2019-09-04 - Acceptable Losses


Illyana has a long overdue talk with Koa.

Log Info:

Storyteller: None
Date: Wed Sep 4 07:03:51 2019
Location: 46 Willow Place

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Dinner at the Rasputin house was sort of surprising to Koa, truth be told, in that it was so very normal. There was family style food, lots of it, and well cooked too but it was the interactions that seemed so oddly out of place. The ribbing of brother to sister and back. The catching up with Caden. The chatter with Keiko and Elena. It all seemed so… picket fence and apple pie. So strange considering Koa knew that these people ruled hell realms or could bend iron girders around their thighs.

And so out of Koa's general experience as well.

After dinner there had been washing up of dishes and then Koa had gone to go wash himself up in one of this place's antique bathrooms. Illyana had the good grace not to grill him like a steak at the dinner table but he knows her well enough at this point to think that she's forgotten about him and wanting to talk to him.

It does occur to him very briefly to slip out while people are speaking to one another or settling in for the evening. He doesn't because 1) Illyana would find him anyway and 2) the one thing he has never done is lied to her, not even by omission. He HAS occasionally avoided a question but he's not willing to go so far as leaving the house to do that.

"Ack… the hell?" Somehow he's nicked himself on something and he's bleeding. His blood is coming out red and black. Like there's something oily and… filthy mixed in it. He grabs some toilet paper to dab at it and stands there, in the doorway between the restroom and the living space, looking at that red-black spot.

"That's not good."

"Koa." Illyana's voice cuts across the now-quiet room. Caden's headed out. Piotr and Keiko are putting Elena to bed. Illyana stands near the back of the house, where the sliding glass doors open onto the back deck where there's a small garden and Piotr's little studio. She slides the door open and nods to it, her manner clear. He's coming with her for that Talk.

She steps through without waiting to see if he follows. She just assumes that he will. She's got a bottle of vodka and a couple of glasses to go with it. It's likely to be That kind of conversation. She's already pouring as he comes out, having taken a seat in one of the lounge chairs set out. It's still warm enough out, even with the sun down, not to need a jacket or fire. That's not likely to last long. This time next month, it will be too cold to talk out here comfortably in summer clothes.

It's got to be THAT kind of conversation if Illyana is the one who has fetched - and is pouring - the booze. Normally he'd expect her to be hinting in varying degrees of subtlety that she wanted some. She's right to be confident that he will follow though, seeing as how he does and shuts the door behind him. This likely isn't something that the rest need to hear, even if it's ALSO likely that they've heard some of it already in conversations with Keiko or amongst themselves.

"Koa finds one of the other chairs and sits down, though does not lean back in it. Rather he rests his elbows on his knees and watches. When the second glass of vodka is poured - the second, not the first - he takes that and takes a sip. He swirls it around and lets out a breath through his nose.

"Keiko mentioned that she'd told you a few things…" Is how he starts.

"Things you likely should have told me." Illyana says, swirling the clear alcohol around on her glass in an idle manner and not yet drinking. She keeps her gaze on it for now, sparing him the hard, chilly regard of her pale blue eyes. "So. Tell me now. About the heart. About Nightmare." Sure, she could start into the conversation, but this makes him tell her everything. He can't be sure what all Keiko said, and leaving anything out is likely to make Illyana Annoyed, so there's a good chance that he'll give her more than she already has. Just because she's a baby Splinter Lord doesn't mean one should underestimate her.

"In my defense, I didn't know about the heart. WAND didn't tell me and I didn't remember. I had to do some looking of my own to find out."

Koa takes a deep breath and lets his mind filter through everything that's happened in the last several weeks. It draws the silence out for a few moments. Where to start?

Nightmare. "Nightmare found me shortly after you all came back from Limbo and the Dream Realm. He blames me for his daughter getting loose, probably because I was the one who imprisoned her. He doesn't know about you, or Sam and I haven't told him. I've been trying to ward him out. Sometimes I can get a few days but so far he's always found a way back in." He doesn't go into the details about what exactly Nightmare DOES to him every night.

This probably IS the best way to get more out of Koa. Letting him tell her everything. Or at least, everything he thinks is important. "My heart… that's a bit more complicated. The one in my chest isn't the one I was born with, not anymore. Ananym - Witchfire - nearly killed me. She put a blade right through it. I don't remember much else but being dragged into Limbo and asked by something with a long green face if I wanted to live. I blacked out after I answered but from what Keiko saw, he - it - tore my heart out of my chest and replaced it with… something conveniently on hand."

