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No title.
(2013-08-20 - Now)
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Jihl Nabaat One cottage later...

There is one thing that Jihl Nabaat brings with her, no matter where she is. It is not her traditional, oddly small wardrobe, nor is it her bountiful library. It is her paperwork. And dear whatever gods, goddesses, fal'cie, l'cie, or whatever you worship - she has a *lot* of it.

It comes with the job.

As afternoon fades away into evening, the sky darkening beautifully as it does so, Jihl only occasionally looks up - while too uncomfortable to go wandering around by herself, she is currently clad down in a pair of comfortably jersy black pants and a simple green shirt that matches her eyes. Fashionable? Si.

Her pen scratches across the paper. La dee dee, dee da.
Maximilien Max's cottage isn't terribly huge. It's a little place in the middle of a little French village; while there's comfortable room inside (and it has a basement, something most cottages thoroughly lack), it doesn't exactly have room for tons of personal effects anyway - especially given the conditions therein. Max doen't even keep many personal effects of his own in this place - there's a closet full of his clothes (most of them far more casual than his thief's clothes, with a distinctly dressed-down air), and some books (all of them in French), but beyond that very little. He restocks the icebox himself every couple days with local food, and the pantry is well-stocked with local breads, all of them quite well-baked. Apparently, the only food Max considers acceptable for his house is local french food.

Speaking of restocking, Max enters the cottage with a basket of bread in one arm and another basket of fruits and vegetables in the other, whistling a jaunty tune. He's in a good mood, at least.

The wooden door swings shut with a click, and Max locks it with a flick of his fingers. "Are you adjusting well?" Max calls up the stairs as he moves to fill the pantry.
Jihl Nabaat Jihl cranes her head when she hears a noise, and the woman rises to her feet to meander her way towards him. "Yes, I am. It's just... it's so quiet... it's..."

"... strange. There's no real hustle, or bustle, nor do you guys have half of the technology I'm used too... There is a odd, lost tone to her voice.
Maximilien "This is even more primitive than my own home," Max observes as he opens the icebox, tossing the vegetables into the thing. He closes his eyes, a smile creeping across his face. "Here, the idea of technology is a distant dream, something that crazy old men with too much time on their hands pursue as a fevered madness. It is a simple place, but for some reason, it makes me happy. It is far more relaxing than Palumpolum or Arcadia, and the silence that drapes across the village every evening is one that cannot help but be strangely charming even to someone who knows the smell of gunpowder."

Max opens the pantry, disposing of bread that's gone stale - he'd take some out later and do something with it, probably work it into whatever they were having for dinner - and replacing it with new, warm fresh bread as he talks. "Does it bother you? It must be very shocking for someone who came from such lofty heights as Palumpolum, to be so near to the ground and the people."
Jihl Nabaat Jihl tilts her head to the side as Max meanders on about how he enjoys himself here in this village, in such a strange place - not one that she would ever expect a phantom thief to love, but Maximilien is very strange in terms of his status as a phantom and as, well, a thief.

(of hearts.)

She gives him a faint frown.

"It... it is, a bit." she shrugs. "More the people, than the ground..." She gives a hefty sigh.
Maximilien "I imagine so," Max replies as he shuts the icebox and the pantry. He leans against the wall, arms crossed. "I imagine it is a great change, to not...have control."

He smiles. "I am glad, though, that you are willing to trust me enough to put yourself in such a situation so far beyond your control. It means a great deal to me."

" it, at least, to your liking? The town, that is. Have you taken a walk through it?"
Jihl Nabaat At his question, Jihls' eyes do a few things.

THey first slide from his face to her paperwork.
Then back to his face.
Then back to her paperwork.

Then she looks at him, and raises an eyebrow.
Maximilien It was worth a question. Max slowly shrugs at her, a wry smile on his face. "So nothing has actually changed, beyond the place in which you do your work. Are you at least feeling, perhaps, more rested? Or..."
Jihl Nabaat "You /knew/ the paperwork was coming with me." Jihl says, her tone rich with amusement as she wraps her arms around herself, leaning against the wall. "I'm feeling fine." She says, raising an eyebrow as he trails off.
Maximilien "Perhaps I simply hoped that having new surroundings would inspire your urge to explore, expand your horizons, and alter your routines," Max replies wryly as he makes his way over to Jihl. His arms go around her back, and he hugs her to his chest tightly. "Some things evidently will always remain the same, though, and I know that I should not encourage you to step too far outside your horizons already."

