Our Hearts are Full of Their Poison (Lilian Rook)

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Our Hearts are Full of Their Poison (Lilian Rook)
Date of Cutscene: 02 June 2023
Location: Undisclosed Phantom Circle Facility
Synopsis: All the cruelty, all the apathy, all the contempt in the world; the consequences always wash over the masses that cause it, and trickle down onto girls like us. It pools up around us until we drown.

Don't drown, Petra.

Thanks to: Petra Soroka, Dimokratia
Cast of Characters: {{{Cast of Characters}}}

It's been just over a week since Lilian last saw Petra. A week, since she'd resorted to drink to keep from coming apart at the seams, and instantaneously regretted it. It occurred to her yesterday that this might have been the longest she's ever gone without having to deal with Petra in some form; the absence of her presence in her life has started to feel like tinnitus, after all this time. But try as she might, Lilian couldn't bring herself to show her face in front of that girl again. Not the day after, or the day after that, or any day since then.

Not that it helped. Leaving her there feels nearly as bad. Hot guilt claws at Lilian's inside throughout every day now, imagining Petra waiting for her, alone, desperate to say something; to have closure to that baffling night of drunken confessions that the both of them deserved months ago. Solitary confinement had felt necessary at the time, when Lilian was still flush with white hot rage and nauseating regret at the death of her friend; before she'd come to resent him in the end. Now, she goes to bed each day, consumed with worry for what Petra might do– might've already done– left there.

And yet still, she can't go. There's no way. What on Earth would she say? How would she make any of this right? Every time the courage had risen up inside of her, it'd been immediately squashed by the mere image of Petra reacting to her with fear, or disgust, or hollow, broken acceptance. No matter how many times Lilian told herself it wouldn't be like that, she'd never successfully dispelled the fear of that 'what if'.

The only reason she'd set out to that dreadful cell this morning is simple fear of an even deeper, heavier shame. It's been just short of a month, and the precise way that Lilian had hurt her just before shutting her away, she knows, has inescapably chained her to Petra.

The stop at the pharmacy had been mandatory. The stops along the way weren't. The time spent shopping around for something approximating a care basket, full of odd things like phone batteries and melatonin gummies, felt completely insane, but it was the only thing Lilian could think of, with 'how in god's name do normal people try to apologize?' on her mind all the while. The time spent on new clothes was somewhere on the borderline, puttering on until Lilian was finally asked why they were in the wrong size, and stopped out of sheer chagrin. The time spent after that was just procrastinating, and on some level she knew it. Cleaning kits for things she meant to stop, an extra bag for things she couldn't take with her, next week's sundries while she's out here and all, and while she's at it, she may as well gather up what she needs to start learning to cook, like she'd been putting off for months.

What was supposed to be a short walk of shame had turned into an entire day of busybodying over the worst girl in the world for her. It should be no matter, after all; everything would be fine as long as she gets there before tomorrow, and the bottles rattling in the bottom of her bag never let Lilian forget how long she could pretend everything would be okay. The final leg, after spending all day preparing for it, passed in silent, mental rehearsal of some ridiculous speech she likely wouldn't even stick to. Anything to feel as if she had any control over this. Anything to entertain the delusion that Petra would forgive her; or anyone else ever again, for that matter.

But no matter what, it would be fine. As always, there will be more time. There's all the time in the world. If she couldn't fix it now, Lilian would simply endure it; she'd throw another thing on her plate, get elbows deep in trying to fix it, and wait, and be patient, and grind through it to the end, whether it took days or weeks or years. Just like she always has.

"What do you mean by extradited?!"
"It means that she's being transferred from–"
"I know what an extradition is you asinine malingerer! Why is my prosecution being transferred without my knowledge or consent?"

The uniformed man would have remained as grimly apathetic as he had when Lilian had first waved past his checkpoint, but the sound of her anger raised his hackles for all of four seconds before cold fear had gripped him by the instincts instead. Despite being the sort of man who'd work at the Concordat's de-facto blackbag holding facility within the Phantom Circle, this particular visitor had always . . . it was always something about her eyes. The way her bag always jangled a little differently. He'd looked up who she was, after the second time, and the amount of black ink had him on edge ever since.

