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    version 22: awakening

    COTY

    SOCHI -- Year 207

    QOTY

    "He will inevitably decide that it all fell apart because he had orchestrated it and he will carry the blame like a stone in his chest, too. He will add it to the pile and perhaps, someday when there are enough stones to weigh him down, he will walk into the sea and let them drown him" -- Kensley, written by Savage


    [mature]  tell that devil to take you back; ryatah
    #1

    hangman hooded, softly swinging; don't close the coffin yet, I'm alive

    Atrox doesn’t expect Ryatah to spend all of her time in Hyaline.

    Hell, he certainly doesn’t.

    But he is surprised when her absence stretches longer and longer. It scratches at the back of his mind—an itch he can’t reach, something weighing there constantly as he goes about his day. He finds himself with yellow eyes moving to the horizon, confusion flickering across his face before shrugging and moving on. He enjoyed her company, appreciated having someone else to share the land with, but he wasn’t her guardian and she wasn’t his ward. If she wanted to leave and do something else, he wouldn’t stop her.

    Still, he feels something rattle in his empty chest when he catches sight of the white glow of her down by the lake. Annoyed that he does, he jumps from the tree where he had been resting and begins to make his way down the mountainside, his panther paws adept at navigating the tough terrain. When he reaches the bottom, he leaps forward and shakes the dust from his velvet coat before walking toward her, shifting in mid-stride so that he arrives by her as himself, yellow eyes passive, mouth pressed tight.

    “Felt like coming home finally?” he says with a smirk, leaning down to dip his nose into the water, quenching his thirst to avoid the annoyance that spreads in his veins. When he pulls back up, water drips off the endless black of his nose, his lips peeling back slightly to reveal the feline teeth below.

    “What an honor to be graced with your presence again.”

    It was easier, he thinks, to fall back into this pattern of apathy than acknowledge that he had actually missed someone—easier to just glance once her way before looking out onto the glass of the lake.

    Easier to pretend he was still living his years alone up in the mountains.

    Everything had gotten so complicated since he had returned.

    ATROX | THE PANTHER KING
    [Image: atrox.png]

    now be defiant, the lion, give them the fight that will open their eyes

    Reply
    #2
    she fell for the idea of him
    and ideas were a dangerous thing to love
    She returns to Hyaline and though outwardly she is the same, inwardly it feels like a tempest trying to break out of her chest. It wasn’t uncommon for Carnage to make her feel that way; he had a way of spinning her head until she didn’t know what was real and what was fantasy, in a way that left her simmering and confused for days – sometimes weeks – afterward. The sick part of her thrived off that, of being infatuated with something – someone – she knows she shouldn’t be.

    But this was different. This time there were too many moving parts, too many different things tripping her up and pulling her in every direction. There was Gail, of course, a piece to the puzzle that she knows belongs and yet she still can’t figure out where to place her.

    Mostly, though, it was the entire reason she had gone in the first place that kept twisting and turning in her mind. Because it had been a stupid, foolish idea, some ridiculous notion of hers that she could find Atrox’s heart and restore Magnus’ memories and then...and then what? She had always been a selfish girl, right to her very core, and it showed every day in her actions. There was no reason to do this for Atrox other than she did care about him, in some obscure manner (as was always her way), but of course she had failed. Even if Carnage had not intercepted her, there was a part of her that had known she wouldn’t be successful.

    Lingering on the edge of the lake she stares across it, though she turns her head slowly when she hears him approaching. Her heart does a strange twist in her chest; maybe because she had admittedly missed him, but mainly because she carries with her that heavy stone of failure and the sight of him causes it to weigh further down. “Sounds like you missed me,” she says with a small laugh, but the light that usually sparked in her dark eyes remains dim. She looks away from him again, and though a silence settles between them, her mind is loud.

    She waits, until her thoughts are too much, until she is afraid that withholding any kind of secret from him is going to rip her apart from the inside out, and she confesses softly, “I did something stupid. Or I tried to.”
    ryatah
    Reply
    #3

    hangman hooded, softly swinging; don't close the coffin yet, I'm alive

    There is a strange weight on him—a heavy thing that settles in him and twists his stomach. It has been so long since he has felt any kind of weight, of any kind of anything that he almost doesn’t know how to comprehend it. Almost doesn’t know how to wrap his mind around the reality of it—something that is not his own floating through life. It reminds him of a life long ago, a life when there were consequences and matters of import. A life where he fought for things and died for things, where things mattered.

    He frowns slightly, brow furrowing, but says nothing.