Max's voice drops to a whisper for a moment. But only for a moment.
Jihl Nabaat "I am a woman of habits and who has done the same thing for a very long time." Jihl reminds Max. She is older than she looks and acts at most times, and she sighs as her fingers come up to pull off her glasses, rubbing her temple idly as she does so. She rests her head against his shoulder, humming faintly. "Plus I thought if I got all my paperwork done today it left tomorrow completely free."

She murmurs a soft reply.
Maximilien Max exhales a bit at her response. Then he tightens his hug, turning her around so he can lean against the wall himself. He's quiet for a bit, just letting the sounds of the village - the peaceful, calm sounds of the town - sweep over them both.

"We could have a picnic tomorrow."
Jihl Nabaat "We could! What else would get me out of this lovely little cottage?" Jihl asks, her head tilting to the side as she glances around them. The quite peacefulness is so unusual that she's a bit on edge.
Maximilien "You could take a walk on your own and get to know the village and its villagers," Max notes wryly. "Have you, in fact, been outside, besides going to the portal? Have you said hello to even one of the townsfolk on your way to work? Have you even..."

Max pauses, like he's just realizing something. His arms sag a bit, and he closes his eyes, shaking his head fiercely. " m'excuse, my pet. are, after all, trying. I will endeavor to stop teasing you."

Max suddenly scoops her up into his arms effortlessly; Jihl will feel the familiar touch of Float magic on her to lighten her as Max moves to sit down in Jihl's chair. "If it is paperwork you need to finish, then by all means!"

Max sets her down on his lap. "And when you are finished, then I will drag you about the village and show you off to all the people who believe they know me, and brag to no end that I have the most beautiful woman in the world in my arms."
Jihl Nabaat "You do understand that for me to do one of those things--" She pauses, then thins her lips out temporarily, before she shakes her head, driving away the frown/tense-lines. "... is hard, because were I to do it anywhere I know of, I would be run away from - people would be too scared."

Jihl sighs, even as she gets scooped up.

She settles down into his lap and peers down at her paperwork, idly picking her pen back up and twirling it around her fingers expertly. "You have more than just my beauty, you know." She points out as her head ducks down, neatly and quickly filling out the forms.
Maximilien "So I do," Max replies cheerfully. "But if you are fishing for compliments, then you already know everything I would say, and I am hardly going to tell them about all your other wonderful qualities."

Or the darker qualities, Max thinks silently.

" a small town like this, the point of a man showing off his lady is to make the others jealous. It is a social vagary, a strange ritual of the ancient world." Max's fingers drum against her stomach lightly.

"How do you have so much paperwork, anyhow? Can so much really go on in Palumpolum, that your people need to do so much bureaucratic work?"
Jihl Nabaat "I do not fish for compliments!" Jihl retorts swiftly. "I already know that when I want to be I am a charming and personable woman of a mature nature who happens to be a total bad-ass and very confident in who she is and what she is."

She pauses for a brief second, then shakes her head.

"I'm basically the second to the Primarch, if you really want to look at it. It's the Primarch, then the heads of the various groups, which there's me, Yaag, Cid, and ... someone else, damned if I remember his name now." She waves her hand.

"Plus no one else has my organizational skills in PSICOM." she snorts.
Maximilien "I am trying not to distract you too terribly much," Max replies cheerily to her whispered comment.

"Yes, you are. You are a mature, dangerous woman with a sharp tongue and sharper eyes. I would not say that you are charming or personable, per se, my dear...but you do have a commanding attitude about you, that much is true." Max rests his chin against the top of her head.

His thoughts drift back to his various encounters with PSICOM. "Yes, I can wholeheartedly believe that," Max notes quietly. "Your organization is...well...we have discussed it before. You could use some outsourced labor, perhaps, but I understand the dangers of an elite guard paid to be elite versus an elite guard made to be elite."

Max sighs. " are you...coming about with the..."

He makes a motion with his hands. "...the unpleasantness? Are you shutting down such programs...?"
Jihl Nabaat "... mmm." Jihl responds as he is not sure about her being charming and personable. She is not actually upset about his comment about such things; he knows as well as she that it's all in the glasses and the warmth she exudes, and it's when the glasses come off that she is truly herself.

She flips some more papers, and, not quite paying attention until he finishes whispering into her ear, a smirk playing across her lips briefly.

