<Nemi> Madeline and Katlyn's shared apartment. The door's been shut for a long while; Katlyn off on some class trip and Madeline nowhere to be found. The paper sign and 'draw anything' whiteboard remains as it was, tattered and curling at the edges with time and wear.
<gumbal1> Nowhere to be found. Luckily, Leah's heavily in denial about the potential of something really fucking bad happening, and decides on paying a visit anyways. She's…very good at hiding stress, nowadays. It's a few short knocks, followed by a bit of dread that nobody's gonna be home.
<Nemi> The photographs of good times, friendship and love pasted to the sign reading Madeline! & Katlyn, seem terribly faded. The little inspirational messages and drawings are nearly unreadable through smudging and general wear. Amazingly, the door opens, a pair of brown eyes peeking out behind a curtain of black hair. Only one person like that..
<gumbal1> "…hey, Mads. Everything…alright?" No. The answer was clearly no, and Leah knew it. But it was really the only thing she felt comfortable asking right about now.
<Nemi> ".. hi Leah." Madeline's voice is dull, uninterested, and muted as if coming from somewhere very far away. "I'm okay. Do you wanna come in?"
<gumbal1> "…yeah, sure." Never a good sign. Thankfully she hadn't demanifested completely, but Leah wasn't too sure about anything right about now. "…so, I'm baking for Cin and Jon's wedding, and I was wondering if you wanted to help."
<Nemi> ".. baking..? .. there's a wedding?" Madeline actually looks confused more than anything, as if the prospect that someone would want her to contribute to- anything, really- was utterly foreign. ".. why would you want me?"
<gumbal1> "Come ooooon, everyone stole the food you made back when we had the communal kitchen. They love it." Luckily, though, Leah had come prepared with a few…essentials. Hopefully Mads would, once Leah somehow wormed her way into that particular convo topic, be willing to try some wonderful emotions such as anything but whatever this was. Her bag is set down beside the couch, where she proceeds to sit.
<Nemi> Madeline shuts the door behind Leah and follows her to the couch, where she hardly looks before just plopping down and hugging her knees. She's in her pajamas and seems utterly rumpled, with none of the care she normally put into herself. She even recedes away from Leah, despite ostensibly sharing the couch, to shrink into the corner between armrest and chair back. ".. why would they
<Nemi> love anything from me?" Still disaffected. Not even upset, just kind of hollow.
<Nemi> The room is as ever, vaguely artsy, with more of a Katlyn touch. Some original art on the walls, some photographs.
<Nemi> Madeline, oddly, isn't visible in any of them.
<gumbal1> ~rope~ "…come on. It's…your cooking's great, Mads." This wasn't normal in the slightest. Madeline was always a little more animated in her self-hatred, and somehow, the lack of force behind it just sortof made it worse. Far worse. "…you okay?"
<Nemi> ".. everything just- tastes like nothing. I don't think anybody, like.. wants that." Her eyes do, at least, swivel over to Leah. ".. I'm fine."
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<gumbal1> This was not something people who were fine said. "Mads, I've…had your cooking, and it's great. I don't…something's wrong, please just…tell me."
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<Nemi> There's a little 'pop' from Madeline's jaw joint, and she quivers. It was one thing to tell Cammy, whom she'd hardly seen and would be- wounded? Less? By it. ".. I'm- /fine/." But she /should/ tell Leah. Shouldn't she? Just- drop everything on this girl who's- who doesn't deserve to deal with her. Shouldn't have to.
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<gumbal1> "…Madeline." Leah's tone grows…unusually serious. ELP meanwhile manifests, to scoop away at the air of the apartment, coming up with a general, gooey residue of the past few days of solitude. "I really, really want to help you." ELP brings it right up to Leahs face, to examine a bit more closely. "You haven't responded to any of my tests." And for that matter, neither had Athene. Something had to be going on.
<Nemi> The psychic residue is- painful. Disgusting, even, filled with dripping self-hatred and a desire for self-punishment. Madeline grimaces. ELP means she can't hide it- Leah'd just pick it out together. Might as well make it easy and stop resisting. Maybe it'll be over with faster. She lifts her head, looks Leah right in the face, and says three short words, plain and disinterested but
<Nemi> hitting like a knife.
