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RP:I Dream Of Khitti

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Part of the Do You Believe In Magic? Arc

Summary: Brand might've maybe had a bit too much to drink. This is his brain. *points to a diagram of Brand's angry, normal brain* And this is his brain on alcohol. *points to the RP* Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Brand probably should have been cut off by the bartender an hour ago. He was knocking drinks back like there was no tomorrow -- and who’s to say there was? -- and now everything was a blurry, nauseous whirl. Brand didn’t even bother trying to stand up, to stumble his way toward a proper bed. The countertop was spinning. The barmaid’s concerned face, also spinning. She said something to him in kind tones, tried to help him find a more comfortable place for when he inevitably passed out, but he would have none of it and nudged her away. The din of the Destrier’s patrons was so loud as to penetrate into Brand’s skull -- or else that was the gnawing headache of what would surely be a terrible hangover tomorrow, chewing at his brain and behind his eyeballs. He slumped further down in his seat and hid his face in the crook of his elbow. Ah, better. He’d just… rest like this a while. Just a few minutes, and then he’d sit back up and finish that bourbon. Just… a few minutes…

Khitti, well, if Khitti were there, she'd likely be cursing him out...but...she wasn't there, was she? No. That damned Raiez had gotten in the way. And just what the hell happened when the bitey one grabbed her? Khitti was out like a lamplight, had crumpled over to the ground, and was forced to stay in Raiez's cave in all of her unconscious glory. But, that wasn't exactly something that Brand knew, was it? For all him and Dominic knew, she could be dead. Regardless of all of this, he'd hear her voice. And then a tapping on his shoulder. "Brand...?" A gentle poke here and there in the ribs to awaken him. Her voice would become clearer as the daze of slumber would slip away from him, "Brand...you fell asleep standing in the shower again. I -really- don't want to reach in there and try to turn the cold water knob without looking and chance grabbing something else." The woman strangely enough didn't have an accent, or at least not as thick of one that the Khitti he knew had. "Brand...please wake up. You're not the only one that needs to use the hot water."

To say Brand was disoriented would be a massive understatement. Scalding water beat down on his bare back, but it wasn’t any kind of rain he was familiar with. Blindly, he reached one hand behind him to turn off the shower and at the same time began groping ahead of him for a towel, grumbling incoherently. One leg up and over the rim of the tub, then the other, and there he stood inches from Khitti, the towel loosely held so as to cover up his bits. He blinked at her blearily and only then seemed to realize the oddity of his situation. Other than Khitti, he recognized nothing of his surroundings. Nothing. This didn’t even look like it was Lithrydel. And in his shock, he -might- have forgotten to keep a grip on his towel. Whoops.

Poor Khitti. First, as Brand's grabbing blindly for a towel, he almost takes ahold of her chest. Thankfully, she managed to dodge that with a few blinks to accompany it. Only when she sets her sights on him again does she see...well...everything. There's a brief moment of staring and then maybe another blink or two. She had meant to say something, but that train of thought derailed and exploded into a fiery blaze. Khitti did something weird then. Was she...blushing? Wait, did Khitti do that? No, she couldn't have. Vampires didn't do that. Not often, and certainly not as much as she was right now. Her face was nearly the color of her hair at this point. Within seconds, however, her brain reboots and she storms off out of the bathroom. "What the hell, Brand?! You're lucky Dominic isn't here right now! Put some damn clothes on and get out!", her words some sort of threat, as if Dominic could do something about it. She makes sure to slam the door in his face before heading into the living room of their apartment and back to her video game. There was much uncomfortable mumbling coming from her as she sat at her computer, brooding over Brand's weirdness and pondering on smacking him when he got out.

Dominic … ? Brand didn’t… feel Dominic rattling around in that head of his. He didn’t feel him at all. Just one of many oddities the man observed, as he stammered, aghast, and scrambled to retrieve the towel at his feet. But before he could get anything out or recover his dignity, Khitti was already gone, and there nothing but a door in his face in her stead. Brand took a moment to peer at the odd collection of accoutrements along the rim of the sink, but those only raised more questions. ‘Firm hold’ gel? Hair spray? He picked up a stick that read HIGH ENDURANCE FOR MEN in bright, bold lettering and gave it a cautious sniff. What even was this? How positively baffling. And here were some folded cottons -- at least -something- he was able to recognize. Clothing, clearly. Brand dressed -- fruit-patterned pajama pants and a black shirt -- and stumbled out of the bathroom. Highly Suspect, said the shirt. Gorram right. This whole situation was highly suspect, and Brand didn’t like it one bit. But other than their unfortunate encounter, Khitti looked not at all confused or alarmed. She sat at some kind of machinery Brand didn’t recognize, machinery that produced an ever-changing show of light and sound. He approached her, delicately -- almost apologetically? -- and, wide eyes on the computer screen, asked the obvious: “What in the seven hells is going on?”

Khitti had put on her headphones, the object's band shaped like cat ears. Very loud, foreign rock music came from it. She was listening to Rammstein, again, of course, and had her nose in World of Warcraft. She felt Brand walk up behind her, but she continued fighting in the raid she was in, multiple and strange creatures running about on her screen. Felfire spewed from her warlock's hands, large bolts shaped like a sort of dragon, and soon after a thick, green and purple line reached from her character to the raid boss she was attacking, draining it's very life. Once the boss was dead, as it had almost been upon Brand's approach, and she left her warlock to sit in place. The creature was a bit odd, and not unlike that of the undead in Lithrydel. The redhead lowers her bulky headphones around her neck, looking to him. "What do you mean 'what in the seven hells is going on'? You went to a party like you do every weekend, got drunk, and came home late again." A quick glance down at his shirt was made now that he was dressed. "Nice shirt. I forgot you had that." That typical awkwardness that came with Khitti when she was around Brand resurfaced as she looks to her computer again. "You should go drink some water...and get something to eat before you get sick." Not that she cared anyway...or maybe she did. She did her best to hide it, however. "There's leftover pizza in the fridge if you want it." She tried to go back to focusing on her game, red brows furrowing a bit. It's almost like she was worried about him.

