Tending Limbo

Summary:
July 25 2014: Accompanied by K'nert, Jericho makes a foray into Limbo to do some gardening. Illyana comes by to see how things are going.

Limbo

Right on the edge between barren and living limbo is where Jeri works here.


Characters

NPCs

  • None

Mood Music:
[* None]


Landscaping on Planet Earth is fairly backbreaking work. There's a lot of digging in the hot sun and moving large heavy objects around. Landscaping in a Hell Dimension is exactly like that except you have to add in a landscape that operates by magical rules instead of normal ones. Oh, and combat. There's always the chance you'll have to beat something. And today, on his second foray into Limbo, he has! There's presently an unconscious, groaning lizard thing atop which K'nert is currently reclining as Jericho digs an extension to the watercourse that waters this particular slice of the green side of Limbo into the dead side of it. He's hoping that this will help revitalize the area he's trying to affect… and not poison the 'good' part. We'll see. He's still very much in the experimenting phase of this operation.

*

Jericho's had time to be at it a good long while, and thus have some progress to be seen when Illyana eventually teleports in. Because you knew she would. She's dressed in her usual metal head attire, which is at least not as bad as her demon queen look, which involves a lot more leather, and she takes a long look around before her attention finally falls on… K'nert.

A blonde brow arches as she looks at the little demon lounging there looking, of such a creature can, smug. "You're getting fat." She tells the imp, using that terribly F-word before finally coming over to where Jericho is working. She looks about, and her expression seems a bit… torn. On the one hand, she'd like to make some flip, cutting remark. On another she's got that lonely, empty feeling like it's not going to do any good. And on another hand, which shows you it's already bad because she's onto a hand she doesn't have, she wants to thank him for the attempt. In the end, she stands there looking oddly… forlorn.

*

Jericho looks up from his work. He's got a good trench cut and a pit dug and lined for a pond. He's not precisely sure exactly what the watercourse is going to do when he digs out the narrow bit of earth separating its present course from the new channel but one can hope, anyway. He's wearing short sleeves today because it's hot and the demons aren't any more likely to try hurting or killing him because they can see his traces than they would be otherwise. He's not visibly armed but… reptile boy over there has already learned that doesn't necessarily mean anything. What he doesn't know is that in short sleeves the markings on his wrists and forearms show better. Maybe that's why he's only had to beat one demon silly.

*

"Hey Illyana." The hacker greets the evident Metal Fan. He drives the shovel he's got into the hard packed earth of 'dead' limbo like a spear and comes walking up the incline toward her only to slow a bit. That's… not an expression he can recall seeing on her before.

"Hey… something wrong?"

*

Jericho's words seem to break whatever spell had her in its grip and, with a blink, she turns those hard blue eyes up to him. "There's always *something* wrong." She reminds him, tone mocking. "But no. Nothing more than usual."

Illyana steps over towards him, blithely invading his personal space as she usually does and reaches out to slide a fingertip down the markings on his arms. "Looks like you've already had some excitement today." Eventually she looks back up. "You feel alright? No homocidal tendencies stirring or anything?" Because sometimes Limbo does that to people.

*

The exposure to Limbo's magic already had Jericho's traces glowing dull, ember red. This lights up to a brighter crimson as they absorb magic from Illyana by touch. "A little excitement yes. Lizard boy over there decided I looked like I might be easy prey. I don't know what he thinks about the matter now, but it's possible he's changed his mind."

Jericho's exposure to Limbo has been fairly minimal and he's not felt the effects of it's corruption… though he has absorbed a fair amount of demonic magic. Then again… if he were being corrupted… would he notice? "No, nothing like that. Not even a desire to hurt Lizard Boy over there… much." Because really, after he'd gotten the thing down and bashed it against a rock a few times, it wasn't much of a challenge, much less addictive fun.

"Just lots of digging and thinking. What brings you by?" Eyes follow fingers as they move over his traces.

*

"Well, no one's done any gardening here since…" Illyana catches herself. She gives Jericho a thin, apologetic smile. "It's like an event. How could I not come watch?"

It's by following his gaze that she realizes she's still teasing his traces, and she forces her hand to drop and leave him be. She moves over a bit, to where the water has pooled and eases down to the lush green grass. So odd to see, less than a stone's throw from bleak desolation.

