2018-05-15 - They Took Everything

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Title: They Took Everything

The morning after their daring rescue, Mai realises Mikoto is struggling with something terrifying, even as she wrestles with her own feelings of uselessness. Mai swears something vital - and they're both vulnerable around each other.


Mai Tokiha, Mikoto Minagi


Ohtori - Dormitories

OOC - IC Date:

2018-05-15 - 2015-04-18

.******************** Yamanote High City - Ohtori Academy *********************.
*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+* Dormitories +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*
 There is some variation between the dormitories to provide a range suitable
 to different tastes, but they are typically old-fashioned and elegant, with
 low stone walls guiding the walkways and ivy creeping up their white walls
 and columns. Their exterior is classically European, like sedate manor
 houses, and for the most part this style is maintained inside, with
 dignified old paintings in thick goldleaf frames. However, the dormitories
 do not lack for daring Ohtori touches, with whimsical art deco floor
 panelling here, fantastical geometric lamps there, and odd little secret
 panels and dead ends throughout.

 Dorm rooms are generally shared between two same-gender students, but
 singles are almost as common; Ohtori students were not generally raised to
 share. There are some triples and quads available as well. Some dorms permit
 a great deal of leeway in decoration, others require students to stick to
 the default antique furniture. Many dorms have at least a small balcony,
 which provides an escape route for particularly rebellious students when
 curfews are instated.
*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+* Players +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*
<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

Time passes, as it always does.

The hour is not late, though the skies are dark; dawn looms beyond the horizon, but has yet to arrive. It is, as most teenagers would gladly call it, 'ungodly early'. The birds have yet to sing, the streetlamps have yet to extinguish, and nearly every dorm room is filled with the sounds of silence - or at best, the sounds of snoring.

There are a few, however, who might call themselves early birds. Two siblings, separated by buildings and by years of awkward silences, share a morning routine - get up early, and prepare food for the day. For one, any troubles are as usual.

For Mai Tokiha, there are a few added complications today.

It starts with that quiet yet insistent beeping at her bedside; with a grumble, she reaches out with an unpinned arm to silence the alarm. She groans, starting to roll over before being stopped by the usual weight of a certain someone pinning her down. With a practiced caution, she carefully pulls free, trying to move blankets back to replace her presence in bed.

And then the complication. Even by the nightlight, she can see the crutch leaning against her bedstand; it's worthy of an irritated glare, but a sigh. Carefully, quietly, she slips on one slipper and begins carefully making her way to the kitchen.

Thump. Slide. Thump. Slide. ...clatter.

She's trying to be quiet, she really is. With the number of bentos and breakfasts Mai has made, it should be trivial to get things ready in near-silence - but she's used to being able to dash back to the refrigerator for one more ingredient, to crouch down to get a pan on short notice. The third time she realizes she's forgotten something today, however, she just rests her hands on the counter and stares at the stove.

Maybe if she glares at the soup hard enough, it will just cook itself.

"...all right. Eggs. Omelettes are easy enough." Once more, while the world around her sleeps, she carefully shuffle-slides all the way back to the refrigerator. Half a dozen steps never seemed to be so many...

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Give her credit - Mikoto managed to get Mai home before she collapsed.

But not too much credit, because she crashed pretty much as soon as she got in the door. Mai managed to rouse her just long enough to get food into her, and - frankly - the two of them could probably use the sleep, after that.

Mikoto doesn't bother pretending she sleeps in her own bed any more. She hasn't for a while. Her nominal bed has a laundry basket living on it, right now. ... it's handy if they get unexpected visitors, but it's useless to her. Because she needs Mai's warmth, at night. It helps her sleep so much better.

Normally, that soft warmth chases away bad dreams, and Mikoto is able to rest peacefully.

Except - except she stiffens, at night. She yelps, startles awake; she tightens her grip; she gasps. And those wide, bright eyes, which seem to catch the light so effortlessly when the room is dark - for those few moments, they're terrified.