Khitti’s explanation helped Brand not even slightly, but that was hardly something he wanted to admit to her. Something was incredibly amiss here, but he could figure it out without her help, surely. He ambled away from her to what he soon came to recognize as a kitchen, though the appliances were just as unfamiliar as everything he’d seen in the bathroom and living room. By some stroke of luck he decided to open up the large box on the left -- the ‘fridge,’ apparently -- and found a few more mystery items, several bottles that were clearly alcohol, and a box labelled Pablo’s Pizzeria with a drawing of a goofy-looking man in a robe. Brand opened it up and ogled the contents before tearing into it. Whatever this ‘pizza’ was… Brand liked it. A little too much, maybe.

Khitti became even more worried as he wandered like a zombie to the kitchen. After he's gone, she peeks around the corner at him from her chair, studying him. Pulling off her headphones, and letting the music of the German industrial rock band pour into the air, she stands at that spot in most apartments that separate the kitchen from the living and dining room. "Are you...okay?" She played with her braid idly, emerald eyes fixing on him for a bit longer before looking to the floor. "I-I can make you some coffee if you want..." Her free hand motions to the Keurig machine on the counter. "Or maybe you just need some fresh air on the balcony?" Her words were timid again, for the most part, until she said "You really shouldn't drink so much, you know. Or at least don't drive yourself home." She didn't make eye contact, "Don't you think Dominic would miss you if something would happen to you?" As if on cue, Dominic himself strolls into the kitchen and lets out a meek 'meow'. "You should've seen him, Dominic," Khitti says as she picks up the black cat with brilliant green eyes. "He was being weird again. Almost grabbed my chest! The madness of it all!" She turns Dom towards Brand, paws sticking out at the male, "Please don't die and leave me here with her. She's a crazy German lady and she might turn me into schnitzel!' is said as she pretends to voice the cat. "See? He loves you." The redhead makes the kitty dance about a bit in her arms, "You'd treat me right, wouldn't you, Dom? You wouldn't try to grope me at all. You'd take me dancing, and go to dinner, and watch The Little Mermaid with me." She smooches his adorable kitty forehead. "Best cat boyfriend ever."

Brand fixed Khitti and her… kitty… with an incredulous stare. Dreaming. He was dreaming. He must be. Even a skilled illusionist couldn’t craft this kind of madness. Very well. If he was aware of it, he may as well try to take advantage of it. Brand turned away from the pizza, trying to lean casually against the counter. He wasn’t sure what would happen if this Dream-Khitti realized he knew he was dreaming -- and now that he was here, he didn’t want to do anything to lose the dream so quickly. May as well try to enjoy it while it lasted. “Coffee’d help, maybe.” A hesitant hand reached out and petted ‘Dominic’. Of course he’d be a frakking cat. Of course. “...Thanks.” His gaze drew slowly across the kitchen and back out into the living room as he tried to assess their situation from clues around their shared space. Were they… were they in a relationship in this dream? He couldn’t tell. He supposed it would be awkward either way, but ultimately harmless. Thankfully. “I… remember not a damn thing, peach,” he said lowly, taking the time to phrase his curiosity with care. “I don’t even know why I went to this… party.”

Khitti shrugged, then put Dominic down of the floor and went to wash her hands, slipping past him to the sink. "I don't know, Brand. You've been like this since high school. I mean, I get it. You're not the type to sit around at home all day like me playing video games, but you worry me, you know? You know how I feel about the drunk driving." A frown finds it's way onto Khitti's features as she grabs Brand's rather large Firefly mug with the words 'I aim to misbehave.' on it. "You and Dominic are all I've got." Weird. Hadn't the real Khitti said that before? She moves to the coffee maker, does what's needed, and presses the button to start it. The sounds of water gurgling fills the air as she stares down at Dominic, who does the most adorable cat flop onto the floor, her foot moving to lightly pet the cat's back. Khitti grins, scratching his back a bit more with her toes. "He missed you last night. Even slept in your bed by your pillow and wouldn't budge." She tried changing the subject, her attention shifting back to the coffee once the cup was made, "You like yours black, right? Your coffee?" She hands the cup over, eyeing him carefully. "You'd think I'd remember after all this time. If not, there's some of that fancy creamer stuff in the fridge."

Brand pursed his lips. Decidedly -not- dream-dating, then. He actually felt a twinge of disappointment -- but it was promptly quashed the instant it was realized. “Right. Yeah,” he said, to all of it, waving a dismissive hand. He still hadn’t the foggiest idea what she was on about, or surely would have argued. Instead, he stared into the machine that was, allegedly, for making coffee. He was momentarily skeptical, but sure enough, that familiar smell of roasted coffee beans hit his nostrils as Khitti gifted him with the cup. But coffee alone wouldn’t solve his dehydration. Spying another cup on the counter, he moved a hand over it as if to magic it into being full -- and nothing happened. What the gorram hell. “I… I need water, too,” Brand mumbled, looking at Khitti helplessly.

Khitti tilted her head and blinked at Brand as waved his hand over the coffee cup, then looked at her more pathetically than Dominic when she was opening up a can of that oh so delectable gushy cat food that the feline loved. "Hey...are you okay? You're acting so weird today." Before she gets his water, she lightly grips his chin in an attempt to pull him down to her. If he complied, for a moment it'd almost seem like she was going to kiss him, but then she goes to inspect his head, fingertips lightly touching his scalp in case of bruising, "You didn't hit your head did you? In the shower? I don't feel any bumps anywhere. You better not have a concussion again. It's a wonder you don't have some sort of brain damage from all the times you've hurt your head. Then again, you -do- hang out with me, so you might." With a slight grin, and regardless of his answer, she'd get him his water, then lead him to the couch. "Here. Sit down before you -do- end up hurting yourself." Knowing just what would make him feel better, she'd turn on the television and pop in the Serenity movie into her PS4. "Watch this and relax, okay?"