"I think you'd be surprised -- unpleasantness...?" Confusion then crosses over it.
Maximilien Max also just doesn't find her terribly personable. Which is fine; his taste in women clearly runs along the 'just a little bit psychotic and very very stern'. It's not like being personable is necessary to be with him.

Max has more than enough personability and charisma for both of the horribly socially awkward borderline-psychotic sociopathic beauties he's dating.

Max's head moves a little bit. "...the...trains," Max murmurs. He doesn't really want to think about it. In truth, he's been forcing himself to /not/ think about it. It's...hard, to look at Jihl some days and know what it is that she's done. Bringing her into France almost feels like a betrayal of his country.

Fortunately, Max loves Jihl far more than he's ever loved his country. His country never really did /anything/ for him.
Jihl Nabaat Max says 'the trains', and she stiffens, Jihl's hand twitching as she gouges a ink-black line across her paperwork. Without even thinking about it, she whites it out on automatic mode before appropriately finishing off the one piece of paper she was working on - which, from the looks of it, seems to be the last.

She then attempts to wriggle out of his grip.

"It's not my decision." She says in a low, terse voice.
Maximilien Max feels her stiffen, and he already knows that he's touching a sore nerve. His arms tighten around her stomach as she attempts to wriggle free, and he shakes his head - this is one of those rare, painful moments what Max has to be the man under that charming, beautiful mask, the man who watched his country burn under people who thought the same thing, the man who suffered through the atrocities of war as a child and has been haunted by them for all these years. He shakes his head again, his own voice low.

"The Primarch, then?"
Jihl Nabaat Max, who is very good at pinning things, neatly keeps Jihl in his grip, and at his question, she gives a low, almost painful exhale, before nodding mutely. It is out of her hands, it is out of everyone's hands but the world's greatest man in existance on Cocoon -

Of course, with the world of ruin multiversial issue, it's hard to tell what in the hell is really going on with Cocoon and the Primarch lately.
Maximilien Jihl gives the answer Max knew she would. That's always the answer, where Jihl is concerned. Sometimes, he's worried that she doesn't think for herself, so zealous is she in her support of the Primarch. But he had assumed - apparently wrongly - that she would cease her support of such programs when she said she was trying to change. Max's eyes sink shut, a wry, angry smile growing across his face.

"Some days, I wonder if I am competing with him for your love. Some days, laying there with my arms around your waist, listening to you sleep beside me, I wonder which of us you are dreaming of."

Max presses his face against her back firmly. "And some days I fear that it was never a competition, and that I had lost long before it began."

Suddenly, he turns her around to face him; Max pulls her down into a kiss, a deep one, a hungry one. The look in his eyes is one that she has not seen for a long time - a very, very long time indeed. It is another glimpse at the man under the mask - the real Maximilien Amadeus Renaud-Sylvianne.

"Tell me how I can beat him," Max breathes in her ear as he lets her up for breath, /finally/, "Tell me how I can take your heart for mine and mine alone, that I do not need fear any other man demanding you, not even your Primarch!"

There's a glint of shadow in Max's eyes as he drags her back down for another kiss - another, much rougher kiss. Max lifts her up, setting her on the desk amidst her paperwork as he stands, and now he's leaning down from the sheer height difference; again, he breaks the kiss, that darkness flickering in his eyes. His hands go to her wrists.

"Tell me!" Max demands, and a desperate need creeps into his voice, "Tell me how I can make your heart and soul mine and mine alone! Phantom Thief MARS...non, Maximilien Amadeus Renaud-Sylvianne does not share his treasure, not with anyone! So tell me! How do I complete this mission, Jihl Nabaat?!"

"How do I steal you?! How much more must I accomplish?!"
Jihl Nabaat Jihl thinks plenty for herself, but most of that 'herself' involves stepping on people... or at least it did. She has been trying to change, but sometimes, some days, there are times where she just reverts back to who she was. Trying to be good after so many ages of being bad is hard, and no one really understands that...

Except maybe Max, but Jihl is too worried to bring that up to Max.

She bites her bottom lip as he admits that he fears about the thought - just the thought - that he may have lost this long before he even started. However, her response, a breathless "Max-!" is cut off as he kisses her firmly, causing her to pant for breath when he finally lets her go again. She watches the shadows in his eyes-

She listens to him.

He kisses her again, and then he pins her to the table, his hands wrapped around her wrists as he leans over her in a very possessive action, making her breath catch in her throat, where her pulse is hammering away at speeds that normally never happen.