Then she mumbles an apology; she buries herself against Mai again; she sleeps. Because she's safe, against Mai's hearthfire heart. She must be. Even as the world rages around them, even as the memories of those dream-contents fade simply to the sight of yellow fire charging along a rod and the pain of spiritual annihilation, this is surely one of the few places she can always be safe.

And then - at some point, though she couldn't say when - the light is gone, and the warmth fades. Mikoto curls in against the blankets which make a poor facsimile of Mai Tokiha, whimpering in her sleep. They're muffled things, against the pillow; easy to miss in the clatter of the kitchen.

"- NO!" That agonised sound, as Mikoto bolts upright on the bed, is not so easy to dismiss.

It's hard to get around, with a walking stick. Mikoto's felt that pain personally. Mai may only get in by the time Mikoto is lowering her hand from where it had reached for Miroku - safe in its case, surely retrieved when Mai first went searching for a lost cat. That hand pauses in the air for a long moment, hesitant, as Mikoto feels for its presence and reassures herself that it is still here and she can still feel it.

But it does drop, eventually, past pained ribs to a lap full of tangled blankets. Mikoto breathes heavily, eyes locked on her swordcase. It's there. It's there. It's there...

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

A pan. She can handle a pan. Get the rectangular pan out, put it on the stove, start it heating up.

Then she just needs to add the butter... biting back a curse, Mai turns back to the refrigerator, carefully advancing the half dozen steps there, punctuating every step with muttered grumblings that let her miss those quiet whimpers.

It's just a rolled omelette. She's made thousands of these before - actual thousands - it cannot be this difficult.

Start the butter melting, foaming, sizzling. Beat the eggs in a bowl - right, she needs a bowl - then pour, and roll, and pour some more...

The first one's almost done, almost, when agony resounds so much louder than quiet misery. Mai looks up from her work in a hurry, in a panic. "Mikoto?!"

Thump hop thump hop thump clatter THUMP.

The pained snarl following a slightly louder noise is cut off in a hurry as Mai rounds the partition - having abandoned her crutch at some point, using hands and knees to crawl forward because it's just a little faster. "Mikoto! What..."

She looks between a hyperventilating Mikoto and a mercifully encased Miroku, uncomprehending...but then she shuffles forward. "Mikoto, it's okay. You're at home, okay? Everything's back to normal..."

...she says, as eggs begin to cook to a still-hot pan.

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Thump-clatter-THUMP, and Mikoto's muscles tighten anew as she tosses the blankets aside, leaps to her feet - hisses a pained breath as her side protests. "Mai!" Because she wasn't paying attention, wasn't listening, is there an enemy, is Mai in trouble -

But as Mikoto leaps across the room to grasp the straps of her case, Mai comes into view, and starts - comforting her. After a cautious moment, looking from Mai to the doorway beyond, Mikoto stands down, lowering her arms, allowing the pain to show on her face. She shrugs the case onto her shoulder, the most natural motion available to her, and hurries over to help Mai up. Her tone isn't alarmed and full of battle-warning, any more; it's just concerned. "... Mai..."

Those keen golden eyes go to her ankle, and the walking stick which is suspiciously absent. Mikoto glances away, frowning. "... sorry, Mai."

She didn't mean to. She didn't mean to make Mai hurt herself because she was worried. She just was - she - she can't remember. But it hurt. It hurt and - and Mai might be able to feel it, as Mikoto supports her back to where her walking stick's fallen. The way her heart hammers in her chest, as if she's just run a marathon.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

"No, I'm sorry, I..." Mai bites her lip, and just holds on to Mikoto for a moment. It's fine, she wants to say, but at the moment things do not feel fine. She's supposed to be the comforting one, supposed to make things right, and now...she's being a burden. Just like...

A deep breath, as Mikoto helps Mai stand again, and the older girl is torn between not leaning on Mikoto too much and wanting to comfort her. The latter is winning out, if only because the minute fragment of Mai willing to accept help serves as the tie-breaking vote.

