[P] the thunder that's breaking in your heart

Word Count → ??? :: the one in which Malik Has Regrets (set like a day after this thread while Jeff is MIA)

The air of listless uncertainty clung tightly to their little group. Nobody talked much today; Their eyes passed over one another, unconnecting. Besides, nobody knew quite what to say.

It wasn't the first time the Troupe had brushed by violence. Their very foundation was built on a punch thrown by a thief. The road was long, and unforgiving even to a self-made family of miscreants. Hadn't Mal learned that in his own way? Some nights, when the air was dry and cold, his ribs still ached.

But this... This was not the same, not the same at all.

All day Indis and the bonesetter stayed in that little room, behind closed doors. All day the Troupe made as though to go about their business - hands moving in familiar motions, washing-brushing-stirring-folding - but nothing much seemed to get done.

For his part, the bard tried to stay out of everyone's way. A melancholy had begun to descend on him. He'd felt it coming all night like one feels an oncoming monsoon, mind wet and heavy with clouds, thoughts dense with precipitation. In this fog he observed his own motions, detached from his body. He held the lute but did not play it. He stood by Mondo's head but did not sing.

Jethro still hadn't come back. Every time he looked over to the absence where the coyote's horse should have been tethered his stomach clenched with vertigo, as though he were standing on a great height. Even the sight of the orange cat, wailing about questionably, made spots dance at the corners of his eyes.

He could not eat. The bowl of stew Cook put in his hands cooled and grew a greasy skin.

For a long time he sat and did nothing, nothing at all.

Then - bang! - a door flew open, and striding with great vigor across the yard was Adina, her short hair bristling like a wildcat's mane.

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She blamed Indis.

It was the blonde woman who’d slaughtered strangers; violent strangers, perhaps, but strangers nonetheless. With another at the helm—Calrian, maybe, who could charm birds from the sky, or Sawyer, who just talked a lot—the result may have been different.

She treated the Dreamer’s minor injuries, all the while sifting through her preconceived notions about the woman. Not a fairy-tale girl, no; she was something, someone, you had nightmares about. As their healer she did her duty, but no one could ask more of her beyond that. She did not have to trust, like, or approve of what the butcher had done.

Just as she did not have to approve or like what Malik had done. The Troupe was largely comprised of dogs and wolves, or hybridizations of those things, and did not understand that in their hurried rush to judgement they had wronged the coyotes among them, that the ground they walked upon did not belong to them, that the Schoolhouse never should have been defiled in this way.

Lady Luck, they said, and Adina bristled all over.

She blamed Malik, too.

Her thoughts gathered slowly over the course of the day, ravens come home to roost one by one, amassing a great black cloud of swirling discontent. While she made the blue-eyed woman a potion to bring dreamless sleep, she listened to Flea’s caterwauling, her hands moving through the thoughtless gestures while her eyes tracked the orange tomcat across the yard.

Having discharged her duty, she swept from the small building with purpose. He’d been there all day, moping, as if he were somehow the injured party in this. If only; she might have felt bad for him, then.

Weak, she thought, he’s so weak.

Malik, Adina rumbled, the rustle of a thousand ravens. She didn’t know what he’d done, if anything, but she was going to find out. Her mouth was moving, her black lips making shapes, but there was no sound.

It was easy for the twins to succumb to rage. It had been with them for as long as they could remember. A constant companion alongside other familiar friends like pestilence, blinding hunger, fear of death, it was what had kept them alive.

what did you say to him, Malik? Her voice was dangerous, her hands were at his collar, insisting that he tell her.

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"We’ve established what you are, now we’re just haggling over the price"
He didn't want to hear his name, said by her in such a voice, but there it was - Malik! - and he cringed at it, in spite of himself.

There was nowhere to avoid Adina, not with her stare so fixed upon him, so Mal stood dumbly as she marched up into his space. Her anger was palpable in the quiet stillness of the yard. Even the birds fell quiet, as though they too wished to be audience to his scolding.

She was surprisingly tall - and strong - for a coyote woman. When her hands grabbed the collar of his workshirt the bard was pulled a step forward roughly, stumbling on clumsy feet eager to disobey. "Wh-" He started numbly, but she snarled a question that was worse than a punch to the gut, cutting straight through to the source of his listless guilt.

"Nothing," He said morosely, but everybody knew that Malik was terrible at lying. The bonesetter started to shake him then, back and forth, his head lolling with the motion. "I just - Adina, he was -" Her anger left no room for the excuses that wanted to spill out of him.

So instead his eyes welled up with tears, great big fat droplets that sparkled in the sunlight and betrayed him by running damp tracks over his white cheeks. "It was a mistake," He told the woman, who had paused her ruthless interrogation perhaps to hear the words, or perhaps because her arms were beginning to tire of tossing him around like a limp ragdoll, "He was holding the axe when I - When I got there, and it was - covered in blood, and," Malik's face began to collapse into sorrow, "How could I have known it was Indis?" He choked out a sob, "I mean, Indis, really?"

Had Jethro left because of what he'd said? Was it his fault? The coyote had only ever been friendly to him, gracious even in his own gruff way - had that single moment of incredulous horror ruined it all?