He places the little wad of paper on the table where the vodka is sitting. There's that red blood spot with the oily black in it. "And it looks like it's… doing things."

"You might not have known about it then, but you've since learned about it." Illyana says, her tone a bit sharp. Not only that, but her expression is serious. Not smirking or mocking. Always a bad sign, honestly. "Do you have a drawing of it?" Presumably the demon, since she knows that Koa is a fairly good artist.

The blonde leans her head to the side, rubbing at the bridge of her nose with the side of her fingers. "Did you find out why the Hells WAND didn't tell you about this?" Her words are a bit clipped, with hints of accent that's mostly unclear. A mix of her native Russian and the demonic she learned in Libmo. Both harsh languages to start with.

As Koa sets out the little piece of paper, she looks over at it for a long moment and then reaches for the bottle of vodka, tipping out a small measure of it over the tissue. There's the *click* as the bottle is set down, blood and that dark, oily substance starting to spread into the clear vodka and then Illyana gestures over it. The liquid rises up, pulling the red and black with it in a slow stream. "Anything you've directly noticed that it might have done to you?"

Koa shifts slightly in his seat and takes his sketch book out of his back pocket. It takes him a moment to flip to the page but soon enough he sets it down on the table facing Illyana. Horse-faced wouldn't be a bad way to describe this demon. Big and long and green with bat wings.

"I have never seen anything like it before." Definitely not from Limbo though Koa knows his own exposure to Limbo is somewhat limited.

"Aside from pumping black gunk into my blood? No. I've noticed that my more… predatory urges are getting harder to control. But I can't be sure that's due to the heart." It could be due to one of the several other potentially dangerous things that have happened to Koa, or that Koa has done to himself. "They didn't tell me because they didn't understand what had happened, I think. Their first thought was that I hadn't come back at all, but some kind of shape shifting demon. After they ruled that out they still weren't sure I could be trusted so they sealed the medical records and sent them up the line. I don't know what happened after that."

WAND. It's a good organization but it IS on some level a bureaucracy. Sometimes it acts like one.

The oily substance in the blood responds quite easily to Illyana's power and when she casts Koa sucks in a breath. "Oooh… I felt that." He can usually see and sense magic, but that was too small for him to have REALLY felt it, unless the blood was feeding him the sensation of the power, somehow.

"I could have hunted for you harder but…" He glances back at the house and blows out another sigh. "Well, the simplest way of putting it is 'I didn't want to add more to your plate.' Your plate's been pretty full of some pretty awful things lately, after all."

She hadn't asked him why he hadn't told her, but at least to Koa the question was more than a little implied.

Illyana takes the notebook in her free hand, the other waiting as the liquid draws upwards until it coalesces in a small globe that she closes her hand around. She looks over the image but finally shakes her head. "I don't recognize it. But I'll put it in front of some of my demons and see what they might be able to tell me." A lot of them have, to put it mildly, short attention spans. Remembering to tell Illyana about something that's happened is just honestly beyond them. But if you ask the right questions… Then you might get somewhere.

A low growl rises from the blonde as Koa talks about WAND's actions, and the blue of her eyes fades to white. Koa's known her long enough now to know that's a sign of heightened emotion, her control on her human form slipping. "You're mine! They should have come to *me* with this." The words come out in a growl. Apparently, the fact that Koa might not have *told* WAND this doesn't occur to her. It looks like they might be getting a formal visit from their favorite splinter lord.

The now apparently solid sphere with red and black swirled within like some large marble is rolled between Illyana's fingers as she gives him a steady look. "This isn't some minor shit, Koa. It's your life, your soul, your sanity that's all on the line." She frowns then, eye fading back to blue. "Did you think you didn't matter to me?"

Which does of course mean that she'll be taking that sketchbook. Koa has another that's not an issue but he DOES wonder if he's going to get it back. Demons are not known to be great with fragile things. Like paper. Or people.

The vehemence of Illyana's outburst as her eyes go white honestly takes Koa by surprise. He knew that he was marked - as is Keiko. He knew that it was a way - a very demonic way, but still a way - of protecting him and that she wouldn't do that for people she cared nothing about. But that reaction? It has him blinking a moment. And then smiling a small, wry little smile. "I don't think that occurred to them."

Well, no. He knows for a fact that didn't occur to them. That might make for a very interesting conversation with a senior WAND agent.

