black_black_heart: (a hell of a thing)
[personal profile] black_black_heart
What: Off-comm, in-continuity RP between myself and [personal profile] sarcastass. A talk between Szelhamos and Tannusen within Tannusen's slumbering mind.
When: The night of this. After Tannusen eventually came down off his high enough to sleep.
Warnings: Blunt mention of sexual acts also done off-comm. Description of a decayed body and the minor cannibalism of it. And, being what plot this is a part of; more angst than you can shake a tiger at.

- - - - -

Tannusen should know this place of course, and the exact status of it too.

A dream, where else? After all, he'd passed clean out after a while at home. Sleep was an important thing to get. Especially after getting a mouthful of demonic poison. Good job asshole.

It was the studio. Familiar enough territory, a bit on the neutral side but it was nothing really alarming.

No the alarming thing was who was in it. Szel had clearly never actually seen the studio. He'd been in it, but that of course didn't constitute as seeing it.

Tannusen's brain was alive with places to choose from though, the demon had just felt around for whatever seemed comfortable enough for the both of them.

It looked more reminiscent of the angel in the hologram than the demon, long black hair loose and falling around his face, that usual perfect black suit replaced with much looser, somewhat gray colored robes, flowing and lightly hanging off of him.

Even the black wings seemed different, faded shades of sunset, purple red and orange.

Lounging in a chair, appearing relaxed and lazy, a white blindfold carefully wound around his head.

"So this was what it looked like."

'Seeing' was different in dreams, that really wasn't a surprise.


Tannusen had done a lot of resting, after finally dragging himself back out of that pit of despair with footage and stories of his life as a carnie, casually stepping around all the pitfalls even that topic brought with it. Much easier to navigate than how little time he had left with his beloved... and why.

Napping on the couch had eventually moved upstairs to sleeping properly in the bed, worn out and more than a little clingy. The priest was certainly getting more sleep lately, if he was resting with the tiger every time the pooka was there and just a bit too sad.

And now... this.

Conjured out of his head like it was, the whole situation had seemed to just sort of materialize around the sleeping tiger, replacing whatever -- likely unpleasant -- dreams had been going on before. He opened his eyes to find himself standing in the studio... and there was Li...

Nope.

That wasn't Lil.

Flickers of how Tannusen actually always saw the place versus what it was actually like, bled in at the edges oddly. A nightstand was origami for a moment. The bedframe, a sturdy metal platform in reality, seemed to be carved from bone.

It just bled in here and there, a moment at a time. Tannusen's reality was not everyone else's reality. But, this place hadn't had so much invested into it by any real people that it had a full chimerical seeming, either. Mostly just the furniture that had been in the penthouse, showed any signs of a dual existence.

"And what," his voice sounded cold to his own ears, "are you doing here?"

In his head.

He knew how this shit worked with these fucking angels.


Definitely not Lil. Too broken for that, the constant, cheerful smile seemed the AI had seemed like an expression that hadn't touched Szel's face in... well, four billion years.

"Talking, I'd assume." Despite the catty quality the words seemed like they should have, it lacked the usual punch.

"Are you going to sit down?"

After all, if the dream with Azrael was of any indication, Tannusen wouldn't be leaving the dream until the demon was good and ready. Better just find a spot.


"We've nothing to discuss."

After all, Tannusen doubted the demon was giving up on his plans and was going to help him free Cassian. Even if it was offered, he wouldn't have trusted it. Not even in another four billion years.

Tannusen hadn't fought the dream when Azrael had come to speak to him. He was made of dreams; he was fairly certain he could leave this one way or another. Haul the Dreaming itself into the room hand-over-hand until the sheer madness of it all overwhelmed the demon's orderly brain, perhaps.

"So, no."

He was quite content to stand. Striped skin and black sclera, the flowing white dreamstuff coat that was something of his trademark, on his side of the mirror of reality.


The entity in the chair just shrugged, the expression thoughtful but the motion listless.

"Then stand."

