Memorybeans III: Revenge of Memorybeans

Nephrite eats the nightmare-flavored memorybeans under Kunzite's supervision. Worst camping trip ever.

Date: 2017-07-03
Pose Count: 16
Nephrite 2017-07-03 02:44:43 79917
Organizing the thing was easy. Neil already had the camping gear ready to go, and getting the tent set up (now that he'd had a bit of practice) took the two of them hardly any effort at all. Makoto had donated some baking to their food supply, and the small lockbox of Neil's more coveted alcohol stash (the ones he did not trust certain parties enough to keep in the frat house) is actually unlocked and open, the treasures within easily accessible. There is a campfire. There are even marshmallows. At a glance, one could easily believe that Nephrite's palace is set up for a party. A night of fun for two friends.

All of this runs directly counter to the scowl that Neil wears as he dumps an armload of firewood (all procured outside, as these trees are not to be chopped down) closer to the fire pit. He has been wearing this precise scowl all day. The fact that he is especially scowling at what appears to be a cookie tin makes it that much more incongruous. Of course, the cookies that used to reside in it are long-eaten, replaced with little red orbs of captured memory. That, and not the phantom cookies, are the likely source of his crankiness.

The brunette kneels beside the booze stash and starts rifling through it. "So does recalling unsavory past life incidents call for whiskey or sake? What goes best with crippling self-loathing?"
Kazuo Takeba 2017-07-03 03:12:37 79922
These trees are not to be chopped down, yes. These trees are not to be touched with any malign purpose. It is, after all, entirely possible that doing so could cause them to take exception to the intruder, and while Kazuo's always been fond of darkness, darkness is one thing, and the darkness produced by root systems tearing their way free of the ground under your feet and dragging you down to choke on the earth against the bedrock is another.

(Kazuo may have certain issues with trees in quantity.)

Kazuo himself is presently frowning at the fire, eyeing the possibility for scattered sparks -- or sticks -- if the wind were to pick up. Other kinds of little red orbs of disaster. "Anything that comes in a box instead of a bottle. Though the Internet claims 'appletini.'"

He gives up on trying to predict future consequences of the evening's entertainment, and regards Neil more directly. (For all that he's the only one who regularly used Nephrite's most recent alias, replacing it has proved remarkably easy. More than easy. He hasn't slipped once since he was told it.) "I don't think you need to inflict that much punishment on yourself, though. Stick with the sake."
Nephrite 2017-07-03 03:58:47 79929
Neil smirks--it's the closest thing to his characteristic smile that he's managed so far, though it in no way reaches his eyes. "Damn, I didn't think to pick up the boxed stuff. Guess the sake'll have to do."

If Kazuo is uncomfortable with the setting, well, at least Neil does not have to be the only uncomfortable person around here. He procures the bottle of sake and sits down beside Kazuo, pulling out his keys with the attached bottle opener and setting to work breaking the seal. "Hey, remember last time we spent a miserable night with a bottle of sake? Oh wait, no, you didn't get any sake that time. Rocks don't drink."

It's probably not very nice to bring that up. Unfortunately the odds of Kazuo receiving some collateral damage from Neil's crankiness are fairly high.
Kazuo Takeba 2017-07-03 04:07:56 79931
"At last, I'll be able to join the rest of you in that quintessential experience." Kazuo glances sidelong at him. "Instead of just wondering how long it would take someone to get the bright idea of dropping me in their drink."

That's one of the reasons Mamoru suggested him, after all. Collateral damage from crankiness only rarely ruffles Kazuo's feathers to any significant degree. Not that Neil hasn't proven he can still get to Kazuo if he really wants to ... but that's targeted crankiness.