    Instead, he continues to look out across the lake, the silence stretching between them.

    “I have my own company which I find to be pretty entertaining,” he quips, the lighthearted jest coming easily, rolling off his tongue. He shrugs a shoulder, feeling that strange tightening, the desire to find some kind of outlet, but is caught off guard when she speaks next. He laughs under his breath, a husky sound that catches the edge of his tongue, heavy-jawed head angling slightly to the side to consider her. “That doesn’t sound too different from the ordinary,” one corner of his mouth pulls into a lopsided smile.

    The laugh dies quickly though, fading as it ripples out, yellow eyes studying her for a second before they go back to the lake. There are questions that he wants to ask—he is an infinitely curious creature, after all—but it doesn’t feel right to ask them. It doesn’t feel right to press them into the silence that feels like its own entity. So, instead, he just lets them breathe, gives the silence the space it needs to grow.

    He wonders, not for the first time, about the gravity pressing into his spine.

    ATROX | THE PANTHER KING
    Reply
    #4
    she fell for the idea of him
    and ideas were a dangerous thing to love
    They are a strange pair, the two of them, and she already knows that. She should know it well enough to know that trying to turn this – whatever it may be – into something more than what it was would be futile. She is once again entangling herself into something that she will never be able to escape from, and yet never make it any further than where she is now. It’s why her going to the mountain in the first place had been such a peculiar thing for her to do. She was foolish, but rarely was she actually stupid. Almost never did she do anything that was an actual risk. It was so much easier to pretend she didn’t care; to pretend she was fine with being used, that she was fine with being an afterthought. That she didn’t care about any of them just as much as they didn’t care about her.

    She thinks of being locked in the cave with Ashhal, and how she had dared to give him even a glimpse at how she really felt. How he had shut down and shut her out, and fled the instant he had the chance.

    She looks at Atrox, at the wide open space all around them, and she wonders if her previous wounds have calloused enough in preparation for another rejection.

    For some reason his laugh almost chases the tension away, because it makes her laugh in return and shake her head at him. “I know, I do a lot of stupid things. Maybe someday you can rank them for me.”

    But after the sound has died, after it has faded away across the lake, she feels that ache spread across her chest again. They are both quiet for a long while, and there is a moment where she thinks maybe she will just swallow the words and never speak them. That him not knowing would be better, that she could just carry the failure with her forever and he would be none the wiser.

    When she finally speaks again into the thick of the silence, her voice feels detached, the words echoing in her own ears when she says, “I tried to get your heart back.” She doesn’t look at him, staring first at the glass-like surface of the water, and then to the ground. “I’m sorry.”
    ryatah
    Reply
    #5

    hangman hooded, softly swinging; don't close the coffin yet, I'm alive

    It has been a long time since Atrox has felt much of anything.

    After his last death, he was convinced he would never feel it again. So perhaps that is why he is surprised that it matters to him at all that she returned—that he has someone to share this godforsaken piece of land with as a home. Why he is surprised that he is interested to hear her stories of when she was gone, to know of the adventures she had taken or the people she had met or the mistakes that she had made.

    Regardless, he is quiet, listening with that same sarcastic smile still  barely curling the edges of his feline lips, laughter hiding behind his sharp yellow eyes. “I can try, but it would take me quite a long while to rank so many things,” he yawns, rolling his shoulders. “Almost as long as it would take you to rank mine. After all, you haven’t willingly had your heart ripped out of your chest or stayed when you knew you would drown.” His mistakes pile up in the back of his mind but he chooses to ignore the rest.

    There is only so much of his own failures that he can possibly confront in one day.

    Instead he falls into the silence again with her, watching with vague interest at the water that laps up onto the beach in front of them. He gets lost in the rhythmic motion of it so much that he almost doesn’t hear her confession. For a second, it falls on deaf ears and then on disbelieving ones. He swings his gaze upward and it’s a mixture of shock, of confusion, of anger. Of not knowing what to think about having someone do something so selfless for him. He’s not certain he can remember the last time someone did.

    “You did what?”

    It hurts, to feel like this again.

    It hurts to have it bury in his gut.

    To have it remind him that he is not quite as soulless as he would like to believe.

    For a second, he considers just walking away from the white mare and leaving her. Of disappearing back into the shadows and fog—where he was alone but it was at least simple. Instead, he gives into the other instinct that swells so painfully in his throat, that twists his tongue until when he does speak again, it is gruff and full of gravel, rolling around like storm clouds as thunderous as the look in his eye.