"Thinking Deep Thoughts?" There's the flicker of her fingers, and then the snap of her thumb sends a small copper disk spinning end-over-end towards him. It's not a penny, but it is about the right size and shape. Probably a lot more copper in it though.

*

The flicker of metal does catch Jericho a bit off guard but he manages to snatch it out of the air and look at it as he bends down to pick up a spade from the little milk crate full of tools he brought with him. Mostly it seems like the shovel about forty feet away has seen the lions share of the work, but there's a hand-hoe, and other dirt moving and smoothing implements. Oh, and a mattock. For moving rocks, of which it must be said there are a fair few on the dead side. He's already gotten a small pile moved off to one side of his trench. Maybe he'll figure out something decorative to do with it.

"Not since a while, hrm?" He moves over to the little dam now, digging away at it to get the water flowing. He can tell there was more to that thought but if there's one thing he's learned about Illyana it's that she'll share when she's good and ready. There hasn't yet come up something that felt so important he had to push.

"Deep thoughts? I don't know if you'd call them deep… I am a bit nuts, if you recall." That last is said with a wink and a grin as the dirt barrier breaks and the water flows downhill. Jeri stands to watch. He's not expecting an immediate reaction to this, but this is Limbo after all. Expect the unexpected.

*

Illyana watches the water start to spill into the waterway he's made, and she stretches out along the edge, one arm cocked to support her head as her other hand reaches down to let her fingers dip into the flow. "You took the payment, Jer. Now you need to spill." She lifts just her gaze, smirking up at him.

He didn't, after all, tell her his thoughts yet. Don't think she didn't catch that. The water spills down the new channel in a burbling little rush and when it gets to the barren lands it starts to soak into the earth. But slowly, it seems to be filling.

Limbo is a good place to expect the unexpected… but it's almost universally the *bad* unexpected.

*

Well, at least the water didn't turn blood red and start corrupting the green land around it. That's something. He's still not sure that this will do anything, but having it not hurt is a good start. With the waterway extended he can start making an effort to extend the green itself. Well… if it works that way. Limbo, as previously mentioned, works on magical rules and not normal ones. Kind of like it's Queen.

Jericho flips the 'penny' up a couple times as he watches all this, considering before turning back toward Illyana. "A few thoughts. I'm hoping this will work the way you hoped it might. Hoping that it's something that I can help with since, you know, I don't exactly have magic of my own. And I was thinking a bit about the conversation Nancy and I had a couple nights ago. Oh, and keeping an eye out for anyone else who might think that I don't know how to use a shovel to remove teeth." That last with another wink as Jericho goes over to get a cold bottled water from a small cooler and offer another to Illyana.

*

Illyana reaches up to accept the bottle, her hand catching his and tugging him down to sit in the grass with her. "Well, it was a thought. It probably won't help but it isn't likely to hurt." It's hard for Illyana to get her hopes up, but she's trying not to be too negative about it all.

"You and Nan, hmm?" She's about to say she's afraid to think what those two are up to when she remembers the conversation she had a while back with Nancy. For Illyana, it was *quite* a while away. It was after she'd been awake too damned long again and that always makes her emotions a bit erratic. After a moment she glances over at him. "And?" She's fairly sure that Nancy would have told him *why* she came to talk to him.

*

Jericho does, in fact, end up sitting right next to her in the grass. Thank goodness for grass. There's a lot fewer sharp rocks here. If this were dead Limbo he'd now be picking them out of his backside. Thankfully…

"Not hurting is a start. And I'm still hopeful. But I'm stubborn like that." Jericho isn't… rainbows and puppies hopeful, but if he didn't have some hope it could work, he wouldn't be here. In fact he rather suspects that if he didn't have any hope at all, he'd harm a lot more than help. Magic. Ugh.

"And she tells me you're worried about putting me in danger." He says with a wry chuckle as he takes sip of the water. "I think her words were 'push me until I red light whatever you're doing then push further to see how much I can take.' She asked me to take your reservations on the matter with a bit more… gravitas." Another sip of water. Whew it's hot. "Which I do. But it doesn't change my stance on being your friend. If you're willing to be around me, I'm more than willing to have you around and that's more or less that so far as it concerns me." There's a lot more talk that went into that but Jericho isn't really sure how much Illyana would appreciate his reasoning.

