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April 20, 2015

It wasn't that Kimber didn't think Eve would have agreed to fly them all out to Thunder Bay if the poltergeist's hometown hadn't also been where their fearless leader had met her girlfriend but it had certainly made pitching the trip easier. She had an errand to run in the woods outside of the city and while she could have probably performed it alone she had little desire to do so. Accepting that she had died and everything that came with it was one thing, actually visiting the resting place of her corporeal remains was something else entirely.

The harder sell had been getting Tarva included in the outing. The trick wasn't so much convincing Eve - the Martel heiress wouldn't have let the sorceress work for her in the first place if she hadn't believed Tarva was worth taking a chance upon - as it was negotiating the paperwork involved in transporting an Annihilist defector across national borders. Ultimately while the Freedom League may have had their politely unspoken doubts about just what Eve and her Claremont classmates had done to earn the Furion's regard they couldn't argue that that regard existed and that made her more or less the de facto authority. If she said they'd keep an eye on Tarva in Canada, then an eye would be kept.

The flight, meanwhile, gave Kimber an opportunity for a conversation she'd admittedly put off for too long. Floating over to Indira in the spacious cabin, she folded her translucent legs beneath her and cupped her chin in her hands. "Hey, so, I know I've been kinda acting weird since we got back in space. S'okay if we talk?"

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"Of course," Indira invited; she'd been reading, in human form no less...or, at least, she'd been mostly reading. While ever polite and courteous, her trust was hard-won and it was unlikely to be a secret that she still didn't quite trust Tarva. It was something in the way she watched the woman - the way she always kept track of where Tarva was, the way she watched her like a parent who isn't entirely sure if the kids' new dog was a family friend or secretly rabid. She hoped for the former, but seemed prepared for the latter.

Still, this trip was for...if not happier things, at least important things. She quietly marked her place and set her book aside, folding her hands in her khaki-clad lap, smiling. "I...did not wish to intrude, but you know that you may always ask or tell me anything. I was afraid that if you took too much longer I would have to ask you."

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For her part, Tarva had been full of good cheer about the trip, though she had needed some persuasion that the Freedom League was going to let her out of the city, even in the company of the people who lived in the DuTemps Building with her. She had kept ostentatiously busy looking over travel brochures with interest, talking with pleasure warm and sweet like molasses about the chance to be out of the city and in real nature, and generally doing her part to seem perfectly normal, or as normal as the occasional melodramatic moan about how she didn't deserve such things could be. Once they were on the plane, though, something of that artifice seemed to fall away. Politely excusing herself for meditation, she had sat in her seat, closed her eyes, and seemed to go out of the world the moment the plane had taken off. With her hands folded in front of her, she might have been asleep. It was impossible for anyone but a psychic to tell. 

Edited by Avenger

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Kimber gave Indira a shamefaced look as she mimicked her best friend's seated posture, albeit without the benefit of a chair under her floating form. "Ooh, I should have talked to you right away but I was embarrassed and confused and-- actually, I'm still pretty embarrassed and confused but I had to talk to you. Only..." Wringing her hands distractedly, the poltergeist looked over her shoulder at the mediating sorceress and around the rest of the cabin. She lowered her voice to just more than a whisper and leaned forward. "Only you've gotta promise not to say anything to Eve or Tarva or anybody, okay? Super serious right now! And you can't look at me like you're disappointed! You do this thing with all three eyes when you think someone's being dumb and you can't do that this time!" It was clear to Indira from the way that Kimber was babbling and chewing on her bottom lip that this was less about ensuring her good behaviour and more about stalling for time so that the translucent blue Canadian didn't have to get to the heart of the matter just yet.

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"I- I do not do a thing with my eyes," Indira defended, though it was largely in jest; Kimber's obvious distress sobered her up fairly quickly.

She leaned forward, elbows on her knees and hands clasped together in front of her. "I promise to not repeat anything you choose to share," she replied, quietly. "I doubt that any of us could keep great secrets from Eve if she found herself truly determined, but I do not think that she would violate our friendship to do so, and I promise I will volunteer nothing. What bothers you?"