Brand artfully dodged eye contact as Khitti examined his head. “I dunno. Eh… maybe I did.” Hopefully that answer would satisfy her enough to not inquire too thoroughly. Knowing how real-Khitti was, he didn’t think dream-Khitti would take too kindly to him trying to explain that she was a figment of his imagination. The man shook his head as she released her grip and obediently shuffled his way over to the couch. The movie kicked up, but even as fascinated as he was by the technology of moving pictures and the accompanying sound, he just couldn’t quite focus his full attention on it. His mind wandered, and his gaze with it -- and before he knew it he was instead staring at Khitti. “You… you should c’mere,” he managed at length, jerking his head toward a spot on the couch next to him. He tried not to look like he cared too much about whether or not she actually did.

Khitti caught that gaze out of the corner of her eye as she went to return to her computer. Never ever in the entire length of time that they'd known each other had he ever looked at her like that, just staring at her the way he did. He didn't realize it, but he'd sorta friend-zoned her. Not once had she ever mentioned her feelings for him. It's not like it mattered. She didn't exactly fit in with his crowd. It was a wonder they became friends in the first place, but that was thanks to her being a foreign exchange student and the school sticking her in his house. Wasn't he seeing someone anyway? No. She knew better. It was a different person each week. Khitti was hesitant, and almost looked like she wasn't going to oblige, but finally did. Grabbing Dominic, she'd sit on the other side of the couch, the cat placed in her lap, though to her disappointment he didn't stay long. Damned cat. With a sigh, she doesn't make eye contact with him, instead motioning towards the television, "You keep staring like that and you'll miss Jayne, you know, and then you'll get upset and I'll have to start the whole thing over again." She side-eyes him finally with vague curiosity, wondering what the hell was wrong with him.

“What? No. Not starin’. I wasn’t,” Brand protested, though his insistence wouldn’t last long before he instead averted his eyes. Back to the moving pictures. A dark-skinned man was making short work of his opponents, sword in hand. Hmm. He could see why dream-Khitti had picked this out for him. Brand swirled his coffee around in the mug, took a sip, and went back to eyeing Khitti. In that moment, a bold idea struck him, and he acted on it before he could convince himself not to. It -was- a dream, after all. There would be no consequences for his actions. No consequences for vulnerability, or even for divulging what he was really thinking -- if he could work himself up to that point. It was difficult, even in the relative safety of his own sleeping mind. “Why d’you bother taking care of me?” he asked, carefully monitoring her expression. “If I’m such a mess every week, why keep cleanin’ me up?”

Khitti raised an eyebrow, "You really did hit your head, didn't you? Either that or you are -seriously- hungover." She studies him though for what seems like forever after she's been questioned, then looks away, eyeing the tv and shrugging. "Because you're my best friend." A pause as she glances towards him again. "And a really stupid man. I don't exactly trust anyone else to take care of you." Feeling that bit of awkward again, she pushes herself up off the couch before he's able to do anything else and goes to the kitchen, "You stay there and I'll make you something better than that pizza. Just don't throw it up this time, okay? Lasagna takes ages to cook and I don't fancy trying to keep Dominic from eating said throw up while simultanously trying to clean it up. He's a persistent jerk, you know. Much like one half of his owners." She points at Brand in a mock threatening manner from across the room. "And by that, I mean you." There's much noise from the direction of the kitchen as Khitti retrieves the items she needs to make the pasta, her voice calling over to him, "So was that redhead there again? The one that carries that beefed up taser and likes to beat the hell out of people? I swear, she was the only thing entertaining at those parties the couple times you got me to go. Especially when some guy would try to hit on her and she'd give him the biggest zap!" Dominic wanders over to Khitti's side, and she peers down at him, an index finger pointed in his direction as she lets out an electrical-sounding 'bzzt!'.

Brand sank further into the couch as Khitti rose. Even while asleep, he could tell he -was- going to have one hell of a hangover in the morning. Maybe this couch would be kind enough to swallow him whole and he’d never have to see that miserable morning. And the real Khitti was… who even knew if she was alive, for sure? He started willing himself to be eaten up by the corduroy cushions. The dream scene before him fogged up and began to fade into swirling mist -- and then Khitti spoke of what was clearly meant to be their jarmate and everything snapped back into sharp focus. Too sharp. Blindingly sharp -- all the edges were rainbow and the colors were just a bit brighter than they should be. Brand groaned and flopped over onto his other side, trying to block out the sight. “Mmm, yeah, I know who you mean,” came his muffled response.

Khitti blinked at the oddly muffled response. What the heck was he doing now? So very odd today... She drops what she's doing doing to peek around the corner at him to find him sinking into the couch cushions. "Brand?" The very attentative female moves to shut off anything making noise or light that might disturb him, going so far as to shut off her computer and close the curtains on any window that might make more light in the room. A cold pack is pulled from the freezer, wrapped in a towel, and brought to her poor, hungover friend. With one hand, she tries to pull him to where he's laying flat again, a 'shh' offered to his groaning. "Hey...I'ma take care of you, okay? You really messed yourself up good this time. Maybe lay off all that Fireball whisky next time, yeah?" Her words are whispered, taking care to not make what she assumed to be a headache any worse as she attempts to put the ice pack on his head.