*

Illyana opens the bottle of water and takes a few swallows herself. The heat comes in off the blasted area of Limbo, as there is no sun in the sky above. Don't ask how the green things grow, or what parched the earth. She's quiet for a long moment, but Jericho's used to her long spells of silence by now.

"You don't give me a lot of boundaries." Illyana says rather slowly. "So I have to make them myself." Another pause. "And I'm not so good at that. You don't have to stop being my friend but…" She pushes herself up into a sitting position again, gaze on the running water.

"It's getting hard to keep stopping myself." She says quietly.

*

"You haven't crossed any lines yet, to be honest." Which is true, even if it would not be for almost any other person on the planet. Then again, his other two closest friends are respectively Partisan - who has different kinds of boundaries pushing issues - and Nancy who is, despite being adorable, a massive troll.

"I can give you some if you'd like, but I figured 'please don't try to hold me down and cause me pain until I scream myself horse' might go without saying." It's a joke. A way to lighten the mood a little, though… he really would appreciate it if she didn't. That said, odds are good he'd forgive her if she did. He's already had that discussion with Nancy. Illyana's sure to make mistakes. Best, perhaps, if someone who will forgive them is around. She does enough self recrimination without needing it added to.

*

One of Illyana's legs folds over the other as she looks over at him, water held loosely by her fingertips. "It does… but at the same time it doesn't. If you let me start, I might forget that it's 'duh'." Her fingers worry the label of the bottle.

"Hell, depending, *you* might forget." Her gaze shifts to look into the distance, at nothing, and tips back the water for another drink.

"Strong emotions are a danger." Meaning that he has the potential to spark strong emotion in her.

*

Jericho gives his blonde companion a mild quirked eyebrow. "I see…" At least it's not a sarcastic I see. He mulls that over and leans back on one hand, downing half of his water in one go.

Finally he looks over to Illyana quite seriously. "What would you like me to do, Illyana?" He asks quietly and gently. Because he's willing, quite willing as she now knows, to endure what being her friend means. But he doesn't want to push that on her if it will do more harm than help. Honestly, he thinks really it will help, but it's got to be her call. Because if it's not, really, how much of a friend is he?

*

Illyana gives a quiet sigh. "I… don't know." She admits quietly, head tipping forward so her head hang sa bit. "I haven't been here before. I don't know how to deal with it." She turns her head to look over at him through the fall of her bangs.

*

Jericho reaches out and touches Illyana's shoulder. "I won't push, you know that right? I want to be someone you can count on, but if it hurts more than helps…" The hand drops down after a few moments. "All the same, understand that knowing the risks, I still think you're worth the risk. I just…" He finally has to smile, just a little. "I've never been in a situation quite like this before either. Though that seems to be a thing, this past year."

*

Illyana gives a low, soft chuckle at that, nodding. "I'm… bad at relationships." She says, letting out a breath in a long hiss.

"Which is why I'm convinced that you and Nancy are crazy." Her fingertip taps against the bottle and finally she caps it and tosses it aside and turns towards him. "I do have some other friends. Folks that have my back when I need it. I don't want you to think I'm completely alone." She just tends to drop in on him by herself, and her other friends have busy lives too.

*

"I'm not super great at relationships myself," Jericho observes with a self-deprecating smirk. "But then you knew that. I'd actually kind of wondered about that. I'm glad to hear that there are others." Though now he's kind of wondering what's gonna happen when they meet. He seems to be something of a danger magnet after all and rarely inspires any kind of confidence… often with some justification.

The water bottle gets laid aside and he twists slightly to face Illyana. "Though the fact that you may or may not have other friends doesn't really bear on me. I'm your friend because I like you, Illyana, not because I pity you."

*

Illyana puts her hand against Jericho's shoulder and gives a shove to send him onto his back. She leans over him, hand coming down on one side of him while she sits on the other. Her legs tuck underneath her as she looks down at him while he's 'trapped' there. "If I thought you pitied me I'd beat the crap out of you and never drop by again."

*

Oooof. She likes yanking, shoving and pushing, he's discovered. Thank God for no sharp rocks part two. If and when he ever gets the green expanding he's gonna have to make a note to remove those.

"Wouldn't dream of it." He laughs, though as noted he's now a bit stuck. "Pity is a bad basis for friendship anyway." You don't stick your neck out for people you pity. And you certainly don't risk your soul for them.