There's a smallest hint of a spark of violet light within that marble. Just for a moment. A pulse of eldritch power that's quickly gone, like an ember fading. It feels very much like the elder gods. Or the Heart room.

"I… know." Koa says, finally dropping his gaze and taking another drink. Only after he has swallowed does he bring his eyes back up. "It's not that I don't think you care. It's… acceptable losses. When you came back from the dream realm, Illyana, you were hurt. Badly. It didn't take someone who'd known you your whole life to tell. When Nightmare started to torment me I didn't mention because I didn't think you needed that. Not just fresh from what you'd been through. Sam too. And then Siffror started trying to merge the realms and it became a question of maybe not embroiling you in a conflict with two other splinter lords at the same time…"

So no. It's not that he didn't think he mattered to her. It's rather the reverse. It's that he was unwilling to treat her like an 'asset'.

Even if, perhaps, he didn't go about it in the most intelligent way.

Julia Pennyworth sets her glass down. She sets the bauble down. She rises from her seat and moves over until she's standing in front of him and then leans down, setting her hands on the arms of his chair and likely causing him to lean back as she gets into his face. "YOU are not 'acceptable losses'. You are a person. You are my friend. You are *mine*, and I'll be damned if I'm not going to do whatever I can to keep you safe. Even if it means I'm dealing with a two-front war."

There's a flicker of something in those cold blue eyes as he mentions how she was hurt when they got back, and she shakes her head. "Stop prioritizing other people's pain over your own, Koa. Or, if you can't do that, then you give it to me, and I'll make those decisions for you."

Koa does indeed wind up leaning back in the chair. Illyana's idea of personal space is notional at the best of times but this is likely somewhat deliberate. Someone getting that close speaks to authority in the situation, or at least some manner of control over it. The WAND agent has never really been one to challenge that, of course. But he's also very, very rarely been on the receiving end of it.

It probably says something about Koa that there's still a part of him that wants to… argue, a bit. A part of him that wants to point out in the scheme of things that he probably IS less important. Perhaps that is because of how he views himself. Perhaps that's because of how he views his job. But she's right. He does - and has been - prioritizing other people's pain over his own.

It takes a few moments but he finally does let out a long breath and drop his gaze, this time in assent. "Alright." He says quietly. "Alright. I'll stop doing that." Well, he'll try, is what he means, really. "Thank you."

That is not something that predators say. Not to other predators. But he says it anyway. Even predators recognize when someone is trying to ease their pain.

Still leaned back - sort of cornered in his chair actually - he looks back up. "So… what are we going to do?"

About Nightmare. About his heart. About the markings on his neck. All of it.


Illyana Rasputina stays there for an extra long moment. As though she's staring him down. Then finally she gives a huff, as though accepting his thanks and, more importantly, that he's *heard* her, and she leans back.

"First, I'll see about talking to Nightmare and see if I can get him to back off. I'll need to think what I might be able to cajole or threaten him with since he's not likely to offer to do it out of the goodness of his heart. Not at first, at least." The blonde eases back into her own chair, taking up her glass of vodka again and taking a healthy swallow. "I'm sure you did some research on him. What did WAND have to offer?"

"Well he was kind of upset about his daughter getting out of that oubliette he threw her in. That was apparently him…" That'd be why breaking that collar nearly cost Koa his arm. It was splinter lord levels of magic. Splinter-Lord-In-Their-Own-Realm levels of magic. "And I think we still have her in WAND. I was going to ask what you and Sam wanted to do with her but I wasn't in any huge hurry…" Though they had agreed that given she had transgressed primarily against Illyana and Sam, it would be they who decided her ultimate fate.

Koa comes back out of the cushions he'd pressed himself into when she leaned over him and levers himself to sit up.

"WAND doesn't have much on most of the Splinter Lords, truth be told. We know that he's tangled with beings in this reality before and we know that he's occasionally been killed but it didn't really take. Beyond that he seems to largely operate on the Astral spectrum. Taking sleepers' astral forms and bringing them back to his realm. Lucky me."

Koa would be an especially easy person to grab if one knew what they were doing. Illyana could probably figure out that trick without too much effort, Koa figures.

"From personal experience I know that he enjoys the fear and anguish he inspires. If he finds out, or can sense what happened to you in the dream realm…" That's as close as Koa will come to saying 'you don't have to do this.' She's already made it quite clear that she wants to. But that very risk right there is why he'd been hesitant to bring it to her in the first place.

