January 27th, 12:41 AM
Outside Asterion Dormitory
Outside Asterion Dormitory
The boy cocked a brow at Karen's words, but didn't let his trademarked smirk falter as he responded.
"Well, can't fault you on that. You know more than anyone I'm not exactly the world's greatest authority on having a decent sleep schedule." Mal replied as the blonde lamented her hard time getting some shut eye, though his head tilted to the side slightly at her apparent surprise that he hadn't let up at all in his exercise routine, fixing her with an expression ‘Really?’ ”...And this is the only body I have. So whether I’m working or not, I might as well keep it in working order.”
And to be fair, it wasn’t like he was really following his usual routine.
...He didn’t have a sparring partner, or a building to jump off of, after all.
”Yeah,” she said, folding her arms.
Moving to the short flight of stairs at the entrance of her dormitory, she cautiously sat down on them as if she might accidentally fall back into a deep pit if she wasn’t careful. Staring up at Malcolm, she gestured for him to sit.
”Human bodies really do require a lot of maintenance, don’t they?” she muttered, shaking her head. ”Constant cleaning, constant eating, constant sleeping, among other annoying things, just to keep something so fragile running.”
A slight snort escaped the lad at that.
”You make it sound like a chore.” Malcolm noted, taking the offered seat beside her and allowing his gym bag to flop to the ground in front of him with a definite thud. ”...But I don’t particularly recall you ever complaining when I was grilling lobster tails for ya... and I certainly don’t recall you having any gripes about passing out on my couch, snuggled up with the dogs.”
The boy shot her another quirked brow as he reached into his bag and pulled out two cans of somesort of Atlantean post-workout drink, dropping one in her lap in a show of ‘Just drink it, damn you.’
”You could forego hygiene though, if ya really wanted… but I’d be the first to tell you that ‘Dreadlocks and no Teeth’ would be a pretty bad look for you.”
Karen twisted the cap, listening to the hiss of the air escaping with a slight frown. ”You act like I can’t eat good food when I want to as Lady Arcana,” she noted.
”Do you?” Mal interjected
She glanced over to him. ”Well...no, I don’t suppose I have. Not since I haven’t had to pretend I was an adult, at least.”
Mal just kinda stared at her at that, Kasimir brow raised in full force but saying nothing.
”Karen- When was the last time you actually ate something?” It was worded as a question, but for all intents and purposes may as well have been an accusation.
Karen blinked at his question, briefly glancing up at the artificial twilight above. Of course, the answer was the same as just about everything to do with her having a normal, human life. ”...About eight months ago.”
She hadn’t eaten all day, now that she thought about it. She had been ignoring the slowly building ache in her gut this entire time.
”I was… too focused on settling in.”
That put a frown on Mal’s face, as he twisted the cap to his drink back on and set it down by his side. Resting his forehead in his hand for a second before settling on just pinching the bridge of his nose in lieu of an outright facepalm.
”...And am I going out on a limb here and assuming that you haven’t slept, moved or otherwise done anything that doesn’t immediately involve being the Wizard in eight months either?”
Karen shook her head. ”No. I’ve been staying in the Rock of Eternity, so I had no real need to do anything of the sort.”
After all, she had retreated there to get away from her life. Granted, she hadn’t intended to do so for eight months. Two or three weeks had been what was in her head at the time, she recalled. She had never been Lady Arcana for more than a day or two before that, and after the first month had passed she felt...different.
She felt numb.
”And in those eight months, you decided that sleeping, eating and being around other people was somehow below you?” The younger teen asked, brows raised.
Karen glanced down at her drink. ”...Yes. In a sense. I felt like such things were insignificant next to my duties.”
A low, eerily Zoey-like hum rattled in the boy’s throat at that as he stared his sister in all but name down. Karen might not recall it right now, but Mal’s memory was just as sharp Arcana’s, perhaps even moreso in some ways.
...And boy, did he remember that instant hostility he was met with when calling her over the scrying stone, though it would do no good to bring that up now.
”So, what made you decide it was time to pump the brakes, then?” He finally asked with a frown as he leaned back on the steps and his eyes turned upwards towards the artificial sky. ”...I know it couldn’t have been something like that insignificant talk you had with an insignificant guy like me.”
Karen returned his frown, looking away from him and the dormitory. She still hadn’t taken a sip from her drink yet. ”You said ‘what we become when we forget who we are is not worth the sacrifice’.”
”You saying that...it made me think,” she admitted, ”think about all the things that once mattered to me, but no longer did. I still refused to kill, but it was more about adhering to my personal doctrine rather than actually…caring.”
Karen then finally raised her drink and took a long gulp from the can. Swallowing the sugary drink with a heavy sigh, she continued. “After close to two weeks of dwelling on it, I realized that something had dramatically changed inside of me. By no longer caring about my own happiness, I ceased to care about the happiness of others. As long as I didn’t break my code, that was all that mattered.”
The boy’s eyes slowly found their way over to Karen, an unreadable expression coming across his features as she all but emptied out her heart right there in front of him. To his credit, it wasn’t the typical Kasimir brow or Zoey-ish, throaty hum that made up his reply, but rather the chorus of joints and the remnants of old bone-breaks crackling and popping as he calmly sat back up, wrapped a tired arm around the girl’s shoulder and gently pulled her close, resting his head against her own as he did so.
It really was impossible to stay mad at her.
”...Goddammit, Karen.” Malcolm finally stated, his voice somewhere between a laugh and an exhausted sigh. ”You are just the biggest pile of complications that ever was, ain’t’cha?”
For a brief moment, he simply stayed like that, before he finally released her with a gentle messing of her hair as he got to his feet with a slight grunt.
”Ya might wanna save that drink for later- on an empty stomach, you’ll be out cold in half an hour.” The Kasimir ward explained simply, rolling his shoulder in a familiar motion to relieve the pressure from an old injury from years back. ”And we’ve clearly got some things to do.”
Karen felt a distinct, fuzzy warmth in her chest when Malcolm laid his head against hers. It brought back memories of when they were kids; happy memories. She hadn’t felt a sensation like that since she withdrew to the Rock.
”Tonight?” she asked, glancing over to him. ”Aren’t most places closed by this hour?”
Granted, who knew if Atlantean society had the same rules or regulations that the surface did? ”And where exactly do you want to go?”
”When I was down here with Vanguard after the civil war, we had more than a few late nights. So we’d always wind up crawling back to the same restaurant after work to stuff our gullets so we could skip breakfast the next day.” Mal explained with a little shrug as he picked up his bag. ”One of our paramedics had the misfortune of falling head over heels in love with the owner, and, after jumping through a truly insane amount of legal hoops and laws that actually had to be written for the occasion, became Atlantis’ very first double-citizen when he married her.”
Mal shot Karen a wry grin at that, almost daring her to turn him down.
”So, incidentally, I have a lot of coupons that need redeeming. And a friend who just told me she hasn’t eaten in eight friggin’ months.”
Karen remained silent for a long moment, made all the more striking by the eerie stillness that permeated Atlantis at night. She would probably never get used to that--it just didn’t feel natural to her, the absence of weather despite technically being “outside”.
Shaking her head slowly, Karen stood. ”Alright. I can’t claim that I’m not hungry. Lead the way.”
In all honesty, her stomach ache was starting to get a little unbearable at this point. It would become a distraction if she didn’t do something about it.
A snort followed Karen’s acceptance of her culinary fate.
”Trust me, you’ll sound a lot less resigned about it once you taste Atlantean cuisine.” Mal explained offering out his hand to help Karen up ”I’m particularly fond of the strawberry shakes.”