There's a pause, followed by a familiar smirk. "Does this make the delivery more effective?"

*

Illyana's head cocks to the side a bit. "Delivery?" Seems she's not following his thread of the conversation. Her fingertips brush against the inside of his forearm, flushing his traces a slightly deeper red as her palm rests in the grass.

Yeah, Illyana's pushy. It's like everyone's only there for her amusement or something!

*

The tingle on his arm cuts off whatever Jericho was going to say next and his eyes cut down to see, well Illyana's hand and demonic ever so slowly starting to bleed over his vision. After a moment though he looks back up.

"Nevermind," He laughs quietly. "It's not important." He has definitely noticed she likes to position herself in a manner that gives her leverage or restricts his movement in some fashion. It could be threatening done right, but he's never felt threatened by her. Yet, at any rate. It's probably the demonic socialization or maybe just, for lack of a better phrase, demonic instinct. There's a part of him that wonders how far the instinct to assert social dominance carries.

"So am I likely to ever run in to any of your other friends? Besides Nan, that is."

*

Illyana hitches a shoulder in a shrug. "Sure. Normally I drop in on you but I could always introduce you if you wanted. I guess it never occurred to me to introduce people just to introduce them." Illyana clearly lacks much in the way of social gatherings where her friends would all gather. Also, lacking a home at the moment outside of Limbo, hard to invite people over.

He hasn't really seen her around other people enough to know if she treats them similarly. Or seen her around her friends to know if she treats *them* like that. He kind of knows Illyana in this little social bubble.

*

"If that's something you'd like, sure. They're your friends after all." Positioned like this Jericho doesn't have any choice but to look at some part of Illyana. Arm or eyes are the safe bets here. It'd be rude otherwise. Well, and too easy to kick or knee him. Which she might do anyway but at least then it'd probably be in fun. There's a brief moment when he wonders again what exactly she meant when she told him that strong emotions were dangerous.

"You can always bring them by the apartment if that's comfortable for you though. It's your place, like I said. So long as they're with you when I walk in I won't react badly." Which is to say by shooting or otherwise assaulting them.

*

Illyana chuckles at that, since that's basically what happened when Partisan walked in on Illyana. To Illyana's credit, she didn't really realize it belonged to someone else and he was just crashing there.

"They're my friends because they know who and what I am and they'll have my back anyway." Illyana explains. "It doesn't always mean that they *like* me that much." She doesn't explain about them going to school together, she's in the habit of not mentioning Xaviers. Just in case someone wants to pull funny stuff.

Her attention is drawn over to the traces on his arm that are reacting to her touch, and she can't help but slide a finger along them to watch them react to her presence.

*

In Jericho's case the reaction would be less territorial and more survival. He's come home to find people in the places he's stayed before. It often ends in gunfire. And property damage. The moment Illyna begins to trace his traces his gaze returns there. He's observed before that the longer he touches something magical - more often than not Illyana herself - the more the light spreads out and it's not too horribly long before his entire arm is lit up.

"You enjoy that, don't you?" The question is quiet, as if half to himself. He's observed that she does indeed seem to like it before, but kept it to himself. He can't say that he objects himself, though his reasons have little to do with the light show.

*

Illyana gives him a rueful smile and hitches a shoulder a bit. "I like the way they react to me." Odd. It's a fairly small thing. Maybe it's because they do that for her, and not to pretty much anyone else she sees Jericho around most of the time. Not that most people tend to invade his personal space quite so much. Her hand moves away from his arm, but it's to push his shirt up, tucking it and dragging so she can see more of his skin.

*

As before the traces light up under Illyana's hand, and the light slowly spreads from the point of contact outward. Jer props himself up on his elbows to watch but doesn't otherwise make any movement. "I'd wondered if maybe the traces absorbing your magic was unpleasant…" He chuckles. "I guess not." In truth he has no idea how much they're absorbing at all. Possibly not a whole lot. And once one gets over the tingly, warm sensation of Illyana's magic, the touch itself is… well, Jer's a little touch starved. Mostly folks don't touch him at all and often when they do it's in the context of a fight.