Taking sleepers astral forms… Illyana frowns, looking thoughtful. "So he's getting your predatory form?" Because she knows he does a version of astral projection. Just into the flesh-and-blood world.

Illyana's fingertip taps against her glass a bit and she smiles. And then chuckles. "So. First. You're sleeping with me tonight."

Koa is just taking a drink of his own, and nodding to at the 'predatory form' comment when she finishes with that. He coughs. And blushes. Full faced red blush. It takes him a moment to catch his breath and it's probably not a huge stretch to know where his mind went to.

"I, uh, am?" He coughs as he tries to catch his breath. Koa Turner, Agent of WAND. He handles surprises well, really he does.

Illyana Rasputina's smile broadens into a tooth-filled, predatory grin as Koa blushes and coughs. The squirming discomfort is a bonus. "My bedroom is Warded to Limbo and back. Also, I should be able to keep your body on a sort of extended life support while your astral form is out of it. The first part of establishing my position, is to prove he only gets to play with my toys when I'm not paying attention."

Leaning back in her chair, the blonde finishes off the vodka in her glass and sets that on the side table with the bottle. "Don't worry, Sam'll sleep in his own room if that'll make you feel better."

Koa very nearly says that he'd be more concerned with what made her feel better but he catches himself. Give her license like that and various gods only know what she'll decide is necessary for her comfort.

That blush is just not going away. So the agent does the only thing he can do. He takes a drink. "Might be slightly awkward for one or both of us if he isn't. So he comes to get me, you have a chat with him." Possibly while playing tug of war with Koa's astral form - which is to say something adjacent to his soul if not actually his soul.

"What do you need from me?" There's nothing really to argue here. She's correct in that this is the way to approach Nightmare from a position of strength. He knows that. But he also knows that part of that proposition is establishing that Koa IS, as she just put it, one of her toys.

The blonde shakes her head. "There shouldn't be any tug-of-war, really. He won't be able to just pull you through when you're behind my Wards, even though he'lll likely be able to tell that you're sleeping or otherwise in an astral state. Now, if he wants to come to me to try to get you, well." There's that predatory grin again. "Then that should be interesting. But. I'm betting he'll be able to sense you, and not able to get to you, and get *very* annoyed. After a bit of that, then I arrange for a bit of a chat and let him know he needs to knock that the hell off and if he's a good boy I'll give him *his* toy back."

Illyana's eyes have gone a bit distant, and Koa can likely imagine the wheels turning there on how to set things up. Even something in a relatively short timeframe has a lot of setup before you get started.

With a snap, she refocuses on Koa. "Arrange for Dream Queen to be transferred to me. Get your affairs in order enough that you don't need to be home for a bit. Find someone to water your plants or something. Make sure you have enough reading material."

"He does seem like he doesn't take to being thwarted well." The sessions after Koa manages to temporarily ward him are always very… intense. That predatory grin makes him gulp even though it's not aimed at him per se. He's seen that part of her on full display. And even now he can see exactly how much power she's got at her disposal. If only she's willing to damn herself a little more to access it.

It's probably telling that even though Koa is the agent - and generally the one giving the instructions - he doesn't do more than give Illyana a quizzical look when she tells him to prepare for an extended time away from home.

"I can get her to you first thing tomorrow if you like. Kilkenny can look after my things." Beat. "What do you have in mind?"

He's tempted to pour another drink but instead he places his glass on the table. Being under that gaze - even though she JUST told him that he was a friend - is no small thing and she can see a gleam of sea blue in his eyes as the predator within him recognizes her.

That gleam is briefly echoed on shark's teeth. The filled in silver turns briefly sea blue, glowing from within before fading.

"I'm going to need to think a bit on what I might do with her that will make him want her, instead of leaving her to me." It's a rare glimpse Koa's getting, into the mind of a Splinter Lord, even if she's new at the game. Seeing how the wheels within wheels turn and the games they play. By the glimmer in Illyana's pale blue eyes, she might already have an idea of what to do on that front as well.

"Most beings on his level don't, no. Especially if it's some inferior being doing it. Which, I most decidedly count as since I'm lacking in experience." Illyana remarks on being thwarted.

"Waiting for him to be downright furious at not being able to drag you to him will also give us time to look into your new and definitely not improved heart. And what it might be doing to you. As well as *that* thorn in our side." See? Illyana can multitask!