She looks at him, almost broken hearted as he demands to know what more he must do, what he needs to do, how does he do it -- all over her. All over Jihl Nabaat.

Her face works, screwing up as she looks away from him, shame, embarassment, and a mixture of other emotions all rolling over her face, turning her red. Finally it relaxes, and she looks up at him, her green eyes glimmering.

"Max, Maximilien- it is, it really, really is, it's all business for the Primarch, I swear it, I-- I don't... it's just you.... you're the only one that ever... dared... wanted..." Her voice catches in her throat again, and she hiccups, breathing heavily.
Maximilien The shadows in Max's eyes don't fade. There's always been darkness there; there's darkness in every human being. It's an inescapable part of being a human. But for Max, that darkness has a form - it has a human form, dressed in a uniform, goose-stepping up and down the streets of Paris. For Max, that darkness has many forms, all of them human, of all different stripe. Max has looked into the human heart and found it wanting.

And, once again, now holding Jihl against the desk, Max remembers that the heart he finds most wanting is always his own. The look in her eyes as she turns away from him fills him with shame and self-loathing more quickly than anything else. She breathes at him that he's the only one who ever wanted her, and that, too, fills Max with a dark delight, and he is immediately shamed by it. How dare he take pleasure in this? How dare he appreciate that with a few words, he could reduce the mighty high lady of PSICOM to this?

Max lets go of her and stumbles backwards, as though he's been struck. He rubs his own arm and turns away from her. He cannot bear to look at her, not right at this moment, not when that feeling of delight and shame are mixed so keenly at the top of himself. A moment later, Max collapses back into the chair; he looks not unlike a scarecrow taken off its pole, dangling there, drained and weakened.
Jihl Nabaat Jihl has frozen on the table as he watches him shift around. Watches the shadows buried deep in his eyes come to light, yet again. She lets out a shaky breath - she has said it herself; peoples' hearts are ever-changing... but when it's changing with the darkness, then what good is it?

He finally lets go and stumbles away from him - looking like the way he is, Jihl wants to - strangely, for her - go over there, and comfort him. Yet, she knows it might not be a good idea because he's not looking at her. He's not saying anything. He's just sitting there - and this frightens her. This frightens her more than most anything else in the world has.

She edges herself carefully off of the desk,not caring about the paperwork she just screwed up for once in her life - she just looks at Max, before she makes a noise. It is a noise Maximilien Amadeus Renaud-Sylvianne has never heard out of her. It is a whimper.

She covers her mouth, then, and starts rapidly walking towards the nearest door.
Maximilien Jihl starts to walk away; Max almost lets her go. He's angry at himself, more angry than he has been in a very long time. More angry than he ever was about Cirra, or about any of the other failures he's had; no, right now, he is angry and confused, and uncertain beyond belief once again. It is natural; a man who wears masks all day must wonder who he is, after a point.

There are options here, of course. He could just let her walk. But the look on her face, and the sound of that whimper - that sound, more than anything else, provokes Max. He suddenly sits up straight, his hand snapping out to grab hers - not grab her arm, not grab her wrist, but her hand. His fingers find their way into hers, worming between the gaps and closing.

"Please," Max murmurs. He turns around in the chair, his other hand going to hers as well; both hands close tight around Jihl's, and he closes his eyes. "S'il vous plait."

Max looks up at her. "I know," he murmurs, "I know that it is business. I know that you would never..."

He shakes his head as the darkness starts to fade. "I trust you. I am is not jealousy that I feel. I know that you serve him as a guardian and a soldier, and in no other way, and that even if he asked you you never would betray me like that."

"I simply fear...that in the end it will hurt you. And I do not...I do not want you to hurt, Jihl."
Jihl Nabaat He grabs one hand when she's seconds away from the door - the shock of it causes her to turn around on him, a quick whirl that allows him to reach for and grab her other. Jihl tilts her head as he asks her 'please'. Such a simple word, and it makes her falter.

He confirms that it is not jealousy - and her heart stops hammering so fast. She would never, ever do that anyways, and that. he is afraid of her getting hurt.

Jihl blinks several times.


"I run my worlds' offensive military group." She hesitates. "I'm going to get hurt, somehow, in some way."
Maximilien "I do not mean...that kind of hurt," Max replies as he tugs her backwards gently. It's incredibly gently - none of the sweeping grandeur of MARS, just the gentle tug of the man underneath it all. "I do not mean injured. I do not mean..."

