A Story Owed
Roleplaying Log: A Story Owed
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

A bit of impatience results in a favor being called in early.

Other Characters Referenced: Danielle Moonstar
IC Date: October 19, 2019
IC Location: Limbo
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 19 Oct 2019 23:21
Rating & Warnings: PG
Scene Soundtrack: [* ]
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

For Neena Thurman it hasn't been twenty four hours since the unremarkable attempt at surveillance. For the rest of the world a bit more time has passed. There hadn't been any opportunity for her to clean up and cover her tracks. Such an unexpected leave of absence left the opposition time to put the pieces together and figure it out.

Not long after her return to the familiar reality they had been waiting for her.

A second story window suddenly bursts outward with a sharp crash piercing through the night. Slivers of glass rain down alongside a mostly blackened figure who twists about like a feline mid-fall and fires several shots from a pistol back into the room she had been thrown from.

It's nothing short of a miracle that she survives the fall onto the street below, debris cascading around her with an oddly musical chime.

With senses dulled it takes her a moment to realize that the sound of screeching tires are closer than they seem. That the revving of an engine is quickly getting louder. That the headlights are staring right at her, blinding her on the spot.

Blue eyes squint, struggling to line up a shot on the driver. Another shot cracks out, the flash from the muzzle lost amidst a peculiar flash of silvery-hued light.

The SUV passes through suddenly empty space, the injured driver not long for the world as his vehicle slams into a parked car and is sent careening into the building across the street.

Where Domino appears the sound of the gunshot is nothing more than a ringing echo in her memory and her ears, strangely distant compared to the playful ping of a spent case bouncing against the ground beside her.

***

Time works differently in Limbo, as Illyana told Domino last time she was here. Back in the real world, time is a rigidly ordered thing, proceeding from past to future at a steady, predictable rate. Limbo has no truck with such rules. In Limbo, time can sprint, or crawl, or even fold back on itself. Fall through the wrong portal and you can even run into your past self if you're not careful.

But most often, time moves faster in Limbo than it does on Earth. For Illyana Rasputin, it's been a very long twenty-four hours since she let Domino escape with only a promise to spill the secrets she hinted at, some indeterminate time in the future. And Illyana isn't feeling particularly patient.

Isn't that lucky for Domino?

The spent bullet casing bounces off stone and rolls into an indentation in a large, circular slab of worked stone. The stone is covered in concentric rings of sigils, some of which might be halfway legible but most of which are worn away to little more than shallow depressions in the stone. Channels run between and through the rings, a little darker and more visible against the pale stone, which itself darkens toward the centre of slab, a reddish-brown colour seeming to have stained the stone itself. Right in the centre is… well, there's no getting away from it. It's an altar.

And Illyana Rasputin is sitting on it. Next to her, incongruously, is what looks like a small, slightly rotund imp with scaly red skin and mismatched horns. It's clasping what looks like a sheet of parchment.

The whole scene is ringed by a dense forest of dead, bleached white trees.

"You said you wanted me to warn you, next time." Illyana remarks, so very casually. "But then you'd have gotten run over." There's an evil gleam in her eye. "I can send you back if you'd like to do it formally? I have the invite all ready to deliver."

At her side, the imp makes a chittering noise that sounds worryingly like a giggle and waves its piece of parchment, which is getting more tattered by the moment.

Illyana's not really making any allowances for the small fact that Domino's just been pulled out of a life-threatening situation.

***

For a few pained seconds everything feels still. It's a small blessing in itself given what had led to Neena ending up here. Then she rolls out to lie flat on her back with a wince, the comfortable weight of the sidearm seemingly pinning her one hand against the etched stone. She'll notice their surroundings soon enough, and likely be properly concerned about being transported into the center of it.

At this moment she's rolling her head back to look up at Illyana and the small energetic creature beside her, the two appearing upside down from her perspective.

"Bonus points for timing, though maybe next time catch me -before- I hit the street..?"

Then again, had she of been warped out of that situation any sooner the driver probably would have survived. It's -way- more fortunate for her that he didn't.

Perhaps she should be concerned that the red sky down here is starting to feel familiar. It could be debated that she's destined to end up somewhere like Limbo with all of the horrible things that she's done. Illyana might be the Devil in disguise, pretending to befriend the albino while leading her into the abyss.

Then again, perhaps Neena doesn't friggin' care.

Boots and bits of gear scrape against stone as she pulls herself up into a sitting position with a slight showing of teeth, gingerly canting her head from side to side in an effort to work out some fresh kinks. Following this she starts to look around them both until it eventually winds up in a full three-sixty degree view.

-Then- it hits her.

"You summoned me inside of a circle."

The remaining efforts to get back to her feet go much more quickly, an uncertain feeling overtaking her. Should she be concerned about this..? "This is backwards. You summon -demons- into a circle. Not the other way around."

