Elmiryn backed away from me quickly, the white of her eyes showing all around.
“The fuck are you doing?” she snarled at me.
“Getting closer,” I told her.
Getting us killed, more like! Kali shrieked at me.
I could feel my twin pushing forward, all panic and outrage. I resisted her, even as I felt my head ache and my skin burn. I felt bad. It was her turn in the world. She had every right to wrest back control.
I just needed her to hear one thing, and then I would let her flee–
Elmiryn is backing away from us.
White as a sheet, Elmiryn did not step closer. She stepped away. Haltingly, yes. But away.
Sweat beaded on her skin. Her body shook.
“Don’t be stupid,” Elmiryn spat. “Get back over the line!”
I could feel Kali’s efforts to take over again slip away. Her suspicion and fear lingered, but she had gone still, and she watched intently through my eyes. If at any point she feared the situation lost, she would take over again… and I would let her.
I shook my head slowly. “I think I’ve been on the other side long enough, Elle,” I murmured.
Elmiryn balled her hands. Her lips pinched so hard, the blood fled from them.
“I could kill you,” she pointed out.
I smiled. It felt weary, even to me. “You won’t.”
Elmiryn bared her teeth. “Even if I didn’t, I could use your body to break the containment line!”
I shrugged. “I’d have the shadows take me before you ever could.”
“Not if I knock you out first.”
I chuckled humorlessly. “You could try.”
Elmiryn glared at me, the muscles in her neck cording.
Slowly, very slowly, she crouched down, one hand resting on the floor. Her gaze pierced through me. Hunger shadowed her eyes.
“I want to,” she whispered hoarsely. Her hand tensed, and the dirt around her fingers stirred…
Grief grabbed me by the throat, and for a moment I couldn’t speak. I was a fool if I thought I could do this without letting my emotions escape me. Still, I held her gaze.
“I know you do,” I breathed. My brow creased. “But you’re trying not to, and I have faith you won’t give in.”
“I almost hurt Lethia, why do you think you’re fucking safe? Hmm?” She cocked her head to the side. “What’s left for us, Nyx? You’ve hid from me for so long. What’s left?”
“If you want to hurt me, I’ll let you,” I said quietly, kneeling down and holding out my arms. “I hurt you, too. I broke my promise. I said I’d be there for you, no matter what.”
My vision blurred as tears clouded Elmiryn’s angry face. I went on, fighting as grief’s hold on my voice tightened, “I’d let you do anything you want. I just want you back. I just want–”
But I didn’t get to finish. Elmiryn exploded to her feet, yelling.
“Gods! SHUT UP!”
Dust rained on me from the ceiling. I swallowed hard as I watched Elmiryn pace in a tight line in front of me.
Her hands were curled before her as she ranted, her slitted eyes trained on me, “Do anything that I want? Do anything that I want?! You are not that fucking foolish!”
She pounded a fist into her chest and screamed, spit flying from her lips, “I would gut you for a drink! Do you understand?? Your sacrifice would mean nothing to me! Just another fucking chapter in the long-running series of your fucking self-absorbed martyrdom, Nyx! It’s shit! I don’t want that! I hate it! HATE IT!”
She stopped her pacing and bowed down to look into my tear-streaked face with arms held wide in question. “You broke your promise?” she asked with false sweetness.
The vicious rage was swift to return as she roared down at me, “SO DID I!”
She jabbed a finger and sneered, “It isn’t just about you! You’re in my containment circle, remember?”
I bowed my head.
This was the mask removed. The anger that bubbled deep inside of Elmiryn had always been there, but hidden, like my Twin… Like my darkness. I’d sensed it, but never really knew how to address it. It was easier to wrestle with the symptoms of it.
What business did I have pointing out other people’s hidden issues, anyway? Me, the perverted family annihilator whose anathemic existence indebted her to Harmony in such a way that redemption could only be found through carrying out the will of a forgotten god?
Elmiryn had learned to channel her anger as a warrior. To drown it as a drunkard. To laugh it off and forget about it as a mischievous trickster. But none of those coping methods worked anymore.
Now here it was naked before me, pulsing white hot and threatening to swallow us whole.
I hadn’t meant to make this about me. I hadn’t meant to discount whatever it was Elmiryn had to say with some ill-fated gesture. But I did. I’d been feeling guilty, and in my skewed perception, giving the woman license to hurt me in retaliation seemed justified. Now it was easy to see that it was… well…
Trust my sister to strike to the heart of the matter.
But she didn’t move to take control yet. In fact, she moved back further into the shadows.
I lifted my face. Elmiryn had stepped away from me again, her back to me, both hands on her head as she breathed raggedly.
“I’m sorry,” I murmured.
My offer to hurt me had ignored her desire not to. My failure to ask for her side of things in favor of relieving my anguish, showed how selfish I still was.
If I could finally stop thinking about my needs… what would address Elmiryn’s?
“How do you feel… About us?” I asked her hoarsely.
Elmiryn’s hands slid from the sides of her head to her face and her shoulders hitched up. I could see the muscles in her back and triceps tightening.
Many seconds ticked by.
Then gradually, she relaxed.
Her hands fell to her sides, unclenched.
She turned to me.