if it’s not too much to ask… I would like that very much.” It wasn’t so much that other clothes weren’t comfortable, it was that Orpheus hadn’t actually been given a say in them. They wanted to be able to choose their own outfits again, and, barring that possibility, they at least wanted to wear what they knew for certain was comfortable. “You really are a good person,” Orpheus whispered, hazel eyes meeting green. A lot of people wouldn’t hesitate to leave me behind, if they were in your place. I know how much you’re risking. I know… that if you keep doing this, the House may never be willing to answer your questions. And I know how important that is to you.”
Post by ®Hawkpath® on Jun 22, 2021 19:59:03 GMT -5
Elpis paused, frowning a little as Orpheus spoke. “I guess it probably could,” they replied after a moment, eyeing their friend. Something seemed different, this time. They thought back to the things they knew had been happening before this room, but they were painfully aware the House didn’t have to let them see it if it didn’t want to. Stealing toys was one thing. Spying on gods was quite another. They didn’t quite understand what they meant, though they felt like they should. The House couldn’t seem to make Elpis do what it wanted. Unless it could? Doubt seeped into their mind like ice water. Was that what Orpheus meant? ‘Do you...know something about the House that I don’t?” They asked carefully. “Orpheus? Did something happen? Did it...did it do something?” To you? To someone else? Did it make you do something? They hesitated. It seemed like a good idea to get answers, but Orpheus’ comfort mattered, too. They nodded, and the next moment, Orpheus was in their regular clothes, bandana and all. “It’s not,” they replied quietly. “Too much to ask, I mean.” They hesitated again as the other person continued, and looked away, though they couldn’t help the shy smile that appeared on their face. “I’m learning,” they allowed, eyes flicking up to meet Orpheus’ for a moment. They fell silent, a much more serious expression coming over their features. “I’ll...just have to find the answers myself. If it won’t talk after this,” they decided, voice almost too soft to be heard. “It’s okay. I’d have to, anyway. You were right before, the House can’t be trusted to tell the truth.”
Orpheus didn’t know for certain what all the House could do. They knew even less about what it could technically do to Elpis. They were far more untouchable than Orpheus was, just by virtue of being the same thing as the House. The House would probably have to try a lot harder to hurt them than it would to hurt Orpheus. “I just…” Orpheus hesitated, brow furrowing as they tried to figure out what to say. How to explain what made him so afraid of the House. “You think that hurt can only be physical. You think that as long as you can’t be directly touched by the House, you’re okay. It can’t change what you think or what you remember like it can with me. But it can still get in your head. It’s had forever to learn exactly how to manipulate and mess with people, and… and it knows you care about me, at least a little bit. It could still use me against you. It could make me into… into a killer, and make sure that you couldn’t change me back. You’d have to figure out what to do with me, and… making that decision, it will hurt more than any physical wound. The House is a mastermind at this, and I trust you, but you can’t underestimate it.” Orpheus didn’t think they were giving the House too much credit. It was the most dangerous entity Orpheus could even begin to comprehend, and it seemed to enjoy making people bend to its will. Whether or not Elpis could be directly controlled was at worst, irrelevant, and at best key to making this a bigger deal. If the House could manipulate Elpis into hurting Orpheus without being able to access their mind… Orpheus fell silent, relief flooding them at the feeling of their normal clothes. “Thank you,” they whispered, eyes closing as they allowed themself just a moment to relax. “I… I don’t know if the House even has the answers you want, but… for the record, I think if anyone can find them, it’s you.”
Elpis listened, frowning a little as Orpheus tried to explain. It made sense, though thought. So the House could probably still manipulate them without being able to use its powers on them. They’d known that, but they hadn’t given it too much thought, since Orpheus was the one in the most danger. Elpis didn’t want to be trusting, but they sometimes wondered whether the House had purposefully built them that way so they’d be more fun in rooms. They didn’t like the idea that the House had affected them that way, but they knew it was more than possible. “I think I get it,” they replied quietly, nodding once. “I mean...I knew that before, but I guess I need to be more careful. But if it was really sending you to hurt me, it probably would be stupid enough to let you warn me first. There was an opportunity just now, because I trust you. I still trust you, but I’m going to keep an eye on you too, so I can try and tell whether the House starts using you again. Anyway, the point is that the House would have probably stopped you from being able to warn me first, right?” They let the moment pass. They would be watching Orpheus now, trying to second guess whatever they said, in case the House was trying to use them against Elpis. The clothes mattered more than they’d realized, though they should have. They, too, had immediately switched to a different type outfit entirely, wearing whatever they wanted as soon as they were able to. The difference was, they didn’t realize they were still trying to rebel. They weren’t quite that self aware “Thank you,” they murmured, lifting this gaze to Orpheus’, a small, very real smile at their lips. “I hope I can talk to it, someday. It probably hates me, but…” They shrugged, unsuccessfully trying to look like it didn’t matter one way or the other. They didn’t think they cared what the House thought of them. Why should they? They weren’t very self aware at all, actually.
