Eva sits on her bed in her room, looking towards the now-closed door. Audrey and December are gone now, and she's left alone with her thoughts.
Audrey arching, her pink hair a mess in the bedsheets, her whole body tense as a spring as she digs her fingers into the bedsheets, her strained panting filling the small room.
Audrey nodding eagerly, saying "Yes please!", all her fear forgotten as she dives headfirst into a kink she didn't know existed a day ago.
Audrey's breath coming slow and steady as she curls up on the couch at Club Coze, so deeply under her control, so eager and willing to please…
Eva rubs her face. She should have said something. She said Audrey was beautiful - that wasn't half the story, not even a third of it. But with December there… It just wasn't going to happen.
She gets up from her bed, and walks across the room to the glass cabinet that holds her memories. Unlocking it with a touch, she opens the front and picks up one of the green-glowing crystal orbs within. Writing appears across its surface as she cradles it in her hands - "Hypnosis and the Namer's War, OTC 541-564."
She bows her head, and closes her eyes. She could accept this back. She could be the hypnotist Audrey wants, the goddess and mentor and guide. Her memory crystals have perfect clarity, even after all these decades. And yet…
Her heart flutters in her chest at the thought. What did she choose to forget? What was worth tearing out two decades for? She doesn't know. It must have been horrible, for her to give up something she cared so much about.
The truth is, she's scared.
She sets the orb back into the cabinet, and locks the door behind it. Then she fishes out her phone from her dress pocket, and scrolls through her contacts to Audrey. Her free hand tangles in her hair as she draws it through her silver locks.
She's scared, but she's been scared before. It's almost a little nostalgic.
She taps the call button, and cradles her phone close against her cheek, leaning into it a little. "Audrey? It's Eva. I'd like to talk to you again…"
Audrey steps into Club Coze with her purse slung over her shoulder, and looks around for Eva. There's a pair of girls sitting together and drinking from the same milkshake with really long straws, a tanned woman wearing nothing but a bikini bottom chatting up a winged girl at the bar, and over in the corner where Eva hypnotized her last time - There she is, sitting on the couch facing the room, silver hair shining under the lights.
Audrey comes over to the facing couch and sits in her usual spot, flashing a smile at Eva. "Hey. It's nice to see you again."
Eva smiles back. "It's nice to see you too. Things go okay after the session with Dec?"
Audrey nods. "Yeah, well enough. I went and took a cold shower and that settled things."
"If you don't mind my asking, what've you been doing since then? It's been a couple hours."
"I've been beading! The hotel provides all the supplies, and it's a really nice way for me to focus and calm myself. It's kind of meditative, really. Would you like to see the project I did?" Audrey bounces in her seat.
"I would love to." Eva half-smiles.
Audrey fishes in her purse, and brings out a copper and tiger's eye bracelet, which she sets on the table between her and Eva.
Eva picks up the bracelet and passes its long chain links through her fingers, tilting it so that the inset stones catch the light. "Remarkable. Do you mind if I try it on?"
Audrey nods eagerly. "Go ahead."
Eva undoes the clasp, then holds the undone links up to her wrist and tries to fasten it with her left hand - but the clasp is far too small and fiddly for her to do while also trying to hold the bracelet in position. She sighs, and extends her wrist towards Audrey. "Could you help me with this?"
Audrey takes hold of the two ends of the bracelet, and guides Eva's wrist towards her with her left hand while her right gets the catch. Carefully hooking the last link onto the clasp, she pats Eva's wrist lightly. "There." She smiles up at Eva, a light blush coming to her cheeks.
"Thank you." Eva smiles, and holds her wrist up to the light, turning it over to see both sides of the bracelet. "The sizing is just about right, too…"
"You can keep it if you want," blurts Audrey. "They don't take long to make."
Eva glances over at Audrey. "Are you sure?"
Audrey nods quickly. "I make these for fun and relaxation, I don't mind giving them away to people I like."