"All of which is easiest elsewhere." Probably more like Elsewhere, actually, but Koa can follow the line of logic. He rubs at the side of his neck. That… tingled. He's not sure what it was but that tingled.

"Assuming he wasn't just using an excuse to torment me, which he might have been, he's already pretty territorial about his daughter." Koa makes a face. He doesn't like many of the ideas that come to him next. "He might not like someone else tormenting her - though… I don't know if you want to go down that road. He'd probably also react poorly to the notion that someone would want to use her to replace him, too…" That's a bit more aggressive but Illyana does aggressive so very, very well.

Koa opens his mouth to say more but the teeth start to pulse with power again. Illyana can feel that prickling in her thumbs that comes with someone messing with the heart. Koa's eyes go pure silver and he doubles over in pain as a third tooth starts to fill in.

Illyana Rasputina gives a slight wave of her hand, as though to dismiss tormenting Nightmare's daughter. "If I can't think of anything more creative, I can go with that. There's always the 'eye for an eye' feel of it. He plays with mine, I play with his."

As that prickling sense comes over Illyana in time with the pulse around Koa's throat, the blonde pushes herself up out of her chair and to her feet. She grabs hold of him as he doubles over, kneeling on his lounge chair with him and so has a front-row seat as his eyes go silver and the tooth starts to fill in.

"Spit and Hades." Illyana growls, a stepping disk appearing beneath her and taking her, Koa and Koa's chair to Limbo. The Heart itself has Wards, and so the disk will only get them to the great round door.

"The hells?!" Koa manages to choke but that's really more about the pain then the sudden relocation. The door is intact and locked but the room inside is thrumming with power. Illyana can HEAR it from the other side, and both she and Koa can definitely feel it. She can also feel Koa shudder when Limbo's 'atmosphere' closes around him. The glut of easily available magic calls to him, she knows it does. He doesn't take, he's still in control of himself but the breath he lets out tells her everything.

"Gods why does that feel so good…" He mutters as he tries to push himself out of the chair. The more the tooth fills in the faster and louder the heart room thrums and throbs.

"Illyana, what's… nnnnngh. What's happening in there?"

There's a heavy grinding sound that sounds a lot like the wheel of the heart-portal spinning.

The door to the Heart is locked, but Illyana's the one that locked it. It's her magics, her intimate connection to it, that keeps it locked off. Climbing off of the chair and leaving Koa to fend for himself for the moment as the magic of Limbo rushes about him with the temptation of dark chocolate, she raises her hands and speaks a spell. Her hands glow and as she speaks, glyphs around the door light up until the doors finally open with a heavy groan. The sorceress doesn't have time to answer Koa's questions as she strides into the literal Heart of Limbo.

The Heart of Limbo pounds with a reverberating thud more felt than heard. The gate - the iris still closed and locked - is spinning. Illyana may remember it doing that before. Five times before. The spin always ended with it coming to rest on a specific signal and one of the great 'teeth' of the gate locking with a heavy, final sound. The five teeth she saw already are still locked in place, but there's a difference. All nine of them now seem to have secondary locks, and two of them are locked already.

Koa manages to get himself upright through the pain and move to the door, leaning on it with his left arm as he clutches at his side with his other hand. There's a pulse of power from his neck as the tattoo on his neck fills in and on the wheel the third tooth locks with an audible 'chunk' that echoes in the room and up the stairway.

The silver fades from Koa's eyes but they gleam faintly red in the aftermath.

"Illyana…" That's part question and part 'are you okay'. Not something he dares to say here. In fact, interestingly, not something that consciously occurs to him.

The lines of power and the script that run through the room start to slowly return to normal as whatever power had been coming to them starts to fade. But how? That power had to be coming from elsewhere. The altar here is as clean and empty as it was the last time Illyana looked at it.

As Illyana steps in, wind twists her long hair into a golden banner and she has to claw some of it back from her face as she walks forward. With each step, part of her human form falls away until it's the clang of hooves upon metal that rings out like a clarion call to Darkness. The Heart shines bright, until all that can be seen is the Darkchilde's silhoutte as the iris churns.

And then the tooth locks, and the power starts to ebb, the light and the wind it stirred falls away again. Koa is still left squinting as she turns, looking back at him. Framed by the Heart she's bound to, that spiraled path of her Destiny, or rather, her Doom. Cold eyes drop to Koa's throat and the teeth that march in a circle about his throat. Nine teeth before her. Nine teeth behind.

And in answer to Koa's question? Illyana has only one answer.


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