<gumbal1> Immediately incinerated. This stuff is harmful…oh. Oh. A few things flash on Leah's face, in quick succesion. Anger. Fear. Worry. Pity. Cycle through that a few times, and you get the general gyst of what Leah was feeling. What remained of the unincinerated goop suddenly begins changing colors rapidly, as if to match her emotional states. Dripping to the floor, it…spiritual stains are hard to remove.
<Nemi> Madeline just stares at Leah before her gaze falls to the stain in the floor. She says nothing.
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<gumbal1> There's a lot of things Leah wants to ask. Who, first, foremoest, and ashamedly. If she's alright, secondly, even if the answer is clear in Leah's head. If she needs anything, which she does, but, in typical Madeline fashion, will completely and utterly deny, perhaps to her own benefit considering what things tended to do to her. All Leah manages is a steady, if slightly shaky breathing.
<Nemi> Denial and fleeing, ever the Madeline answer. But how can you run when the wrong is inside you? She rocks slowly in place. Her toy rabbits, Leah'd have noticed, are actually in her arms, hugged tightly and buried in the folds of her too-large sweater the whole time.
<gumbal1> The stains on the carpet are…Act 2 and 4 are a precarious thing. Soul energy in the right place creates life. It's just…creating life isn't always a good thing, especially not when the vile, putrid mix of negative emotions begins soundlessly crawling across the floor. "…Madeline…" All she really knows how to say, for now.
<Nemi> And Madeline, still with that strange disinterest, watches the sludgy mass of horror writhe. Disinterest melded with fascination. ".. what is that?" She asks, voice still flat.
<gumbal1> "…I don't know." It's not happened before. Usually, in this situation, Leah would just…okay, now her fingernails are starting to blacken. Nine at once, save her right thumb. "Madeline, I…who did…do you need anything?"
<Nemi> ".. I wish I could be clean again." And even still, dull and disinterested.
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<gumbal1> …you know, Leah doesn't quite remember it fully, but she was pretty sure that, somewhere in the Vanilla Ice fight, the narrator concluded that Iggy's actions, or, more specifically, his stand's, were done not out of a concious effort, but because his spirit wanted it, and his spirit, being his stand, simply went with it. It's been over the past few months that Leah's transitioned from joking that ELP is her stand, to actually acting a
<gumbal1> s such, to actually believing it herself. And with that…well, there's some of the less glamorous parts of it as such. To borrow concepts from a highly discredited but still technically invaluable member of the psychological community, what happened next totally and utterly went against Leah's Ego, as she did not want to distress Madeline any more than she had been distressed. Her Superego, too, would have noted that the following acti
<gumbal1> on would have been quite unnecessary and, indeed, potetnially counterproductive to the recovery process. But her Id…her Id had been there, ont he day she wondered why Nina hadn't wished her a happy birthday, or even come to school in the first place. Her Id had seen the effect of stress on Chris, on Ellie, on Katlyn, and yes, on Madeline, plenty of times. And her Id was afraid, and very, very powerful. ELP seemingly manifests on her o
<gumbal1> wn, though her form is indistinct; less an antlered woman in a ballgown, more a blue cloud vaguely stealing that shape at times. And it was afraid, and very, very powerful. Before Leah can hope to react, it tears through the air, towards Madeline, to rip the nightmares, the horrors, right off of her soul, like a heated tong to a psychic tick. Leah tried reining it back in. But the Id remembered, and couldn't quite thing straight. For it
<gumbal1> was afraid, and very, very powerful.
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<Nemi> And there's nothing Madeline can do to stop it. Staring at the blob of negativity oozing on the floor, she's caught entirely by surprise by the blurry cloud that was the incarnation of Leah's Id. Her rabbits, clutched tight to her, are sent into the air as she tumbles off the couch with a cry. And for all her abilities, her flexibility and her power over dreams, she has no defense at
<Nemi> something tearing into the essence of her soul. She falls from the couch, almost landing in the sludgy mass, writhing as much as the boneless thing as her very corporeal form distorts under ELP's ethereal hands.
<gumbal1> It gets far. Too far. It only targets the bad parts, sure, but Madeline feels it, even as Leah works to pull it off. Mere seconds feel as minutes, but finally, the blueish cloud, dripping with a myriad of sludgy colors, is yanked off of Madeline. If Leah were wearing open-toe shoes, she might've noticed that her toenails have blackened as well as her right thumb.
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<Nemi> As ELP's dragged away, trailing oozing essence, it takes- a good volume of Madeline with it. She snaps back into shape in almost comical fashion, quivering on the floor with her toy rabbits, but seems- less whole, somehow. ELP's claws dug deep, because the 'bad parts' went far. Very, very far.