*

Illyana's touch moves to that newly revealed skin as the muscles bunch from Jericho's shift in position. "I don't feel it *taking* anything from me. If I couldn't see it, I wouldn't think anything was going on at all. And it didn't interfere with the spell I cast on you." Her hand pulls back a bit, and then without needing to chant or gesture or anything else, her touch comes back and when her fingertip sweeps against his skin it leaves a luminescent trail of silvery fire that slowly fades. Almost as if it runs out of fuel and burns out, but there's no sense of heat against his skin. Illyana's knees curve in, brushing Jericho's side as she sits up straighter to 'draw' on him.

*

The additional contact accelerates the demonic bleeding onto Jericho's vision but at the moment he's actually far more interested in the silvery fire playing over his skin. He's seen Illyana do fire based magical effects before, but not this. After watching silently for a few moments the hacker follows her hand back up to her eyes, watching her expression for a moment longer.

"What is that?" He asks at length. It doesn't feel unpleasant. In fact aside from the touch it doesn't really feel at all.

*

Illyana's eyes are half-lidded, her manner relaxed. She has an almost… serene expression as she treats his skin like a canvas for her magic. The question gets a chuckle. "It's a… cantrip, I think is the general name for it. It doesn't do much but make light." Her fingers spread out, and slides an open hand across his midsection, as if to 'wipe' away what she'd been drawing and smoothing her touch across his skin. Her touch keeps playing against him, and now a fingertip follows the line of muscle instead of the play of his traces.

A little bit of a smile quirks up the edge of Jericho's lips. His traces are by this point flushed red and there's a lot of demonic text on his HUD though his attention is still focused on following Illyana's hand. The touch is light enough that in places it almost tickles, and it's not hard to feel the little quiver when he gets right on the edge of laughing. After a few moments he reaches out and places a hand on Illyana's shoulder, and a few moment after that, having not been punched or tickled, he rubs a bit down the arm and back up slowly.

He can see when she notices that quiver. When she remembers that he's ticklish. The way it tilts her lips up just so and her fingers curl inwards to scrape the tips of her nails against his skin. He's probably lucky that she doesn't coax his traces to light when they're out in public. She stays relaxed under his touch, not even flicking her gaze up to give him an arch Look at the presumption. The track of her nails having followed the flow of muscles all the way down to his waistband, her hand flattens out again and slides back up, sliding beneath his shirt until her wrist drags it higher. "I guess I just see you around me, Partisan, Nancy… People you trust. Makes you seem almost gullible." She doesn't much see the paranoid side of him. Anymore.

*

Jericho lets out a short laugh, both at being called gullible and at being half tickled. "You've all three earned that trust as far as I am concerned." It's not easy to earn Jeri's trust. In fact were it not for Illyana's penchant for finding times when he would likely be unarmed, it's probable that the two of might have wound up at odds. Unless Illyana likes being shot at, that is, but he gets the feeling she doesn't. His paranoia and mistrust is reserved for people like Barton whom he barely knows, or Hill whom he regrets knowing. His hand dips down a little lower on Illyana's arm, toward the wrist and then back up to the shoulder.

"Better to have people you can trust like that, for me anyway, even if there's only a handful of them." He likewise remains relaxed though it's really hard to imagine him being so at ease with this around… um, just about anyone who comes to mind.

*

"Because I didn't invade your privacy, almost kill your best friend and slap a sticker on you that says 'mine' without asking?" Illyana's crystalline gaze finally slides back up to his, smirking. She's mocking, of course. Because most people would probably object, somewhat strenuously, to Illyana's treatment of them.

Illyana finally seems to be tired of moving his shirt out of the way and with slightly narrowed eyes, her fingers twist in the material and then she pulls it *through* him. There's no real sensation, it's like the shirt is suddenly just an illusion. Then she drops it off to the side where it seems to be normal again.

*

Snorts can be such eloquent sounds, conveying humor or derision in equal measure. Jericho's is one of the former. "My privacy hadn't been a thing for a year before I met you, my best friend is - thankfully - still quite alive and the sticker…" Here the hacker glances down at his wrist as he keeps rubbing Illyana's arm, "… keeps me safe from creatures that would fine me regardless of whether or not you're around now. Well, safe ish." Most people would object. In another time Jericho might have been one of them, but he's not been most people for some time now.

The shirt trick is… new. It's a good thing Nancy's not around. Well, beats tearing it. "Just getting in the way, mmm?" Now it's Jericho's turn to tease.