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Kimber placed both hands on top of her head and ducked between her shoulders, letting her bangs drop in front of her eyes before they were inevitably swept backward in the phantom wind that constantly pulled at her hair and clothing. "I know you wouldn't anyway, it's just... euuuugh...! I know I'd totally look at me like I was stupid. Ugh! Okay, okay, I'm just gonna get it over with." Taking a few steadying breaths, she closed her eyes for a moment before squaring her shoulder resolutely. "So, remember how I went like a whole year avoiding talking to Tarva 'cause I thought it was probably going to be super awkward? Well it's worse than that 'cause I finally talked to her and now I kinda maybe have a giant crush on her!" The last few words came out as barely more than a hiss from between the hands planted over her face in maximum embarrassment. "Indiiiiiraaaa, what'm I gonna dooooo?!"

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Tarva opened her eyes and rose to her feet, shooting a warm, honeyed smile at Kimber and Indira as she did so.

Reaching up, she unfastened the short jacket she was wearing, letting it cascade back onto the seat and revealing she was wearing not much that was likely to be comfortable for Thunder Bay at this time of year. Or not much at all, for that matter. Her A-line dress was opaque where it stopped around the knees, matching the translucent black stockings that ran down to her chunky, glossy black boots. But above the line of her jacket, the rest of her dress turned out to be a thick mesh with squares several inches across bisected by thick, heavy black lines that looked to be made of her own shadowy spells. The mesh covered everything decent, but looked like it didn't - especially not with the translucent black mesh that practically crawled up her body beneath the dress, clinging tightly to every curve. She smiled, her eyes wide and teeth bared. 

"Oh, silly me, I must have been sleeping. If I keep lazing about instead of working, Lady Martel will have my hide!" Chuckling, she turned and walked away, swaying her hips as she walked. "I'll go make some tea." 

Edited by Avenger Assembled

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"Oh. I...mmm." Whatever Indira had been expecting, it clearly wasn't that - thankfully, Tarva's exit gave an excuse to her reflexive (and, in her state of confusion, disturbingly boneless) head turn to glance back at the woman in question.

"You...could...challenge her to ritual combat, and claim several minutes as your prize?" she weakly supplied, though from her tone it sounded more like a cultural joke than a serious suggestion. "I do not claim to know much about human relationships. I...cannot say I entirely trust Tarva," she admitted, frowning - though it was directed at where the spellcaster had been, not where Kimber was sitting. "By her own admission, she did many terrible things, willingly. Even great pressure or threats do not fully excuse such actions. They make her sympathetic, but such a...redemption, is the word? Such a redemption will be slow and difficult, perhaps life-long. And though she is grateful to have been saved, we do not yet know what she will be like when she begins to feel more free, or...."

She sighed - apparently it had been her turn to babble, and she took a moment to compose herself. "I...have concerns, if you were to choose to pursue such a thing," she summarized, smiling weakly. "But I do trust your judgement, and I am perhaps not one to judge, having been single for so long. Perhaps I am being too cruel to her."

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Kimber watched Tarva walking away for considerably longer that Indira did and when she turned back around her cheeks had turned a deep cerulean shade and she seemed a little out of breath, tugging at the collar of her turtleneck. "Wha...? I, um, no, I'm not really thinking with my best judgement on this one," she admitted with a flustered waving of her hands, squirming self-consciously in her floating seated pose and trying to figure out if she suddenly felt underdressed or overdressed. "I'm not even supposed to like girls that way! N-not that anybody shouldn't!" she clarified quickly, covering her eyes with one hand and waving frantically with the other. "But I don't! Didn't! Usually! Oh, jams, I can barely explain this in a way that makes human sense, I dunno if there's even is a Kinigosi equivalent, really."

Trying to compose herself and failing miserably, she added, "But definitely no claiming! Is that really a...? No, nevermind, later! What I mean is that's the other part of the problem." Now the poltergeist seemed less embarrassed and more melancholy, meeting Indira's eyes with a dejected frown. "She's different when she's not trying to act all gnarly, really! But..." She bit her lip, momentarily unsure whether this was something she had the right to share but ultimately deciding Indira needed to understand the context. "In the Terminus, they made her do stuff. Not... not just all the killing. And I promise I'm not ignoring all the horrible things she's done, honest! I can't. But now she thinks we're her bosses and she thinks that means she needs t-to do whatever makes us happy so we don't get rid of her. You see?"