    “Come here, Ryatah.”

    ATROX | THE PANTHER KING
    [Image: atrox.png]

    now be defiant, the lion, give them the fight that will open their eyes

    Reply
    #6
    she fell for the idea of him
    and ideas were a dangerous thing to love
    She visibly flinches when he first snaps at her, and she keeps her eyes trained on the lake. She doesn’t want to see the anger that she can hear in his words; doesn’t want to see the way she is sure it flashes in his vibrant yellow eyes.  “I’m sorry,” she repeats, her voice impossibly soft, and she can feel herself reverting further back into an older version of herself. Without looking at him it is easy to imagine it’s Dhumin next to her. It’s easy to remember how she had felt every time he had been irritated with her, or every time she had realized she had failed to meet some imaginary expectation he had of her. There is that same sinking feeling in the pit of her chest, and that same desperation to be forgiven – to somehow not be seen as a failure.

    She doesn’t beg, because that has never been her way. But in her mind she is frantically searching for the right thing to say, for the right way to act, though recently she seems to be failing at that, too. She had driven Ashhal away, and that had stung. And though she was used to accidentally making lethal missteps with Carnage,  her most recent one is what has her standing so precariously close to the ledge that Atrox is just about to push her off. She is afraid, she realizes, of losing him, of losing the closest thing she had to any kind of stability since Skellig had left.

    She is used to making mistakes – but not this many in such rapid succession, and for a moment she almost wishes Carnage had just left her dead on the mountain.

    “I just...I thought I could get Magnus’ memories of you back,” and it’s only now that her eyes lift uncertainly to his face, and she tries to not wilt beneath the heat of his gaze. “But Carnage stopped me.” She doesn’t divulge any details beyond that, because she is sure it wouldn’t make sense to anyone besides her, and she is even more sure that he doesn’t care.

    When he demands that she come closer, she hesitates. Immediately her mind flashes back to Carnage lunging for her throat, and to Atrox scraping his teeth against the porcelain white of her skin, and the two of them meld and twist together to create an all new fear. But she obeys, her dark eyes downcast as she tentatively steps closer, until she can almost feel the tension that hums beneath his skin, until she is close enough to touch him but she doesn’t. Instead she just stands there, taut and nearly trembling, and with that foolish heart of hers beating uncontrollably in her chest.
    ryatah
    Reply
    #7

    hangman hooded, softly swinging; don't close the coffin yet, I'm alive

    Why would she risk something like that for him? Why would anyone? He’s not sure that Twinge had ever put her own skin on the line for him. When it came down to it, he was the one who had abandoned the Chamber to stand by her side when her kingdom flooded. He had been the one to feel the kingdom grip his chest and take his life away. But had she ever done the same for him? Would she have?

    The questions leave him reeling—and, in turn, frustrated, furious, and unsure about what to do next.

    It doesn’t help that she looks flustered.

    He shakes his heavy-jawed head, trying to clear it enough to at least think around the situation. It was so much easier when it was just him and he could control his own life—when it didn’t matter what other people thought or cared about him. He didn’t have to pretend to care and he didn’t care if they cared about him. But this? This was different and this was difficult to swallow, difficult to comprehend.

    So, for the first time in maybe forever, he keeps his mouth shut because he has nothing to say. Nothing to bite back with or a witty remark to lighten the situation. Instead he just flashes his eyes up and watches as she moves toward him, eyes downturned. His pulse races when she is close enough, and he can feel the tension pull through him—dragging at every last inch of his flesh until it’s a live wire.

    After a moment, he finally reaches for her and then crashes into her. He presses a hot mouth to the corner of her lips and then races up her jaw, to the sensitive skin beneath her ear. He nips lightly but doesn’t break the skin—not yet. Instead, he gives himself into the physical, hoping to ease the ache in him.

    ATROX | THE PANTHER KING
    [Image: atrox.png]

    now be defiant, the lion, give them the fight that will open their eyes

    Reply
    #8
    she fell for the idea of him
    and ideas were a dangerous thing to love
    In the tense moment that stretches between them she finds herself wondering why she had told him anything at all. It would have been so much easier to keep this to herself, to harbor it away in some dark corner of her mind and heart and never call upon it again. To let the memory collect dust until she forgot that she had done something so reckless and foolish, even by her standards. And for what reason? She hasn’t let herself dwell on it. That was something that she was afraid to acknowledge.

