It was tempting to some small, vindictive part of Cynara to leave Eriko down there.
The cells she had built were two stories underground, encased in solid rock and paneled in thick enough hawthorn to make any Workings pretty much impossible. They were connected to the city’s grid – there was electricity, and water, and air – but they were, rather than under her house, under a warehouse in a completely different sector of the city. If she wanted to, she could close the outside door, seal the earth over it, and pretend there had never been anyone there at all, and nobody except her and Eriko would ever know the difference.
They – Boom – were, however, theoretically the good guys. It would take a fae a long time to starve to death – very long, if the things Cya had learned were any indication – and it was a horrible way to die. Not among the worse, but certainly not among the easiest ways Cya knew.
Thus, she had one of the City employees detailed to sending food down three times a day, and once a week, she visited the bitch herself.
“I brought you some books.” She slid them through the door slot. “I remember you liked foreign studies, back then. There’s some modern pieces from France and Germany, Italy and Russia – or, I mean, where they used to be.”
“How did you get these?” It had been three weeks, and those were the first words Eriko had said to her.
“I’m a Finder.” Dysmas hadn’t even known who Boom were. It was possible that Eriko didn’t know the third-most famous thing about Cynara.
“What, you find lost keychains?” The woman was locked in a hawthorn box and she still managed to sound like she was sneering.
“I find everything.” She knew she sounded cocky; when it came to her Finding, she was cocky. “I found you. I found these books.”
“Yeah, great, Nancy Drew. But these books – they’re from another continent. How did you get there?”
“I didn’t.” Not that it hadn’t occurred to her to try – but that was a long, long time to be away from her crew. “I found the books.” She decided to spell it out, just in case Eriko really was that stupid. “It’s my innate, Eriko.”
“You didn’t have that when you were in school.”
“Not so much my first year. And what I had, I didn’t have much call to use.” She had always known where Zita and Howard and Leo were. It was just that she couldn’t do anything about it. “But you know, powers develop over time.”
“You have to work it, like a muscle – not that I’d recommend trying, in there. It’ll give you a hell of a headache to even try.”
“You know this is going to drive me insane, right? It’ll drive anyone insane – any fae – if you leave them in here.”
Cya tapped the door. “I’m rather counting on it. It’s the only fair punishment I can come up with.”
“I brought you some puzzles.”
Eriko had been in there for three weeks. Cya hadn’t done mind Workings – couldn’t do mind Workings through the hawthorn and rowan – but she had enough experience with insanity to recognize signs without magic.
“Because human beings aren’t meant to be alone, and being alone without stimulation is likely to drive you crazy.”
“We’re not human.”
“I’m not human. I’m not so sure about you.”
“What’s that supposed to me?”
“Look at yourself for a moment. Look in a mirror.”
“I don’t want to.”
“And why not?” Cya kept her voice calm.
“I don’t want to, that’s all.”
“Your Mask is down.”
“Of course it is. In here…”
“In there, it would take constant, endless effort to maintain a Mask. Easier to just not look in the mirror.”
“What would you know about it? What would you know about being human? You haven’t changed, you haven’t aged…”
“And neither have you. But that’s not what you want to believe, and it’s not what you want the world to believe.” Cya pushed the puzzles through the food slot. “You want to be human. And humans – and fae – do badly in isolation.”
“You put me here. You locked me in this box. I thought you wanted me to go insane.”
“I did.” Cya chewed on her lip for a moment. “I put you in there to punish you. To hurt you.”
“For doing the same goddamned thing as everyone else did, back then. For doing the same thing as was done to me. For hurting your precious Leo, when I’m sure he went and hurt someone else in his time.”
“You know what the worst of it was?” Cya tried not to think about Leo and Gabi, about Gabrielle’s broken belief that he’d ruined everything. “For all of us? It was watching our friends be broken, be hurt, be lost and confused, and not being able to do anything about it.” It was being told we weren’t supposed to care. It was being helpless to do anything.”
Eriko scoffed. “Tell me another one about how bad you had it. Tell me another story about how your lives sucked so bad.”
Cynara stood up. “I think I’ll wait until you can tell me yourself.”
“I brought you some magazines.”
“Magazines, seriously? Where do you – no, don’t tell me. You Find things. Some somehow, you found magazines. Because you’re fucking Wonder Woman.”
“Give me your word.” It wasn’t planned, this time; the words were out of her mouth and then Cynara wondered what she meant.
She had just enough time to think about it before Eriko asked.
“Give me your word that if I open this door, you won’t try to escape.”
“Why? And don’t give me that shit that humans aren’t made for isolation yadda, yadda. Why?”
“Because I want to talk to you.”
“You’re talking just fine.”
“You’re saying you don’t want to see another face?”
“I’m saying you’re cy’Drake and you don’t do anything without a nice complicated reason and seventeen loopholes.”
The laugh surprised Cya. When was the last time she’d laughed like that? When her grandson’s youngest had spit up on her shirt, that was when – and the whole family had been a little confused about that.
“What?” The woman on the other side of the wall was suddenly cautious.
“It’s just…” Cya pulled herself back together. “It’s nice to hear. I’m going to open the door. Don’t try to escape.”
“I’m… you’re insane, you know that?”
Cya muttered a set of Workings under her breath, hanging them on her like weapons, and swung the door open. She found she was grinning until her cheeks hurt. “Insane?”
She pulled up a chair, blocking the exit, and pulled up a second for Eriko. They were down here, in case she wanted to do this.
“Yeah. Insane. Certifiable.”
She found she was trying to stretch the grin further. “Nobody left to certify me. You’re showing your age.”
She sat, cautiously, just inside the door of her cell. “I’m old. Why are you laughing?”
“Because.” Cya snorted again. “Because it’s funny.”
“That I’m old?”
“Oh, that’s hilarious.” She giggled, relishing the sound of it, the feel of it in her mouth. “You’re old. No. No, it’s funny that you see it and you don’t even know what you’re seeing.”
“You’re nuts. Insane.”
“Yes.” Cya giggled again. “Yes, yes I am.”
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