[FG] What Will Happen to the Stories from the Bogs
I didn't really use memetics for the Mags' speech because they talk too much and adding that much was annoying, so just pretend they have memetics. I am lazy.
Dijamant's fingers ghosted over the spines, eyes flicking from title to title. He still had a few hours before Kolo would come back from talking with Rendgen, and while he normally didn't consider himself a nosy person... ah, nah. He totally was nosy.
Not all of the books were written by Kolo, although most had their authors wiped. Out of an effort to conceal his own writing or out of apathy, Dijamant wasn't sure, but he didn't really have the time to question it. Peresekat had given him some wild recommendations for titles to... "borrow", and his sights were set dead on finding at least one of the books.
And yes, maybe he was sneaking around behind Kolo's back to do such a thing. But his writing was supposedly stellar, pretty emotional, and offered some insight into his personality and thoughts. It wasn't like Kolo normally let anyone just sample any of his books as they pleased - he'd asked; so Dij had to sneak around. There. Justified.
Still, there was a nagging sensation of guilt. How annoying. He wanted to will it away, but it just wouldn't quite shoo. He wasn't hurting Kolo by doing this. It was a type of bonding, really! He was getting to know his boyfriend! ...Stars, he felt like an asshole. Whatever. Stop thinking about it and just find a book.
Shame Kolo's library was so massive and locked behind a trillion enchants. He couldn't run a ping for any of the books or anything, which was a real shame, because doing all of this by hand was grating.
Dij paused, then curled his fingers around a worn, small volume. It wasn't the book Pere had recommended, but it stood out from its partners on the shelves. It was held together with what appeared to be glue and staples, haphazard, mismatched sheets of paper peeking out from behind the cardstock covers. The front was written in pencil, in clear handwriting that seemed too careful against the messy construction.
"Oh my stars," he muttered to himself, carefully cracking open the book. The first page was devoid of words, although there were a few scribbles of various colors in the margins and corners, one of which was folded over. "Why do you have this, Kolo?"
Dij glanced up at the entrance to the library. He still had time, and this looked to be a short read. It couldn't possibly be more than fifty pages. He flipped to the next.
The writing was still by hand, but had turned absolutely miniscule. Dij grunted, lifting the book to his face to squint at it. There was something faint scratching in the back of his hand - ah, this had likely been written by another Magnitude Fragment. The memetics were too obscured for him to recognize it, but maybe if he just read enough he'd figure it out? Or maybe they'd signed their name somewhere.
Dij tucked the small book under his arm, trotting over to Kolo's desk - a glossy, dark wooden table whose contents were hastily organized into neat stacks. With a flop, Dij relaxed into the leather chair, spinning slightly to prop his feet on the desk and crack open the story again. The writing was still hard to make out, but if he peered, it was clear enough.
Dij half-laughed under his breath.
Dij hummed, tapping on the paper for a second before turning the page.
Dij blinked at the abrupt end on the page. The writing was still small, but it had become messier, slightly frenzied. Half of the page remained completely blank, even as he brushed his fingers over it. Invisible ink, maybe?
His fingers lit slightly as he let his magic channel, down through their tips to touch the book. Just a quick check, to ensure that there wasn't-
Something curled around his magic in response.
Dij yelped, throwing the book across the room as he violently recoiled. The chair nearly toppled as he stared, panting, at the book - it had hit the far bookshelf and fallen to the floor unceremoniously. It sat there, sagged on the floor, a page bent.
He breathed in, slowly, staring at it before letting a hand wander up to slap his own forehead. With a breathless chuckle, he smiled, "Dij, come on, come on. It's just Kolo's enchants. He's gonna show up in three seconds, you gotta get out of here. Why are you so tense, man?"
Wiping back his bangs, he stood, pushing the chair into the desk. Keeping his stride effortless, he paced over to the book, plucking it from the hardwood by its spine. Tenderly, he gently smoothed out the bent page.
But it had grabbed him. What kind of freaky alarm system was that? Was it supposed to hold him still 'til Kolo showed up? It'd completely failed in that regard.
Dij hesitated. It'd be easy to just... let his magic unbend it, warp reality a little. Then again, touching it again would only spur Kolo on faster, and he'd need to cover his tracks. Turning on his heel, he stared at the empty space in the bookshelf with a critical eye. With a snap of his fingers, a blank copy of the book appeared in its old place. It wouldn't fool anyone who touched the illusion, but it'd buy him time.
