RP PotHN: Forced Conversations [1x1]


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There was peace and quiet and the wind. Alys went up, almost every single night since departing Leimor, basking in gentle breezes and stronger gusts, watching the twinkling lights or the bare, cloudy skies. Watched and whittled, mind preoccupied with one thing or another.

The crew had found their routine quickly, eager to settle back into normalcy after weeks of turbulence. She spent the last two days training with Ciaran and the crew, tiring herself out with swinging fists and knives and swords. And when she wasn’t training, she was busying herself in other ways, even attempting to get through the book Emer had lent her.

Perched within the crow’s nest, a stronger gust of wind flipped her braid over her shoulder. The warm light within her lantern flickered, illuminating the half-carved, wooden figure within her hand.
Despite things slowly returning to normal, everything still felt mostly out of sort for Juniper. Too much had changed, and while nothing big had happened in the days since they left Leimor, everything that had led up to that point still weighed heavily on their mind. It was hard to sift through, especially considering the evident tension between Lucien and Emryk.

They still weren't sure where they stood on that. It was going to be impossible to know, for quite some time. It was just another batch of thoughts rolling around their mind, which they desperately wanted clear.

That night seemed a good enough time to do it, so Juniper gathered up their staff and went to the top deck. It was cool, this high in the air, though they hardly noticed. What was most important was that, to a cursory glance, it was quiet and clear. No one else seemed to be up there, so they took advantage. Those buzzing thoughts and incessant restlessness were channeled through they wood of the staff, something so old and yet so new, and light began to arc between the prongs, a faint buzzing accompanying the blue-white light.
Her peace and quiet was disrupted by footsteps. Not obnoxiously loud nor heavy, eliminating majority of the crew almost immediately. Peering over the railing, her gaze dropped down onto the deck, waiting. They had no light source, no lantern, and if it weren't for the latest project in her hand, she too would prefer the darkness. The stars were brighter that way.

But the darkness didn't last long, nor did the silence once the footsteps had stopped, rooting the figure in place. The initial spark brought Alys her answer, illuminating Juniper's face, and as the light grew, part of the deck as well. Pocketing her tools, she leaned forward, hands resting against the railing, chin resting against her hands, silently watching the sorceress and her magic from above.

She didn't know how long she watched, perhaps not long at all, but when the light began to die, she lifted her body upward, wings stretching out so that she hovered over the rail. "You've been practicing," Alys commented loudly.
In those quiet few moments before the fairy made herself known, Juniper was experimenting. From the prongs of the staff came lightning, arcing between them at their command. It felt similar to what they did, but distant. It wasn't theirs, it didn't come from them. It felt different, beyond just how it acted. They'd passed a hand between the prongs, catching the lightning between their fingers, letting the pale light arc and dance between their fingers, flashing harmlessly across their skin.

It fascinated them, on a level very little had in a very long time. They wanted to make it their own, somehow, but that felt impossible. It felt so distant, so different from what they knew, to bring it into being at will felt like a dream. They could call on it, and direct it, but they couldn't create it, they couldn't shape it like they could fire. It was a borrowed magic, a gift from someone long passed, who couldn't possibly know what it would be used for, or who it would be used by.

They were pulled from their introspection suddenly as Alys called out. In typical fashion, Juniper jumped with a yelp, and the crackling electricity enveloping their hand shot into the night sky, dissipating in an instant, leaving only the afterimage in their eyes of a bright flash.

Gods, they wished she weren't here. They'd said they would talk, sometime, but they'd made a point to be unavailable since. Didn't have an excuse now, though. "I... yeah. Been trying to, anyways." Anxiety gripped them, and kept any more words from coming. There were so many ways this could go, and they were almost certain none of them would be good.
"Mmm, looks like it," Alys responded, glancing in the direction of the stray bolt, illuminating and then disappearing into nothing. The quiet flutter of wings followed her as she drifted, landing gracefully a couple feet away from Juniper. She allowed plenty of space, though to the sorceress, it was likely nothing. Especially since they'd made themselves scarce over the last couple of days, dipping away whenever the fairy entered the same room. Gods forbid if they breathed the same air.