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"....I see."

Indira had expressed, in the past, the relative discomfort that came with the eyes of her human 'diguise' - it's why that part of her human form slipped more often than others, in-between blinks.

But there was no blinking this time: the pupil expanded to engulf everything around it, actually pushing past the edge of the eye itself to widen and elongate its shape into a semblance of her true, alien anatomy. The effect was unsettling, but apparently reflexive and short-lived; as she settled into a frown, it reversed itself to return her to her normal, brown, human eyes. "I did not know," she said, voice somewhere between the desire to hurt someone and new-found sympathy for the devil. "It is a concern, then, yes. It does not help you, but perhaps with time she will come to see otherwise? It is difficult to imagine how much damage was done already, before we met her."

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Kimber managed a small nod as she let her whole body sag, looking thoroughly miserable. "Yeah... So I can't say anything to her about it, probably not ever; she'd take it the wrong way and that would... that would just be the worst ever." From her expression even contemplating that situation had her torn between wanting to throw up or burst into tears. Wringing her hands, she gave Indira a hopeless look. "I still want to help her get better and start making up for some of the stuff that she's done but she's gonna figure out that something's weird sooner or later. You've seen me try to lie, she'll see right through me! It's just a mess and I haven't even been able to worry about whether I l-like other girls too or just Tarva." The poltergeist spread her hands, hoping for some illuminating bit of insight that might help her out of her quagmire.

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It seemed to take Indira a beat to process that concern, but her eyebrows rose as the implication dawned on her. "Mmm...I forgot that was a...problem. Kinigosi do not...."

She gazed out the window for a moment to collect her thoughts on the matter before turning back to Kimber with a look of great sympathy. "It is...perhaps not helpful, but I can offer my perspective on your other problem, which is this: it does not matter. That is, it matters to you," she corrected, holding up a hand, "but labels and greater concerns should not. You will be attracted to who you are attracted to, yes? Humans place too much importance on gender over the individual. If you find yourself liking many girls, then perhaps you are attracted to girls. If not, then there are simply exceptions. But it is not worth...'fretting'?...about what could be until you are there."

"Humans believe feelings come from your heart, yes?" she asked, cracking a half smile. "Or...other places, depending on the feeling. Let them tell you what you like, without fighting it. Perhaps you like boys, or girls, or warrior couples, or...ah," she paused, ducking her head and cutting off that tangent, "or...whatever. Let it be a discovery, an adventure, not a worry."

 

"But Tarva is...less easy," she admitted, folding her hands back in her lap and sighing. "I do not know that you cannot talk to her about it. It would be unpleasant, but if you were very clear about what was happening and why you think it could not work right now, it could help both of you. I do not know her well enough to guess how she would be affected, however, and you may have to be very firm in...not letting her misunderstand or accidentally take advantage."

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From her desk at the back of the plane Eve looked up from her school work to watch Tarva enter the galley, sighed and then pinched the bridge of her nose.   Eve didn't need to be a telepath to know that for over a year things between Tarva and Kimber had been weird, she was always incredibly adept at reading people.  But perhaps it was because she was a telepath she found it a little absurd that neither of the women had actually talked about the root of that weirdness.

That was a minor issue though, one Eve felt she should not intervene in.  There was another problem that needed her more immediate attention.

"Tarva," Eve said when the shadow-priestess appeared with the tea.  "Could I have a word?"

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 Neatly sashaying with every step despite the slight turbulence of the flight, perfectly executing each move despite what had to be awkward chunky heels, Tarva efficiently made her way to her mistress's side. She sat the tray down on Eve's desk, bending a little lower than was really necessary - her dress really was quite low-cut, shaped to her body by carefully applied magic. Then she smiled and straightened up, her hands folded in front of her and head demurely cast down. She made eye contact, though- she knew Eve preferred that. "Of course, Lady Martel. How may I serve you today?" Her voice was warm and rich and sweet, the taste of fresh honey artfully applied to the lips and tongue.