Kazuo glances to the cookie tin, then away before Neil has too much of a chance of catching him looking. "Who knows. It might yet prove to be a minimum of misery." It's theoretically possible.
Nephrite 2017-07-03 04:47:45 79939
The fact that Neil is not even attempting to hide the source of his sourness is as much testament to how willing he is to confide in Kazuo as anything. Anybody else, even Mamoru, would be getting a cursory attempt at cheer. He manages to crack open the bottle's seal, and retrieves pair of red Solo cups. No, the very expensive sake is not getting any attempt at class. "I thought about it," he says. "But then I got this irrational fear of swallowing your rock and... yeah, I don't think anybody would be having a good time if that happened."

He does not fill the Solo cups, at least. He pours in a few fingers' worth and hands Kazuo his cup. When he does the same for himself, though, he throws it back instantly, draining his cup. "Anyway," he coughs around the burning in his throat, "I already licked it, so." He pours himself a second cup before he sets the bottle aside and reaches for the cookie tin. "I wonder if this stuff will taste better or worse than that."
Kazuo Takeba 2017-07-03 05:03:55 79940
The advantage of being a professional pessimist is that nobody has to try to cheer you up. Since there's no point. Well, nobody but Usagi. "That was a perfectly rational fear," Kazuo tells Neil. "Given that I'd have been haunting you for the entire duration. There are some things that neither of us need me to see."

Solo cup is accepted, and Kazuo joins Neil in drinking ... partway. There's no surprise in Neil's draining his cup. There's no desire to match him, either. Kazuo takes a sip, that's all; one of them at least will have a chance of remembering what the very expensive sake tasted like. (One of them at least will have tasted it.)

Licking ... is not commented on at this juncture. "We've had at least four people eat ones from the prank batch by accident," Kazuo notes. "None of them have caught on in time to spit them out. I doubt your head tastes worse than a polar bear's." It's a miracle Ami ever came back after that one.
Nephrite 2017-07-03 05:33:48 79941
It is not really expected that Kazuo will match Neil's pace where the drinking is concerned. He was, after all, planning to just get completely hammered on his own before he did this. It's really a matter of courtesy that he's sharing at all. "The next time you're ready to murder me, which may or may not be sometime tonight, please remember that even in one of my drunkest moments, I managed to avoid making any choices that would result in you taking a tour of my colon."

He opens up the cookie tin, which rattles noisily with its contents. Inside, the little memorybeans shine with candy apple glossiness. The sun overhead sits at a golden late evening position, just light enough that the offending objects can be easily seen, but not so bright as to make the campfire pointless. "Do polar bear brains taste like snow? Or like, marshmallows? That would be the best." He's stalling. Even now, after all these preparations.

He fishes one of the marbles out at random and glares down at it. "Do me a favor, would you?" He looks up at Kazuo with a sharp intensity in his dark eyes. "Don't let me chicken out."
Kazuo Takeba 2017-07-03 05:48:34 79942
"I'll keep in mind that your survival instincts are at least occasionally still functioning, yes." There's a momentary little crease at the corner of Kazuo's eye. "Besides, I haven't been inclined to murder you in ... what is it, now. Six months? We must be overdue."

And there are the little bits of solidified mind and magic behind all of this. Lurking for ... quite a while. Never actually forgotten. The color of the sunlight almost seems to highlight theirs, to render it richer and redder still. Maybe that's part of the preparation too, on some level. Even in the dark, Nephrite had a certain degree of concern for presentation, for the details that made the difference between impressive and unforgettable. Sometimes that still turns up.

And then, sometimes ... well. Pink. Not that Kazuo has any ground to stand on in that argument.

Polar bear brains, though. Maybe a little ground there. "We are not," he says, "taking a detour to ask Mercury the answer to that question. If you really want to know, you can pester her once the hangover wears off."

He's already watching Neil when Neil looks up at him from the little bit of color. And the nod back to him at that 'favor' is very slight. "Whatever it is, you've already lived through it. Which means," and the smile doesn't touch his eyes, even to the degree their banter did a moment ago, "you've been through worse."
Nephrite 2017-07-06 01:02:50 80058
It's not comfort. The smile not reaching Kazuo's grey eyes, the lack of assurance that maybe it won't be so bad. But somehow the practical statement is more reassuring than any platitudes could be. The nightmares encased in red candy coating will at least be familiar nightmares, both to himself and to the one who volunteered to sit with him while he recalls them. Kunzite lived through the same hell (a worse hell, by all measures) and did not have the luxury of a memory-eating youma to keep him sane.