"DIJAMANT!" came the scream, timed with the slam of the door against the wall.
Ah, right on cue. Dij tucked the book into one of his inner jacket pockets, turning to smile at Kolo. The other narrowed his eyes in response, teeth already gritted.
"Whassup?" Dij asked, leaning on a bookshelf.
Kolo stomped over, lower arms crossed, pointing a finger at Dij's muzzle with a free hand. "You know exactly what's up. I cut my meeting with Rendgen short because you were fumbling about in my house. Without permission. Does the sound of respecting boundaries just make you shrivel and melt, Dijamant?"
"You got here faster than I expected. Nice alarm. What's the conditions for it? You add something new?"
Kolo huffed, brushing past Dij. He glanced around the library, squinting at several shelves before turning back to Dij. "Which book did you take?"
"I didn't take any of them, babe. Just looked."
"Which one did you look at, then?"
Dij flashed him a grin. "How 'bout we keep that as our little secret?"
"Dij," Kolo muttered, exasperated, before turning back to fiddle with a shelf. "I bet you didn't even put it back in the right place."
Dij's eyes flicked from Kolo to the far wall, where the illusioned book sat. If Kolo was going to go through every single shelf individually, it'd take him hours to notice the spell, and by then, he'd have finished the book. Talk about buying time. His eyes flicked back to his partner, at Kolo's angrily-swishing tail. Cute.
He knew he was a dick for lying to Kolo, but what could he say? He was kinda engrossed in the story now. Fuck if he was going to give it up so soon, especially after things had ramped up so quickly.
"Well, you get lookin'. I'm heading back to my place, mkay?" he said, half-absently staring at Kolo's tail still.
Kolo glanced over his shoulder. Anger was still written on his face, but his scowl had faded. "You better not have taken it with you."
"Kolo, babe, look around you," Dij said, waving an arm at the room, "I don't see a single book out of place here. I don't have it."
"If it turns out you do, Genesis help me I will- I'll- you'll regret it."
Dij gave him another shimmering grin, eyes half-lidded. "Of course, babe." with a snap of his fingers, teleportation enveloped him.
He blinked, glancing around his own bedroom. The four-poster bed sat, as it always did, in the direct center. Covered in plush blankets and pillows, it was a welcome comfort as he sunk into its warmth. Dij exhaled slowly, letting out a near-sigh that had somehow gotten trapped in his chest. He reached into his jacket, freeing the little book and holding it above his head.
The cover smiled back at him, still beholden with the word WINGS on it. DIj stared at it for a few more seconds before sitting up, gingerly opening it to the page he'd left off on. It was still half-blank.
Whatever. Maybe the author just hadn't finished editing that portion or something. He was no writer, he didn't know how they functioned. Dij flipped the page.
Dij blinked rapidly, then flicked the page back. It was still the same - Nothing wandering into the forest and then an abrupt cut-off. He flipped to the next page once more. Script style? Really? After all that prose?
And who the fuck was Dusk? Man, this was poorly written. He huffed, but continued on.
"Fucking stars," Dij whispered, thumbing over the corner of the page. After a second to breathe in, he turned to the next two.
They were completely covered in several layers of blackened writing, of some sort of repeated fears, mantras, terrors. Points for immersion, he supposed, although the details of what was written were too obscured for him to make out. Dij huffed, holding the book up to his face, squinting at the pencil scratchings.
He lifted his hand, lighting with magic, before hesitation overtook him. He wasn't one to second-guess his actions, but... something felt off about trying to read what had been so violently etched into the paper.
After another second, Dij lowered his hand to merely turn the page.
"Poor Nothing," Dij mumbled, frowning at the page.
"You feel bad for him?"
"I mean, he shouldn't have wandered away from the Eldest, right? It's his own fault that bad things happened to him. If he'd just listened he wouldn't be cursed."
Dij slowly lifted his head.
At the foot of his bed sat a very small person. They stared up at him with big, wide, innocent eyes and a small mouth, lower lip trembling slightly. Two tiny horns curled around their ears, disrupting their soft green hair.
"What's the matter?" they asked, voice wavering. "Have I upset you too...?"
"Who the fuck are you," he managed, just barely.
"You don't recognize me? I'm Nothing," they squeaked, hiding their face in their hands.