Fireball whisky? Hmm. That definitely sounded like something he’d like. Hopefully when he woke up he’d remember to figure out how to make such a thing. In the meantime, Brand squinted one eye open just enough to see that Khitti was dousing the lights. “You don’t -- you don’t have to do that, I… I don’t…” The frozen pack against his skin derailed his train of thought and his protest faded into silence. As he peered upwards, the other eye cracking open and his mouth slightly agape, Dominic leaped up onto the back of the couch and perched above Brand’s head, staring down at him with what Brand could only interpret as a judgmental gaze. Or maybe that was just his face -- gorram cats always looked like they were judging someone. Brand broke eye contact first and looked back at Khitti. “I’m… sorry, peach.” Woah. He said it. He actually said the thing. Even if it was vague and only in his sleep.

Wait...wut? Brand never says sorry. Ever. Not this Brand. Not real Brand. Not any alternate universe Brand. It catches Khitti off guard, the vaguely affectionate nickname only making things worse as she too sits there with her mouth hanging open. "Brand...I..." She...what? The words seemed to catch in her throat and she's left to muddle together some sort of sentence. It'd feel all too familiar to Brand though. The hesitation, the tone of her voice. It was a bit like when she hinted at having feelings for him. But no. That would never do, would it? She was on the outskirts of his life. The fact that they were friends was a miracle in itself. "J-just try to rest. You'll feel better soon, I'm sure." She averts her gaze, looking to Dominic, "See? Even he's worried about you." She reaches a hand out to Dominic, the cat obliging and climbing down the side of the couch to settle himself on the cushion Brand's legs were on. Her faithful kitty friend was given lots of love-filled pets on his forehead and small scratches under his chin. Scooting across the floor a bit, she rested her head on the couch next to Dominic, her nose just inches from his. "You're gonna help me fix him up, aren't you?" to which Khitti receives a few slow blinks from Dominic.

“Khitti.” Brand’s tone commanded attention. Or pleaded for it, almost. He was sitting up now -- funny, he didn’t actually remember sitting up -- and there was a blanket wrapped around his huddled up form. He didn’t remember acquiring the blanket, either. What he -did- remember was looking back as Khitti was recaptured, and the helplessness to do anything about it aside from getting himself recaptured right along with her. He remembered the looks she gave him, the confusion or anger or hurt so often on her face, emotions he held himself responsible for on some inner level usually shrouded by layers of denial. Here in a darkened room with this image of her, the guilt threatened to suffocate him. “I’m jus’ protecting you, y’know? You oughta stay away from me. I dunno why you don’t.” Were those shadows moving in his peripheral?

"What do you expect me to do, Brand? Go back to Germany? My family's all gone. You know that. I've got nothing better to do and I don't have a multitude of friends like you do." Confusion hinted around in her voice, as she sat up to peer over at him as best as she could in the dark. Too bad she didn't have some sort of low-light or night vision. Damn vampires. "Do you want me to leave?" What was he getting at? Why was he suddenly being all emotional and touchy-feely? "Brand, if you're dating someone, I can move out. I don't want to cause problems." She shakes her head, looking towards the cat, "I'll even leave Dominic with you. I-it's no big deal. You just have to say it and not be so weird about it." She places a hand on the armrest that was just above his head, using it to pull herself up off the ground. "Now really isn't the time to talk about it. D-do it when you've got a clearer head and we can sort things out." Turning to go back to the kitchen, she mutters in passing, "I'll make dinner in a little while, since you're still sick. Going to put the stuff back in the fridge for now."

Before Brand even knew what he was doing, he’d risen up after her and clasped a hand firmly around her wrist, wheeling her back around to face him, pulling her close enough to make her face out even in the dim lighting, close enough even that he caught a whiff of strawberry scent from her hair. What… what was he doing? He’d literally -just- told her to stay away from him. “That’s not it. I don’t want you to leave. But you’ve seen how I am, kiwi.” He released his grip, took a step away from her again and fell back onto the couch. “I’m going to hurt you if you stay around me. I don’t know how to do anything else. I’ve --” An exasperated exhale left his lips, and the words that followed were quiet, subdued. He held his head in his hands and stared at the floor. “I’ve already hurt you, haven’t I…? I should’ve pushed you away sooner. I should’ve known this was coming from the first time we met, that you’d somehow fall for me. I should’ve--” The hands balled into fists, and he fell silent.

Khitti would try to pull away, but she was soon spun around to face him, concern written on her features and was apparent in her tone. "Brand. What the hell are you going on about? Peach? Kiwi? You've never called me these things before. Y-you..." She shook her head, "You're like a completely different person right now. What is going on? Did something happen?" Another shake of her head, as if that could get the thoughts straight in it. "How do you even know? About...about...I've never told anyone. It wasn't anything you could stop. It's been so long. Since the first day I saw you. Since you and your family got me off the plane. You weren't like this then...whatever -this- is. But, I didn't care. You accepted me as your friend and I...you were so much more than that to me and every minute of it has been worth it as long as you're happy." Her fingers curl into a fist and then let go as she sighs. Stupid emotions. They were the very bane of her existence. Why couldn't things be so easy as running about shooting felfire at bosses in a video game? "Brand." She kneels in front of him, wrapping her hands around his fists. "I -will- leave if you want me to. If you don't want me to be around you. If you're that worried. But, I will never, ever come back." Her words were firm, but twinged with sadness.

Brand rose, removing his hands from hers and instead standing by her side, shoulder to shoulder with her. “I’ve... had to hurt so many people. Didn’t want you to be one of them.” The walls were melting around them like paint being slowly poured down a wall, until the apartment was gone. In its place was a grassy field littered with the bodies of humans, elves, dwarves, and horses. The stench of death permeated throughout, so strong that one unaccustomed to it would likely have their gag reflex triggered. The cat was nowhere to be seen now, just Brand and Khitti standing in their same outfits as before, looking horribly out of place. Brand, for one, seemed not at all phased by the change in scenery -- he merely held up the arm furthest from Khitti to block out the blinding sun. “I did this,” he murmured, looking out ahead. “The clans you see fought here at my orchestration. A rumor planted here, a dagger planted there, and you can take out a whole blasted -swarm- of enemy combatants while doin’ very little of the dirty work yourself.” The scene melted again, replaced by the bedroom of some young maiden. She lay half naked, sprawled out in a spread eagle, blood still pouring forth from a slice at her neck and staining the sheets burgundy. “Not that I didn’t do my fair share of killin’. No, plenty of that.” He clicked his tongue. “Noble born. Poor lass thought she’d found true love. Like in your stories. And the whole time I was maneuvering ‘til I could get her alone.” The scene faded once more, replaced by others of a similar tone. They blinked in and out with varying speeds, some staying around for only an instant, others for minutes or longer. How many had passed them by, hundreds? Thousands? Brand had stopped speaking. He only stood there, countenance grim, unmoving as everything shifted around them.

