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Trust Issues
(2013-02-22 - 2013-02-24)
Max and Jihl spend some time together and try to get past their mutual trust issues like real human people instead of the living emotional trainwrecks that they are.
Maximilien Relationships are much harder than words. Relationships require maintenance; require both parties to be open; require people to care about one another; require dialogue and nurturing.

Maximilien Amadeus Renaud-Sylvianne is not good at any of those things. He is, in fact, god-awful at all of the requirements to keep a relationship going, and then some; despite being perfectly capable of putting on the show, the dance, the whole routine, he just...can't bring himself to mean it. He tries; God knows he tries. It just makes him wonder, though, what exactly is wrong with him? He focuses on a woman who has no interest in him while he sees a woman as detached as can be and tries to help a woman who is borderline-if-not-legitimately sociopathic, and yet it's the woman he's actually seeing that gets the least attention.

"You deserve better, you know," Max observes as he slips into the apartment. He'd almost made a game of it, the secrecy. He knew she didn't really need to be secret, or at least he was fairly sure she had the authority to avoid any flaws that might come if her relationship with him was discovered, but he enjoyed it. He enjoyed scaling the building, roses in his teeth; he enjoyed picking the window-lock with nothing but a flower or a few muttered words or his cane; he enjoyed the rigamarole, the spectacle of it. He was starting to worry that he enjoyed the spectacle more than he enjoyed her company.

It didn't help that Jihl reminded him /very much/ of the woman he was actually in love with. Authoritative, detached, intelligent, strong, dangerous - she was, in many respects, very very similar to Cirra Constantine, and it bothered him on some level. Maximilien Amadeus Renaud-Sylvianne was not, he had decided a long long time ago, the kind of man to use people to satisfy his own urges, to replace people. He was not that man, and he was beginning to fear, very privately, in the dark part of his heart that he never opened to anyone, that he was becoming that man despite his best attempts otherwise.

"Then again, based on what you have told me about this place, I /am/ the 'better', non?" And that, too, bothered him. He'd heard her cynicism, her calm distrust of the people around her, how few people really cared for her; it made him angry, and that meant that he cared about her. But he didn't love her, yet, and that meant that even that little shard of caring was more frustrating that it was reassuring.
Jihl Nabaat There is a subtle dance that is danced; for all Max knows, Jihl /is/ that kind of woman who is using him to satisfy her own urges, and in some way, get something done or prove herself as something for her own private goals. There is a darkness in her heart that embraces the idea -

- Max has that much, his own heart is so much brighter.

Max sneaks back into Jihls' apartment, and unlike normal, the alarm he sets off does not get immediately shut off. There is a long pause before Jihl walks back through her front door, immediately turning off the alarm, before she tilts her head over at Max.

"I don't deserve better, you know - rather, you don't. But yes, you probably are."

Jihl sheathes her baton in a smooth motion, it having been out, with the white wood darkened with some kind of liquid, but there's nothing on her coat or anything about her, although there's a dishevelled-ness to her hair.
Maximilien The alarm was as much a greeting as anything else in the dance. It was a metaphor, almost, for the relationship. Max was a master thief - beyond a master thief, Max had met and outsmarted and /beaten/ Master Thieves. Max could get into any building he wanted, if he tried; he could slip through cameras unseen, pass through doors unknown, fool electronic and magical locks alike with nothing but skill. Alarms were not something Max had ever needed to fear; they were the fear of the amateur, the clumsy, the incompetent thief, not the mysterious Phantom Thief.

But this alarm went off every time. It was his doorbell; a shrieking, loud doorbell that screamed his name whenever he passed through the window, as if he was marking his claim over the apartment and the woman inside. It was, as previously mentioned, a perfect metaphor for their relationship; it affected him because he desired that it affect him, not because he had fallen into it.

"Que voulez-vous dire?" Max inquires as he locks the window behind him, moving over to her. His cape flows around him as he moves to embrace her, hooking his hands around her waist and offering her his usual greeting kiss. He wanted to see, badly, if anything had changed, if this time there was a little more spark, a little tingle, a little more /excitement/ when he kissed her, and so he put a little more into it, a little more effort into making her happy. He did it every time; he had been escalating the kiss since they first started seeing each other.

This time, as every time, there is nothing.

Max discards the frustrations, taking himself out of the situation for a moment to recollect his thoughts. He takes note of her appearance - her disheveled hair, the sheathing baton covered in strange liquid - and files it away for the moment. "What do you mean, I don't? Do you mean I do not deserve better? Do you mean there is no one better? You will have to be more specifc, ma amour; we speak a frighteningly clumsy language."