Dij's eyes widened and he sat up straighter, "Oh! Oh, um-" he glanced at the book, then back up at Nothing. "Um? What are you doing in my bedroom?"
"Do you not want me to be here? Oh I've messed up again!"
"Er- no I- uh," Dij blinked as Nothing dissolved into choked sobs and wails. "Uh... hey, hey now, don't cry...?"
"I'm so sorry I've upset you! Please, please forgive me!"
"I- it's okay, it's okay!" he said, awkwardly reaching forwards to pat Nothing's shoulder. His hand glided right through the other, and Dij inhaled sharply. "Er - are you, uh, are you - what would make you feel better?"
Nothing sniffled, peeking up at Dij from between his fingers. "You want to make me feel... better?"
"Yeah!" Dij said, mustering an awkward grin.
"Ah... no one's asked me that before," Nothing said, balling his hands into small fists to rest them on his thighs, staring at the bed as he thought. "Oh... well I feel very poorly right now. Everyone hates me and none of my siblings want to talk to me. Which I understand, but oh, it feels so bad! If only I knew what could come next. Maybe it would give me hope."
Dij blinked at Nothing, before glancing down at the book. "You want me to... keep reading?"
"Oh, please, if you would! Perhaps I figure out some way to help my siblings!"
"You don't know what happens?"
Nothing deflated. "No... I only know as much as you have read."
Dij breathed in, slowly, glancing down at the book. He could feel something tugging on his magic, clinging desperately to it. This book was feeding off his magic, presumably to manifest... one of the characters. Terror was in his system, but he could barely feel the adrenaline. He knew he needed to return to Kolo, fess up he'd stolen the book, and hand it over before anything sinister happened.
But he didn't stop himself from turning the page.
Dijamant flicked his eyes up to Nothing.
The apparition sniffled, tear-filled stare locked onto the sheets. He avoided Dij's look, reaching up to wipe at his eyes instead. Pity welled in Dij, the same kind he felt every time he saw someone cry or sob. It had always been the one key to his heart, the key he'd taken care of to never speak of.
Still, he could muster empathy for the... character in front of him.
"You feeling okay?" he asked, half-heartedly.
"I am not," Nothing said, his voice a little clearer. "I still feel as terribly as before. But now, I can barely speak of it."
"That... sounds like it's miserable."
"It is," he mumbled, clasping his hands together, "please, would you be kind? Would you read on? Perhaps I can become happy later."
Dij rubbed his neck before letting his eyes fall back on the paper. "Yeah... sure, we'll see."
"Oh...." said Nothing, softly.
Dij tried not to look up as he swallowed. Nothing whimpered.
The bed shifted as weight on it moved, Nothing crawling forwards. Dij yelped, scrambling back slightly as Nothing half-paused, one hand in the air, eyes still wide, tears slowly rolling down his cheeks.
"What are you doing?" he squawked.
"I just wanted to... I don't know," Nothing peeped.
Dijamant rubbed his forehead with a free hand. Okay. Okay, he really needed to call Kolo. He needed to clock out of this. Clever bastard, throwing some sort of ghost enchantment on the book so that when Dij stole it he'd learn his lesson. They'd have a laugh after this, for sure. Just close the book and-
A hand came down on his knee.
Dij cracked open an eye to stare at Nothing's palm, resting on his kneecap. Slowly, carefully, Dij reached forwards, placing his hand on top of Nothing's. It was solid, cold to the touch.
"Please don't close the book," Nothing said, voice frantic. "If you close the book I think I'll die and I don't want to! What if I get a happy ending? Please, you have to help me!"
Those words. Dij groaned under his breath, resting the open book against his forehead. Fine. Fine, weird ghost monster. He'd keep reading. Fine. Fine. He peeled the papers from his face and turned the page. This one was glued into the book, a torn-out piece of notebook paper hastily scribbled on.
"I feel hopeful," Nothing said.
Dij patted his head before flipping the page.
"I'm so scared!" Nothing cried, "Will you comfort me?"
"Huh?" Dij glanced up.
Nothing scrambled forwards, burying himself in Dij's side and throwing his arms around him. He nuzzled his face in Dij's chest. "I'm worried about Eldest! Will he be okay? I don't know if I can save him!"
"Keep reading! Please! I need to know!"
Dij awkwardly stared for a few seconds before reaching to string an arm around Nothing's shoulders. He closed his hand around the book once more, creeping dread settled into his spine.