Orpheus didn’t know what the House was willing to do when it came to using them against Elpis. In all honesty, they didn’t know what the House was capable of doing. As long as Elpis had the shield up against the House, was it even possible for it to change Orpheus? How long had it been watching them last time before it had decided to take action? Was Eiar okay? Orpheus pushed that last thought away. They would ask Elpis eventually, but now didn’t seem like the time. “Maybe keep an eye on the barrier you put up, too,” they murmured, meeting Elpis’ gaze. “I don’t think it can do anything to us unless that’s down. Unless it came in here with me…” they pushed that thought away. They thought they could feel the difference between being free and being under the House’s thumb, and admitting they didn’t know if the House had hitched a ride felt an awful lot like admitting they didn’t know if they would ever be capable of being real again. If the House could manipulate them that much… no, it wasn’t here. It was just Orpheus and Elpis. “But… you’re probably right. If it were trying to use me against you right now, I don’t know why it would let me even have that idea. If it’s here, it would probably be to spy, not to attack.” Somehow, that thought made them feel even worse. “I hope you can talk to it, too, but… once you have your own opinion of things. Once you have practice telling the difference between what you believe and what other people tell you to believe. I think… if you were to talk to it right now, it would probably find a way to convince you that everything it does is completely reasonable. I don’t know if you would believe it, but I know that the House is incredibly skilled at manipulation, and if you fell for it, it wouldn’t be your fault.” Orpheus shifted, obviously more comfortable and confident now that they were in their own clothes. They weren’t a fool. Elpis hadn’t brought them here just to chat. There was work to do. “Have you given much thought to what you want to try now?”
Post by ®Hawkpath® on Jun 24, 2021 20:45:11 GMT -5
Elpis nodded, mentally checking the barrier. They didn’t want to think that it wouldn’t be enough, they knew perfectly well that it might not be. It hadn’t been last time. They didn’t know how long the House had been watching them, they didn’t like the idea of it observing the way it always did, watching like it didn’t feel threatened in the slightest. Like there was absolutely nothing they could do to stop it. And who were they to argue with that? Who were they to disagree? No. They couldn’t think that way. The House...well, maybe there wasn’t anything they could do to it. But they wanted to. They wanted...they needed to try, for Orpheus’ sake. Orpheus had done this, for them. There was no way in any world they could just walk away from their first - and only - friend. “I’ll watch it,” they promised. “I’ll do everything I can to make sure it stays up. I think my attention just wandered last time.” They watched their friend, gaze steady. They could tell the idea of it bothered Orpheus, a lot...they couldn’t blame them for that. Orpheus was currently at the hands of the House. Elpis was free. That was probably why it was much scarier for Orpheus. And Orpheus was right. They looked away, biting their lip in thought, because it was true that they were probably very easy to manipulate at the moment, but...they hadn’t thought of it. They wanted answers. They were willing to ask anyone who might know, and there was only one being they knew of with that sort of information. The House had to have reasons for the things it had done. They shook their head firmly. That wasn’t important right now. They were just going to get into more knots if they didn’t let themself stop thinking about it, now and then. “I have,” they confirmed, letting the topic slide. “I was thinking of things I’d like to work on...it’s probably best if you don’t have warning, though. Can I start?”