'"Well?!"' Lilian jolted him out of his freeze response by slamming her hand against the edge of the kiosk. It shook.
"The Commonwealth, ma'am." he replied, spine stiff, throat too tight to swallow.
"We aren't a Commonwealth world! Who cares if they request one?! That's just a pretty please! Why on god's green Earth would anyone countermand my authority to offer her to those fucking nobodies?!"
"The Paladins, specifically, ma'am--"
"Commander." He didn't dare point out the obvious. "The Paladins, Commander, have formally filed extradition under Commonwealth authority, to have the prisoner transferred and tried for charges in their jurisdiction. Bigger ones, than we had on their record. They're being tried for premeditated murder, resisting arrest, assault on Paladins Elite officers, war crimes against--"

At that exact moment, Lilian's heart jumped into her throat.

"I can presuppose, idiot. I'm a Chevalier with them. I performed the arrest!"
"Then, I'm sure you'll know that we remain committed to fostering positive relationships with the organization, and the reasons for which the Concordat has taken this approach. Besides, we've typically surrendered prisoners for crimes of vastly greater magnitude, which they did commit. They were just taking up space here. I thought you'd be glad to know that their sentence will certainly be much more severe under--"
"Stop that."
"Stop cutting me off Commander."

The glint in Lilian's eyes was enough to make him regret it. He could almost swear he could hear her thundering pulse. Enough to give him the wrong impression.

"Begging your pardon Commander. Stop what?"
"Stop talking about her that way."
"Talking about them in what way, Commander?"
"That! Like that! Don't think I haven't noticed you putrid fucking shitstain! They, their, them; I didn't give you permission to ignore the file!"
"Yes, Commander." Came the reply. Lilian could hear the air whispering between his teeth, and the quiet hiss was enough to make her gut twist. She was used to getting away with treating all sorts of authority like this, and getting away with it. So why did she feel so helpless threatening this man?
"Cancel it."
"You know I don't have that authority, Commander."
"Talk to someone who does before I lose my patience, like a good little trained monkey."
"That's . . . You'll have to sign for that, Commander. And appear before . . . Why are you going out of your way for that Extra? Does she have something you need?"

Lilian's turn to breathe through her clenched teeth. She could feel bile in the back of her throat.
"That's beyond your pay grade, drone."
"Very well, Commander. I'll show you the appeals process, and explain the details."
"Fine. Fine! Explain it later, though; I don't have time for it right now. I need to see her urgently."
"Commander, I'm afraid that won't be possible. The Paladins have extraterritorial right of claim over that particular cell for the next two weeks."

She couldn't breathe. The room spun, and Lilian stumbled by one step; just enough to make the bottles in her bag rattle.
"That's not acceptable."
"I can't change it, Commander."
"You can't stop me."
"That may be true, but I can't stop any of the consequences for doing so, Commander. If you work for the Paladins, you should have even more ample reason not to cross their procedures. I'm sure you're aware of what you could lose if they decide to press charges."
He said, almost under his breath. "Even if the administration won't."

It was true. The admin was happy enough to throw some nasty little ordinary girl; no standing, no magic, no Tradition, no family, no connections, guilty of many crimes against the upper class; into solitary on Lilian's signature. It'd serve her right, they no doubt thought. But by that same apathetic token, it should be no surprise that they'd surrender her so easily. She'd taken advantage of their bigotry, just a little, and that weapon had already cut her hand, never meant to wield it. Of course the Paladins would want their pound of flesh. Even though Ishirou was now up and about, talking about Petra like she were less than human, glowing about how he'd found true happiness by giving up his body and his identity, wearing her scars on his face to keep her in check, a Chevalier was lured out and killed. She wasn't even in the Watch anymore; they wouldn't save her, and Lilian couldn't ask.