And there sits Magik. On an altar. Looking as smug as ever. Whether she had intended any of this to be a threat or not it easily comes across as one.

Maybe she really is serious about having their next little talk.

With the gun still in hand the pale mercenary turns to face Illy and motions outward with her hands slightly in a 'what gives?' expression.

***

A friend might wait for Domino to get upright before commencing with the sarcasm. A good friend might have gotten down from their damn altar and made sure Domino was actually OK and ditched the sarcasm completely.

To put it as charitably as possible, Illyana's efforts at the whole friend thing still need some work.

"You think I'm keeping an eye on you all the time?" Illyana asks, sounding amused. Both that Neena thinks she has nothing else to do… and by the implication that the pale woman was expecting her to be. "You're lucky I looked in on you when I did. Going back and catching you could have gotten… messy."

On the plus side, Illyana's just confirmed that she's not habitually spying on Neena. On the minus side… she's just casually confirmed that she CAN spy on Neena pretty much whenever she feels like it.

Illyana doesn't move from her seat while Domino makes her way laboriously back to a vertical position, but her pet imp seems to find the process fascinating. It capers forward a bit to get a better look, but it stays out of arm's reach. This one seems less inclined to eat the interloper than some of its fellows.

"I did." Illyana confirms, and the evil glint in her eye has now been joined by an equally evil smile. The imp scuttles backwards as Domino comes to her feet, but Illyana still doesn't stand up. "Don't worry. It takes longer than that for this place to get to you." She pauses, before adding. "If you find you can't leave the circle, you've probably been here too long."

This time, Illyana hasn't quite gone for the goth queen of hell vibe, and she's actually wearing a bit of colour, courtesy of a high-necked purple vest top. The rest of her outfit remains black, from the skinny black jeans with studded leather straps wound around the legs, to the thick soled lace up leather boots on her feet.

"You still owe me a story." Illyana tells Domino in answer to her silent question. Yes, she saved Domino from being run over just so she couldn't avoid making good on that promise.

***

Illyana raises a good point. Would Domino rather she be spied on all of the time or take her chances for 'right place, right time' interventions?

Definitely the latter.

"Fair point" is admitted in a grunt.

There's a hidden layer to why Neena has been so strangely casual about spending time around one of the creepier metahumans and she's reminded of it with the complete lack of assistance being offered from the blonde. The Rasputin sits and watches, taking it more as free entertainment.

Before signing up with the X-Men Dom would have been the exact same way. Detached. Distanced. Only looking out for herself. The last part she's still practicing more often than not.

Being around Illy provides a level of introspection rarely encountered out in the 'real' world. It's like interacting with a reflection of who she used to be while leaving her with the decision on whether this is the person who she really is or if she's honestly starting to move beyond it.

Except that Illy also has the strangest pets. The imp is given a long stare before the gun is holstered. "You've got the strangest damn welcoming committee."

'You still owe me a story.'

"-Really?-" Dom barks back with a look of both surprise and irritation. "It hasn't been an entire -day- since we last talked!" She breaks away for a quarter turn but one hand remains held palm out toward the Limboqueen until she can find something else to lash out with.

"It took the last guy -months!-" And a team of highly specialized allies. And the two of them nearly killing one another.

For a moment she nearly turns her back on Magik, eyeing their surroundings as if salvation might be lurking off in the distance. "This is why I don't connect with people…" is spoken in a distant sigh. In part this is almost her version of Hell, having to spill the beans on personal matters.

At least she isn't thinking about how much it hurts to fall out of an office window.

This fight isn't yet over. Dom's going to make Gothier Than Thou work for it. Again she turns around, now starting to wander toward the altar and its occupant. "You want a story?" she asks with arms once more coming out then dropping back to her sides.

"Which one?"

***

The edges of Illyana's mouth twitch upwards when Domino concedes the point. If the pale lady needed any confirmation that the sorceress is keeping score, there it is.

Giving so much away, essentially for free, has been nagging at Illyana. Or at least, at part of her. Demons don't give. They take when they can, make deals when they must, but give freely? Never. And there's quite a lot of demon in Illyana. That part of her wants to balance the scales.

For the rest of her? The human part? That part of her was taught the dangers of trust a long time ago. Openness is new. She feels like she might have made a connection, but she's not sure if she trusts it… or if it's going to bite her.

She's also apparently forgotten the imp, which scampers back even further when Domino looks at it, edging toward the altar as if it's forgotten just who is sitting on it. "We don't need you any more." Illyana says, by way of reminding it, and it yelps in fear before it falls through one of Illyana's stepping discs.

Domino's anger is sudden and sharp and this, this the demonic part of Illyana understands. There's no interruption, even less an apology. She just lets Neena blow off steam. She knows she only has to wait.