Orpheus didn’t know what it would take to keep the barrier up, but they figured it probably wasn’t easy. Hopefully, the House hadn’t yet noticed that they were gone. Elpis would get better at the barrier, Orpheus was sure, but the House was also likely going to get better at tearing the barrier down or getting around it somehow. They weren’t entirely certain it was a game Elpis could win, but the more they practiced, the better they would be. As long as they were keeping a careful eye on the barrier… Orpheus trusted them. They would do their best not to let Elpis’ mind slip from it, but if they was under their control, they might not be able to do very much. “I believe you,” Orpheus managed softly, giving a smile that looked more confident than they felt. “I trust that you’ll do everything you can to keep us both safe from the House.” It was odd to them that Elpis hadn’t seemed to consider the danger the House posed to them, too. It wasn’t just Orpheus in danger. The House was powerful, and it didn’t like being beaten. It didn’t like being outsmarted. Orpheus was fairly certain the only situation in which it would be completely happy would be one in which both Orpheus and Elpis were chained to it. It wasn’t content to settle with just one plaything, but it had been forced to choose. Orpheus had forced its hand, and it had chosen the more interesting toy. Sometimes, Orpheus wished they had been more careful when they had agreed to the terms of the game. Nothing they could do about it now, though… “I’m… glad you gave it some thought,” Orpheus said after a moment, shaking their head of any thoughts of the House. They were here to focus on helping Elpis get better. Thinking about how dangerous the House was wouldn’t help with that. It would only make them both more uncertain about the possibility of Elpis winning, when the truth was neither of them really knew the odds. Neither of them had any grasp of what, exactly, Elpis could do. That was part of what this time was for. “I’m… ready when you are,” Orpheus said, trying to hide the pang of anxiety they felt about not knowing what, exactly, to expect.
Post by ®Hawkpath® on Jun 24, 2021 23:48:06 GMT -5
It was easy to wonder whether it was possible to win this. It eas easy to just...think about it, more then was probably healthy. They knew Orpheus was probably struggling with the same thing, since they were their only chance at escape, and that depended on their success. Elpis was risking...well….everything, too. Elpis was risking their freedom, and their life. They thought they understood how Orpheus’s muse have felt when they had faced the House. “Thank you for believing in me,” Elpis replied quietly, eyes steady on Orpheus’. They knew it probably wasn’t easy, believing in something like them, with so much power. They knew it probably wasn’t easy for Orpheus to trust them, sometimes. They were grateful that they were willing to anyway. The House had wanted them both. It hadn’t gotten them both. It’s mistake was probably letting Orpheus okay in the first place…if it had never done that, they would all be in a far different place. But that wasn’t relevant here. All that mattered here was that they practiced and learned as much as they could. This time, they were going to be a little more careful. No more yanking on things they didn’t understand. It was time for something more subtle. “You’re feeling tired,” they said softly, fixing Orpheus with a steady gaze. They didn’t move, but they did reach out metnslly and very gently try to make their words a reality. “Very tired. You can barely even stand, you feel like you’ve been running at top speed for a year.”
Orpheus knew they were far more inclined to trust people than others were. They tended to believe that others were doing their best, that most people didn’t actively want to hurt other people. It had gained Orpheus a fair number of friends, but it was also… well, it was naïve of them. It was idealistic to believe that everyone wanted to do good, especially at the expense of their own happiness or knowledge. The point was, however, that they trusted Elpis. Elpis had done nothing other than be there for them and make difficult decisions that helped Orpheus for no reason other than the fact that they could. That Orpheus was there, and they wanted to help. Orpheus knew there were some people who believed that power corrupted people no matter who they were. Orpheus wanted to prove those people wrong. Mostly, he wanted to believe that Elpis would continue to be good. That they would understand the burden their power was but find a way to make a gift out of it as well. And then Orpheus’ thoughts faded away, replaced by a bone-deep weariness the likes of which Orpheus had never felt before. This… this was heavier than dying had been. Logically, they knew that Elpis was speaking the words into reality, that they weren’t actually tired. But what was the difference between a real feeling and one that Elpis had introduced? Orpheus tried to pull at that thought, tried to come up with something, but their mind felt sluggish and unresponsive. They blinked, their vision swimming as they tried to stay upright. The couch… yes, that seemed like a solution. Orpheus half walked, half shambled towards the couch, sinking into it moments later with little recollection of how they had gotten there.
Elpis wondered sometimes whether they had gotten the impulse to trust people from Orpheus. It seemed like they couldn’t possibly have gotten that from the House, after all. The House didn’t seem particularly trusting. It just seemed manipulative. But Elpis trusted Orpheus. Elpis believed Orpheus wasn’t going to lie to them. They knew they could, theoretically, but the thought never made it to the front of their brain, because they didn’t think for even a second that Orpheus would ever betray them. And they would never betray Orpheus, either. They would never become the House. They could feel the exhaustion inside Orpheus’ head. They knew they were succeeding, this...this was how the House did it, perhaps. We’re words important? Did they have power? “You’re laying down now,” they told them, letting their voice rise and fall with Orpheus’ breath. “Your eyes are closing. Your head feels heavy, your body feels heavy...you’re so tired. You’re so tired and you want to sleep.” They did try not to push them far enough to actually fall asleep. That would be a little bit inconvenient. They could always just wake them up again, but that would ruin their plans for their next test.