Dream Khitti was thoroughly confused; of course, it was Brand's own brain that told her to be this way. This Khitti, she knew death well by way of losing her family in a car accident, but not so well as the real one. The real Khitti wouldn't be so shocked by such things. She turned her head away, burying it into his shirt sleeve, the sight just as horrifying as the smell. Once he stopped speaking, she shook her head, looking towards the scene around them again, "Brand...what is all of this? How are you--? This isn't real. I must be dreaming. I've been playing way too much Warcraft lately...and this is just a dream. Y-you...you didn't do this. This isn't--it's not..." Brand's intuition about her was right, as well. She wasn't so keen on accepting such a thing. I mean, how would you be after someone shows you a battle that looks like something out of Lord of the Rings? His doubts and fears that the real Khitti would take such an admission like this badly manifest somewhat. The images he shows her doesn't fade, but the area around them darkens considerably. The red-haired female puts her head in her hands, shaking it, trying to deny all of it. The real Khitti's own memories, that had been shared with him and Dominic so long ago, surface and mix with Brand's own. Dream Khitti flickers in and out of existence like Lydia had towards the end in Xalious, replaced with various images of Khitti throughout their friendship. Some were of the real Khitti. Some of the dream one. Frostmaw and high school. Xalious and picking out Dominic. Some where pieces of her own past. "Brand...Why do you keep doing this to yourself? There's only one way you can hurt her and you're doing it right now. Before you got out of that jar. You know she cares about you. About both of you. And you know why. Waaaaay back in the corner of your mind, you know why. Is this how you want things to end? Do you want her to just flicker out like one of your fireballs? That part of her will die and never come back." There was a pause finally. That voice...It was Khitti's, but...this one was calm and collected. Oh, he'd know just whose voice it was. "Why can't you just let yourself be happy, kiwi?" If Brand didn't try to fix his dream soon, things would start quickly falling apart.

“Why can’t you just let yourself be happy?” Oh, those words were but an echo of what had come before. As they reverberated in his head the voice shifted, another lilting woman's tones overtaking that of Lydia. Brand slowly turned, keeping his eyes on a disembodied blonde head, the owner of the new voice. “Cuz there ain't nothin’ to bloody -be- happy about,” Brand growled, an angry hand extending to the side and sparking flames. “The girl's infatuated, but she's only settin’ herself up for more pain. I can’t give her what she asks. Even if I believed in that kind of thing, all those fairy tales…” The scenery shifted again, a smorgasbord of the stories Dominic had spent so much time reading. “S’all doomed to fail.” Everything went dark save Brand, illuminated by a dim blue light that didn’t seem to have a source. “An’ even if it weren’t… it’s a liability I can’t afford. Clouds judgment. Makes you stupid. Gets people killed.” The woman’s head floated back into his vision, shortly followed by the rest of her body. She was draped in a viridian gossamer gown, with bright crimson gloves. No, not gloves -- blood soaked her forearms up to her elbows, dripping onto the floor in an unsteady percussion as Brand circled to her back and cradled her with a tenderness none in Lithrydel had ever seen him possess. “You oughta know that better than anyone, my love.” He took her hands in his, and together they drowned in a vast sea of ichor.

"But...you don't have to fight here. They've made a home here and she wants you to be a part of it. To be part of her family. Not everything ends in pain and death, Brand. Besides..." Lydia chuckles a bit, "She's already technically dead." The voice of Khitti's sister fades, a vision of Khitti laughing and dancing about replacing the one from Brand's memory. "Are you saying that if Dominic didn't exist that you would have let her die in Xalious? You wouldn't have taken her to be healed?" He's gently reminded of the incident with the spiders and when she dragged him from Frostmaw. "She almost killed herself to save you. To save Dominic. Do you really think that it's an infatuation? Khitti has only known love one other time. It was nothing like this, Brand. The tiny spark in her heart was almost out, she had almost given up until she met the two of you." The dance that was shared between Khitti and Dominic at the coronation floated up in front of Brand's face. So small was the image that they seemed like tiny dancers in a music box. "You were there too, you know." Dominic's likeness shifts into Brand and the two continued to dance about. "But..." Everything fades to black. "You've made up your mind. And besides, you and I both know what happened when you left that cave." Like something out of one of Khitti's story books, Raiez appears in all of her dragon glory. Thunder and lightning crash around Brand, and rain pours from overhead. The vampiress lies on the ground, either dead or unconscious, but either way very much helpless. With a huge swipe of her paw, the massive Blue aims to knock the lifeless Khitti across the room; punishment it would seem, for trying to escape.

Brand awoke with a start, or at least he thought he did. Around him was that apartment from before, and he found himself sprawled out on the couch with one leg hanging off. Dominic the cat was curled up around his foot, purring in his sleep. On the screen across from him, credits rolled, soft orchestral music accompanying them. Khitti. Khitti was supposed to be here, wasn’t she? He rolled off the couch with a grunt, startling the cat into scampering off into another room. Brand plodded along behind him, a vague uneasiness in his gut. Something was horribly wrong, but he couldn’t remember what right now. But whatever it was, it was important. Oh well. It’d come to him eventually, wouldn’t it?