Max spins her about in his arms, resting his chin atop her head - he is *so* very much taller than she is - as his cloak wraps around her, like something out of a play. "While you are being so specific, perhaps you will share with me what it was you were doing...or rather, who it was you were punishing...?"
Jihl Nabaat "Que voulez-what who now?" Jihl asks, ambushed a quarter of the way towards her room and the bathroom as he promptly dips her into a tantilizing kiss. It may not be the tingle, or problem; did Max ever consider that Jihl not knowing how to react may be where there's no reaction?

However, she tosses her head, her lips pursing as she clears her blonde hair out of her eyes. "You don't know, that's what I was clarifying; you don't know why I don't deserve people as good as you. I speak clumsy common, you speak that strange French and confuse me further."

He rests his chin on her head, while she's still tense. She licks her lips at his pair of guesses, letting out a huff that does signify it was more of option two than option one there, tilting her head slightly.

"Someone of no consequence whose ways defy the will of the Primarch and threaten even more problems than we already have as a ruined world."
Maximilien Max is scary good at reading people. He's not nearly so good at reading himself. The idea that the problem is not on his end, but on Jihl's end, has never come up in his thoughts; the idea that she did *not* know what to do just...slipped out of his head. He just assumes - because he has no choice but to assume, because thankfully Maximilien Amadeus Renaud-Sylvianne cannot read minds no matter how frighteningly good he is at guessing thoughts.

Max kisses the top of her head as she huffs at his guess. "Je m'excuse, ma amour. I will try to speak the clumsy common tongue from here on out, so that I may frustrate and delight you in your own language instead of my native, mysterious, and thoroughly poetic tongue."

He goes quiet for a bit, just standing there near the doorway, his arms wrapped around her waist, his cloak draped about her shoulders, hiding everything but their heads to the world. "Does it ever bother you, ma amour? The violence of your life, I mean. Does it ever really bother you that you have walked through the door of your home with a man's blood on your weapon, likely leaving him little more than a twitching mess on the ground, assuming you have left him alive or capable of recovery at all? Does it ever reach you, here, in your heart?" Max's fingers slip upwards, tapping her chest over her heart as he speaks, illustrating his point rhythmically and tangibly.

"Or does the necessity of it dull the sting? I do not think I could ever do what you do, ma amour. I do not think I could give myself so freely to a government, and expect that it all work out in the end."

"I may be willing to...mmm.../work/ for one or two, though," he adds. "Provided my reward was good enough...say, a thoroughly tantalizing second lieutenant, perhaps in charge of some sort of large-scale military....?"
Jihl Nabaat Jihl tilts her head, giving the wall a look. She bites her bottom lip and then huffs again. "You already frustrate and delight me, not that I am aware of how to properly respond to such things, so you have no need of your native, mysterious, and thoroughly... poetic tongue."

At his question, she taps her fingers along her side, rubbing her fingers against the fabric of her outfit.

"Well, I don't... no." She shrugs. "It is a necessity."

At his next few questions, and then his rather suggestive comment, Jihl's half-smile turns into a rather large smirk. "I think we could arrange something."
Maximilien "Delightful," Max replies cheerfully. Then she answers the actual, and important, question - not the one that was suggesting they spend the weekend together, but the one about the violence inherent in the system weighing heavily on her heart. Or rather, not doing so. He sobers up, just a bt; his smile drops a touch, though it's not as if she can see that, and his body shifts against hers just so. It's almost imperceptible - /almost/.

"Is it? Is your world so violent and terrifying that such measures are necessary, ma amour?"
Jihl Nabaat Jihl's face turns, and she adjusts herself in his grip and his cloak so that she cannot be seen, at least for now. Then she talks swiftly, feeling his body move that irrevocable little bit. She's a blood-thirsty type, she knows it, and she knows most of the things she might say here will make Max leave Cocoon and her forever.

She closes her green eyes, before she tries to step out of his grip. "Terrifying? Yes. Violent? No... or at least, it wasn't. Things were good. Life was good. Then a few days before the Heartless attacked, people got... infected. The only way we could keep the -- infection - under control, was to rid the world completely of those that were; they were getting shipped down to Pulse, the world that nearly killed us before."

"IT was the only way." Jihl repeats, pulling herself away from Max, keeping her gaze to the floor.
Maximilien Jihl might be surprised by what Max would tolerate, given that the woman he pines over is a Judge of Archades - a group that is surely known for its loving and respectful approach to conflict resolution in much the same way that Heartless are known to be friendly and inquisitive creatures that just want to hug everyone forever.