Eva smiles, and holds the bracelet close to her heart. "Thank you. I'll treasure it." She looks over at Audrey, and her fingers brush her lips. "It doesn't seem fair to receive a gift without giving one in return, but I can't think of anything appropriate…"
"Really, it's fine." Audrey blushes and rubs the back of her neck. "It'll just be nice to know you're wearing it."
"Alright." Eva settles back into her chair, rubbing the bracelet with the thumb of her other hand. "How have you been finding the Rose Bowers so far?"
Audrey hums. "The convenience is nice. And so far I've met good people. It's still kind of scary, but it's getting easier."
Eva smiles. "I'm glad. What do you think of December?"
Audrey tilts her head. "I don't get what's up with that coat of hers, but she seems nice enough, if a little strict. She has a nice voice…"
Eva nods. "The coat is because she likes to pretend she's a mad scientist. She likes playing around with technology."
"What kind of technology?"
"VR setups, mostly. I'm assuming you don't want to hear about her kinkier side."
Audrey shifts in her seat. "Yeah, it would seem… kind of intrusive. Is everyone here that casual about sharing what they're into?"
"It's something you pick up with experience, I think. Clear communication is important."
Audrey digs her nails into her elbow. "Yeah, it really is…"
"… and on that note, there's something I'd like to say…" Eva folds her hands together in her lap.
Audrey freezes, sitting ramrod-straight in her chair. "What?"
"When I said I wanted to give you a gift in return, I was thinking of kissing you." There's a slight tremor in Eva's soft voice.
Audrey opens her mouth, then closes it. She shakes her head. "I'm sorry, what did you just say…?"
"I was thinking of kissing you as a return gift, because you're very beautiful and I'm attracted to you." Eva looks at Audrey seriously, her hands knitted together tightly in her lap.
Audrey stares at Eva, a hot flush creeping up her face. "No way. Seriously…?"
"Yes, really!" Eva smiles, and leans in, holding out the bracelet. "Why do you think I was so happy to get this bracelet? It's because you gave it to me, dove."
Audrey hunches down in her chair, looking at the floor.
"Audrey." Eva's voice softens. "Are you alright?"
Audrey shakes her head, just the slightest bit.
"I'm sorry. It's my fault, I dumped this on you -" She takes a deep breath. "Just breathe. It's going to be okay, I promise. Even if you hate me, even if you never want to see me again. I'm okay with that if it's what you want. I'm an adult."
Audrey shakes her head again, more insistently this time.
"It's not okay?" Eva leans in close, raises her hand as if to touch Audrey's - then sets it just to the side of hers, not quite touching.
Audrey shifts her hand to rest on Eva's. "I don't…" She cuts herself off.
Eva shifts her hand to hold Audrey's more properly, and doesn't say anything.
Audrey rocks slightly forwards, then back again, her breath unsteady, her eyes closed.
"I'm here. Take your time." Eva squeezes Audrey's hand gently.
Audrey stills, unhunching slightly. "I don't - I don't hate you."
A slow smile spreads across Eva's face. "That's - that's good. Are you okay?"
Audrey takes a shaky breath, and interlaces her fingers with Eva's. "… No." She tugs slightly on Eva's hand.
Eva shifts out of her chair and onto her knees on the floor, following Audrey's gentle pull; Audrey presses Eva's hand to her heart and hunches over it, resting her chin on top of it. She looks down into Eva's cool grey eyes and smiles slightly; Eva stills, holding her breath.
Audrey doesn't answer; she just brings Eva's hand to her lips and kisses the tops of her knuckles.
"Oh." Eva shifts in, pressing against Audrey's right leg, and squeezes Audrey's hand.
Audrey's smile grows, and grows, and finally she manages to speak.
"Eva." The name is quiet, barely more than a whisper.
"Audrey." Eva's pulse quickens beneath Audrey's hand.