Edited by Avenger Assembled

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Kimber was uncharacteristically quiet as she mulled over Indira's words, her icy blue eyes studying the backs of her translucent hands. "It's... strange learning new things about myself. Did the first me, the... the real me ever feel like this, do you think, before?" The Kinigosi could have counted the times the poltergeist had ever talked seriously about the memories lost to her in her death on the fingers of the human hands she was affecting. It wasn't a comfortable topic, to say the least. "Have I had some version of this conversation before or is this new? D-did I come back different or am I just playing out a... a rerun? I'm not sure which is worse..."

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That, finally, earned the ghost Indira's Patented Look of Disappointment; the effect was somewhat restricted by having only two, smaller eyes to work with, but it was unmistakable none the less. "YOU are the real you," she corrected, poking a finger into her friend's intangible chest. Her tone of voice implied that she wanted rather badly to smack Kimber upside the head. "I do not pretend to know what it is like to be in your position, but you are being...what is the word. Ridiculous," she insisted.

"It is a problem right in your human languages," she added, throwing up her hands in uncharacteristic frustration. "Humans insist you have a soul. No. No, you are a soul, you have a body and you of all people should know the difference."

Indira sighed, smoothing her hair a bit and recollecting herself. "It is not...you are a different you, perhaps a new you, but connected to who you were. You have changed, but every good living thing does that anyway - I am not the Indira I was ten years ago, though my change is less traumatic. You have forgotten, but that means rediscovery, too; a chance to grow new. It is hard, and I do not deny this, but...I...I am not you," she sighed. "I cannot speak for you, and I cannot claim it is easy. Parts of your life now are tragic. But some parts of it are only tragic if you let them be."

Edited by Fox

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Leaning back in her chair and taking a sip of tea, Eve made a small hum of approval and gave the shadow-priestess a faint smile when she set the cup down.  "It's just Eve, Tarva," Eve said after a moment, "You're not a servant."

"You are an employee, at times, true," Eve continued, the faint smile returning, "Kimber and Indira are too, technically; it's a nice little fiction to protect the people around us and it keeps the Freedom League off my back.  But you're also a member of this team, and a friend if you're willing."

"You are also not a prisoner."  Green eyes fixed onto Tarva's.  "So there is no need to sneak out of your home in the middle of the night."

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Confusion and a little fear flickered in Tarva's eyes for a moment before, with great care, she looked her mistress in the eye. "Of course, Eve," she went on, just the slightest hesitancy in those honeyed tones. "I would be delighted to be your friend." She smiled dazzlingly, turning on the charm. "But I...prefer to remain within your walls," she told her mistress gently. "I have enemies without and wards within, and I feel safest in the embrace of the latter." She smoothed the dress down in a gesture that Eve was almost certain not necessary given that it was by all appearances under her conscious control, pulling it tight against her bosom. "I am fascinated to see what we shall see in these northern woods," she went on. "I have done magic beneath stars and boughs before, but not for some time." 

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Kimber looked properly chastised, a small smile pulling at her lips between a fresh blush that this time had nothing to do with a shadow priestess. "Hee. Alright, alright, point taken!" She raised her hands in defense even if they would offer no more resistance to her friend's finger than her chest had. "...thanks, Indira. You always know how to keep perspective." She let her voice go quiet and her posture relax, feeling more than a little drained after unburdening herself. She sighed, supporting her chin in her hands. "I hope inviting Tarva along was a good idea. I want her to feel included but sweet strawberry preserves that dress. Hhhhn!" She gave the Kinigosi a distressed expression to match her tone.

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"I apologize for 'losing my cool', a bit. And it is the eyes, I think," Indira mused; those eyes filled in with black void, and her forehead briefly split open to reveal an amused third eye before all features returned to normal again. "I have perspective to spare. Though I do not claim to always be right; I think, sometimes, it simply helps to have a...would you say, 'alien' way of seeing things?"

