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located in The Masquerade Ball, a part of Misguided Ghosts: A Promise, one of the many universes on RPG.

The Masquerade Ball



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For a moment past the mangled apology and the strange silence that followed, Ian remained frozen, as though he really had been stilled to a photograph. In truth, he did not find any of what had been said all that strange; he had never been one to take the possible entendre for anything but the artistic connotation, and frankly he was slightly flattered. He had never known many artists, nor had he thought his extension to be particularly worth note. It was, to him, just what it was, which was rather odd for him. But then, if the world had color, Ian was the shades of grey. His magnificent impressions were always of the external, never of himself.

The perfect lack of motion was interrupted only after that, when his lips curled upwards into the slightest of smiles. She was serene colors, this girl, blues and violets and indigos. It was quiet, a nocturne for the evening drifting tunefully from the tensed strings of a mellow instrument. “Think nothing of it,” he replied, turning around properly this time. “I quite often say things that don’t come out as they should.”

Ian looked up at the house. From where he was standing, it was still a marvel of architecture, that much was certain. Exhaling softly, he turned his attention back to his fellow quiet-seeker, for in his mind this was the most likely reason for coming out here in the first place. Shame, then, that he felt nearly compelled to speak. “You might not make such a bad photograph yourself, you know. I have little knowledge of such things, but… the composition is interesting.” He thought that was the word anyway, even if it did feel a bit strange on his tongue in this context. It was, truly; the greatgrand house, the veranda framing an off-center bench occupied by a solitary individual. The proportions and equations that drifted through his head were harmonious, a natural balance, counterpoint in concert.

The woman herself, he supposed, was not terribly extraordinary-looking in terms of the sorts of things people looked for; a sweep of flesh, a delicate feature or assemblage of them. But these were not what he saw, and so instead, it seemed to him that the image was quite divine. What better hues for an evening than the duskycalm ones?

Running a hand through goldsilver hair, the manwhosawmath looked down at his own feet, suddenly certain that there was nothing more to say. Which was strange, for he had neither asked for her name nor given his own. He knew nothing of her, nor she of him, and he was for once content with nothing. The number zero was not merely emptiness, but infinite possibility, contained neatly in nonexistent multitudes played on the edges of mindscapes, teasing the attentive with what might be beyond that which was fully comprehensible. It was a world in which he dwelled more frequently than he should- in possibility, reality is not yet manifest, but reality was for those who knew certitude. Ian was no such soul. He knew only sometimes, maybe, perhaps, probability, sense-data, subjectivity, number. Nothing was certain, only alive. And in the difference, there was beauty, he was almost positive.

Behaving more bravely than he felt, he looked back up, tilting his head to one side in the manner of some kind of ephemeral bird. “Perhaps… your mind might care to take the photos of the garden?” In his own way, he supposed, he was inviting her to walk with him, but the question was laced with genuine curiosity. What made an image worth a picture, or that mass quantity of words people were given to assign such things? He did not know, but she might.

Mischa, overall, was thoroughly enjoying herself. Her profession was much more stressful than most people would guess, and to say that her personal life had been without difficulty would be a mistake most grave indeed. But something about this place made it terribly easy to forget that and lose yourself in the moment, something that she had always striven for but rarely truly enjoyed. The company was delightful, the atmosphere light, the music heavenly in her ears. Life was good to her tonight.

Or at least she would have thought so. Golden eyes passed by the entranceway smoothly, at least until they hitched on the last sight she had ever expected to see again. Or, more properly, something she had never thought she’d see when awake. The pleasant warmth in her blood ran cold, and Mischa froze, eyes wide and unblinking.

It was truly unfair, the way her heart still pulled at the sight of him. It was something in the way he carried himself; it always had been. Mischa couldn’t talk- words were of little consequence. Carriage, body language, walking the walk: these were the things which could seize her. Everything about that predatory stalk screamed danger, a barely-contained explosion just waiting for an excuse to send everything around him to hell. It was the tread of someone who spat in the face of the devil himself, and it had agonizingly retained its enrapturing quality. He was painful hard edges and she was a masochist, addicted and fraught with not one iota of shame for any of it. He was fangs and she claws, he was the sting of a lash on tender skin.

She had loved even this. Or perhaps especially this; that she was the person who could endure the blows until she’d found that soft, unprotected place beneath the razor edges of despicable rage. She’d seen him cry, and pressed his forehead to hers and stroked his hair. She’d watched all the thunder and lighting of the storm abate and leave nothing but melancholy rain when it was worn down beyond a moment’s repair. She knew this man, and she’d thought she’d left him behind, with his poisonous tongue and flaring temper. She’d conditioned herself to bear his tempestuousness, until the lashes met nothing but steel, glancing off as nothing.

How foolish, to presume that she’d never be forced to prove it. She didn’t feel her body again until after his fist had met with Mike’s face, and this was all her fault. It was always her fault. She made him angry, she was to blame, and this was her burden to bear. So many times, so very many moments had been consumed with nothing but this thought- that she was the one at fault for his indiscretions. For how could she think otherwise? This man needed nobody, was attached to nobody, and so had no reason to become upset.

She had realized the flaw in her own logic too late. By then, she’d been so in love with that tiny spark of softness that she may well have invented that she’d devised any excuse to lay the blame anywhere but with him. No longer.

Mischa stood and crossed the ballroom in swift strides, interposing herself between the two men, facing him with flashing, angry eyes, flinty-hard and bound not to make it apparent that she was not so steely as she needed to be. His behavior was inexcusable, and it was not her fault. She was allowed to have a life without him, just as he was allowed to live after her. It was not her fault, not her responsibility. Skin on skin, toxic kisses. No. Not her fault.

She was trying to convince herself. She knew this. What she did not know was whether or not she was succeeding.