"Eva." Audrey's voice is a little firmer now, her breath slowing.
"Audrey." Eva smiles back at Audrey.
"Eva." Audrey squeezes Eva's hand, putting a teasing note into the name.
"Audrey." Eva's voice is rich and full and carries her smile.
"Eva, I…" Audrey's words catch in her throat again and she just smiles weakly.
"I'm here. I'm listening."
"Eva." Audrey leans her cheek against Eva's hand. She takes a deep breath.
"Can you say yes to this?"
Audrey snorts air out through her nose. "No."
Eva's lips quirk up. "Okay. Can you say no to this?"
Eva snorts. "Okay, that's a good sign! How many fingers am I holding up?" She holds up her free hand with three fingers.
"Billion." Audrey squeezes Eva's hand firmly.
"Doing a little better?"
"Yeah." Audrey brings Eva's hand down off her cheek and straightens a little. "Better." She cradles Eva's hand in her lap. "Thank you."
"It's nothing." Eva lays her head against Audrey's leg.
"Not nothing." Audrey frowns a little.
"Okay. Can you… tell me a little more about what the problem is?"
"Don't hate you."
Eva nods. "I got that."
Eva flinches and shifts away from Audrey's leg. "… how?"
"Can't stop… you."
"Can't stop me from what?"
"Oh." Eva squeezes Audrey's hand tighter.
"Beautiful. Clever. Graceful." Audrey kisses Eva's hand again.
Eva blushes. "… Thank you."
"Can't stop… thinking you."
"Okay. I hear you. You don't have to say anything more." Eva leans a little against Audrey's chair.
"Thank you." Audrey settles back into the couch.
They stay there for a long moment, Audrey holding Eva's hand in her lap, Eva kneeling at Audrey's feet.
Audrey cracks a small smile. "…should probably… stop… before someone sees. Kinda… awkward."
Eva nods. "I don't mind, but if it'd make you more comfortable..."
"Alright." Eva leans back a little, taking her head off Audrey's knee.
Audrey gives Eva her hand back, with one last squeeze before letting go.
Eva shimmies back on her knees, then stands. "Is there anything that would help?"
"Blanket. Hot chocolate."
Eva nods. "Are you okay if I go up to the bar to get those things?"
Audrey nods slightly. "Mhm. Be fast."
"Okay." Eva scurries over to the bar, leaving Audrey alone for a moment.
… She said it. She said it she said it she said it. She hugs herself and curls up on the couch, bringing her knees up to her chest.
"Audrey?" Eva's back already, pink blanket over her left arm, a big mug of hot chocolate in her right. "You okay?"
"Better." Audrey smiles, and holds out her arms.
Eva hands her the blanket, and watches as she wraps herself up in it; then she offers the mug of cocoa. Audrey curls in around it, holding it close, and takes a sip.
Eva sits on the opposite couch, her gaze lingering on Audrey. "I'm here if you need anything."
Eva watches as Audrey slowly drinks her hot chocolate, one sip at a time, and when she reaches the bottom she comes over to collect the mug. "Another?"
"No thank you." Audrey smiles. "You're… so good."
Eva blushes. "… You are too. Brave girl, fighting through it to tell me what the problem was."
Audrey looks away. "… Am not. Got… all choked up."
"It's alright. I've seen it before. You're not weird or anything." Eva smiles reassuringly.
"Okay." Audrey still doesn't look at Eva.
"You seem to be doing a little better."
"Yeah. Yeah, I am."
"Would you like to get some food or something? We don't have to talk about this if you don't want to, but… I'd like to get to know you a little better." Eva tilts her head slightly.
"Food would be good. Don't… expect a lot of conversation."
"Okay. Should we get a booth?"
"Yeah." Audrey lets her legs fall to the floor, then carefully stands up, hugging her pink blanket close around her. "Thank you."
"It's nothing." Eva offers her hand.
Audrey takes it.