It was almost as though Orpheus couldn’t pay attention to anything other than the soft waxing and waning of Elpis’ voice. It cut through the fog of the exhaustion while somehow managing to exacerbate it at the same time. It seemed like a paradox. Orpheus wasn’t entirely certain they cared. They thought L might find it interesting… a sleepy smile appeared on their face at the thought of L, vague and indistinct as it was. It was hard to think of anything other than sleep… They remembered asking if they should try to resist… what had Elpis said…? Yes? They tried to keep their eyes open even as they sunk down against the pillow, as their breath evened out to match Elpis’ words. Orpheus felt as though they should try to push themselves back up, but was there really any harm in going to sleep for just a little bit? When had they last slept? Their eyes fluttered shut again, and though they tried to open them, it felt like a mammoth task. “If I’m asleep I can’t… I can’t help you,” Orpheus mumbled, the words mostly lost to the soft fabric of the couch.
Elpis watched, interested as Orpheus succumbed to their words. It seemed to make a difference, speaking. They weren’t sure why, or how, but it did. They’d have to try that out more, try to make it as strong as they could, and hopefully learn to control Orpheus without them being able to fight back. There should probably have been a disclaimer about their intentions there, but they weren’t thinking of it. “You’re feeling peaceful,” they replied, ignoring Orpheus’ comment instead of replying to it. That way, they wouldn’t get caught arguing. They let it stay another moment, two, three… Then, very suddenly, they spoke in a much sharper voice. “You’re awake. You’re full of energy. You’re restless. You don’t want to sit still. You have to move.” They were curious how that would work when they’d jusr been almost unconscious. Would it be instant? Would it take a moment?
Orpheus wanted to protest that Elpis hadn’t replied, but their words washed over them once more and they felt their heart rate slow. They were about as close to sleep as one could be without actually being asleep. And it was nice… it was calm, and the couch was soft, and Elpis’ voice felt almost like a lullaby… The peaceful feeling was replaced suddenly by something else that could really only be classified as noise. Orpheus gave a small whimper, one hand immediately moving to their temple as their brain tried to figure out what had happened. They were sitting down, and that… that wasn’t… it felt wrong. Their hands were shaking, energy buzzing through them in a way they hadn’t quite expected. They’d tried caffeine once, in a room, and it felt something like this. They pushed themself off of the couch, bouncing on the balls of their feet as they tried to figure out what was going on. They only felt like this when there was something wrong, so what were they missing?
Elpis didn’t move as Orpheus did, except for their eyes. They watched as the other person stood up and bounced, head tilting slightly as they considered their own work...Orpheus seemed agitated. They hadn’t exacly been aiming for agitated, but they could seem how it had happene, and that was the important thing. They monitored the energy, trying to make sure it didn’t get too high. Feeling full of energy and restless was one thing, but they didn’t want to accidentally overload Orpheus with it...especially after what had happened with the anger last time. “You’re going to start pacing now,” they murmured, their voice leaving no room for questions. This wasn’t a request. This wasn’t even an order. It was just a fact. A weather forecast.
Orpheus didn’t seem to register the correlation between Elpis’ voice and the actions their body took. The pacing felt like their own idea, even as they started it, their hands pounding against each other in a pattern as they walked. They were, of course, aware of Elpis’ voice and their presence in the room, but it was as though their mind conveniently skated over the fact that Elpis was working on testing some things. That they’d had ideas for what to do and how to improve. It didn’t feel like a battle anymore. There was no room for resistance, there was just… thoughts that seemed to come out of nowhere. Thoughts that didn’t seem to belong anywhere in particular, but that stuck in Orpheus’ mind as Elpis spoke them into reality. “You really won’t tell me what you’re planning on trying today?” Orpheus asked, glancing over their shoulder as their pacing took them to the opposite side of the room.
Elpis was surprised, a little, with how well this was working. They hadn’t expected to fail, of course, but they’d expected...something. Maybe this was how the House felt, pushing its toys around as it pleased, making them all do what it wanted. Elpis was inexperienced with it, but they thought they could see why. This was so...easy. “You’re hungry,” they replied, once again ignoring their question. It wouldn’t be good to get into a conversation now, in the middle of a test. They needed to see what their limits were, if they had any. They were very interested in seeing how to expand those limits… They let the energy fade. “Starving,” they added. “You’re starving. You want food, more than anything else.” Which was a different thing from being tired or awake, but similar.