"DIJAMANT I KNOW YOU TOOK A BOOK!"
Dij jumped, tossing the journal upwards in a split second of fear. It landed on the bed, still open to the same page. Kolo banged on the door again, harder this time.
"In FACT, I know WHICH book you took. And if you fucking read THAT ONE I'm going to verbally kick your fucking ass so hard you're going to be bitching to Pere for WEEKS AFTERWARD. I KNOW YOU'RE IN THERE I SENSE YOU DIJ OPEN THE FUCKING DOOR! YOUR STUPID WARDS ARE IN THE WAY!"
"Hang on," Dij called, weakly.
Nothing's hands tightened in his shirt. "What if he comes in? What if he takes me away and we can't figure out my happy ending?"
Dij's head whipped down to the other's tear-filled, soft expression. "That's... don't worry, I won't let him take the book, okay?"
"DIJ, WHO ARE YOU TALKING TO!?"
Dij stood up, scooping up the book to carefully tuck it, open, under his arm. The spine pressed into the underside of his forearm as he turned to smile at Nothing. The other mustered a weak grin back, standing up from the bed and floating slightly above the ground. They'd find that happy ending. They would.
He turned towards the southern wall of his bedroom, to the giant floor-to-ceiling windows that spanned its length. The sun, visible through the glass, cast the room in soft hues as he marched over, grabbing the latch to the backdoor and unhooking it.
Just as Dij pressed on the door and it swung open, a crack resounded from the front of the room. He whipped his head around, eyes wide as he stared down Kolo.
Kolo stared back, breathing heavily, one hand still on the door. Slowly, slowly, his gaze slid down to the book under Dij's arm.
"You did fucking read it," he hissed, half-under his breath. "Dij- Dij just listen to me, give me that book-"
Dij took several paces backwards, free hand coming to cup the book under his arm. "Why?" he challenged, with a growl. "I'm not done reading yet."
"Listen, that's fine, just give me the book, okay?" Kolo stepped forwards.
Dij's hand lit with magic and he bared his fangs, "Don't you dare fucking come closer."
Kolo froze completely, shock and confusion on his face. He leaned backwards, holding up his upper arms defensively. "I- listen, if you're that invested, how about I just tell you the ending?"
Dij looked to Nothing, standing only an arm's length away. He frowned, clasped his hands gently, and shook his head with a deep sadness.
"No," Dij said, firmly, glaring back at Kolo.
Kolo blinked, slowly, concern spreading over his features. "Dij - Dij, who were you looking at?"
"Nothing," he snapped.
"This isn't a time for - oh. OH. Oh fuck, oh shit, Dij, give me the fucking book!"
"No!" he shouted back, snapping his fingers. Fine, if Kolo was going to be so fucking stupid about this, he'd just teleport-
Dij startled at his hand. He snapped again. Nothing happened. He snapped three times. Nothing happened.
"Dij, please," Kolo pressed.
He looked at Kolo.
He looked at Nothing.
He looked behind himself, at the nicely-kept lawn and pool that made up his backyard. He looked at the expanse of empty space beyond that.
"DIJAMANT! WHERE THE FUCK ARE YOU GOING!?" Kolo screamed, tearing after him, but it was to no avail.
Dij vaulted over the fence at the back of his yard, not even bothering to glance at Kolo as he plummeted off the side of the structure and into the emptiness below.
He didn't look up as he fell. He didn't want to. Shakily, he opened the book. He wouldn't hit anything. There was just space around him, space below him. No planets. The only stars here were faintly visible in the distance, glittering galaxies by whose light he could read.
He could feel Nothing's hands, curled in his shirt as he snuggled in close to Dij. "Thank you," he whispered.
Dij nodded, eyes glued to the page.
One page left. One page left. Dij's hand shook as he reached for it, fingers outstretched.
The book slammed shut in his face.
Dij screamed, flailing. His grip on the book slipped and it was wrenched out of his hands. Another pair came down to hold his wrists tightly. He writhed, but he couldn't yank himself free, and his magic still wasn't flowing.
"DIJ!" came a familiar voice.
He tensed, freezing as his brain slowly attempted to process the emotion that was running through his body. Fear? Anxiety? Anxiety? Anxiety??
Him, anxious?! He was never anxious! Why was he anxious? Why did he feel like he was going to puke? Why did he want to burst into tears and scream at the top of his lungs at the same time? Why did everything running through his head feel like it was going to topple him over through sheer frustration and speed?