So she leans, just a bit, and can feel that hammering. That...fear? As they reach Mai's other support, Mai takes a break to sit down beside it. "...are you all right, Mikoto? It's like you just saw...."

A ghost? A monster? Miyu? "...something."

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Mikoto doesn't make a big deal of helping Mai over, at least. She knows Mai has her pride, and she's not about to challenge it. Everyone has things they want to be able to do themselves.

... Mai just has lots of things she wants to be able to do herself.

But Mikoto won't make her feel bad by pointing out that she can't do this one thing herself. Because if she did, Mai would just crawl all the way back herself. There is no doubt in Mikoto's mind about it.

So they make their way to the walking stick, and Mikoto sits down on Mai's other side. She sinks down a little more slowly than she'd like, sucks in a breath which is a little too sharp. She'd been feeling better, after that week of rest, but... the crushing force of the Black Crystal's gravity wasn't kind to her recovery.

And then it's Mikoto's turn to lean, against Mai's side. She thinks back to the dream, tries to remember -

- recalls that light -

- and shivers, against her.

Mikoto swallows, takes a deep breath to try and counter the way they want to shallow in response to the memory. For a long moment, all she does is shake her head, mutely. Her mind roils; her words scatter. "Mai," she says, and the word is uncertainty and fear.

Another breath. Another. "... the, Homeworld Gems. They... had weapon. Probe, yellow fire. Burnt... magic, not flesh. Into my heart and -" Mikoto's breath shakes, catches, and she can't even try to regulate it any more. "Mai, I couldn't feel Miroku! Couldn't call Miroku back when I - let go! Couldn't... fight, couldn't even, stand. They took..." Mikoto's breath hitches, shudders. "... everything..."

Everything she was - her purpose, all she was, her reason to exist. Or, perhaps, to untrained ears: all of her magical powers.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

Long, long ago, when the Maiden of Dreams bathed those who stood against her in the colours of her sins, Mai was forced to confront her pride. Not so much has changed since then.

But ego has been sated, and Mai can just relax against Mikoto for a moment. It's...early. She didn't sleep all that well, to be honest. She hasn't even been able to start making coffee yet, because like an idiot she went and put the filters and grounds and brewer and sink as far apart as possible apparently-

...she leans into Mikoto, and feels a shiver, and that's so much more important than whatever coffee Kuga recommended.

She should have been paying more attention - to the gems, to the events going on, to everything - but now, through Mikoto's fear, she's getting a glimpse of just what she missed out on. The most important thing to her, though, is just what all this did to Mikoto, and...it's like there's ice in her heart.

Being cut off from Kagutsuchi...there would be something missing, for Mai. Maybe that bit of courage, maybe that burden of responsibility...she would miss her Child. But...she would probably recover. She had a life before that cave, and could have a life after...right?

But maybe that's not the case for Mikoto. Mai's glance flickers to that case, the innocent shell guarding the ominous sword. Her rings come and go, but that sword...stays. Might have stayed for actual years at this point - to have such a constant presence, and then to lose it? To have a part of your life torn away?

Mai's arms wrap around Mikoto in a tight embrace. "...I'm sorry. Sorry that that happened to you. That I wasn't there to help. ...it's over, now. That woman..." She can remember a monster, being dragged into the ocean. "...isn't going to hurt you any more. Everything's here."

Distantly, liquid eggs turn to something akin to rubber.

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Mikoto does not do well with coffee. Or, perhaps: Mikoto does too well with coffee. Either way, Mai knows to keep it away from her after this long. Stimulants on a cat who can already become hyper-alert at a moment is...

... more entertaining than what's going on right now, certainly.

That case splays diagonally, now Mikoto is sitting; it's just too large to put up with Mikoto being on the floor in its usual horizontal position. The higher end, at least, is mercifully pointing away from Mai, so that when Mikoto buries herself against her side she doesn't get clobbered with it.

Shuddering breaths turn to sobs, as Mai embraces her. It hurts, a little, to curl in on her like this, but Mikoto does it anyway. "Mai," she wails, and in that moment she sounds so scared.