More to the point, nothing in those memorybeans will change what Kazuo thinks of him. That, in itself, does more to maintain his resolve than anything.

He shakes his head. "Shoulda brought some with us. Could have had a polar bear chaser. Ah well." Before he can find yet another excuse to put it off, he shoves the red orb into his mouth.

The girl is perfect. So dedicated for a child. So eager to do the Dark Kingdom's work. And what more appropriate means to channel that work than through the creation of dolls? He nearly chuckles to himself over the irony, as he watches her work from outside her window. Still. She is a weak thing, young and small, and will not sustain this pace for long. He will have to move swiftly if he wants to harvest her energy before she simply exhausts herself and dies. With luck, he'll have the mother as well...

Neil shoots up from his seat with a shout that dissolves into an unintelligible string of swears. He brings his hands to his face, and somewhere among the cussing, Kazuo might be able to pick up "a goddamn child."
Kazuo Takeba 2017-07-06 01:48:06 80060
(There's no worse hell in this, as far as Kazuo's concerned. There's no better, either. There's only the one, and they were all in it together; that it painted itself differently for each of them is irrelevant. But that's by his counting, and that doesn't mean anything for anyone else.)

He might've had some comment about the polar bear chaser. For all Neil knows, Kazuo might even have tucked a little plastic container of animal memories into one of the coolers. Maybe hand-selected. An otter lithe in its river, a heron strutting, a harrier gliding over the landscape looking for an owl to hassle.

Probably not, though, and it doesn't matter either way.

Neil is on his feet faster than most people would guess someone his size could ever move. Kazuo's slower to stand; gives him a moment to bring himself under control.

That's not control; that's worse.

"Neil," he says quietly, when those hands don't come back down. Another breath or two of quiet after, because comfort's not something he's good at, no. And anything he says about these things has to be guesswork. but all the same ...

That's still swearing. All right, then. "Whatever it was. With what she did to us. You wouldn't have wanted to get rid of the memory unless you lost."
Nephrite 2017-07-06 02:34:51 80061
"Yeah," Neil mutters through knitted hands. He drags them down his face, leaving it red and his hair a mess. Not so concerned with presentation right at this moment. But he's using words other than curses, so that's something. "Yeah." He draws a shaky breath, and bends to grab his cup of sake. "It wasn't--just what I did. It was being back in that mindset again. Seeing people as... as property. Resources to harvest." He drains the cup, finds the bottle to refill it again. Less careful this time about measuring a reasonable amount. "S'why I didn't want him to be anywhere near me for this, you know? I don't want him having all those thoughts running through his head too." There can be no question who he is in this context.

Neil takes a breath, sits back down in the bright folding chair that Makoto helped him pick out. "Right. One down. First step is the hardest, right?" He digs out another memorybean at random, and shoves it in.

They said he was special. They said he was sent to this absurdly uptight, backwards place because of his power, because even with his youth he stood a head above much of the world. Yet now he is just told to obey, just told to listen to the King of Uptightness himself, and frankly, he can think of better uses for his time. He feels the anger burning through his grin as he looks the older boy dead in the eye. "You can take your lesson and shove it as far up your ass as you can get it. Leader."

He pays dearly for the comment. He will always say it was worth it.

This time, there is no violent reaction as Neil eats the memory. In fact, after a moment of chewing through it (in both the literal and figurative sense), a slow grin begins to form. He gives Kazuo a look. "So apparently we have not always gotten along. Were you not immediately taken with my shining personality?"
Kazuo Takeba 2017-07-06 03:05:23 80062
Kazuo doesn't say anything as Neil pours himself more of the sake. That mindset ... they've already argued out his reaction to it, back around the turn of the year. Neil knows full well how twitchy Kazuo is about the possibility that he might fall back into it. Which means that Neil knows full well that that quiet understands.