"Dijamant fucking look at me!"
His bones felt robotic as he cracked his neck to face the source of the voice. Kolo's face stared back, eyes wide, tears dripping down his cheeks. Dij blinked, slowly. Oh, he knew who that was.
What the fuck was going on. What was wrong with him. Anxious. Forgetful? No, that wasn't him. What was-
His eyes slid down, to the book under Kolo's arm.
Oh. Oh? He was... reading that. Why didn't... but... huh.
"Dij," Kolo said, breathless. He cupped the other's cheeks. "Dij, are you okay? Say something!"
"I'm - I'm just fine, babe," he managed, mustering a smile.
Kolo stared at his grin for a few seconds before sighing heavily and resting his head on Dij's shoulder. "Clearly."
Silence rolled through the air for a few seconds. Dijamant stared down at Kolo, at the other's smaller form. Awkwardly and slowly, he reached forwards to wrap his arms around Kolo's back, feeling the other shift and melt slightly into his hug.
He glanced up. Together they floated, aimlessly, in an expanse of space. He could see the speck of his house, far above them. They were no longer falling, merely drifting, two people curled around each other and breathing in slowly as the stars twinkled around them. A certain calmness settled in Dij's chest, replacing the fast-heartbeat anxiety that had rudely set up house.
He'd been reading that book. That really familiar book. That book that had grabbed onto his magic, fed off of it, and
"I'm... I'm glad you're okay," Kolo began, then weakly punched Dij's other shoulder. "Don't go rooting around in my library like that again! Stealing my books, like some sort of child?! Don't be such an asshole!"
"Sorry," he answered, automatically, before his brain caught up. "Actually, wait a second."
"No, you may not finish reading it! Or borrow it! Or borrow any other books!"
"No, that's not what I wanted to say," Dij said, petting Kolo's hair. It was soft to the touch, soft and worn. "Er... man this is going to sound cheesy."
Kolo tilted his head to peer at Dij, distrust evident. "What?"
"I'm really sorry for yelling at you. All the way back when you and Pya came back from looking for Bereave."
Silent tension fell over both of them. Kolo stared for a second longer, breath hitched in his throat. Dij tried to smile.
He let out an oof as Kolo shoved him away, hard, all four arms scrambling to put distance between the two of them. Dij rubbed his sore stomach, half-kneeled over as he warily stared at his partner. Kolo stared back, eyes flicking from Dij's face to the book he still clutched. Just barely visible behind him was his tail, swishing violently.
"How did you figure it out!?" he demanded.
Dij rubbed his forehead before smiling. "Babe, come on, it's obvious. And I was there for half of those events, you know."
"I don't think it's that obvious," Kolo snapped, but there was no conviction in his voice.
"Okay, Kolo, listen," Dij began, spreading out his arms in an invitation to a hug. "Listen. I read like all of that except the last page. Come on."
Kolo stared at his outstretched hands before hissing and leaning away slightly, cheeks tinged pink. "You think that makes this any better?"
"I mean, like, I understand what you were going through and stuff. You know?"
"No, no you don't, and I can't BELIEVE you went behind my back to read this even after I told you NOT TO! You think you can just be buddy-buddy with me after betraying my fucking trust like that? Reading my old fucking journal? You think you can make up for that THIS EASILY?" Kolo screamed.
Dij winced, retracting his hands. "I mean, when you put it that way, no, but I just wanted to... I don't know, express apologetics-"
"-You think you can just waltz around and do that, Dij?" Kolo continued, throwing his arms out to his sides, "You think you can just stick your fucking nose in everyone's business and invade their privacy and expect them to be okay when you try to manipulate their weaknesses against them?"
"I wasn't trying to manipu-"
"Your ego is THAT fucking big that you thought you had the RIGHT to not listen to anything I said, STEAL from me, and then VIOLATE my boundaries, my trust! And then you think you get to comfort me over some stupid fucking old journal you happened to stumble upon? Am I only worthy of your grace and kindness if I'm fucking traumatized and suffering, Dij?!"
Dij hung his head, sucking in a breath before quietly managing, "Is that why you're anxious?"
"I DON'T- what?"
"Is that why you're anxious? Because of what Bereave told... showed you? Is that why you were always so scared of me?"