*

"I give you a perfectly good excuse to take it off and you just don't bite." Illyana chides, taking the teasing in stride. He *was* doing sweaty manual labor and all. Her guess would be he's just too used to keeping mostly covered. "And you seem partial to your clothes." So she didn't remove it in a more destructive manner.

"I know you're fine with all of it. Just sayin'." It was an interesting confluence of events that made each acceptable, instead of objectionable. She's quiet again for a bit, apparently content touching the larger canvas she has now. But her attention has moved on to his skin. The play of his muscles, over the glow of his traces. "I think I figured out why they're… attracted to you." She finally admits of her critters.

*

Illyana is correct in thinking Jericho is used to keeping covered. Short sleeves are nice and breezey compared to what he usually wears but he has to be either tired or feel well and truly safe for the idea to occur to him on his own. And safe… is not something he's felt much if at all in the last fifteen months.

"I do tend to like my shirts, so thank you for not burning it off me." He says with a wink.

Oh, this will either be very, very interesting, or a setup for a burn of such proportions that only a hell queen could deliver it. Either way…

Jericho finally lets his hand just rest on Illyana's shoulder. "Why is that?" There's not tease here. She seems serious if… more relaxed than he usually sees her.

*

Illyana lets out a slow breath, and while she tends to tease and mock, she's not generally the sort to set up a burn quite in that manner. She doesn't feign seriousness. It's a state she almost avoids at times.

"Limbo, and it's creatures are reflections of me. Because I tend to like hanging around you…" She lets him do the math as she watches him for his reaction, her hand going still against his midsection.

*

Give Jericho this, he's not stupid. Slow in some matters, but not dumb. "Aaaaaaah…" This face goes from throughtful to pensive as he considers the ramifications both for what he can expect in the future, and wwhat that says about Illyana. After a few moments of staring at not really anything in particular Jericho's eyes flick back up to hers and he smiles a small but genuine smile. "Well I can handle that I think. You look as though that… troubles you, perhaps?" He's not sure what that look on her face is.

*

Illyana gives a slight shrug, her hand still just resting against him. She can feel the small pull and bunch of his muscles beneath, giving her another read into him through that tactile sense. "My attention put you in danger. That then I had to find a way to alleviate. Which just pulls you in more." She frowns a bit. "It's like some kind of awful cycle." Dragging him down until… what?

*

"Not one I'm unfamiliar with and at least with you, you didn't go out of your way to put me in danger to begin with." Jericho says with a shrug. It's like his traces themselves. They're a Hydra project now, which makes him use them to defend himself, which only garners him more attention and so on ad nauseum. "I'm starting to suspect that it is just the way of things in some cases."

Jericho's hand comes down her arm and finally off it to pat the hand resting on him. "Don't worry about it. Really."

It occurs to him to wonder if Illyana simply does not understand the concept that he considers this worth it.

*

No… No. She really doesn't. Not when it involves her and all of her baggage. As his hand comes to rest over hers, her thumb folds over it, showing that yes, she's been aware of that touch the whole time. "Not like this… But I know that I'm a danger to those I'm around." So choosing to be around him, at least in her eyes, was choosing to put him in danger.

*

Jericho may not have understood that at first, but he's understood it for a while now. He's still not quite aware of the various ways that Illyana can be a danger to those around her, but he's got the notion that demons and her own demonic nature are not safe things down pretty well.

"Illyana, it's okay." Jericho lets his hand rest right where it is, if anything squeezing a little to add emphasis to his words. "I know there's danger associated in you being around and I accept that. If I weren't able to handle it, I wouldn't be some welcoming of your company." In fact he'd have gone to lengths to avoid it. Much like he does with some other people he finds unpalatable. And Hill doesn't even involve the same level of risk.

*

Illyana's mouth settles into a lopsided sort of smirk as she looks down at him. "So am I your latest little sister?" She asks dryly. "Nancy and I do have some stuff in common." Perhaps a bit too much at times. While it gave them a rather explosive sort of start, they've settled in pretty well now.

*

"One massive troll of a little sister is quite enough, I think." Which Nancy is. Jericho loves her to bits, but there you have it. "Though if that makes more comfortable…" Jeri gives her a one shouldered shrug and a wry grin. Now it's his turn to tease. "Though 'little sister' clashes a lot with the mental image I have of you. Maybe I need to adjust it a bit." The way he says it definitely suggests adjusting it to something more cutesy.

