He came back, after an unknown period of time. Said it had been a few days.
Cain wasn’t sure if he believed him, but it didn’t matter.
What mattered was the bottle of water pressed to his lips- not something he felt or could see, still blindfolded. But he heard the plastic pop between fingers, heard the liquid shifting, knew it was close to his face. Nialls pressed and told him to open, and he did. He told him to drink, and he tried to, slowly.
After some time, the water was gone. The sound of it pulled away, recapped.
Then it all started again.
“Tell me,” it began, bottle set aside on what sounded like the bedside table.
“Honestly. What do you think of yourself?”
Lips pursed, but he couldn’t resist forever. He knew that, but it was the small fight that mattered. The spark of resistance still there. He had to hold on to that for the sake of its own existence. The day he lost that one tiny detail was the day it started to unravel. He knew it, because he’d seen it. He’d seen people lose the small details. Small slips of footing in a great and lengthy war where the end was always a new body in a new grave and new parents crying new tears for a new suicide.
He had no plans of being a new heartache for the people he loved.
So he resisted. Then he obeyed.
“I hate myself.” A simple answer.
Nialls sat, the chair creaked.
“Why do you hate yourself? Answer everything I ever ask you, honestly.”
A new pause, shorter, still resisting. Compulsion was not a request, however.
“Because everything I do is wrong. I’m an idiot. I’m a fuck up. I hurt people.”
A pause as the words stopped. Nialls kept pressing.
“Where were you born?”
“Who are your parents?”
“Severin Croix and Liliane Croix.”
“Do you have any siblings?”
A brief pause. He knew what Nialls wanted. How many, genders, names, ages.
But he’d asked a simple question, a simple compulsion. And Cain had figured out a while ago how to cheat the impulses. How to fulfill without divulging. How to play the long game against Nialls, even bound and blind in the floor of an isolated room.
Nialls didn’t like the sass. He took a moment to keep his temper in check.
Cain smirked, knowing Nialls would hate that even more.
He didn’t speak again until he was able to make himself sound calm, unbothered.
“How many siblings do you have?”
A pointed pause. The answer didn’t match what Nialls knew to be true.
It took him a moment to realize Cain was manipulating a loophole in his wording.
He could hear it, when Nialls grit his teeth. Inhaled tight, slow. Held it. Exhaled a little too rough.
“How many siblings did you have?”
Another resistant pause.
“What were their names?”
“..Alphonse and Anastasia.”
“Were they older or younger than you?”
“By how much?”
“A few minutes.”
A new pause. Nialls got up. Picked the water back up.
Another round of being made to drink, then retreating back to his chair.
“Which is the one that died?”
Saying her name still hurt.
Proof was in his tone, spoke through a wince like the name was a punch to the gut.
Felt like it. Felt like a hollowing out, a removal of things inside he needed to function.
“How did she die?”
He grit his teeth. Dug heels into the floor, strained against the bindings keeping him bound to the bedpost.
He didn’t have inhuman strength, though. Couldn’t nullify other metas. He couldn’t break free.
He couldn’t resist.
“She killed herself.” He hissed through grit teeth.
The feeling of something removed grew. A lid lifted off the well of guilt still there in him.
“How did she kill herself?”
Cain thrashed. Made a sound, a pained animal growling in warning.
Nialls waited it out. The weight of the compulsion crushing, breaking resistance until there was none left.
“She overdosed.” Cain finally choked out.
“Who found her?”
The growling crested and broke into a hurt noise. A whine of pain, desperation.
“I did.” There was a tiredness in his tone, a hairline fracture but not a break.
Nialls stood. Moved around, left. Cain gasped in his absence, free of the weight, trying to breathe against the pit in his stomach. Reminding him of the pieces of himself she’d been buried with. Images of her were behind his eyelids, filling the darkness with ghostly lines. The curve of her face, the sheet of her hair. It was blurry. He forgot a little more every year. Couldn’t remember what side her beauty mark was on anymore. Couldn’t remember the sound of her voice when she sang. Couldn’t remember the exact curve of her smile.
Nialls returned. The smell of food came with him.
Warm. Steak, seasoned- salt, pepper. Vegetables- butter, more salt.
The same routine with the water started. An order to open, to shut. To chew, to swallow.
He did the mechanical motions under the weight of every order settling against him heavily.
For once, Nialls didn’t speak during the process. He gave orders until it was done, made no other comments.
When it was finished he rose, left. Smells faded. Cain’s head tangled between Anastasia and food. The more he tried to focus on one, the more he fell back to the other.
Her discolored body, choked to death on vomit. The acrid smell of puke, the bulging gloss of her eyes.
Every time Renault got sick, he thought of her. Never told anyone, though. Wasn’t fair to them.
Nialls came back.
Settled back into his chair.
Gave it a moment before continuing.
“Your brother is still alive?”
“Where is he now?”
“I don’t know.”
A pause, considering things.
Nialls breathed easy. Calm, composed. Cain waited it out, expecting some new weight to drop.
“How do you feel about your sister’s death?”
He’d expected hurt, but not like that. A blow dealt without the right warning, cut straight to the core.
He made a pained noise, curled forward. Whined. Nialls waited it out.
“It’s..” he fought it. Lost. Like always.
But kept fighting all the same, each time. Every time.
“It’s my fault.”
“Well yes, that’s obvious.” Nialls sighed passively.
Somehow, him saying so twisted the knife dug into him.
“But why is it your fault? Tell me in detail. Top to bottom.”
The weird nature of the order settled heavy and strange.
He coped with it, trying to find a way around it. Took too long.
The press of it had him spilling words before he could think about them, pouring the absolute truth into his lap as he bent forward and strained against it.
“I wasn’t there. I wasn’t at home. I should have been. I knew something was wrong, that she was getting more distant. I thought if I kept working, though.. If I just kept this job and saved up enough, we’d move out and I could make it better. I didn’t talk to her about it when she drew away because I thought I had more time.. I should have said something. I should have helped her. But I didn’t. She killed herself and I just watched and let her for weeks. I should have stayed home from work, I should have been there with her I-” He choked over himself. Sobbing. Breaking. His face contorted, lips pulled back over bared teeth. They grit. He ached, a sound for it spilling between his teeth, sharp and hurting.
He cried. Things were otherwise quiet.
Nialls rose before anything was really calmed down.
A familiar sound- buckles, laces, leather. The hood.
“Please.” Cain choked. “God, please..” There was a tiredness to his voice again.
A tone too exhausted to beg with more emphasis, more energy. The voice of someone already halfway resigned to what was about to happen.
The hood slipped over. No more sound, no more smell.