Kolo blinked, then clenched his hands into fists, "Don't you dare change the subject-"
"-Because if it was I'm really sorry. For feeding into it. Because I can totally see how the way I act sometimes made it worse for you and, like, gave you more reason to be scared. And I'm sorry because I didn't know. Like I didn't get how bad it was. You kept writing about how you could barely look at us because of how anxious you were all the time and the first thing I did when you got back was yell at you. And I never really apologized for that and I never really apologized for every time I kept making you anxious. So, like, go ahead and yell at me and stuff because I was being a major dick."
Dij looked up at him.
Kolo narrowed his eyes, slowly, but his open mouth and furrowed brow spelled confusion rather than anger. He lowered his arms. "What?"
"I'm sorry, Kolo. I'm sorry I made your anxiety worse and didn't treat you nicely. And I'm sorry that I disrespected your boundaries and stuff. I'll stop breaking into your library and I'll tell Pere to knock it off too, okay?"
Dij hugged himself, glancing aside. "Whenever I read the journal, the, uh, book kinda like. Manifested something. I saw the main character. He was just so sad all the time and alone, and he kept wanting me to... basically take care of him, I guess. Fix his problems. Give him a 'happy ending'. And I guess that was how you felt. Or feel, I don't like... really know. But that's how you felt, at least, inside."
Kolo was silent.
"You were always so... I don't know. Strong? Resolute? Something like that. You always seemed to know what you were doing. You had... confidence, I guess. You know I always really liked that about you? I loved how confident you were. And you always were able to back up whatever you were saying. You made it all sound sensical. And like... I never knew you were feeling that way inside. Hurt and stuff. And I always pressed your buttons because I thought it was fun but I really was just hurting you more. I'm sorry, Kolo."
Kolo sniffled. Dijamant looked up, half-hopefully.
Sleeve obscuring his eyes as he wiped the tears, Kolo sniffled again, louder. He leaned into his arm, biting his lower lip, even as his shoulders shook slightly.
"And you never told anyone," Dij said, "And I'm just... I'm sorry. I'm sorry that you felt like you couldn't tell anyone. I'm sorry that you... you felt that all you could do was bottle it up."
"Dij, stop, you're m-making me cry," Kolo whimpered.
Dij held out his arms again. Kolo, shakily, let Dij wrap them around himself and pull him into a hug.
He ran a hand through Kolo's hair, pulling his partner's shoulders closer as a sob overtook him. Kolo sniffled loudly, face hidden in Dij's neck as he bit back more tears.
Buried in his memory was the feeling of holding Nothing, of the other's tear-filled stare, of his sadness and his helplessness and his desperation. Was that what Kolo felt, all of the time? Was that what was running through his mind? Was that what he had to think about, every night he curled up alone?
"It's okay. You can cry."
Kolo shook his head.
Dij frowned, but ran his hand through Kolo's hair once more. The other stilled slightly at the comforting touch, craning slightly into Dij's hand. He sniffled once or twice more before the sobs stalled out, but he remained in Dij's arms. His lower set curled around Dij's waist, the upper pressed against Dij's chest. Neither spoke, the stars above them glittering in their own colors, in their own way.
"...You said you saw the main character?"
Dij nodded against Kolo's head.
There was another long, slow pause. "In real life?"
"Y-yeah. It was weird. They were like a ghost at first but they got stronger the more I read. Did you... I dunno, use magic on the book or something?"
Kolo shifted to pry his face free, although he remained in Dij's lap. He wiped at his eyes again, drawing a shuddering breath. "N-No. But... I did write it when I was very young and couldn't control my magic very well. It wouldn't be out of the question for intense emotions to... infuse desire to the book."
It still sat, tucked under Kolo's arm. Dij avoided looking at it. "Yeah... that sounds about right."
"...What were they like? The main character, I mean."
Kolo avoided saying the name. He was observant enough to notice that; he'd avoid it, too. "Needy, I think's the easiest way to explain it. Just sad and needy. I felt really bad for him. Especially... y'know." Dij coughed. "Did you really-"
"-No and yes," Kolo muttered. "It... it felt that way at the time, some life-crushing depression and anxiety or whatever. But I don't feel that way now."
DIj was silent.
"At least not... as much," Kolo weakly added. Dij stroked his bangs. "I mean, I don't know, I'm fine. Mostly. I'm fine now mostly. Are you just pitying me because you felt bad for the personification?"
"No, no I'm not," he clarified. "I really do care about you. I'm not, like, dating you as a... rebound from Pya or something. I wouldn't do that to you. You actually matter a lot to me."