It would appear, thankfully for Brand, that he had actually dozed off after Khitti went to the kitchen. There was a super delicious and ready to eat lasagna on the stove, the smell of which wafted through the entire apartment. Khitti, was nowhere to be seen right away, but the sound of falling water came from the bathroom. Hadn't she mentioned something earlier about needing the hot water too? Steam poured from underneath the door, but none of the typical movement that came with showering could be heard. Dominic sat in front of the door, however, and let out a soft 'mrowr' up at the blonde male. Dare he enter? Dare he invade her privacy? If he did, he'd find her sitting in the tub, the water from the showerhead pounding down on her head. She had her legs drawn up to her chest and her arms wrapped around them, her chin resting on her knees, and her eyes closed. Who knows if she's asleep or perhaps just meditating...or...something worse?

Curiosity and that underlying fear drove Brand to crack the door open. “Khitti?” His voice was quiet, unsure. She probably couldn’t even hear it above the noise of the water. And it was so fogged up in there, he couldn’t see a damned thing. He cleared his throat again and tried a little louder, peeking his mouth and one eye through the slit. “Khitti, y’alright?” Dominic slid in through the gap, jumping up to peer at Khitti from the edge of the sink.

Khitti didn't hear him. Despite being rather freaked out thanks to Brand's typical weekend recklessness, the shower and time alone managed to calm her and she had drifted off to sleep. Her snoring was so soft that Brand wouldn't be able to hear it; Dominic could, but being the jerk that he was, didn't give Brand any indication that she was okay. She stirred a little as the drastically colder air seeped in from the hallway, but she otherwise stayed asleep, her silhouette visible through the frosted, plastic shower curtain.

The vision from earlier, Khitti tossed about by a dragon, flashed again in Brand’s mind. He pushed into the bathroom (both of them really ought to learn to lock the door! Really now, this is just ridiculous!) and swept aside the curtain. That was Khitti’s face, sure -- but there was that blonde hair again, tight ringlets only barely tamed by the ebony hairclip situated against the back of her scalp. “V-Viera…” Brand saw in her two people at once, both forms melding into one in his muddled mind. He stumbled backwards, grabbing at the countertop as he fell -- but that still wasn’t enough to stop him and he fell flat onto his backside with a thud surely loud enough to wake the dead. Or the undead. Not that this Khitti was either.

Undead or not, she was awoken nevertheless, and Khitti lets out a shriek as the noise was certainly enough to alert her. Blinking repeatedly, she looks around for the sound of the noise only to find Brand. "Brand?! What the hell?!" She was quick to anger, in typical Khitti fashion, as she assumed that he was spying on her while she was naked. But then, she realizes that there's actually something wrong. She reaches to the toilet, grabbing her towel and moving to stand as it's wrapped around her form. For a few seconds, her body would be visible, the scars that littered her thin frame more of a distraction than any part of her that he might oggle at were he in his right mind. With her hair still dripping water around her face, she steps out of the shower and goes to sit near Brand. "Hey...what's wrong? Were you sleepwalking or something...? Brand...?" There was that concern for him again. She reaches a hand out towards him, her words trying to sound comforting, "Hey...it's okay. Everything's totally fine."

The daze lasted only a few moments until Brand could pull himself into a seated position. “Khitti, I thought you were --” No, he couldn’t explain it. She wouldn’t understand. His gaze lingered on her -- red hair. Of course it was red hair. He must have been seeing things. “Jus’ needed to check up on you, s’all. Make sure you were okay. And then I slipped walkin’ in.” But while Brand was many things, clumsy was never one of them, and he couldn’t help but feel she’d know it. He turned away, determined to hide how shaken he was from her. No one had seen him like this before, not Brand. The Brand anyone knew was impervious to fear, to romantic attachment, to any kind of emotional vulnerability. Perpetually detached. Because he had to be. Because it was the only way to survive. “Sorry,” he mumbled, apologizing for the second time and surely breaking a record in the process.

Khitti went to caress his face, the action intended to be loving and comforting, but she hesitates for awhile, to the point that the hesitation was actually noticeable. What the hell was she doing? Then she'd -have- to tell Brand. She'd have to explain that look in her eyes when she stared at him, that abnormally rapid beat of her heart that always happened when he was around. "Sorry," she muttered. "I must've gotten water everywhere. I'll try not to leave such a mess next time." She was clearly sparing his dignity and didn't even speak on the fact that she -did- know better when it came to the topic of clumsiness and him; it was none existent, of course. "Hey, come on." Holding her towel closely around her, she stands, offering her hand to help him up. "You're likely still dizzy from your hangover too. You should go lay down for a bit. I'll take you to your room?"

Brand could help -himself- up, thankyouverymuch. But he too hesitated, blinking at her hand before dragging himself up, bracing against the counter to do so. He could feel his blood pulsing through his head with such pressure he thought it might burst, could feel his heart drumming as much due to fear as the proximity to a barely decent Khitti. “I’ve got it. I’m --” The drumming was getting louder, more constant, enough that he only got those few words in before it was a roar that drowned out all thought. The tiled walls shuddered and cracked until black, festering water poured in from nearly every direction. With half a second taken to see that Dominic was nowhere to be found, Brand only just now took Khitti’s extended hand, tumbling out the bathroom door and away from the flood with Khitti in tow. Their only exit opened not to the rest of the apartment as expected, but to the deck of a massive ship in the throes of a violent, brooding thunderstorm. The door behind them shut and promptly vanished; the fetid water oozing from the wall was the only sign it had been there at all. And, well, if Khitti was going on an impromptu adventure, at least she was a hoopy frood who remembered to bring her towel…?