It takes less time than she'd expected.

"Well I did want to hear about your rebellion against your creator." Illyana tells Neena, unmoved by her anger, drawing up a knee and looping her arms around it, looking so very comfortable. "But now I want to know who the last guy was, if I've got competition."

Maybe, just maybe it's the human part of Illyana that relents, and adds, "And it's been a day for you. I've been here." She shrugs. "Time isn't exactly reliable."

***

There are reasons behind everything. Sometimes several. In the same ways that Neena would be smart to not fully trust Illyana, the reverse is also true. Here stands a woman who is addicted to the hunt, who enjoys ending lives and raking in personal wealth. What reasons could she possibly have for trying to get into the ruler of Limbo's good graces?

With the tidy deportation of the imp it's back down to the two of them surrounded by a hostile land full of gods know what. The anger in the albino is real but she's learned some time ago that pitching a fit not only doesn't work well, it's also not a good look for people. She does happen to enjoy efficiency, at that.

The first two responses cue up quickly, momentarily vying for dominance as for which one would be the first to find life as spoken thought. A victor is nearly declared when the Rasputin girl does something quite unexpected.

She becomes a person.

..Sort of.

She should be used to receiving that pale Arctic stare by now. Neena looks about ready to snap back with some manner of retaliation but stops herself cold of making a sound. While nothing is said in response to such consideration it does seem to dull the edge which had been holding fast only a second earlier.

"You don't have competition" is suggested first in a rather flat tone. "No more than you did before. As for the rebellion, it's" she glances off to one side with a subtle headbob "a work in progress. I haven't actually killed any of them yet. I was thirteen when I escaped."

Eugh, here we go. Arms tightly fold together and her focus fully breaks free of Magik, instead seemingly intent to lazily pace along the outer rings of the etched circle. Maybe she's also testing to see if she -can- leave if it came down to it.

"You might have been dragged into a life of manipulation and abuse but I was kinda born into it. 'Government property' and all of that BS. They wanted a killer, a 'perfect weapon' to use in the growing fight against all metahumans. Six came before me. One came after. Or so goes the rumor. There's your story."

***

It's definitely a hostile land filled with God knows what. But none of it - excluding the imp - has ventured anywhere near the stone disc, or is even haunting the dead forest that encircles it. A suspicious mind might conclude that Illyana's made her will known on this point, and that she's made sure it really is just the two of them, this time.

Maybe Illyana doesn't want her minions to see her more human side. To see her, as Neena so eloquently puts it, become a person.

Even if that only goes so far. Neena's on her feet, Illyana is not. Neena is armed, Illyana is not. But the sorceress doesn't flinch from Neena's stare. She's bent, a fraction. Given just a little bit more. If Neena can't… well, they could be staring at one another for a long time.

But the moment does break. Illyana inclines her head, in a silent 'go on', but it seems like she's not going to get a name. That can wait. Despite what she said before, this is what Illyana really wants to know.

Illyana keeps silent, letting Domino talk, but her boot heel scrapes against the edge of the altar as the word 'thirteen' makes her shift. Sometimes the parallels are just too close, and she's not as indifferent to them as she'd like to believe. Blue eyes track Neena's progress, and the worn sigils around the edge of the stone slab stay dead, no matter how close she comes to the edge - and even if she steps off it.

Neena's no more a prisoner here than she is anywhere in Limbo.

The story is short, delivered without any of the flourishes Illyana had indulged in when telling her own. Oddly, the demon queen of Limbo doesn't feel inclined to give Neena any tips for dramatic emphasis. There's the light thud of boots hitting stone as Illyana finally slips down from her perch, but she doesn't approach Domino, and her hands are in her pockets. Dani might handle this differently. Dani - despite her bear problems - is a lot more human than Illyana, whatever the blonde might wish.

"So what you're telling me is they failed. They didn't get what they wanted."

Slowly, Illyana's lips pull back from a downright nasty grin.

"You were right. We do have something in common. We're both disappointments to our creators."

"I can live with that. How about you?"

***

All of these markings carved into the stone slabs underfoot mean something. Probably nothing good, either. Some might be fascinated by them. Others might recoil from the thought of their existence. For Neena they're a curiosity, a strange form of artificial beauty. Even rage can form some truly mesmerizing poetry. But they're a physical detail marking something natural and solid. It makes up a foundation. Much like how a cat likes to have its feet supported she finds some comfort in sensing the familiar surface she's walking upon.

Illyana's summary happens to be spot-on. When she says 'they didn't get what they wanted' Dom's pacing ceases, replaced by a subtle nod.

Both disappointments.

"Slated for termination. Like the previous six. They didn't like what they couldn't see."

When she looks back to Illy it's with a humorless smirk. "I've made my peace with it."