Because Mikoto isn't like Mai, who found Kagutsuchi only when she came to the land of Fuuka.

Mikoto isn't like Mai, and she's terrified to tell her just how stark the difference is, because Mai wouldn't understand at all.

And for a long moment, that's all it is - hitched breath, whimpering, shaking against her. But then, Mikoto speaks again, though the words are clipped by tears now. "But Mai, it's... it's even worse 'cause... 'cause when Miroku came back... and we, escaped, we..."

Quick, shallow breath, as if Mikoto needs to be ready to react at any moment. "Wasn't just Jasper, Mai! That - that -" - what had Steven called her? - "- Peridot! Attacked us in, huge robot made of robots, and when I fought Peridot - she --" She gasps, flinches, hides her face against Mai with a distressed wordless noise.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

Mai isn't like Mikoto in a lot of ways, and on some level she knows she'll never truly understand her companion. There always was a fine line between trying to understand what Mikoto is, and trying to shape Mikoto into something she can understand.

But right now Mai can at least understand the flagrantly obvious. Mikoto is absolutely terrified of what she faced, and there's so precious little Mai can do. She can be here to absorb the tears into her pyjamas, can hold Mikoto to offer warmth in the face of this fearful shaking...

She's never seen Mikoto like this, and it's daunting.

"...deep breaths, Mikoto. They're gone. They can't hurt you...or Miroku...any more. Those ships are gone, those enemies are gone, it's...." Mai takes a deep breath of her own, holding Mikoto close, and trying to exude a calm that her own frustration tries to thwart. "...I'm sorry I wasn't there sooner."

It's early, and she's tired, and she has to finish breakfast, but right now a few slow breaths will...wait. Mai doesn't have a wildcat's nose, but even her sense of smell is twitching. There's something old and nostalgic in the air, and if she focuses, that smoky smell is...burnt eggs.

"...damn it." A quiet whisper under her breath, but it's too late to prevent anyway. She should just stay here, right?

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

It is fair to say Mikoto has long since noticed the smell of burning eggs.

It's just that, right now, she doesn't really care.

The one time her feral senses might be useful instead of one more reminder that Mikoto is subtly off, to the civilised eyes of Mai Tokiha - and she's too upset to use it.

(And let's not dwell on way Mai constantly forces Mikoto into a mould which doesn't fit. Let's not dwell on the way Mai is always changing Mikoto, the way Mikoto always struggles to change for her even when it's so, so obvious she isn't designed for it. Let's not dwell on the way it's always Mikoto who is wrong, Mikoto who is different, Mikoto who needs correction.)

(Let's not dwell on it, because Mikoto bears it without complaint, so surely she isn't being hurt...)

Mikoto has never shown this level of fear. She's been apprehensive before - even scared - but never like this. Never shaking like a leaf, clutching Mai so tightly as if she's terrified she'll slip through her fingers and she'll be alone again.

She nods, mutely, against Mai's side, with a sad little noise of assent. She tries - tries - to take a breath, another, another. Her heart beat-beat-beats and it's close enough to feel, the way Mai's holding her.

It's okay. They're gone. They can't hurt them any more. They're gone. They're gone. They're gone.

She's sorry.

Mikoto shakes her head, now, humming her argument for a wordless moment before she organises her thoughts. "No, Mai. I was... really happy... Mai came for me." Mikoto takes a deep breath, lets it out all at once in a sigh. There's a momentary softness, to her tone. "Really..."

And turns her face against her, swallowing against a lump in her throat. "... Mai, I... I was all alone. Alone, surrounded by enemies. Even... jailed with enemy. Couldn't... rest or... talk or... I was so stressed, all the time. I... I had to be tough, Mai. Even though, I was really..." Her voice shudders. "... scared."

It hurts, to admit it. She's supposed to be a warrior. She shouldn't be afraid of her enemies. But it's Mai. Mai wouldn't condemn her, even for something like that.