"...Okay. I'll hold you to that."
Dij grinned. "I expect you to."
Kolo half-smiled, exhaustedly wiping at his eyes again.
"I was the Brave one, right? I got that right, yeah?"
"Yes," Kolo muttered, blushing. "Eldest was Pya, obviously. I wasn't upset enough about any of the others to give them fancy names or some shit. I guess I was... jealous. Fuck, I haven't touched that story in forever, I bet I sounded like some stupid petty jealous bitch in the first few pages."
Dij frowned, tucking Kolo's head under his chin. "You're talking about yourself pretty badly there, babe."
Kolo squirmed slightly. "I mean, it's true. I was being a petty bitch."
"I mean, okay, so what if you were? You were also totally ostracized and got yelled at after you were traumatized. I think you're allowed to feel petty."
Silence. Then: "That's awfully emotionally mature of you, Dij. I didn't know you were capable of that sort of thoughts."
He playfully poked Kolo's arm. "I'm smarter than I seem! Cut me some slack."
"Okay, okay. I guess you're right on that. But that doesn't make me feel any better about the way I felt."
Dij pulled Kolo just a bit closer, just a bit tighter. He stared out into space, into nothing. "Kolo."
"Can you tell me the story? But... without the bullshit and flourishes. Tell me what really happened. Please? I want to understand. I wanna help."
Kolo half-sighed, letting his eyes drift closed. "Yes, you particularly enjoy helping quite often."
"Please? I really want to... do right by you. That means understanding what happened and helping you with that understanding. I promise I'll help."
"...Fine. Do you want me to start from the start-start, or?"
Kolo rubbed his forehead for a second before settling in to Dij's grip. "Okay. I mean, obviously you remember when Genesis and Bereave were still around, and then Bereave went missing, and Pya and you were looking for him on Genesis' behalf. I ended up going with Pya one day and I accidentally found Bereave. Blah, blah, you know what happened."
Dij pet Kolo, gently, biting his lip. He wanted to reassure the other that details were fine, that retelling the story completely was fine, but he'd already pushed quite a bit. It'd be better to stay silent for now.
"Well after that I was so anxious I couldn't, like, cope with anyone. Everyone was scary, because all I could think about was... you guys losing it and just going berserk. And over time those anxieties developed as we did. Like, you became super focused on helping people, and I just got more anxious about, like, you going overboard helping. Going too far. Good intentions and a bad outcome. They grew with me and that was the worst part. And when Genesis left, I just felt terrified. What could I do?
"While you and Pya searched, I stayed behind. A lot of the others came to talk to me about it. I don't know why. I guess by then I'd gotten good at hiding my emotions and they thought I was well-composed or something. They were all scared, but they weren't scared like I was. It didn't keep them up at night forever. It didn't drive them to tears when they were alone. They took the words I said as comfort and then they were pretty okay. Obviously they weren't fine, and maybe this is resentment talking, but - you know.
"And you always knew what you were doing, it felt. I really thought of you as brave and cool. I wrote you into a lot of my early stories... I wanted to be like you. When people said mean stuff about you you just let it roll off your back. I was scared and terrified and awestruck. Anyways... so Pya disappeared, and everything kinda fell into chaos. And I ended up looking for him.
"Bereave was going to kill him. I think Pya wanted answers from him, like, answers about why he'd left, why was he being such a jerk, where did Genesis go. We were so fucking young and stupid back then. Pya was really badly hurt, could barely breathe, when I showed up. And Bereave just laughed at me and told me he'd kill Pya right in front of me, and I panicked, and when he attacked I just. Jumped in the way.
"It's fuzzy after that, really, but I know Pya... basically ripped off his wings and covered me with them. And his magic kinda bled onto me I guess? I don't know, it's confusing. Pya didn't explain well - not that I blame him - and I don't know how it works; I'm assuming it was healing magic or something. So we were both lying there, bleeding out and stuff, and I thought Bereave was going to kill us. But he just stared for a long while and left.
"I remember being able to stand a few hours later. I cleaned up the blood and stuff and I remember helping Pya wipe down his wings, they were covered in blood. He just looked really shellshocked and horrified. I asked what was wrong, and he just asked me how could Bereave do that? How could Bereave betray us and Genesis like that?