But the comments about the other him -- those win an answer. "I know. Right plan." Mamoru's stable -- most of the time. But most isn't all, and the wrong thing would push him over the edge ... and, well. "He'd have tried to stand by you all the same. And that would just have been worse for both of you. So we do it this way instead."

By the time that Neil's eyes are focused on the real world again, Kazuo's folded himself back down, hands still free. Watching; ready in case of a reaction like the last one. Which he might have preferred over that grin. Kazuo's eyebrows lift; he's already reaching for his cup preemptively by halfway through the word 'apparently.' A drink (if it qualifies for the term, next to Nephrite's) is taken before he says anything aloud. "Your personality shines more when you use a little polish," he answers in that familiar tone. "I don't remember it clearly, you understand. Mostly only vague impressions. I do remember occasionally wondering whether you might coincidentally get some convenient head injury that required surgical treatment. Mostly because I was having trouble thinking up more ways to try to get through your skull without actually using a drill."

(It was definitely worth it.)
Nephrite 2017-07-06 04:12:47 80063
Neil laughs--the kind of laugh that's a little too loud for the joke made, but so much bad was building up, that moment of release is like gold. "Aw, you know you loved me deep down in that big ol' heart of yours." He's still chuckling to himself as he reaches for the cookie tin again. This time, he's not reaching for his cup in-between. "Think you ever actually tried? I bet we had some epic fights. Maybe we've got one or two of those tucked in here." Finally, something to look forward to.

The next memory comes: This prison has no end. He will die here, probably, but he has not decided when, yet. If he goes down, it should be fighting, but how do you fight when reality twists on itself, when the very walls of the witch's labyrinth mock him? After so long in this place, without sleep or respite or access to energy sources, he has given up on trying to distinguish between real and hallucination. He has been chasing the witch for a long time now--days or weeks, who can count?--but his brain keeps changing its mind on what it is, what he's hunting for. Did it look like his Queen before, with a mane of red? --No, it is someone else now, of course it is, he has always been chasing him. The navy blue tail of a cape flicks just outside of his vision, and he gives chase again. But this is dangerous. Why dangerous? Because this sort of thing will get you killed. No, worse. It will get you like Jadeite. He lets the vision dance away from him. Hears the telltale rumble of the witch's wrath close by. He was never chasing it. It was always chasing him.

And he will die here.

Neil is on his feet again. "No, I can't, no... " He paces across the length of the campsite, like moving away from the cookie tin will somehow make the memory fade, but then can't keep still, pacing erratically at the clearing's edge. "I can't do this. I can't."
Kazuo Takeba 2017-07-06 04:49:50 80064
Pale eyebrows twitch a second time. "Heart?" Kazuo repeats, exaggerating the pronunciation the way he might in a language he'd never spoken. A shift in his seat, leaning a little more easily for a moment. "Don't think I ever tried on purpose, no. Endy would've found out. But there might be a few heat-of-the-moment incidents, for all I know."

It would've taken a raw madness of desperation to reduce Kunzite to 'if there's a brain injury the Prince can sort it out later.' But if there was anyone ever able to push him that far, it would've been Nephrite. Nephrite was always able to get to him. Even when no-one else realized there was anything to get to at all.

And then there's another red memory, and Neil is on his feet, and Kunzite is on his feet an instant after. He doesn't follow. He watches across the clearing, yes, but he stays where he is, like a physical anchor.

"You can do this." It's a flat, calm statement. Just a fact. Other people might have followed it with 'you will,' but even with that favor Neil asked before ... there are still two truths. One, he deserves better than that. Two, telling Neil to do something like that is an excellent way for Kazuo to get something large and heavy thrown at his face. If he's lucky, it'll be a cooler, not a fist.