In the end they'd both be on the floor, he was pretty sure. Apologies didn't really come easily to the demon. Or at all, actually. While it would be a lot more helpful to perhaps... actively help in dispelling the curse and packing it in, he had no intention of quitting. Too far in it now. With a whisper of those wings shifting around behind him, the fallen seraph directed his attention towards Tannusen.

"I suppose though that you're right. There's not much to discuss here, but I didn't start this for a conversation."

Rather-

"I imagine your opinion of me is quite low. Do you hate me, Tannusen?"


Didn't start this for a conversation? But then what was this?

No, it didn't really occur to the Faerie that the demon was here for Unhealthy Sex Between Enemies, Round II.

The tiger folded his arms, the impossibly-fine chainmail that lined his whole, floor-length coat clinking just on the edge of audible at the motion. Too-blue eyes slid off to the side a little as he gave the question some actual, heavy consideration.

"Would it matter?" he asked after a moment, still deciding on the particulars of his answer.

He knew the gist, already, of what the truth was if he was to speak it. But the tiger was nothing if not cagey with his actual, honest thoughts on much of anything. All pooka were, to some degree. A thirty-seven year old pooka who hadn't yet unraveled, well... cagey could sometimes be putting it lightly.


"Yes."

No beating around the bush here, no pithy comeback or metaphorical ramblings. Right to the point.

"It does."

It'd outline how the rest of this would be going. Honestly? He expected to hear a yes. He expected to hear right out, again, how he deserved the pain he'd gotten, how indeed, since he was the architect of Cassian's suffering, how much of a monster he was and how Tannusen was going to upend it all.

It was a bit like reading off a script, really, just waiting for a cue.


"I hate what you've done," the tiger stated, and that could clearly go right in the direction Szel was expecting, couldn't it? "What you've done to Cassian, to myself..." if to a lesser degree, because Tannusen was fairly sure that he personally deserved this shit, on some level. "And I hate what's still to come of it."

But.

"And I do not trust you. I never have."

Also true. No matter how charming the spider had been, before, Tannusen Harrowgate trusted no one lightly.

But...

"But no, I don't hate you."


So far so expected. Hated what he did to Cassian, hated the situation he forced him into, no trust at all. Yeah he expected that, and he remained more or less expressionless through it.

It was only when Tannusen admitted he did not hate the demon himself that got any kind of reaction. A pause, a lofted brow, a shuddering of wings.

"... Why?" Clearly not about the rest of it-

"Why wouldn't you?"


Tannusen unfolded his arms and finally went to drop into one of the other chairs. It was as effortlessly graceful as ever, though Szel had never before seen him do it. And if the tiger even noticed the way the chair briefly glittered like glass, he didn't show it. He was so used to this shit that it honestly didn't even register.

"I actually liked you, before I found out your connection to Cassian -- to Hastur."

Even the name's like poison.

"And now I'm running a marathon race against myself, and, honestly, I don't have the energy to spare one way or the other. All I care about is hitting the finish line. Cassian is the only person I care for. Not you, not me; just him. It's all I've got the space for."

It didn't matter if he was a burning pile of wreckage when he slid over that finish line; he was going to get there. He was going to free the human who'd dared to love him back.

"I couldn't save Isaac, and I couldn't avenge him. I'll manage one out of the two for Cassian, and 'save' is far more important. He deserves better than a shitty consolation prize. He deserves to be free."


And that all meant something, of course, but-

"You don't hate me now, still."

That had never been answered.

"You've given me every reason why you should prefer me dead, actually. I do not matter, you do not matter. If anything, were you far less intelligent, I'd expect you to try to rip me apart. You have every right to."

Ah, now was that why he'd shown up? Admitting he wasn't here for a conversation?

"But you're not that dim, and you have your sights set higher. You still had several chances, back at the carnival, to do some serious damage. It wouldn't have taken away from your research in the slightest."

His tongue slipped out for just a moment, nervously touching the corner of his mouth.

"It might have even felt good to do it, in your case."


Tannusen just sounded... tired. "Yes, yes, and I could have teleported you somewhere unsavory at any given moment, perhaps even into something that ought to hold a demon. Or I could have snapped your neck when you went unconscious in the fort. Or, even counter-attacked when you were chasing me through the library."