"I told him that's just what power does to people. Because that's what Bereave had told me, that was what all my anxiety was about. I told him that power corrupts people if they're not careful, and it drove Bereave nuts. That's the only explanation that made sense to me. But... I think I scared him, because Pya stopped really talking to people after that. Like, I think I started the whole isolation thing he did." Kolo buried his face in Dij's chest. "Ugh, I felt so fucking bad when I realized. Like, my stupid words and feelings did that. Anyways, we came back and didn't tell anyone and just. You know the rest."
Dij breathed in slowly, running a hand through Kolo's hair once more. He kept doing the motion - he couldn't help himself. It was a grounding, soft thing, in this sea of information and feelings he'd never known about before. It was something to cling to.
"I'm sorry if you... h-hate me because of what I did to Pya."
Dij tightened his hug. "Babe, no, that's Bereave's fucking fault. Thank the stars he's long dead. We're gonna be free of both of their stupid existences soon. They're not going to get to torture and hurt us anymore. I'm not silent because I hate you, I'm just... processing."
After a second, he wrapped his arms around Kolo's head to squeeze him tightly. "I'm so fucking sorry, Kolo. I'm sorry. I'm sorry I got mad at you, I'm sorry I pushed your buttons."
"I know but I feel even worse knowing all this!"
"I didn't mean to make you feel-"
"It's not your fault! If I just hadn't been a dick we wouldn't be in this situation in the first place."
Kolo shifted slightly. "I... mean, I guess I wouldn't have told you this if you hadn't found the book."
Dij paused, then hid his face in Kolo's hair. "I mean, yeah, babe. But still."
"I'm... not really that angry with you."
"It... felt nice to talk about it, actually. Like really talk about it. I'm still a little upset but I'm not... angry. I'm... kind of glad you took the book. Because I don't know if I could've said all that if I didn't know you already had read it all. And this feels... nice. It's like I can breathe again."
"I'm - I'm glad," Dij managed, grinning down at Kolo.
The other couldn't quite meet his eyes, but he smiled shyly all the same. "Yeah. S-so. Don't take that as an invitation to steal more of my books. Okay?"
"I'm not, I'm not! But..."
Kolo looked up.
"If writing is easier for you to talk though, or express yourself, could you show me more of your writing? So I can help and stuff. Maybe it'll be easier for yo- us. Like talking isn't for everyone, y'know? It's for me though, cause MAN do I blabber on and on, huh?"
Kolo half-laughed, wiping his mouth off. "Not right away. And I get to pick what you read. But... maybe I can do that."
"I also promise to tell Pere to leave your books alone."
Dij lifted Kolo up into the air, letting magic brim before teleporting them both onto his bed. They flopped, punctuated by Kolo yelping as he landed on several pillows. Dij quickly brushed the book off the bed, out of sight.
"Dij!" he squeaked as the other threw a blanket over him. "You can teleport now?"
"Yeah, I guess my magic's back," he remarked, experimentally stretching out a hand and curling his fingers. "Wonder how that whole mess worked?"
"Stars, I wish I knew. Apparently my writing just birthed a creature."
Dij laid down next to Kolo, wrapping an arm over his back and wriggling under the blankets. "Eh, we'll figure it out later. You, sir, are getting some rest."
"But I didn't even-"
"I totally stressed you out all day. You had to cut your meeting with Ren short! The least I can do is make sure you get plenty of rest after that. And then maybe after you'll bring me some stories?"
Kolo pouted, but nodded, tucking his head into a pillow. "It's strange to talk about them. I didn't... intend to share them with anyone, really."
"Well I think you're a fantastic writer. I love your style!"
"Augh," Kolo squeaked, hiding his cheeks, "no, you've only read the journal. That was when I was basically a teenager! It's absolutely horrible!"
"Oh, you mean you're even better than that?"
"I guess you'll have to show me more of your modern works then!" Dij said, with all too much pride in his voice.
Kolo peeked at him from between two fingers. "You villain."
"Maybe I am! But i'm your villain." he kissed Kolo's hand. "And I'm going to try to be better. For your sake. Because you matter to me, okay? You're not nothing."
Kolo hid his face again, but the blush had already travelled around past his hands. He buried himself into the pillow further, a muffled "okay" managing to eek its way out. Dijamant smiled at him before curling overtop, wrapping both an arm and a leg (and maybe the majority of his torso) on Kolo.
He was going to make sure things were different this time around. Different and better. For both of their sakes.