As she pulls away, he lets her go; he doesn't bother to stop her, because if she really wanted to get out of his arms, he was pretty sure she was much stronger than he was. Not that Max was weak, or physically unfit; you couldn't BE a Phantom Thief and not devote at least a good deal of your time to being physically active. But Jihl is a soldier, and a well-trained one; that meant she was, by necessity, much stronger than he is, since he does not get involved in battles unless there is absolutely no choice. Part and parcel of being a pacifist.

"I see," Max replies as she draws away. He notes her stance; the way she's staring down at the floor, the way she's holding herself, the way she pulled away from him at all. He'd ask her about it later; not right now. She was clearly...not altogether settled with the event.

There were two options here, of course. He could press her for information, demand to know what actually happened...or he could not do that, like a sensitive human being.

Shockingly, he does the latter. Max just walks over to her, putting his hand on her shoulder. "Everyone has done things they are not proud of, ma amour. Everyone in every world. Anyone who tells you otherwise lies."
Jihl Nabaat In an almost ironic fashion, Jihl for once doesn't brag, because something in her uneasy consciense warns her that telling Max it was partially her idea to Purge Cocoon - actually, it was all her idea to purge cocoon. She suspects that...

Things would occur if she were to say that.

Manipulating him via misuse and not revealing the full truth of non-public information? You bet.

It /is/ Jihl, after all.

He puts her hand on her shoulder, and without thinking about it, she instantly slides into combat reaction, before she realizes it was just Max again, giving him a grimace. Then she steps into the kitchen, going for the locked cabinet at the end.

"I know."
Maximilien It's the little things you notice in a person that make you wonder. As Jihl moves into her combat stance, Max can't help but consider what must have turned her into such a person. Certainly his own self-control was impeccable (except when one of those ugly weaknesses was exposed, and he worked very hard to conceal those) as a result of his own life. What sort of life must Jihl have led, to react so immediately to something she knew was friendly anyhow? He'd thought about it before, and he'd constructed what he felt was a pretty good mental image of the situation. He wasn't really ready to pry, though, because that meant she'd get to pry into his past...and he really wasn't ready for that yet.

"Well, good." Max moves to follow her into the kitchen, as he usually did; he looked so woefully out-of-place there, in the middle of this high-tech kitchen, in his archaic tuxedo and cloak. It always amused him when he came to Palumpolum how absolutely *wrong* he appeared there, how much he stood out - and yet how much he didn't, given some of the...residents.

"Then let us not speak of it any more, ma amour. Let us talk about something more pleasant."
Jihl Nabaat "Sorry." She adds on, after a couple of seconds, knowing that her automatic combat response probably hashim thinking, not even looking to see if he raised an eyebrow at her. Jihl dips into the locked cabinet, pulling out a delicate, frosty bottle of something that is... more than likely the Palumpolum wine.

Sh epours herself a glass of the pink liquid, something that seems much more... girlish, womanly, than how she normally presents herself. Perhaps sh ejust likes champagne.

"Are you hungry?" She offers, opening her fridge to idly peer into it.
Maximilien "Non, not particularly, m'amour. If you are, I can cook something." Max moves up behind her, sliding his arms back around her waist as she rifles through her fridge. He didn't really think of Jihl as the sort to drink such a pink champagne; she never seemed very effeminate, not even at her most effeminate. It wasn't that she wasn't womanly - no, Max knew for a fact that she was very womanly. She just...wasn't very girlish.

Then again, the champagne was probably nothing but something she enjoyed. She /was/ a very pragmatic woman, and he appreciated that about her, he really did.

"You do not normally drink. Is something the matter today, m'amour?"
Jihl Nabaat Jihl does enjoy champagne. The end result is a bubbly, fizzy taste deep in her throat, and the feeling of being stuck between the coolness of the fridge and the heat of Max against her back. Which isn't to say it's bad, it's just... interesting.

It also provides a good look into Jihl's fridge, which seems to be made of mostly take-out type food, from very good and ritzy-type of resturaunts, and the leftovers as such.

"I can cook too, you know." She protests, even though the feel of the kitchen is one of slight disuse. "It is related to something we agreed to not talk about tonight, Max-my-thief."
Maximilien "Your icebox disagrees with you," Max observes, his fingers going out to take her hand and lead it along the various remnants of old take-out. He stops on each one, emphasizing the name with her own fingers, making sure she understands exactly how much stock he takes in the idea that a person /can/ cook but has a fridge filled with something like this. He positions himself a little closer, tilting her up against him; then he turns her around and moves her finger over one of the dustier pots or pans. "As does the rest of your kitchen, m'amour. I do not think you have cooked in quite some time, nor prepared any sort of meal for yourself that could not be done in five minutes."