Khitti was there...and then suddenly, she wasn't. As soon as he had passed through that threshold, he was holding nothing but air. He was entirely alone now, standing on the deck of that oh so familiar ship. But wait, was that singing? The storm surged overhead, sending the ship tumbling about as the haunting melody from the mysterious fathoms below grew more loudly. This wasn't quite the exact duplicate of the memory that Brand had experienced first hand. There was something strange about this scenario he'd found himself in. Something...fishy. The song floated up from the sea, hooking itself in Brand's mind, trying desperately to pull him to the edge of the ship.

Brand cursed even as he felt himself drawn to the starboard side of the deck. He knew what this was. Dominic had read all about the sirens and other sea creatures found in Khitti’s favorite books -- and had treasured them almost as much as Khitti herself, despite the fact that both of them had spent plenty of time at sea and seen very little of such things. Brand was as skeptical as he always was, but couldn’t deny the pull that brought him closer to the edge with every note. If this was one of those songs that would lead him to his death, he was well on his way.

The sound of the sirens below only strengthened as he neared the edge of railing of the ship. The rest of the crew had of course jumped overboard, offering themselves to the briny deep and it's fish-tailed mistresses within. Just as Brand would've thrown himself to the feeding frenzy below, a certain red-haired, green-eyed mermaid tugs at his pant leg, staring up at him pleadingly, "No. Don't go. Don't listen. They are not what they seem." It was Khitti, of course, or at least some version of her that Brand's mind altered to fit the scene. "Please..." She was wounded, large gashes and bite marks up and down her body. Over the edge and in the depths, a stormcaller, the leader of the mermaids, continued her ethereal song to pull Brand closer. Her razor sharp teeth shone in the glow given off by the lightning that struck overhead, the being bearing a striking resemblance to a bitey murdery individual that Brand had just recently shared a jar with. With her strength waning from the attack by her sisters and having to pull herself aboard the ship, her hold on his clothing loosens as she slumps over onto the floorboards, her dark purple tail going limp.

Thankfully, Brand’s attention was adequately jerked away by this … mermaid Khitti. Too shocked by her condition to question anything, he knelt down to help support her, picking her up and resting her back against his forward knee. “No, peach. You’re gonna be alright.” Tearing into the palm of one hand with his incisors, he spread his own blood to meet every wound of hers and seal them, a reversal of roles from times before. Nevermind that Brand, in the real world, had no such healing properties in his blood, nor such sharp teeth as to tear into his own flesh -- or anyone else’s. Dream logic, mmkay? “Right as rain,” Brand murmured as he concluded, oblivious to the fact that the droplets pouring down around them were very much -not- right. Drops of all colors stained the deck, a rainbow of water that pooled into a murky brown wherever it had nowhere else to flow.

Mer-Khitti slowly regained her strength as her wounds healed. Blinking open her eyes, she peers up at Brand, "How...?" There's a few more blinks thanks to the rain, the odd colored droplets hitting her face.

Brand didn’t have an answer for her, but it didn’t matter -- he wouldn’t have had time to explain anyway. At that moment, Raiez tore through from below, dragon jaws breaking through the planks like they were nothing more than twigs. Time to run again. Khitti in hand, Brand sprinted until there was no more length of the ship to run on. Nowhere to go. Nowhere to take her. Brand wheeled around and --

Viera. As trite as centuries of love songs made the word, there was no better way to describe her other than radiant, the kind of flame that would draw many a moth to their doom. She sat with ankles crossed at the edge of her bed, the light of a fiery sunset glinting in her hair and exposing the strawberry undertones usually masked in dimmer lighting. A younger Brand stood shirtless at the window, not quite entirely turned away from her, both of them oblivious to their audience of Brand and mer-Khitti dripping onto the carpet. “I’m not who you think I am,” sighed the young Brand, the weight of the confession evident in his posture.

“I know,” Viera smiled. She was at that age where the first hints of what would one day be wrinkles lined her expressions -- laughter lines that she’d one day have in abundance. “Why do you think it took you so long to get me here, alone? My father’s spies --” Her painted lips pursed. “No, it doesn’t matter. The point is, I’ve known all along and I love you anyway.”

The Brand of memory pivoted, bristling with that quiet agitation Khitti would easily find familiar, were she not just another figment of the dream. “No. How could you? I’ve been lyin’ to you the whole way through. You don’t even know what’s an act and what’s real.” A pause; he stepped closer and cast his gaze to her feet. “More to the point, -I- dunno, either.”

Viera looked unimpressed. “I’m the daughter of glorified -thieves-, sunshine. You are not so deceptive as you think, not for someone raised around it. And after all these months I’m positive I know enough to trust you here, now.” She adjusted the folds of her dress, revealing his own dagger stolen out from under him. “I know you wouldn’t have the heart to use this even if I hadn’t taken it. I know you could be so much more than you let yourself be.” She took his wrist in a tender hold, studying the magical bracelet that kept him imprisoned. “Than -they- let you be.” Her gaze trailed up his arm until her eyes met his. “How old were you when they took you off the streets?” To his shocked expression, she hurriedly added, “You’re not the first of the Daggers to be sent to kill me. You surely won’t be the last.” Another smile, this one laced with just a hint of mischief. “You -are- the first I’ve let live this long. That’s a testament to your character, Petyr. Despite everything.”

The memory of Brand sighed and sat at Viera’s side, an arm wrapping gently around her back. “Alright. But if you’re right and… if this is one of the things that’s real, there’s somethin’ else you oughta know.” His free hand twisted at her curls, and green eyes fixated on her blues. “There is no Petyr. Name’s Dominic.”

"Well, well, well. Tall, blonde, and grumpy has kept some things from my dear sister." Khitti was gone again. The more he dwelled on the blonde woman, the more the redhead would cease to be. "See? I knew you were happy once. What's that thing Khitti would say...? Ah, yes. 'It can't rain all the time.' Can you not see how your heart yearns for love? It's right there before you. It's ripe for the picking like a giant strawberry. It's sweet, and tender, and most of all, being offered freely." He's left to ponder this on his own, no sign of the vampiress anywhere.