*

And 'cutesy' *really* isn't a look that Illyana *ever* goes for. Even if she does have the whole angelic look going for her. If she didn't dress like a metal head most of the time.

A blonde brow goes up again as he gives Illyana that opening. "Mmm, and just what kind of mental image do you have of me then?" Her touch has stilled now, pinning him with her often intimidating attention.

*

Jericho quirks an eyebrow in response and smiles a bit. The look says 'do you really want an honest answer to that question?' "Cute blonde who kicks ass and doesn't take names later." He says half joking. "Mmmm. Little sister just conjures up the image of someone who needs someone else to look out for them. That's kind of not how I think of you. I look out for you, as I kind of mentioned, because I like you, not because I think you can't handle things on your own."

That might be… not entirely true. But he doesn't think of her as helpless, that is for certain. Nor Nancy, really but Nancy clearly needs a bit more help, or at least different kinds of help, than does Illyana.

*

Illyana wrinkles her nose because, after all, he did call her 'cute'. "Guess I need to work on being more intimidating." She remarks dryly. But he was sort of joking, and there's a seriousness in those blue eyes that seems to wait for the real answer. The set of her mouth even expects that she won't nescecarily /like/ it either.

*

Jericho gives that wrinkled nose a smile, but his expression turns more serious a moment later. "Trust me Illyana, you're plenty intimidating. I wasn't just flattering you when I said you scare me as much as Partisan does sometimes. My real mental image of you?" He looks away, silent for a moment before his eyes cut back.

"That first time I stayed in Limbo for any length of time, when you asked me to try my hand at landscaping. Do you remember the fight we had there? After the battle walking back, seeing you look… inhuman and yet… still yourself. That's how I think of you Illyana. There's a dark part of you and it's closer to the surface than for most people, but it doesn't make you any less who you are." Pause. "So I guess, in my head, you're the Queen of Limbo. And my friend."

*

That… wasn't what she was expecting. It flickers across her expression, there and gone, chased away by that habit to show no weakness. Illyana's gaze slips down from his face, but she's not really seeing anything. Not the red pulse of his traces or his chest. Her attention is turned inward. Finally, she turns her head to the side, comes back to herself but she's still not really looking at anything she's seeing.

"I think that people fix that cute blonde girl really hard in their mind. The only ones that think of me in my demonic form…" There's the bitter edge of a laugh. "Well, they don't usually have any kind thoughts." Finally her attention comes back to him and her hand slides up the center of his chest, until thumb and forefinger lie along his collarbones, just below his throat.

*

Jericho glances down, following her hand and the red pulsing lights that travel with it. It's odd, now that his traces are completely flush they seem to flicker to some kind of rhythm. He wonders, really, why folks would think of Illyana as one and not the other, and how willing her other friends are to actually know her. Surely there's at least one…

"Well…" Jericho says quietly. "Now there's one who does."

*

Illyana's touch there lingers, and then her hand turns so it's the backs of her fingers that she runs up the slope of his throat to the line of his jaw. Her thumb brushes along that, feeling the roughness of his skin and her mouth pulls to the side in a slight smirk. "I don't think about you quite the same way as I do other people either." She admits. It's not quite the same, but looks like he's unique both coming and going.

*

That makes the ghost of a smile return to Jericho's expression. "I'm going to hope that's a good thing." Though whatever it is, he's not sorry.

The hacker takes in a breath and lets it out and long and slow. One of these days he's going to have to ask what Illyana's mental image of him is. Knowing her, though, she'll just tell him something like 'when she surprised him in the shower and he squeaked like a girl'. Ah well.

*

Illyana hitches a shoulder up in a slight shrug. "Probably not." She says, though it doesn't seem to indicate any kind of 'you scream like a girl' kind of image. Her blue eyes swim to deep cobalt, and her thumb slides around to the opposite side of his jaw to hold him lightly as she leans in and brushes her mouth against his, light as a breath.

*

There's a very light touch in return, a fraction of a moment later as Jericho realises through some surprise what Illyana just did and the hand on her shoulder slides about halfway down her back. Of the many things that he's come to expect of her, that is not one of them. The expression on his face says that he rather actively didn't mind that. If that's what 'probably not' a good thing was where Illy's concerned, he'll take it.