He tucks her hand back onto her leg, pressing his lips against the top of her head. "So tonight, I will do you a favor, and cook for you. No one should ever live a life so busy that they cannot sit down and enjoy a real and proper meal."
Jihl Nabaat Jihl flushes, almost guiltily, but probably a bit more angrily, as he traces the words with his fingers. As he non-verbally points out how exactly wrong she is about 'cooking', which is an event Jihl hasn't probably done in ages. She finally tosses her head as she tilts her head up to look at him, her pale lips pursed.

"I haven't recently; is that so wrong? You're most of the reason I'm home most of the time." It's true. Her office is much more lived in than her own apartment.

Her hands dangle by her side as she continues to stay pinned between the cold and the heat, a interesting situation of man versus, well, icebox.
Maximilien "You are loving a Frenchman, m'amour; to eat such a thing night after night is almost an insult. Not to me, but to your lovely body, /and/ your sense of good taste." Max chuckles, pushing her a bit closer to the icebox - or forcing her to push back into him some more, and maybe get back under the cloak. The cape was warm. The cape was love. The cape was civilization!

"Your health is now my concern, m'amour. Your well-being is my concern. Maintaining your body is now my concern. So, oui, it is so wrong, now that you are in my arms."

"So tonight, I will go out, and I will purchase - /purchase/," he stresses, "Some suitable stock for your icebox, and then I will come back and cook a feast for you. Something that will make you understand exactly why I turn my nose up at this collection of laziness you call a foodstock."
Jihl Nabaat "I don't understand what 'frenchman' implies." Jihl says, giving a little huff. "I know you are one, but I don't understand the implication." Different worlds, different things, and knowledge is Jihl's thirst for power.

However, right now, her back is freezing, and her front is wrm. He manages to firmly get her pinioned between them, and yet, she holds out - at least until a shudder hits her, and she ducks into his warm cloak.

"I don't need to worry about my body, I could eat chocolate for a week straight and not have any problems." Jihl points out, grumbling at Max, unused to having people fuss and worry about her like that.
Maximilien "But then you would grow fat, and then I would not find you nearly so beautiful," Max replies cheerfully, his free hand moving out to shut the door to the fridge before wrapping back around her. His chin presses back against the top of her head as he envelops her in the cape completely, making absolutely certain he has her all the way inside it. "You do not want to be fat, do you? Unless you are implying that your people have invented some means to keep yourselves at the same weight regardless of what you eat - and if that is the case, then I have no doubt you could make a fortune for your country by selling such a thing to the worlds."

Or, the statement is left implied, /we/ could make a fortune by selling such a thing to the worlds.
Jihl Nabaat "If you are judging me on my looks, you may want to look twice." Jihl drawls in soft amusement. "But, non, I exercise, you silly frenchman. I would not grow fat; do you see fat on this frame?" She gestures with her free hands, moving down from her shoulders to her hips.

"I train, daily, in both standard exercise, baton combat, and hand to hand combat. So no; nothing special here to share. Just me being..."

Maximilien "I do not judge you on your looks. I am merely pointing out that if you ate nothing but chocolate, even with exercise, you would grow fat, and then I would find it much more difficult to appreciate your beauty," Max counters. One of the side effects of being a master chef was that you tended to learn what was actually healthy to eat and what wasn't, and how much of things people should be having before they got sick or unhealthy. He knew how to make good food, and he knew how to make healthy food, and he knew exactly where the line should come together.

"Even if you train obsessively. Though I do not know why, besides your exercise. You do not need to take to the field yourself, non? You could give yourself some time to relax. The world will not fall apart if you come home now and then."
Jihl Nabaat "You are a man who appreciates looks. And here I thought you had more depth than that, Maximilien." Jihl drawls her words out softly. She's teasing him, that's for sure, even as she hides within the depths of his cloak - mostly because her voice has dropped to a low, lazy murmur.

"Yes it will. I can't let it fall. I made that promise... especially since it already has once."
Maximilien "I always appreciate beauty, m'amour." Of course, hidden underneath that is the honest truth of their relationship - the difficulty he had in being intimate with her, in being honest and open with her. Of course, it wasn't like that wasn't a two-way street. She wasn't exactly jumping to tell him all about herself and her life and her history and her secrets. Even if she had been, Max wasn't sure he could've really lived like that. As frustrated as he might be, he preferred this 'taking their time' to trying to rush it. It left him less vulnerable.

Then again, maybe that was the problem. Maybe he needed to be vulnerable to really fall in love again.