<gumbal1> It's a quick look back and forth, between Madeline and…Madeline. It's…pretty obvious why this was a bad idea in the first place. If you took away the bad part of a human, all your left with is an incolplete, puppety meatbag, and what is essentially a Remnant, for all intensive purposes. "J…drop the fu-d-drops the thie…ELP just drop it already." ELP complies, as the uprooted bad bits of Madeline fall to the ground with a simple p
<gumbal1> lop. And with that, Leah just…freezes. An odd numbness seems to wash over her. It's almost like eshe's losing sense…well, there's no more fingernails left to rot, are there, so it's only natural it starts going…elsewhere.
<Nemi> And the little remnant of Madeline, clinging to her rabbits amidst tears and filth, makes not a single sound, not conscious enough to even consider protecting herself (had she the desire) or her friend.
<gumbal1> "ELP, put it…put her back togeth-together, i-if you would." Her voice, by now, is horribly faint, as ELP makes a valiant, if not particularly as powerful as she should be, effort to do just that. Leah, meanwhile, just sort of collapses on the couch.
<Nemi> It's a valiant effort, certainly. But humans are complicated things, especially when your id is weakened to match your own human frailty. By the time Leah collapses, and ELP vanishes, it's… She manages /something/. Something. Will it actually be Madeline? At least it whimpers.
<gumbal1> It wimpers like Madeline, at least. Leah doesn't hear it all too well, what with the sensory-processing error that comes with your body breaking itself apart. "…h-h-hey. It's…i-t's gonna be al…alright, alright?"
<Nemi> ".. o-okay.." Whispers whatever it is on the floor, hugging the rabbits. ".. are you going to be okay?"
<Nemi> And Leah'd see a foggy face peeking down at her, worry etched on its features. ".. what can I do?" The voice is soft, distant, undefined. But it's worried. Terrified, even.
<gumbal1> Foggy, ha. Cateracts will do that to you. "…bring me b-b-backs to my room. Tell Ellie I…tell her I d-don't deserve heeeerghs-her." …you know, with the rapidly decreasing muscle mass, she'll at least be easy to carry. "T-t-t-t-t-tell Kat I am very-I'm sorry about…this." Leah weakly rolls over. "…ask K-Keef why he hasn't respon-responded to my…responded to my-all my texts."
<Nemi> "No- no no no no-" And abruptly- Leah feels free of her dissolving body. Free of the fogginess of her mind. Instead, she's being hugged tightly by a Madeline, amidst a sunny field under a great willow tree by a stream. A stuffed rabbit rests between them. Madeline is crying, hugging Leah close about the waist. No- not Madeline, exactly. Some echo of her. Close enough.
<gumbal1> …and Leah blinks, with a sudden, if somewhat worrying clarity. Not sure what to say for the first few moments, she just hugs Madeline back. Or, the echo, at least.
<Nemi> ".. I'm sorry- I'm sorry your body- you were falling apart I didn't want- I didn't want you to die so.. so.. you're here now! Until you're okay! Okay?"
<Nemi> A gentle breeze carries through the field, carrying with it the smell of.. Daisies.
<gumbal1> Leah doesn't speak for the next few moments. Or minutes. Just…hugs Madeline back, not really sure what to make of it but knowing that, however wrong this was, she couldn't return…she guesses this might have been what Madeline felt back in August.
<Nemi> Madeline offers her hand, which blooms into a small flower. The echo, anyway, of a happier and better Madeline. "We can just- wait as long as we need to, it's okay.. It's okay.."
<gumbal1> It's…a nice flower, really. And yet, Leah's never really had a good relationship with inedible plants. Her brief smile is interrupted as she buries her head into Madeline and just starts crying. "..I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry…"
<Nemi> "Why?" The echo wonders, the flower vanishing as she tries to help hold Leah up there in the shade of the willow tree. The leaves shift violet and white, sweet smells filling Leah's nose.
<gumbal1> "I've done nothing but ruin your life." An odd clarity, from before, even as she continues crying, even as it's choked out between sobs.
<Nemi> ".. what do you mean?" The echo really doesn't get it, it seems. She just smiles and tilts her head and squeezes Leah again.