    It was easier to pretend she felt nothing; it was easier to pretend that she could discard someone just as easily as they could her, to pretend like her heart wouldn’t break itself a hundred times over just for a glimmer of approval.

    But telling him what she had done erased all hope of that; she doesn’t think she can pretend anymore after this. She had, regrettably, opened the window to her soul, had given him a glimpse at the idea that he meant more to her than most did, but the sharpness of his words and the hardness of his eyes has her drawing the curtains again. She would rather be in the dark than face rejection, and when he reaches for her she steels herself for the feel of his teeth breaking her skin.

    When his lips find the corner of her mouth, her breath hitches.
    When his touch traces up the side of her face, her heart finds an all new rhythm.
    And when his teeth graze behind her ear, she presses back into him with the promise of a moan in the back of her throat.

    “Atrox,” she whispers on a breath, and though her voice is soft in comparison to the roughness of him there is an undeniable hunger to the way she says his name, and to the way she presses a kiss into the groove of his jaw. In a step her chest is pushed against his, and when she slides her nose along the slope of his neck and breathes in his achingly familiar scent she already cannot bring herself to be worried that this, in its entirety, might end horribly for her.
    ryatah
    Reply
    #9

    hangman hooded, softly swinging; don't close the coffin yet, I'm alive

    She reacts so naturally that it only makes the ache spread in his gut. She presses against him and it stokes the fire in his chest until it is an inferno, until it sweeps through every inch of him and makes him nearly blind with the fever of it. His name is a whisper on her lips and he growls in response, nips again with slightly sharpened teeth against the angelic velvet of her neck. He could take it slow, he knows. Goodness knows that he has dragged it out long enough between them, but it is impossible for him now.

    Impossible to slow down, to ease the pain and the want in him.

    Impossible to decipher the emotions that tangle and wrap around him.

    He steps away and continues to bite down her side, gentle and then rough, taking and then soothing until reaches the end of her. He drops his head and bites into her thigh like he had that meeting so long ago, letting his teeth sink into the flesh of her and feeling the shudder race up his spine in response—that coppery feel of her coating his tongue. It was exactly what he knew it would be. Exactly what he knew.

    Without further pretense or waiting, he lifts himself over her and into her. Finds that rhythm and the warmth and the need as he grabs for her neck, as his teeth puncture her skin once more. He holds her as he takes her, as he takes everything. There’s a moan in the back of his throat and he says her name—says something for the first time in he doesn’t even know how many pairings that he has had. But it escapes him and he presses it into her, presses the syllables as an exhalation into her spine.

    “Ryatah,” again, and he feels that inferno race through him once more.

    ATROX | THE PANTHER KING
    [Image: atrox.png]

    now be defiant, the lion, give them the fight that will open their eyes

    Reply
    #10
    she fell for the idea of him
    and ideas were a dangerous thing to love
    It feels different from last time, and though she tries to ignore it, the heat that flushes across her skin with each touch is undeniable. Somewhere in the back of her mind she is finding logical explanations; that it’s different because they have built themselves to be this way, that they both have been stoking embers that they never let ignite into flames for far too long. This was bound to happen, and the way her heart keeps fluttering in her chest doesn’t mean anything. 

    It’s easy, she remembers, to fool herself into romance when tension finally breaks; it’s easy to think lust feels like something that it isn’t when someone is pressing against her, when teeth are breaking her skin and lips are being trailed across her back.

    It’s easy to think that maybe she is worth something when Carnage is crafting her valleys and setting her alight with stars.
    And it’s easy to remember that she is absolutely nothing at all when Ashhal disappears the moment he can escape, that she is just sex and a cure for boredom.

    But she is endlessly empty, and she clings to anything and anyone that makes her feel whole, even if it’s just a moment in time. Even if she knows it won’t last, and that the way he pulls her tightly under him and sinks his teeth into her neck is just the hunger taking over him.

    She still lets herself get lost in the way that he takes her. She trembles at the warmth and the weight of him, melting into him with a slow exhale. It’s only by a thin thread that she remembers to keep some sort of guard up, only by years of ingraining a kind of caution into herself that she lets herself be taken and yet never swept away.

    Until he breathes her name against her back, and something inside of her crumbles at the sound of it.

    “Atrox,” his name comes as a gasp, a plea, and she cannot control the way her body arcs with a desperate need against his. She loses that tendril of control that she had, and she lets herself think that, even if only for right now – for as long as this lasts – that he is hers and she is his, and that achingly empty hole inside of her, that one that wants nothing more than to belong to someone, finally feels full.
    ryatah
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