She smiled and took a step back, towards the railing. Resting her forearms against the cool wood, back facing out into the darkness beyond, she looked at Juniper. "Did the electricity come with the staff? Or was that one of your hidden talents?"
Juniper knew The Talk was coming, try as they might to avoid it. They'd been very careful about keeping Alys at well more than an arms length, and made sure to keep theirself busy at all times to avoid having a moment to be pulled away, for exactly this. They'd had just over a week, nearly two, to prepare what they were going to say, what they were going to do, and somehow none of that forethought mattered in the moment as they stared, rather blankly, as the fairy made her way down and to the railing.

Part of it was infuriating, how calm and cordial she was being. It should have put them at ease, but Juniper was well familiar with how things could be with pirates, and especially when you crossed one. Granted, she hasn't shot them in sight, but they couldn't help but worry.

Every preplanned statement fled their minds Alys spoke, and nearly the instant after she finished her question, Juniper bit back, their stress and fear manifesting in their words. "Sorry but what's this about? If you're going to tear into me for being a hypocrite and a liar and then shoot me like the other one, I'd rather it be over and done with."
Alys raised a brow. She hadn't been expecting that - hell, if she'd known Juniper was going to be pissy with her, for whatever reason, she probably would've avoided them too. Awkward silence filled the space between them, and for a moment, the fairy simply stared back at the sorceress. Stared and tried to figure out how to respond without getting her head ripped off a second time. And without her own anger flaring.

"I asked about the staff. You know, since you found it in the same fucking place as Nessa's ring? The ring that damn-near killed her? But it seems like you've got a pretty shit opinion of me, and what I want to talk about. So why don't you tell me?" She paused, exhaling. "What's going on, Juniper?"
Now that was much more in line with what Juniper had come into- well, stumbled into, this expecting. wroth and ire, not casual conversation. Granted, part of them preferred the conversation to the accusations, but they'd been expecting the latter for roughly a week, and the longer thoughts like that had to fester, the harder they were to dismiss.

All of this manifested into a frown, nothing more. They felt they didn't have it in them for anger or rage, only trepidation and fear. "I found it in an old workshop, actually. I don't know where Nessa found that ring, but they're worlds apart." At least, they were pretty sure that was the case. The magic in either felt completely different, from individual flavor to just the air about them. The ring had felt hungry, the staff felt... well, electric.

"My opinion of you is a lot more favorable than yours of me, I think. Actually, I think we both know that, Alys, considering recent events." Of course, the central thought in the changelings mind was Alys' own thoughts on their kind, specifically the only other one she seemed to have known and how she dealt with him, and not the rest of the ball.

"What's going on is, I was pretty damn sure you were pulling me aside to yell at me, stab me, then throw me overboard for being a liar and hypocrite, after everything with Sky. Still not out of the question, given how things are going right now. How about you tell me, since you clearly had something you wanted to talk about? Or are you just doing this because Caleb wanted you to?"
Well, at least she knew that the staff wasn't malevolent. Or rather, Alys was trusting Juniper when they said that the magic was different, given that it was their area of expertise. It seemed to be the only thing Juniper had a correct reading on, or so she hoped.

Alys felt sick to her stomach, and without admitting it out loud, felt hurt that Juniper believed she'd kill and toss them overboard. For being just like the rest of the bastards on board. That they'd think that Alys would betray what she'd seen as friendship.

"I wanted to know what happened at the ball. About..."

The dance - she'd wanted to say.

"You think I give a fuck that you didn't tell me?" She suddenly exclaimed, though quickly lowered her voice, as if afraid someone was listening. "That you're a changeling? Sky's an asshole who broke my heart and wouldn't leave me the fuck alone. And he's a changeling. You're my friend. Also a changeling."

And what did Caleb have to do with any of this?

"Or am I wrong?" Were they not friends?

The night came back to Juniper in a very sudden flash, and they remembered a few things. One, the dance. The one that'd been interrupted by Caleb, shooting at... someone. Two, how drunk they'd been, which definitely led to number three, their twofold reveal to Alys. They flinched, at the shout, but didn't move from where they were standing.