Orpheus glanced back at Elpis as the energy started to fade, surprised as they returned to their normal state of being. There were a few moments where Orpheus’ mind was free to fill up with anything it wanted instead of just one large thing pressed there by Elpis. It was much easier to figure out what was happening when their thoughts weren’t directed towards something that made their body feel like it was in danger. They just had time enough to wonder whether Elpis messing around in the brain created physical responses in the body, or if that was Elpis’ doing as well. L would have been proud of them for that thought… The transitions were sudden. Orpheus wasn’t thinking about L anymore, he wasn’t thinking of anything other than the gnawing pain in his stomach, the need to find something to fill it… they moved forward, nose lifted to the air like they could smell where there might be food. The couch? Orpheus stumbled back over to it, ripping the pillows and the cushions off on the slim chance that they might find even a crumb. A crumb would be better than nothing. There wasn’t room enough in their head to speak anymore.
Elpis watched, curious as Orpheus came back to themself. They were interested in that, mostly to get feedback on their rests. To hear how they’d done. They weren’t gone yet, though. They wanted to do more. They didn't know the answers to Orpheus’ questions, and they didn’t know Orpheus’ questions either. They knew that they could make it happen, but he how was...harder. They didn’t move away. Orpheus went under once again, slipping away into nothing...into hunger, this time. Elpis studied them a long moment, letting them forage. The only cost was the couch, after all. Finally they took a breath and let go, releasing Orpheus from their influence and taking a tiny step back. They weren’t ready to try anger again. Not yet. “How was that?” They asked watching Orpheus’ face carefully. They wanted to see every expression catch every hint of what they might be feeling.
If Orpheus were honest, this wasn’t too different from the things the House did. Of course, the House took their memories and implanted new ones, but being removed from themself by the strength of a feeling wasn’t terribly different from being removed from themself by a lack of memory. In either situation, they couldn’t really think for themself, there was just… whatever had been placed in their mind by someone else with much more power than them. The difference was that they trusted Elpis completely. The hunger faded and Orpheus pulled their hand back out from underneath the cushion, cheeks painted red by something similar to shame. “I see,” they managed softly, moving to pick up one of the couch cushions they had tossed in their desperation. “You did well,” Orpheus added after a moment, looking up to meet Elpis’ eyes. “It was harder to tell you were influencing me this time, perhaps because of the strength of the feeling. It was hard to think about anything else, so you might want to practice a little bit more before you try to do something more nuanced than… well, what you did. But it was good. You’re clearly learning.”
Elpis relaxed a little, nodding as Orpheus spoke. They didn’t know how it had felt, of course, but they knew...they understood how being influenced felt. The House had done it to them enough times. So they knew how easy it was to go under. They were also pleased with their results. They wanted to see how far they could take them...could Orpheus be made to do something they wouldn’t ever do normally? It was something Elpis had wondered before. They wanted to test it. And...no time like the present, right? “Thank you,” they replied, smiling a little as Orpheus’ words landed. “I took a different approach. I think it works better. There wasn’t as much resistance.” They didn’t wait for more conversation this time. They stepped back, glancing to the side as L blinked in, his back to Orpheus and the rest of the room, though as usual, he checked behind him as soon as he appeared. Elpis focused on Orpheus. “Orpheus,” they said, voice strong. “You’re going to kill L.” And then they pushed at their mind.
Orpheus was okay with being manipulated in that way. This was what they had agreed to, after all. This… testing… so that Elpis could best figure out how to defeat the House. It was going to take a lot of practice and effort, and though the tests were similar to the House, it wasn’t the exact same. A large part of the difference was that Orpheus knew where Elpis was coming from. They were doing it because they were practicing, because they needed to see how far their powers reached. They could be talked down if they went too far. The House had no such boundaries. Orpheus was about to say something else when they noticed L, Elpis’ words rocking through them not even a moment later. “What?” they gasped, voice strangled as their mind fought in vain against the urge to hurt L. The House had done this. The House had done this countless times, only it had never been Orpheus who wanted to hurt L. Or, if it had, it had only been very, very rarely. It was hard to resist. Almost impossible, actually. Orpheus found themselves moving forward even as their mind was screaming at them to stop, even as every instinct in them fought to get to the surface, because there was something fundamentally wrong about this. And Orpheus wasn’t in control enough to even open their mouth to give L the best chance he had at escaping.