Even in that encounter, the tiger had merely kited both Szel and Midge around the room. Even snapping the bridge had been a delaying tactic, an attempt to stun the spider at best. He'd known it wouldn't do more than that. Jethro, connected to his mind as he was, hadn't even properly attacked either. The cables that had shot from the Forged chimera had been another distraction; all they were good for from Jethro was restraining the target. Or, in that case, pissing the target off.

"The mortal body I wear like a radiation suit, the human meat brain I inhabit, it only has so much room. It can't -- and thus I can't -- possibly hope to grasp a fraction of the lifetimes I've endured. But I'm not a fucking human, nor am I like the Fae from your world. I meant it when I said I'm nothing like you've ever contended with before. I'm as much an outsider as your parasite is, even on my Earth."

He had, in one lifetime, been Dakshin Rai. To disrespect the tiger had meant being eaten. The lifetimes since had worn those edges down. The losses, the deaths... when he remembered anything of a life, those always stood out. That was how he knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that Cassian's loss would echo forward. Forever, and ever, and ever, until the last tiger drew its last breath and he, in turn, ceased to be reborn.

"It's convenient to be underestimated at every turn, but even if you learn better before I'm done, it's not going to stop me."


"You're avoiding the answer."

Another shift, a few faded sunset feathers falling to the floor as the entity leaned forward, the sound of a rusty clock gear trying to steadily tick ahead beginning to sound.

"Why don't you?" Direct and to the point.

"Why don't you hate me? Why didn't you try to kill me when you had the chance? If I had died in the fortress, you wouldn't have to worry about me chasing you. You would have had a much longer time limit to look for things. Made less of a mess. Made it more difficult for me to find what had gone missing.

I know you're not stupid." Despite all the preening and carrying on he did in the waking world.

"You know it would be easier if I was dead, or crippled, or too intimidated by you to actively hunt you down. And yet somehow, it's my cock rammed down your throat at the end of the day.

Why do you hold back?

When it'd make much more sense, if not be more logical, for you to hurt me in return for what I've done to Cassian? What I will force you to do? What I will have done to the rest of your entire life, and the lives after that?"


"Why does it matter?"

Look, he'd already answered one question.


Because in the end, there was only one reason Szel could think of that would keep Tannusen interested in a blow job behind a building after Szel had damned his boyfriend to a life time of insanity.

It was pretty much the same reason Szel had been kept alive and marginally in one piece during his first few years in Hell, and it was safe to say it wasn't his astounding knowledge of literature or love of poetry.

The fallen seraph sits back again, his face expressionless once more.

"What is it about me that keeps you here, entertaining these questions and tolerating my presence? I know it isn't my wit."


"Now you're avoiding the answer," Tannusen pointed out, amused.

And thus he himself avoided that one, too.


He was, he knew.

A pause.

"There is only one reason anyone who is not beholden to me or invested in my more notable abilities decides to keep returning.

I want to know where you stand."


"Don't worry, it's not pacifism," Tannusen actually laughed, at that. He sat back in his chair, too, in order to fold one long leg over the other at the knee. "I know my way around torture, from both sides. It's the whole reason I have a healing spell to begin with. Well, a repair spell. It just happens to work on living flesh as well as it works on anything else."

He was in a... strange mood, himself. Never as stoic, in a dream.

"You know, when I found Isaac, I ate part of him. I wasn't even in tiger form; didn't even know I was doing it at first. He was rotten, and covered in maggots, and I just started chewing on his hand with my human teeth and my human taste-buds." The latter was far, far stronger in human form than as a tiger; tigers didn't care about carrion, and some even preferred it -- less chewing. Humans, however, couldn't usually hold the contents of their stomachs down just getting a good close whiff of it.

"You know, like that would help."

Grief made everyone strange.

"Once I realized what I was doing, well... I eventually stopped. Watched the tape that had been left with him, repeatedly. Laid by the corpse for a while."

Cried, endlessly. Still was, somewhere.