Was she wrong? Juniper wasn't sure, anymore. If they weren't they weren't sure who's fault it was. She'd just been so unavailable lately, given the promotion, and with... Caleb. And it was hard to see the two after the morning they arrived in the Ice Lands, doubly so after the day in the bathhouse at Leimor, and triple after the ball. Embarrassment and something akin to shame burned deep inside, and this time they did move from where they were standing.

The changeling moved to the opposite rail from Alys, leaning against it in a way that kept her in peripheral, but didn't require them to look at her. "I don't- I'm not- ugh. I thought you would think I'm a liar. Which I am. Clearly. Everyone thinks I'm someone, then I'm not. I don't even know who I am, sometimes. I had you fooled completely, at the ball. You're the only one who knows I was even there." The way they were speaking was angry, as if they hated the subject. "It makes it really hard to know how someone will react. We're all liars. No one knows who we are. I met someone like me in Allegria, before we left. They tried to rob me, I think. Only other one I've ever met, until Sky. Between the two, I think I'm the weird one."

It was so frustrating. They should be happy with the flavor of upset Alys was, but somehow, this made it worse. It'd been a big deal, for nothing. All it did was give them a panic attack, and made things worse for every other aspect of the conversation. The truth was, they didn't know if they were still friends. They couldn't tell. They wanted to be, they thought, but they were pretty sure they might want more than that, but... it felt ill fated.

"Sorry. This whole thing has been- stupid. Just- ignore me. Leave it."
"Oh fuck off, you're gonna let that all out and then tell me to leave it?" Alys scoffed, shaking her head in frustration, as though she couldn't believe the last sentence Juniper had uttered.

"We're all liars on this fucking ship, changeling or not. Most of us hypocrites too." Here she was, feeling offended that a friend thought she was capable of fucking them over, of tossing them overboard, when she'd done exactly that to Leo. Course, she wouldn't ever say...

But then again - she was a liar and a hypocrite.

"Some people lie for the hell of it, but I think most of us do it to survive." Silence passed over them, with Alys glancing over at Juniper, hoping that her words sunk in. Letting them sink in herself, and wondering what the purpose of last night's lie had been. They were right - she had been fooled, and she'd have stayed fooled had Caleb decided not to shoot up the party.

Looking away, she finally continued. "I won't say anything. If you're worried about that too."
There was no reply. Juniper stood on the opposite end of the deck, looking out over the opposite railing at the night sky. They couldn't tell if or why Alys was mad- were they right, that it was the initial lie? Or was it the dance? Was it something they did right now? It was so... frustrating.

"I don't-... know." They didn't know if anyone else should know. They didn't know how anyone else would react. They weren't sure if anyone would care, but if they did, it would only make things worse, since they were already a liability half the time.

They knew there was more to talk about, something big and embarrassing and anxiety inducing, but they could already feel the lump in their throat. Maybe part of their apprehension in this talk came from that, maybe that was why they were so certain Alys was angry at them, maybe-

The last time the two of them had been abovedecks at night, it wasn't long after Fen Manor, and the escape from the Truth Teller. That conversation replayed in their mind more often than they cared to admit. It'd felt so nice, to sit and talk with her, with no expectations. That was when it started, they figured. The light in her eyes, the smile on her face when she talked about the stars... The changeling sighed.

"I don't know."
I don't know. I don't know.

Alys felt her jaw tighten. Her face remained turned away, hidden by the darkness, and thank the gods for that.

Awkward silence filled the significant space between them, turning mere seconds into hours. Alys knew she wasn't the best communicator, but holy fuck, this was going no where. Even after she'd expressed to Juniper that her true nature didn't matter - not in the way Juniper was worried about.

Perhaps they needed more time. Time to figure out what they did or didn't know, and time to figure out a way to communicate that. Perhaps it would be easier, now that they understood where Alys stood.

"Well... I'll leave you to it, then. Good-night," Alys finally said, voice tired and somewhat defeated. She began to cross towards the officer's quarters, her footsteps echoing loudly in her head.

She was willing to wait - that's what she told herself. But as she walked away, leaving Juniper behind, why did she feel their friendship slipping further and further away?