Post by ®Hawkpath® on Jun 25, 2021 13:42:09 GMT -5
L always looked over his shoulder when he blinked in. It had been a habit he’d developed a long time go, one that had saved in a few times in the years he’d had it, not very often but more than enough to be worth it. So when he blinked in with his back to Orpheus, it didn’t take more than a second for him to turn and assess the situation. He probably would have known what was happening even if Elpis hadn’t said the words out loud - Elpis standing to one side, head tilted, Orpheus moving towards him, expression hard to read. He backed away, taking in his surroundings as fast as he could, as he’d done every time the House set Orpheus against him. Of course, usually it wasn’t Orpheus anymore. But the point was that he knew how to do this. Elpis had turned on them, most likely. L wasn’t shocked. He’d be wary already. In fact, he was more worried about Orpheus than he was about himself at the moment, because this probably had more to do with them than it did him.
Elpis wasn’t thinking of anything but the idea that, yes, this wasn’t like their other tests, but they hadn’t had many tests yet. They planned to practice...well, everything. This was a good way to see whether Orpheus could be made to do something they’d never do on their own, for example. They stayed back out of the way, pushing Orpheus forward, placing the thoughts in his head. “You’re walking towards him now,” they told them, their voice as steady as it had been for the other tests. “You want to hurt him. You want to hurt him, more than you’ve ever wanted anything else.” They actually didn’t know how this would go. They actually didn’t know how much power they had. They watched, eager to find out.
Orpheus had been through this before. They knew how difficult resisting was, knew their mind wasn’t built for it. But even the House hadn’t managed to make them hurt L yet. Elpis might be the one to break that streak, but Orpheus was going to do everything in their power to keep L safe in spite of it. It was… it was nearly impossible to think. There was one thought in their head: that L needed to be taken down. That they needed to hurt him in order to relieve the pressure building in their mind. It would be easy. It would be so easy… Orpheus felt themself moving forward, just barely able to slow the pace of their steps. This should be easier. They still had their memories. They still remembered L, remembered what it was like to see him smile, to hear his laugh, as rare and beautiful as it was. They still remembered trying to explain to Elpis what love was, remembered avoiding looking back at L’s body because it was too painful a reminder to bear. They remembered the canoes, they remembered the first time they met… It was all hidden behind a somewhat translucent sheet. Orpheus knew it was there, but it was blurry and uncertain, difficult to focus on past the pressure of the voice in their ear telling them to hurt L. It was difficult to tell that voice from their own voice. This one didn’t seem like theirs, but they couldn’t be entirely sure. The instinct felt… it felt normal. Their mind was doing its best to fight it, but their body didn’t seem to be capable of doing much other than listening to the voice that was playing in their head. The voice that seemed like it probably knew what it was talking about, and wouldn’t it just be easier to let it take control? One memory, the rational part of Orpheus’ brain screamed, Find one memory and focus on it. That was the only thing other than hurting L that Orpheus felt capable of doing. They didn’t seem to remember that they could ask Elpis to stop at any time. There wasn’t room in their head for that fact.
Elpis pushed harder, trying to make it so Orpheus couldn’t resist, as they could tell they were trying to. They didn’t want to give up, and they wouldn’t, not until they were sure they couldn’t do more. They watched as L moved back, their eyes focused and their powers form against Orpheus’ skull. “You’re not thinking about that,” they said mildly, as if pointing out a fact Orpheus should have noticed on their own. “You’re not remembering. You’re not thinking. You’re going to kill L now.” Would it work? Would they be able to make them do it? That would mean they had a lot of power...
L stepped back, eyes on Orpheus, not Elpis. Elpis was a threat. Elpis wasn’t going to stop. If he wanted to live, if he wanted to help Orpheus, he needed to stop this himself. “Orpheus,” he murmured, keeping his voice as steady as he could. Which wasn’t as steady as he’d have liked…”Orpheus, stop. You don’t have to do this. You don’t want to. You remember me. You know me. Orpheus, please...come back.” He backed away until his back hit the wall. Pinning himself was not the smartest move, but he wasn’t thinking about that. He was going to die unless he got through to Orpheus. That was all he could think about. He knew this was like the House. Was it possible Elpis was actually the House? Was it possible this had all been an elaborate trick? Of course it was, this was the House, everything was possible, likely, even. If Elpis was the House, then all of this...it was for nothing. If Elpis was the House, Orpheus sacrificed his afterlife for a trick. But there wasn’t a thing L could do about that. He focused on Orpheus, hands at his sides, expression hard to read, as it so often was around them these days. It wasn’t a precaution he thought eas very useful, since the House could read his mind, but it was more instinct than anything else.
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