Mikoto swallows. "Getting captured... is... it's not good, Mai. Shouldn't... expect help for messing up. So I didn't... I thought... I gotta do it on my own. So - so when Mai - when Mai was there, I..." Mikoto trails off, because she's not sure how to describe it.

Instead, she closes her eyes, breathes out. Around Mai Tokiha, Mikoto can only show complete trust. "... doesn't matter if... it took time. Mai... Mai came for me. Means a lot, Mai. Thanks..."

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (12)] has posed.

For that long moment, as a pan slowly shifts state to 'will need a lot of cleaning', the kitchen remains empty. Here, in the passageway between bedroom and the rest of the dorm room, Mai holds on to Mikoto as they both sit on the floor. Right here, it's just the two of them - no gawking classmates, no well-intentioned friends, no enemies to destroy. What's right or wrong or routine...there's this moment.

Mai closes her eyes at Mikoto's momentary softness, her admission of fear, her gratitude...it's a deep level of trust, of affection. A level that Mai doesn't deserve - how many hours had she sat in an empty apartment before following Mikoto's note? How long did she stare at a torn-up beach with a sword-case in hand, not doing anything useful?

Mikoto is saying that Mai did a lot, and Mai knows she didn't do enough.

"Always-" Mai's voice is a little rough, and she pauses to swallow the lump in her throat. Her eyes are sill closed, her chin resting atop Mikoto's head. "I'll always come for you. It doesn't matter if you 'mess up' - you have people who care about you, and I -"

She trails off again. Words are powerful, and yet so hard to wield correctly. "...it's okay to be scared. Just know that I'll do whatever I can..."

She trails off again, still holding Mikoto, and finally risks opening her eyes. Beyond the window, the trees of Ohtori are showing light speckling in their leaves; dawn has made its advent while they sat here. Blinking away wetness from her eyes, she looks out that window, lost in thought for a moment. Her first attempt at cooking this morning has been a failure - even if the smell is beginning to fade - and the march of time is inexorable.

But it was worth it. Mikoto needed her, and...that's what matters. Mikoto trusts her enough to admit weakness, and that's what matters.

...maybe that trust should be returned.

"...you know, Mikoto? I...had some trouble getting breakfast and lunch started this morning. It's a bit hard getting around." She swallows uncertainty and pride in one gulp. "...would you be willing to help me in the kitchen?"

No one else has to know about either of their admissions. Right now, it's just the two of them.

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

'Always,' swears Mai, and Mikoto gasps, softly, as if she cannot believe the gift she's been bestowed. Because it's a condemnation of their convenience - the idea that they're only here, with each other, while it suits them both. Softness chases away the fear as she murmurs, "Mai..."

It's well that Mai's eyes are closed, in that moment, and she can't see the way Mikoto's cheeks colour with her gratitude. "I love Mai," Mikoto replies, quietly, honestly, and her voice is all affection and adoration and there is not a hint of blame there. Not a shred of bitterness for the hours spent confined, the pain and the terror.

She is such a simple creature.

Mikoto's breathing evens, in Mai's warm embrace. Even her fear is no match for her love.

She tilts her head up, slightly, when Mai speaks; close as they are, even that small movement is obvious. Obvious, when she nods. "Okay!"

It's one, simple word, because Mikoto knows how hard it must be, for Mai Tokiha to ask for help. Knows that she's expressing vulnerability, too. And Mikoto has always been kind, to people who struggle with vulnerability - when she knows them well enough to recognise it for what it is. She doesn't point out the incongruities; she doesn't dwell on it. She doesn't make an embarrassingly big deal out of the effort.

Mai would probably hate having similarities to Nao, but it's the same sort of principle, whether it's listening to lame songs while covered in cats or asking for help in the kitchen.

And Mai will never know they're so similar, because Mikoto wouldn't betray Nao's trust like that...

... and she certainly wouldn't betray Mai's.

"Just tell me what to do," Mikoto nods, firmly, straightening up with a puff of air. There's a hand for Mai - if she wants it.