What still keeps her up some nights is the thought of being dragged back into the Project. Those responsible are still out there and they're not likely going to forget about the disaster which came from losing one of their assets.

"It's also made us stronger. I may have a bit less to show for my conquests, but..it's a work in progress," she airily repeats.

"The rest is pretty standard fare. Tried to have a life of my own. Failed at every turn. Fell back to old habits. Learned to cash in on 'em. Truth is, having some allies on hand can be beneficial. Otherwise I'd still be on the other side of the globe stirring up trouble. Coming back to the U.S. had never been high on my priorities."

It might be that the two really are having a connection. The anger has completely left the pale woman and she's openly offering more than the bare minimum in regards to personal matters. It might help that the isolation of this altar lends the feeling of them being the only two people left alive. No prying ears or electronic surveillance.

No concerns about the Project finding her down here.

***

There's very little in Limbo that means anything good. Out here, edging a stone dais with an altar that's stained the colour of old, dried blood? Nothing good isn't much of a deduction. Things have been done here, and when Illyana's time passes, they will be again.

All she can do is hold on tight enough to her remaining - some might say stolen - humanity to make sure she's not the one doing them.

Is she still testing Neena? Is that why she chose this place? Or is it a warning - one Illyana doesn't even realise she's giving.

"There are worse things than dying. But unless it's the only way to win… I don't recommend it."

Illyana thought that was as far as Domino would be prepared to go. Not for the first time the other woman surprises her. "I offered you the place once." She puts in, but Neena doesn't take the escape route she offers.

"All I wanted was to come home." Illyana hears herself saying the words before she's made the decision to speak. "But too much of me never left here. At least I can watch, for a while."

She's too close to the truth, and some internal circuit breaker is tripped. The smirk settles back onto her lips. "And if anyone shows up thinking they still own you, maybe I can help prove them wrong." The slightest pause. "No charge."

***

"Yeah, I hear it's not as fun as it looks," Neena dryly agrees as far as dying goes.

Illy had offered her the place once. What, Limbo? "I'm not the leading type, anyway." Plus while there might be SOME strange comfort to be found down here it's not the kind of place she'd want to move to. She shouldn't be the one having to run away, dammit.

"Hey, don't forget the piece of you that still belongs on the other side." The pitch comes with another meaningful stare to the Limboqueen. "You've got options and you've already made it clear this place doesn't own you. You own it."

Illy's smirk is definitely a tell. What Neena doesn't see coming is a freebie from Demon Prime. With the assurance of there being no charge Domino starts to walk toward Illyana, meaning to bring herself up close and personal for the first time in this encounter.

"I appreciate it, but if you ever find someone who has that idea in their head?" she pauses long enough to point a finger at the altar beside them. "You can bring them right here. I'll even give you the honors."

Ah, so she's got some -very- prominent demons of her own. Maybe that's why the locals don't scare her so much?

Turning away from the other lady and the altar brings a hand up to cropped black hair, the albino frowning slightly as she picks out a few crumbs of glass to flick aside.

"Okay, look. I'm not the best for offering life advice but it might do you some good to connect with that forty percent. You don't need to find the numbers to rediscover some of what you've lost. I've only been here a short time and I can tell you this place has a way of feeding the anger."

***

Limbo reflects its ruler. Illyana almost says it, but doesn't. The truth is, it owns her as much as she owns it, and there's another, deeper truth behind that: She wouldn't give it up, even if she could.

But that's just one more uncomfortable truth that she's not ready to share with Neena. At least not quite yet.

Illyana doesn't give ground as Domino approaches, and her hands stay in her pockets, her body in a comfortable slouch. Despite the casual stance - and the smirk - her eyes are utterly serious. The 'freebie' wasn't just a throwaway line. A long time ago, the X-Men came to rescue her. If she can succeed where they failed… it won't just be Domino that gets something out of it.

"You can bring them here." Illyana says, evenly, holding Neena's gaze. "But you don't need me for any more than that. And I won't take it from you."

All this, at least partially to avoid talking about her feelings. And Domino won't even let her get away that easily.

"Any suggestions that don't involve being thrown out a window and then run over by a car?"

***

Secrets always have a way of coming out into the open. Between these two there are plenty of secrets, and more than a few skeletons in various closets. Quite possibly in a literal sense. The passage of time may start making more demands upon them both.

With Illyana's offer — and promise — that Domino can bring such individuals here and 'leave her to it' there's an incredibly subtle smile which sneaks across black-stained lips. Nothing more is said about the idea but you can bet that Neena here is going to remember every word Magik just said.

"It's not as bad as it sounds." What, being thrown out of a window? "For now, I guess …" Fudge. "Yeah. Let's go with the Institute."

The biggest risk she's going to run into there is another disapproving glare, though it's up for debate if that's any better than getting run over by a car.

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