<gumbal1> "…Ellie could've…helped you out of the dream world. If I asked her to." Leah's…sort of calmed down, and actually pulls her head off of Madeline's shoulder. "All of our…our friendships's just been me sponging off your…attention. When you disappeared again, I just…took it for granted that you'd be back." Beat."And Kat, I…"
<Nemi> ".. but you did help me get out of the dream..? Because you cared." The echo seems confused, now. The sun creeps across the sky, the wildflowers in the field turning violet and yellow and white. It's a beautiful dusk, now. ".. what about Kat?"
<gumbal1> "…I knew there were problems, but I…I thought I was just selfish and that I just…wanted to break you two up. Have you for me. So I never confronted her. I just…" For a form that doesn't need to breath, most likely, her breaths have gotten might heavy. "…I had sex with her. Again. After you…told me it worried you…she didn't instigate it. I did."
<Nemi> Madeline just squeezes Leah again at the admission. "I know. I'm not blind, or stupid. I knew all along. It just- it didn't matter, really. You're still like- my best friend! Because you /matter/!" The implication that Madeline herself doesn't is unsaid, but lingers. The wildflowers rustle in the pleasant evening breeze.
<gumbal1> Ouch. Madeline's own admission of how she knew all along…doesn't really make it any better. "…why are you so happy right now? Everything's…everything's ruined."
<Nemi> "It's not ruined, though!" The echo smiles brightly, her teeth the white of the moon above her and her brown eyes gleaming pearlescent and strange in the comfortably bright pale light. "Because I'm putting you back together! This is a dream and it's.. I'm strong, here.."
<gumbal1> "…and what about you?"
<Nemi> "… what about me? I'll heal. I just need to fill some holes."
<gumbal1> That's what she always did. Ostensibly, anyways. "…how long will I be here for?"
<Nemi> "Um.. Iiii think you'll be waking up, actually.." And everything fades. Leah'd find herself lying in a cozy bed in a darkened room, the worried face of Madeline Maddox peeking down over her. Both her toy rabbits are resting on Leah's stomach. And Leah feels.. Pretty crappy. Her phone's almost entirely out of charge but .. Apparently a day's passed.
<gumbal1> Hopefully, at least, she's somehow miraculously healed. If not, well, moving's gonna be a real bitch, ain't it. "…hey."
<Nemi> Leah can think, at least. And she's not .. Rotting. She feels better, but in a strange, almost symbolic fashion. And she's starving. Madeline exhales in some relief, faded but recognizably her again. Just diminished, not entirely there.
<gumbal1> "…how are you?" It's the least she can do, after…basically everything that's happened between the two this night,
<Nemi> ".. I don't know. I feel, like. Weird." Madeline plops down on the chair next to the bed, a desk chair she must have tugged in from by the desks. The single queen-sized bed is in a room clearly made for Madeline and Katlyn's tastes- it's artsy in a cutesy indie-girl kind of way, and with plenty of cozy blankets, as per Madeline's own terrible relationship with cold.
<gumbal1> Cozy blankets are nice, and echo Leah's own relationship with the cold (or rather, lack of heat). Leah motions to get up, before stabbing pain tells her that's a really bad idea. "…hey. Sorry for…last night."
<Nemi> "Why?" Madeline tilts her head. "What happened?"
<gumbal1> "I…don't know. I don't know." And Leah just resigns herself to where she is. "…how's Ellie? How's Athene?"
<Nemi> ".. Ellie um, texted earlier. But you were sleeping so I told her you were over. She um, sounded nervous, I dunno.. And um. I dunno. I haven't- really.. seen Athene."
<gumbal1> "…Katlyn? Mary? Kiefer?"
<Nemi> ".. um.. I don't know, and um.. Keef.."
<Nemi> Madeline's face falls. ".. he- the GWU removed Chuck, wiped his memory, and sent him home. He- left me a message before they did it. I.. I didn't want to tell you." And it set Kat off, and catalyzed Madeline's flight for a month.
<gumbal1> "…oh." Leah blinks, weakly, before rolling over to stare at the window, should one exist. "Oh…I need sleep. More sleep. Just. Tell Ellie I'll be here a bit longer."
<Nemi> There's a big window, with pleasingly whimsical curtains. Madeline nods and goes to her phone. ".. okay.. okay. Um." The rabbits are soft, warm, little comforts. Whether they help Leah as much as Madeline is anyone's guess. ".. good night."
<gumbal1> "…night." And Leah just goes back to sleep.
<Nemi> If nothing else, her dreams are very, very comforting.
<gumbal1> ~scene break~