She hummed, enjoying her rare opportunity at a pun, and looked down at herself: tank top and khakis twisted and darkened, taking on a facsimile of Tarva's outfit...or, at least, as close as she could get from memory and without practice. "I shall take your word on the clothes," she said, dubiously picking at a bit of the self-made mesh. "They are very revealing, but Kinigosi attraction is as much movement and smell as looks. The complexity has some appeal, I suppose; the layers and patterns are quite difficult and unusual."

Edited by Fox

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Kimber gaped and gave Indira a look of ultimate betrayal before burying her face in her hands with a sound that as somewhere between a pained groan and a peal of laughter. "I take it all back, you are the literal worst," she accused, refusing to look at her friend for all of two seconds before peeking through her fingers. "Ohmigoodness, I do not even know what to do with that," the poltergeist despaired even as the corners of her mouth twitched with a barely restrained grin. "Don't even pretend you don't know why that dress is... is..." She took her hands away from her face to gesture emphatically in front of herself, turning the deepest shade of cerulean yet and dissolved into a fit of giggles. "The worst!" she squealed breathlessly, still laughing.

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"I have a slightly abstract understanding, yes," Indira admitted - she couldn't quite suppress her laughter as her 'clothes' melted back into more sensible - and more comfortable - attire, khakis flowing down over her legs and her top smoothing out into a sensible long-sleeved shirt in her customary purple. "I was quite serious when I said the layers were difficult, however. I do not think I could wear such a thing all day without being very distracted! Or," she added, laughing, "perhaps without distracting others. I should remember what it looked like, maybe, in case it becomes useful one day? I prefer to not be seen, but there is value in lures and subtle misdirections. Or...not-subtle misdirections."

She smiled warmly, brushing a sleeve smooth. "It is good to see you laugh, though. Your...presence?...is always brighter when your cheer is genuine."

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Eve sighed.

"People will often say or do things they do not wish to because that is what they think others want.  At times this is due to feeling some sort of obligation to the person, but usually it is because of fear."  Eve said after a moment seeming to have switched topics.  "Sometimes that fear is justified; the person they may be dealing with may react dangerously and it would be in ones best interest to escape their influence as quickly as one can."

"People forget I'm a telepath," the Frenchwoman said, taking a sip of her tea and looking thoughtfully at Tarva.  "Sometimes, though, I forget others aren't."

Eve closed her eyes and sighed again.

"You're safe with us, Tarva," she said after a moment.  "If there is something you wish to say, say it.  If there is something you wish to do, or not do, then that choice is yours and yours alone.  You may not believe me, you can't read my mind, but I have faith in you, Tarva."

"I hope you brought some warmer clothing though, Thunder Bay is cold this time of year."

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Tarva shifted uncomfortably in her seat for a moment, and Eve felt the distinct sensation of shadowy walls rising up inside her colleague's mind. "Fear not, Eve, the embrace of cold, merciless shadow has long since freed me from fears of snowy nights - even if it has denied me the balm of mortal warmth. But even so, I have ways of providing my own heat," she added with a knowing smile. Rising to her feet, she added, "If you are interested in the dress, I would be delighted to make  one for your northern lover. Just let me know." And with that, she turned and headed back out to rejoin the others, bestowing a smile on Kimber and Indira as she passed. "We're going to have such a time in Thunder Bay - I can hardly wait. Let me know if there's anything I can do for you on the way, my friends.

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Kimber puffed out one cheek in an exaggerated pout. "Calling it a 'lure' doesn't really make me feel better abooouuu--mmh?" Her head turned bonelessly as Tarva walked past, trying to switch seamlessly to a less conspicuous topic of conversation and failing miserably. She snapped back around to face Indira, looking deeply embarrassed and placing her hands to either side of her face like blinders. "Alright, maybe you have a point. ...do you think I should say something about it? Like, she'd be upset if nobody said anything nice? Or do I not say anything 'cause she can wear whatever she wants and it doesn't matter what anyone thinks? Yeah. Yeah, I'm gonna just not say anything. That's better." She paused briefly before biting her lower lip uncertainly. "Maybe?"

Fortunately her internal debate was interrupted by the announcement that they would be landing shortly. Eve led the way as they disembarked, the sun low on the horizon behind the back of a familiar figure with dark, chocolate brown hair and a close-fitting red and white jumpsuit, waving as she jogged towards them.

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