"I know. I know that you wil be injured in the line of duty. I accepted it with Cirra, and I accept it with you; I cannot, and do not intend, treat you as though you are some helpless shirking violet, a damsel who needs rescuing." Max shakes his head again. He cannot protect Jihl, and in truth, he should not even try; he is not a fighter. He is not a warrior. He is a coward, as far as most are concerned, a man who avoids battle and conflict in favor of flitting from place to place and solving problems with theft and liberation. He is not capable of protecting the people he loves from the problems they willingly face.

"I mean...your soul."

Max looks up at her again. "You are not beyond salvation. I have told you before...but it is true, Jihl, truer than you know. I have to believe that no one is beyond salvation. But the road you are walking on behalf of that may cost you more than your life."

"I do not want to lose your soul because of him, Jihl," Max murmurs, pulling her hand up to his lips. He presses his face into the back of her palm. "No one is worth that."
Jihl Nabaat Thanks to him sitting down, Jihl is capable of looking down at him as he explains exactly what he's talking about, and he kisses her hand so gently. her face is a war of emotions - a minute amount of disbelief, followed by confusion, followed by understanding, followed by a very brief show of cool arrogance.

"I... oh..."

She lapses into silence then. It is obvious that she doesn't think she is going to be, but such things are a nebulous concept and she never dealt very well with this sort of thing.
Maximilien "Right now," Max murmurs, "He owns your soul. So long as you walk down a path of shadow for him, he owns you - perhaps not the same way that I own you, /never/ that way...but he owns you."

Max looks up into her eyes. "How do I take your soul, Jihl? How do I claim it for my own? How do I make it mine?" It's the same words as mere moments ago, when he threw her onto the table with need and desperation in his eyes, but with the shadow passed for the moment, the tone is so different as to make it almost a new phrase. "How do I take it from the man who burns your soul to light his own darkness, and hold it to my chest and let it heal?"

Max gently tugs her arm again, guiding her back to his lap. "Please. Tell me how to make you mine, completely, Jihl. No matter how impossible the task I will make it so. If I must steal the moon from the sky, if I must snatch the sun to put in your matter how impossible, I will do it to claim you as my own."

"Just tell me what I must do."
Jihl Nabaat "I don't..."

"I don't know..."

Those are three of the most frustrating words use in a singular sentence that upsets Jihl, and it shows in the flash of her green eyes as she placed back into a safe comfort zone within his grip. She is honestly confused and not sure what in the hell is truly going on here, but it's frightening Max, and thus, it's frightening her.

"I... I'm sorry....?"
Maximilien Max is quiet for a very, very long moment as she sits down. His arms move back around her waist; beyond that, though, he does not move as she says that she is sorry. He does not speak. He just sits there, holding her, soaking in her warmth.


"When you figure out how I can make you mine and mine will tell me."

It isn't a question. It isn't a command, or a request, or a demand. It's a statement - a statement of trust. He trusts that she'll tell him when she's able to. He trusts that she'll share with him that knowledge, secret even from Jihl herself, when she discovers it.

He has to trust. Trust is the path of the light.

Max smiles up at her, and soon, it's turned mischevious. "In the meantime, I suppose I shall just have to contend myself with owning your heart and body, non?"
Jihl Nabaat The silence, while not unnerving to Jihl, is slightly strange, but then he starts speaking, and she hesitates. It is a very brief, very short hesitation, before she gives him that familiar half-smile.

"I promise."

She rolls her eyes to the heavens, though as he gets mischevious. "You got me to move in with you, have you no shame in accepting what you have, or are you really that needy-greedy, my dear Frenchman?"
Maximilien "I would not be a thief if there was no greed in my heart; after all, it is greed that motivates human beings, is it not? The desire to own things - material things, each other's hearts, treasures, knowledge; greed is ambition, and ambition has spurred on humanity in every world humans have flourished upon." Max replies as he pushes his lips against her ear.

"I told you - Maximilien Amadeus Renaud-Sylvianne...and Phantom Thief MARS...we do not share our treasures. And you are my valuable treasure."
Jihl Nabaat Jihl gives Max a droll look, shaking her head as he explains that he himself and I, and then, he-as-MARS both appreciate her as a valuable treasure and that she is not something to be shared, even though right now, she is.

She responds: "It is my desire to be the very, very best, to be one of the best in PSICOM, in the world, that is what drives me... so I understand." She then murmurs back into his ear, looking amused.

This scene contained 37 poses. The players who were present were: Maximilien, Jihl Nabaat