*

Illyana has tried to articulate in many different ways just why her attention is a Bad Thing (tm). But he keeps standing there, a temptation that won't go away. There's a stillness that comes over her after that initial touch, that waiting that seems to go on forever before his response. He can feel the tension in the long muscles of her back that don't ease as his hand slides down. Illyana's fingertips move along the line of his jaw, back to slide through his hair to hold him there as she gives him something closer to an actual kiss this time.

*

It doesn't catch Jericho completely off guard at this point and Illyana's rather good grip on him aside, he doesn't seem to have any inclination to move. It comes as a little bit of a surprise to Jericho, and perhaps a bit of one to Illyana, that he returns the not-quite-kiss. For once he doesn't say anything, just watches her quietly and moves his hand on her back in small circles.

*

Maybe it's the moment, or anxiety, or hell, maybe it's K'nert over there watching but Illyana's kiss, if can be called such, is a little on the side of awkward on top of just being that touch of lips. After a moment she pulls away, her touch pulling back as well. Her hand slides back down until it rests over his his chest. To maintain that connection or keep him at bay isn't really apparent yet.

*

Illyana should, hopefully, know Jericho well enough to know that he's not exactly going to surge up after her. His hand doesn't move though and after a moment returns to making small circles on her back. Jericho lets out a breath he hadn't quiiiite been aware he was holding and gives the blonde leaning over him a small but genuine smile.

*

Illyana's gaze cuts down and away, perhaps before even seeing that smile he gives her. Her position shifts, knees rotating up and then pushing herself to her feet. Her expression has shut down, no emotion there and eyes gone cold and distant.

*

Jericho pulls himself to his feet a bit more slowly, picking up his shirt as he goes. He still doesn't say anything, watching her expression go blank for a long moment. He's only seen her look that way a few times, and most of them she was sporting horns.

"Illyana?" The silence has stretched on long enough that he's wondering where she's at. Okay he wonders that a lot, but there are only so many opportunities to ask.

*

Illyana has turned partially away from him, giving him her profile. Her head is tilted down a bit, so her gaze is turned to the green grass that flutters in the breeze. "You're sweet to put up with me, Jericho." She says, tone subdued and neutral. Her fingers twitch a bit, as though itching to do something.

That is not the only time Jericho has ever heard her compliment him, but it's the first time it ever sounded quite like that.

"I don't 'put up' with you, Illyana. I like you. And I care."

Jericho takes one step forward and stops there. There are some things that it is… unwise to push. Also not nice to push. The little twitch in the fingers doesn't go unnoticed. Illyana's twitching is usually changes of position. Not ticks.

*

Illyana turns towards him and pastes on a smile. He knows her well enough to know that Illyana doesn't smile. Not like that. Not with her eyes still cold and remote as the Siberan waste. "Well. That's what makes you sweet. I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable there. Let's just forget about it." When Illyana means to make him uncomfortable, she's damned well purposeful about it. Her manner stays relaxed though, no tensing as he steps towards her.

*

"If that's what you'd like." Jericho is manifestly not uncomfortable. Illyana on the other hand… mmm, he's not sure. He's never seen her uncomfortable that he's aware of. Upset, perhaps, but not uncomfortable. Possible this is it? One hand reaches out to touch her shoulder and he nods. "Thanks for considering my feelings."

*

There isn't a flicker from Illyana as Jericho steps into her personal space. She's quiet under his touch as he lays he reaches out for her shoulder. The smile slips away, like it was never there in the first place. But then… it really wasn't, was it?

One hand comes up, words a mere whisper of some unknown tongue as her fingers reach out to touch his brow. Light cantrips aren't the only small, easy spells she knows. Spells of forgetting are as easily done.

*

That must be a handy spell. Jericho blinks and shakes his head to clear it. By the time he does his hand has already dropped away. "Mmmm. Sorry, spaced out there." He glances down at the shirt in his hand. Might be a good time to put this back on. Even if there is more work to be done it… which there might be.

*

"Limbo… has that effect on people." Illyana says, her tone subdued. She turns away from him then and starts towards the citadel that rises dark and ominous in the distance. As she does, she lifts her chin. Settles her shoulders back. The wind teases her hair into a long, blonde banner as she walks away.


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