Properly wallowing in his self-indulgent woe now, Malik began to openly cry.
She couldn’t stop shaking him even when the exertion began to make her arms ache. She wasn’t hurting him, exactly; not punching him, kicking him, stabbing him, but the physicality of it was cathartic enough.

Adina didn’t want to hurt him anyway, it went against everything she stood for, everything she’d worked for.

Despite that, the way Malik spoke—indicating that Indis was a far less likely culprit than Jethro—did nothing but fan the flames; everything did these days. Her head ached terribly, her oft-remembered hunger revived itself (spat in her face, really, with this awful, anxious nausea), and everyone looked at her as if wondering whether she would disappear too.

We're here too, Jethro had said when she’d asked him if it bothered him that the crew was thinking of staying here.

I’ll be here when you get back, she’d said that when he’d left.

“Don’t you even realize what you did?” She half-yelled, half-sobbed in his face, so great and terrible was her anger. “I just got him back, Malik,”

Pushing him away from her, disgusted with him, with herself, she whirled to face the door, refusing to allow another soul, especially one as pitiful as the Amaranthe see her cry.

“I just got him back and now he’s gone because of you!” She'd never heard her voice so loud before.

She wanted to swear at him, to beat him like Galilee would, or Marlowe, or anyone else, and yet her arms were stiff at her sides now, refusing to move. Turning her head slightly to glare at him, she wondered if he knew she wouldn’t hit him, or he’d assume she would because she was a… a filthy coyote, or whatever he thought.

Punch him.

Hurt him.

Her head was pounding.

When she spoke again her voice was a little more even, and measures more dangerous: “What did you say to him Malik?”
"We’ve established what you are, now we’re just haggling over the price"
  • [+WC] ---
Through the film of his own misery, Malik could see some small glimpse of Adina's. She was a private person, and kept everything she owned but her God close to her chest; This was an oddity in the Troupe, where everybody seemed to be in eachother's pockets most of the time.

But some big hurts were impossible to hide under the small canvas of a face.

For all his many flaws, Malik was very perceptive when it came to the emotions of others.

His mouth forming a wobbly 'o', the bard almost crumpled when she abruptly let go his shirt-collar. Without her anger to hold him up, his legs felt like lead, and his stomach writhed as though full of worms. Still his own sadness, a chemical and innate thing, seemed small and pathetic compared to what he had seen in the tiny sliver that Adina could not keep under her skin.

"It wasn't like that," He pleaded, needing her to know that the unspoken things she thought of him were false. The persecution she and her brother had faced was unlike anything he'd ever known. How could he have contributed to that suffering?

Oh, the irony of how their thoughts ran in tandem, if sick with different ills! He wished she'd punch him too.

"It wasn't because of - I don't, I'm not - I saw the axe-" His thoughts didn't seem to make sense. She'd shaken his brain loose, he thought, feeling sick to his stomach. This is my fault. This is my fault. This is my fault!
The words he’d shared with her brother and Jethro running away were not separate events in her mind, nor were they merely connected. If Indis’ axe-murderer tendencies had been the cause, that alone wouldn’t have caused this; it was the malignment, so familiar, that caused her such irreparable grief.

Looking at him, she realized he wasn’t just weak; he was selfish. All this crying, for what? She’d shaken him like a ragdoll, yes, but she hadn’t physically hurt him. The waterworks, the blubbering, what was that? A smokescreen, she thought, a wordless excuse—plea, really—not to hurt him any further.

What did he know of pain, of her pain, of Jethro’s pain? Had anyone ever raised a hand to him?

She thought not.

“You disgust me, Malik,” Adina seethed, cutting him off, the pupils in her eyes sharpening to pinpricks. It was cathartic somehow, saying his name over and over and over, making him own his mistakes. “tus excusas, tus lamentos.”

Her mouth curled, her repugnance writ all over her otherwise pretty face; it’d never caused her anything but trouble. Seemingly unaware that she’d slipped momentarily into Spanish, she continued in English: “get out of my sight, Malik Amaranthe.”

She sounded like a mother—not his mother, certainly, but someone’s—laying down the law in her house.

Get out, get out, get out.
"We’ve established what you are, now we’re just haggling over the price"
  • [+WC] can finish up here! <3
Her words were a knife, cutting cleanly through the tremulous sound of his own pathetic voice.

Then she spoke in Spanish, and this was worse somehow. It was as if they were his mother's words, his mother's contempt; Stepping back as though from a physical blow, Mal felt the static rush in like a tide to fill his mind with pops and crackles.

Adina was still speaking, her lips twisted with terrible contempt. Having never been hated before by someone, the bard experienced this with a dull kind of terror. He was afraid of the way his ears buzzed, of the pressure that felt like it would burst his eyeballs out from his head. He was afraid of the things it made him want to do - not to others, but to himself.

He'd felt this way only once before.

When she commanded him out! he went, in a daze. The stormclouds clustered in his skull and made his body a vessel of rain. He thought about walking to the ocean, but it seemed too far away, like he'd never get there in time. In the end, driven by a basal need to take shelter, he found the big white steer and crawled underneath it's rotund belly, like a child might.

Then he hid his face in his hands, and tried to hold all the water in.

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