But was it worth it?

"You do not need to carry this weight on your own shoulders. That is the way people become obsessed, maddened, and eventually die cold and alone. I do not want you to become any of these things, m'amour. You can, in fact, take breaks. It is healthy for you. You cannot serve your country if you are overworked and ill, can you?"
Jihl Nabaat Jihl quietly rests against Max, letting the darkness of his cloak hide her pale face. She appreciates strength, much in the way he appreciates beauty; that, and like this, he can't see the grimace cross her face, although he can tell she made some kind of face.

Was anything worth it?

She gives a sigh. "I'm already obbessed and maddened, Max." She murmurs into his cloak.
Maximilien "Perhaps, m'amour, I am simply hoping that your obsession will turn from your country to me." Max leans down, turning her around gently; his fingers go under her chin, raising it up so he can kiss her again, letting his lips linger on hers. He holds her chin there for a solid thirty seconds before releasing her from the kiss, drawing away only a little bit, his eyes focused carefully on hers.

"...perhaps I am hoping that you will love me the way you love your home." Max replies finally. "Do you love me, m'amour? Do you need me?"
Jihl Nabaat Max pulls Jihl gently out from the depths of his cloak - he tilts the shorter woman's face up, forcing her to her tiptoes for the kiss that actually leaves her breathless, licking her pale lips as he asks the questions that seem to be on his mind.

She repeats familiar words; "I do not understand the concept of love, Max. But do I need you? I nmy own way, I do. But, yet--"

There is a long, almost painful moment. "You don't want to be with this heart, Max. Not mine. It would be worst thing for you. Oh, Etro, I've been described as a sadomasochist, Max, not words I'm sure you know, but oh, I want you to be mine, in the worst sort of ways."

She says it, and then she goes very still, letting -him- make the next move.
Maximilien Max is silent for a long moment. His hand remains there under her chin, keeping her eyes locked on his as she goes breathless, as she speaks, as she tells him all the things she wants him to hear. She takes a very long jump off a very short cliff, and Max knows that he has two options here, two large options painted in neon.

He could turn. He could walk out, right now, her admission made, and protect himself. He could let her stand there, feeling the fool for her confession, for trusting him with her secrets; he could leave. Now. He could just...leave.


No, he couldn't.

Max leans down, pressing his lips against hers again. His other hand tugs on her hips, dragging her against him as they kiss in the Palumpolum night, in her run-down, dusty kitchen.

"Merci beaucoup, m'amour," Max breathes against her lips as he draws away. "For trusting me."
Jihl Nabaat Jihl, who has had to come to several uncomfortable truths, finds her admitting what the soldiers of PSICOM call her in the streets. What the citizens of Cocoon call the woman who is both geniunely dedicated to her world and her own interests - basically, that she's a bitch. Normally jihl wouldn't give this stuff the light of day, but...

... honesty is the best policy, sometimes.

It helps that it proves itself as a decent policy when she's pulled into another kiss, her green eyes widening in something akin to surprise as he promptly thanks her for trusting him. For trusting /him/. She presses her fingers against her mouth afterwards, her pale cheeks flushed.

"... heh. I was expecting you to walk out."
Maximilien "I am hardly perfect. We can talk about your tendancies another time, m'amour. For now, I am simply pleased that you chose to trust me with this. I will..." Max looks like he's going to say something, but then stops, closing his eyes and shaking his head. He hooks his arms around her, pulling her into a hug, but doesn't continue elaborating. Sometimes...he just made such human mistakes. Such base mistakes.

He opens his mouth again, but then closes it, remaining silent as he holds her. "...I cannot be honest and tell you that I will do the same, but I can tell you that I will try."
Jihl Nabaat Jihl's head tilts back down, having been stretched upward for awhile, working her jaw to ease the muscles from the held position. He pulls her tighter against him, and she shakes her head, a strange, sad half-smile quirking across her face.

"Thank you, Max."

There is a long pause. "... I'm hungry."
Maximilien "Then I will go and buy you real groceries, and then I will come home and cook you real food, and you will once and for all understand why I tell you what a waste it is to eat these when you have me." Max replies cheerfully, spinning her out of his arms. "Au revoir, m'amour; I will return soon."
Jihl Nabaat Jihl is spun, her blonde hair flaring out. "You know you don't have to leave to buy groceries." She calls as he heads for the door. "But if you insist; au revoir, m'amour." She parrots him very well.
Maximilien "Only the finest by hand," Max retorts as he disappears out the window.

This scene contained 33 poses. The players who were present were: Maximilien, Jihl Nabaat