But Lilian never wanted her up on murder. Even at the peak of her overwhelming, despairing hatred, even at the worst of her recent behaviour, even when it made her stomach churn with shame and self-directed disgust, she'd never actually wanted Petra up on life charges. She always planned to give her back eventually. Once she was better. Once she understood. Once she'd been broken in like they both wanted. Now, she could only feel that girl slipping out of her fingers; snatched away by the powers above her, the instant they'd finally begun to understand each other. Again, again, when things finally seemed like they might get better; when Lilian could have healed things; someone more right, the will of the fucking people, had taken it from her. It was all she could do to hold back hot tears, never mind find some way through this.

How would she even do that? She could steal into Petra's cell and leave everything she needed, but the discrepancy would be noticed immediately; she could only nauseously curse herself for her own fastidiousness. She could go up the chain, maybe even to Fairfax, to bargain and plead for a special exception, but then they'd assess Petra, and they'd see– they'd know– what happened, and then what would she do? The only way Lilian could possibly get away with her job, never mind her reputation intact, would be to pin it on whoever visited Petra weeks from now, but even if she sabotaged it and made it a believable fiasco, deniably, as she's always done, that still left Petra there– it left her promise broken. Shattering that sort of pact between two girls like them isn't something Lilian could just undo. If Petra attempted suicide in there, she could intervene, instantly-- precognition– and fix things up, but– it'd been the worst possible timing to convince that miserable girl to live. No good deed unpunished. No recovery unmaimed. Always always always always always again and again and again and again and

§ Everyone is going to see and everyone is going to know and even if Fairfax lets it go, I'll never, ever come back from it. Nothing will ever be the same. I need to run. I need to stage this. I need to never let anyone see it. She's not worth it. I can't go down with Petra. No, she'll go up and I'll fall down, after all this time fighting to stay above water; she's the weight that'll drown me. Everyone will have their day and everyone's right about me and they'll finally catch up and tear me to pieces like they always wanted. I can't stay. She deserves it. She caused all of this. She'd understand why she has to pay. §

The man behind the counter could hear the sound of someone choking while swallowing their thoughts.
"I understand. Show me the channels. Right now. Hurry up. Come on! Now!"
"Y-yes, Commander. Right away Commander."

Lilian didn't care about the obvious way he'd been so relieved to scuttle off into the back for a while. She couldn't ever be bothered to learn his name anyways. Gutless sadist. No, she needed that time to . . . to . . .

Lilian doubled over against the kiosk and retched. Hand clamped over her mouth, it took everything she could not to actually throw up. Even if the camera– she took a second glimpse, suddenly paranoid– wouldn't see this, she couldn't afford to make it any more difficult to keep it that way.

"Fuck. Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck fuck FUCK!" Lilian screamed. "Oh my god I'm so sorry Petra! I'm so sorry! I didn't know, I really didn't– they shouldn't have done– It should have been him, not you!" Lukewarm sweat on her clammy skin. Enough to make her shaking hand reach into her bag and fumble for a cloth. "Please be okay. Please please please believe. A week or two isn't the end of the world. You'll be fine. It won't be so bad; I promise. Don't hate me. Don't think I've abandoned you. Please just . . ."
Her voice dropped to a hoarse whisper. "Please believe in what I said. Hold tight to the things we shared. I'm not going to leave you Petra; even if everyone else does, I won't. You have to believe in me, for just a little while. I won't let–"
She stopped just to wipe her eyes. "This can't keep happening. I'm so so sick of this! It's always the girls like us! You, Rita, Angela, me. I won't keep passing their poison around! I'll fix this! I'll end this shitty fucking chain of non-stop year after year misery! All you have to do is hang on until then! I won't let those liars do this to you ever again!"


Lilian waited in the empty hall, drumming her fingers against the kiosk. She'd have to hide the clutter somewhere. It wouldn't be safe at home. For some reason, she had the prickling premonition that he'd find it, and Lilian knew better than to second guess when that sense kicked in involuntarily.

Funny. She'd spent all week avoiding her, afraid of seeing her, and now all Lilian could think about was how desperate she get back to Petra.

She'd stay that way, until . . .