His turn for repetition. "You can do this." Neil's survived it once already. No. Kazuo said that before. Reach further. "You need to. It hurts like hell. But it's something you can heal from. And if you don't -- you'll never be able to trust yourself. It'll always nag you. Wondering what should've been in the missing places you can't fill." Like blanks in a star chart. Like abysses in the sky. Something that's no trouble at all, but only so long as you keep your head turned, and never look that way, and neve think about doing it. A slow-burn recipe for its own kind of madness.

Quieter: "And we need you able to trust yourself. We need you to be able to find your balance. Even if you have to lose it for a while to get there."

We need you. That web of connection that wasn't there in the worst of the memories, that came together to draw him out of some. And quieter, implicit: he needs you.
Nephrite 2017-07-06 05:37:12 80065
Neil almost wants that order to come. He almost wants Kazuo to give him an excuse to fight, make himself a target for Neil to rail against--not so different, really, from that memory of a past childhood. Unbidden, the sky overhead has darkened, stormclouds overtaking the sun and rumbling in warning. Neil stands at the edge of the clearing, hands balled into fists, and at first it hardly seems he has even heard Kazuo's words.

But of course, just as nobody has ever been able to get under Kunzite's skin like Nephrite, none have ever tempered Nephrite's rage like Kunzite could. He closes his eyes, bunching his hands in his hair. Balance. Yes. The clouds overhead are dark and heavy enough to threaten rain. But that would douse their little fire pit and make everything soggy. He breathes in and out. It takes more than a few breaths, but slowly the sky clears again, the sunshine returning as though nothing had blemished it.

"Alright. Okay." Neil trudges back to his seat, subdued but no longer shaken. He holds his cup between both hands, taking slower sips of the sake. "Can't believe I considered doing this by myself. I wouldn't have lasted five minutes." He gives Kazuo a sidelong glance. It's almost a thank you. An implied one, at least.

He drags the cookie tin closer. "I'm gonna eat these as fast as I can, and I'm not getting out of this chair until I'm done. And then I will probably puke in the ferns, I dunno, I'm playing that part by ear." He drains his cup, sets it aside. "And I'm not going home until I've got my head on straight again, and I don't know how long that's gonna be. Long enough that I'm not getting my feels all over the apartment."

He reaches into the tin and comes up with a small handful of marbles. "If I cry tonight, don't you dare tell Zoi."
Kazuo Takeba 2017-07-06 06:01:33 80066
Douse the fire. Make everything soggy. Dilute the sake. It's probably a good thing that that last one wasn't one of the problems that occurred to Neil. All Kazuo knows for certain, though, is that Nephrite stands there ... and only stands.

He doesn't storm out of the clearing.

He doesn't turn on Kazuo. He doesn't shout. He doesn't throw anything, or kick anything, or make some bullheaded impossibly-strong charge.

He doesn't even stalk back for his drink. He only stands.

Kazuo only stands, too. Holding his place. Waiting. And eventually there is a little more light, and then a little more.

He doesn't breathe out fully again until Neil has his cup in both hands. Even then, he doesn't sit back down. Not for the sake of looming over Neil; Neil's harder to loom over than most people, and just standing there next to him doesn't qualify. Just because there's something he still needs to do.

It's around the words 'head on straight' that his hand finally rests on Neil's shoulder.

"Yeah," Kazuo says to it being ... long enough. "I'll keep people out of your hair over that." And probably worse things, too, if Neil winds up resorting to the ferns. "Be a hypocrite if I didn't; I went hiding a few days over less."

He does not promise to keep himself out of Neil's hair. Someone needs to make sure he eats, or at least has the option of eating; Makoto has the highest privilege, but this may not always be something he wants her to see.

And Neil's last words -- well. "We'll bury the evidence."

Before any of the rest of it, those last nine words are what make Kazuo gut-certain that somehow, eventually, maybe very eventually, Neil really is going to come back around to okay.