"Once I thought I could handle it, I repaired him with Heather Balm, cleaned and dressed him, and I took him to his hometown in New Brunswick and teleported him into the nearest hospital, with all his proper ID, so that he'd be a mystery -- how he'd gotten there, how he'd died -- but he'd at least get his burial. He wasn't super devout, but he was a little religious. Most French Canadians are, seems like."

Tannusen seemed content to just talk, and talk, although he wasn't showing any particular... emotion. Which was telling in itself; too flat, too neutral. Too burned-out.

"It was a little coastal town, you know, so I just sat on the beach for... a while." Days. "Thought about walking out into the water and drowning, a lot. But I just couldn't make myself move."

The tiger clearly had, eventually. It hadn't been very long after that that he'd ended up in Genessia.

"He was cursed to speak only in quotes, for most of the years I knew him. So, here's one; 'If you get hungry enough, they say, you start eating your own heart.' Margaret Atwood," and, with a slight snort at the irony, "from 'the Blind Assassin'. I didn't think you had one, for the longest time. Now, I'm pretty sure you just ate it."


Lots of talking, still nothing Szel would consider answering the question, and his patience was not eternal. Better than most demons, sure, but in the end, he was still a demon.

It was, of course, a very tragic tale. He'd not gotten a bit of it during their earlier romps but then he hadn't been looking too carefully.

Maybe he could have steered it personally towards more personal territory had he been so inclined, but... Well, it'd never been important then.

And right about where the seraph would have just given up trying to get anything of worth out of the wiped out, worn down, burned out pooka, something finally made it to the air that gave at least a faint indication.

"... Sympathy."

Because if you hated someone it was far easier to just assume they'd never had feelings to begin with, rather than to come to the conclusion that they had them, once. Until something happened.


"Empathy," Tannusen corrected.

Sympathy smacked too much of pity. Empathy was understanding.

"I've had Lil around for a while now, after all. I can see the before and after. Don't care if you believe I can understand any of it; you wanted your answer."

He was under no illusions that the demon was fond of him, after all. Or even thought he was all that smart, no matter what he'd said earlier in this chat about the tiger's focus and intelligence being too sharp to allow for detouring to kill Szel.

"I'd ask a similar question, but I... don't think I care. I won't be alive long enough for it to matter. I have one purpose, one mission, now. Your involvement at this stage is tangential, at best."


He did, and he had it. This didn't go the way he expected it to... but to be fair, it wasn't right to say it didn't go the way he wanted it to, on some level. After all, Szel didn't enjoy pain, and the entire purpose of this was to receive it.

Then again, perhaps it was just pain of a different type.

The fallen seraph was silent for a moment. No anger or swelling disbelief and insult at the obvious remark that he wasn't important in this anymore.

That this wasn't about him.

Because it wasn't, and while in the world of waking he would have gone out of his way to prove Tannusen wrong, that he deserved attention and all the hatred or emotion the tiger could dish out, the creature before the pooka was calmer.

More put together.

Maybe that was just a normal thing for angels and their fallen counterparts in dreams.

"... I understand." That was it, really.

The world was starting to dissolve around them, slowly but surely. He had his answer, and he had it without having to beat himself to get it.

No amount of flagellation was going to earn any form of redemption now.


"A rare thing, isn't it?"

But Tannusen glanced to the side, taking in the fading surroundings.

"I suppose that means we're done here, then."

And he stood up, his markings leaving ink trails in the air in their wake as he exerted his own control on the dream--

And disappeared.

Just to make the point, because these angels were all daft if they thought a dream-creature couldn't leave a manufactured dream. Like, please.


Look, just fuck off, dillweed.

At least, when he wakes up, there's no anger this time. His stirring woke Midge rather quickly, and the bug merely silently clambered onto his chest, directing his attention to a door.

Therein, he'd lay, alone with his thoughts, trapped between actual anger and genuine empathy.

He thought.

He assumed this was all empathy, this uncomfortable feeling welling in him that informed him there'd been something important in there. Something he should be paying attention to.

Goddamnit.

No way Drake was in his office right now.

Poor man was going to have a hell of a day tomorrow though.

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Tannusen 🐯

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