Brand knew that voice, though when he pivoted to greet it there was nothing. The vision was gone and he was alone again in a dim space of unknown proportions, alone with only Lydia’s voice and the constant dripping of water somewhere in that darkness. The ripples teased at his ankles as he searched for anything to fix his sight on. “Yeah, well,” Brand growled when he at last gave up the search. “Not to spoil the story for ya, but it wasn’t exactly a ‘happily ever after’ sorta tale.”

"But...you still had someone, didn't you? Someone to care for you, despite all the bad. Even if it was oh so brief. She never really told -you-, did she? Khitti. She told the one you call Dominic, but she never actually showed -you-." Another vision emerges, though the room remained pitch black. The sound of water, for now, came from the inside of the cave Brand was now in, bloodcurdling screams filling the air. They came from a room down the manmade hall at Brand's left, a large steel door with bars for a window blocking the way. Inside lay Khitti, naked and strapped to a cold metal slab, very much alive but quickly reaching that point where she'd take her last breath. Four necromancers worked tirelessly; two on each side of her torso and one for each leg. Blood ran down her body, pooling beneath her and spilling over the side of the table as they cut, and prod, and sliced, and flayed her skin. The ever growing pool of blood didn't phase the magically-inclined butchers, nor did her screams make them flinch. "Do not mistake, this is not meant to be some sort competition. It is to make you understand that while your words and your actions do cut deep, it is not so deep as the scars she bears outside and within. Your bitterness towards love and happiness, anything you might do physically to her pales in comparison." Lydia roots around in his brain a moment, finding a recent memory. "Even as you had sat next to her in that jar, even then she begged for death, for release from that prison. You mistook her for wanting affection with a brief holding of hands, but she was only reaching for your flame. She would have been gone in an instant then, had you not made that mistake. She'd have been nothing more than a pile of ash beside you."

Brand’s scowl only deepened. For a moment he seemed lucid again, conscious of Lydia being an unwanted invader in his dreamscape. “If you’re hangin’ around just to guilt me for not being head over heels, you’re wasting your gorram time. I dunno what else to tell you. It’s not gonna happen.” A hand gestured at the scene of Khitti’s imprisonment. “S’a real tearjerker, to be sure, but it doesn’t change that -I can’t help her-.” With no physical presence of the ghost to focus on, his gaze was left to linger on the necromancers. “How can I feel something I don’t believe exists as more than a fleeting failure of rationality?”

Lydia sighed heavily, finally appearing a foot away from Brand as the past Khitti and the necromancers fade from view. "I'm not trying to force you, Brand." Lydia steps towards him, moving around him, creating a circuit as bare feet tread across the black, watery void beneath them. "You are an enigma. Like a bit of yarn that can never truly be untangled." Her hands clasp behind her back, head bowed as she stares at the floor. "What is it that you want then? Why are you so conflicted? You tell her, and have likely told others, that you want to be alone. Yet, you still remain her. If -you- are the true Dominic, what will become of her then? Is the other even real? Is he no more than that thing of shadow I've seen you become? Doesn't she deserve to know? You can't hide it from her forever. One day, the truth will be discovered and she will leave. She will cast you out of her life just as you've always wanted. From the very start. But whether she lives out a life of solitude or joins me in death, that is up to her." Lydia stops in front of Brand once more. "You're just as bad as she is, Brand. You dwell on the past so much that cannot see that you destroy your own future." A hand reaches out, an index finger in his face, "And do not give me this 'you're wasting your gorram time' nonsense. She's still your friend. Or at the very least, you are hers. There is only one higher than you in this very small chainlink of friendship and from what I've seen, he doesn't even really exist."

A bench apparated behind Brand just in time for him to collapse onto it, both hands clutching into his hair. “You couldn’t understand even if I could somehow explain it. He’s real. I’m real. Don’t matter how it started anymore and I’m never even sure if I’m rememberin’ any of it right, anyway. S’all fogged up now, ‘cept for those few vivid parts when it isn’t. Didn’t used to be, but...” Brand trailed off with a shrug. Through his fingers, he cast a glare up at that doppleganger of Khitti. “I -do- know I don’t need a third person prying in on things she shouldn’t. You’re meddlesome and you haven’t the right.”

The spirit of Khitti's sister became visibly agitated. He wasn't ever going to understand was he? Never going to admit to those feelings she knew he had. She was probably the only other being in the world to know it anyway. Hell, -he- probably didn't even realize it. "I will never understand what it is she sees in you and I pray to the gods that feeling goes away quickly. In fact, I hope she doesn't even make it out of that cave at all. You...you don't even deserve her as a friend." It would seem that Lydia was just as spiteful as her sister. The gale winds from the storm earlier begin to blow, the rain accompanying it. "You want to be alone, Brand? You've got it." And then, like that, she was gone. There'd be no further interference from Lydia, and even that storm that had kicked up was gone. There was nothing. Absolutely nothing but him and that bench and the void.

Brand stared to the ground, wiggling the toes of one foot and then the other into the few inches of water separating him from the endless void. “No,” he breathed, seconds or minutes or maybe even hours into the darkness. “No, I don’t.” Noisy sloshes accompanied his footsteps as he left the bench behind. “And it’s better that way!” He was spinning wildly, nostrils flaring, nails biting into his palms. “You know why I wanna be alone?!” He paused periodically in his raving, but only the echoes answered. “I destroy -every- frakkin’ thing I touch. Y’hear me, Lydia?! Everything! Everything bad. Everything good. Doesn’t matter! It all --” He huffed and swung a hand out into the nothingness, curled tense fingers holding an invisible weight. His rage deflated; the last words were a whisper. “It all crumbles to ash in my hands, sooner or later. Could fight it, but it wouldn’t change a gorram thing. S’only ever a matter of time.”