id like to preface this with 1) @woogwoo-wren is an enabler and 2) @finnoky is an absolutely fantastic source of inspiration. that’s all folks
Varian skitters across the cold stone floor, grappling for purchase and breath stuttering violently - he can’t believe it, at first, he can’t - and slides to a stop too far away. The gap between them feels enormous; not just in a physical sense, but in how Eugene’s fists clench at his sides. In how his eyes narrow, a complicated mix of raw anger and concern, in how Varian’s ribs bend and catch fire in his chest, forcing out the air rotting in the bottom of his lungs. His vision swims and cuts out altogether, a dizzying black - his head cracks against stone, lolling sideways, smearing red - before he blinks and the blues above him waver back into focus.
He’s quick to kneel, to reach. “Listen, please!” Varian cries out, one arm outstretched, the other curled close. With anyone else - he might be composed. His voice might ring strong; he might have the upper hand, a fighting chance at changing their mind.
But this is his brother, and in this one moment, he has everything to lose.
“You have so much to hold onto,” he pleads. It’s not a scream, not a breath, but some rough mix of both, tearing and forcing its way up his throat. He’s right here in front of Eugene - is he not enough? Is he not worth casting aside the stone for? Tell me I’m right, he begs. But those words do not make it out. They die deeper in his chest, in the space below his heart.
Anger flashes across Eugene’s face, brittle and offended as if perhaps - perhaps he thinks this is holding. As if he believes he is the one in control. As if the stone does not glitter like a shard of glass on his chest, ready to cut its holder into pieces, ready to prick the finger of the hand that dares to touch it. And Varian realizes…he can see. But Eugene can’t.
He needs Eugene to think. He needs Eugene to-
“Choose!” he screams, voice tearing through the cavern. Varian gains ground in his desperation, stepping forwards and fisting his brother’s tunic and reaching, reaching, reaching - but his arms aren’t strong enough, fingers not steady enough, and he can’t manage anything but lunges far too weak to accomplish his goal.
The moonstone gleams in the center of Eugene’s chestplate. It’s a bright, bright blue. It calls, and for a second, he almost wants to answer. But there is a haze in Eugene’s eyes that not even his little brother’s frantic, sobbing pleas can get past. There’s a struggle under the surface of that unfamiliar electric blue, violent and twisted. There’s a disjointed mess to the logic his brother is weaving for himself, a tightening in the noose his brother has slipped his head into.
His broken choose still echoes louder than the other words he’s breathed. He needs Eugene to choose. He needs Eugene to think. And Varian fights, shaking, pushing, pulling. He grits his teeth, snarls and tears and bites out words until he can barely make out his own voice, jumbled together in a panic-
“That’s enough, Varian.” The grip on his wrist latches on, tightens impossibly. Varian can’t breathe. His chest burns.
He stretches his fingers, reaching out for the stone, but Eugene’s hold doesn’t flinch. It merely shifts slightly, twisting, and Varian resists the instant urge to fall to his knees.
“Yes, sir,” he chokes out, hopelessly small. It is all he can say.
Please, he thinks.
I can’t lose you, he thinks.
The tension builds in his lungs. It writhes under his skin, coiling around his spine and blurring his vision with tears.
It’s time to choose. And Varian knows he can’t stop fighting. Not until he has his brother back. Not until he can yell and chip away at the pocked marks in his brother’s soul; not until brown eyes stare back.
And when Eugene forces him away, watches him stumble on feet caught unaware and twists a cage of rock around him, something in his chest fractures. It’s to keep him safe and nearby, he reasons with himself, frantic in the face of Varian’s horror. His brother’s eyes shutter - the fear melts away, the determination rears its ugly head. Can’t he see that he shouldn’t fight? That this is for him, not against him?
But a part of Varian closes off, in its own defense, and Eugene is left colder than he’s ever been. Now I have nothing left to lose, he whispers to himself. Because - he’s lost Varian. He’s lost his brother’s trust. He’s lost his brother.
The murmurs in his ear ring too great to ignore, silvery and soft and everything the black rocks he’s twisted for himself aren’t; strong where he is fragile, venturing where he hasn’t thought to go. The mindtrap, they tell him in impressions, in feelings that aren’t words at all, but somehow slipped past his defenses and strung his fears into thoughts. You haven’t lost anything yet, not at all.
He could get his little brother back. If Varian wouldn’t see…
Well, Eugene could just make him, couldn’t he?
There is a shard of light in his hands, jagged and blue, etched with the same symbol emblazoned on his chest, the same one printed neat and small behind Varian’s ear.
There is a boy he needs to protect held tight in the cage he created, broken and fighting, scrabbling against the rocks with an unrestrained fury and weakening by the second. There is red dripping from the corner of Varian’s mouth, a color that would shine bright scarlet if the rocks surrounding them didn’t leech all the warm tones from the cavern. There are tears tracking down his face and cutting deep fractures. There are bruised fingers clenched around the sharp spikes.
There is a moment, between them - there is a second where Varian’s eyes land on the power in Eugene’s hands. There is a flicker of recognition. A flicker of grief. The rush of blood in Eugene’s ears is too loud to hear past - but he can read the no on Varian’s lips clear as day. He can time the beat of his heart with the repetition of that one word, as if by speaking it Varian could delay - could delay -
Eugene doesn’t know what to call it. How to think about it. He needs to do this, he insists. You must.
There is a second moment, between them. Varian fights even harder, but they both know his bonds are unbreakable. There is nowhere to run. From Eugene? From his brother?
No, from his own fear of what he does not know. Why would he be afraid of Eugene? This is for protection. This is their only option.
Eugene is sick of helplessness. He’s taking what’s his.
His hands tighten around the mindtrap.
Varian’s struggling ceases immediately. He slumps against the black rocks, cradled in their curves, and goes frighteningly still.
Varian, he whispers. Varian?
There is doubt, sour in his gut. Hesitation. A what-if question so painful he can’t put it to words. Then Varian’s head lifts so slowly, eyes blinking open, fingers raising to curl loosely against stone. Gentle. Every move he makes wavers and softens; Eugene remembers early mornings, shaking him, watching him wake. It feels much like that.
The sourness won’t fade. The haze in his thoughts thickens. He waves a hand, dispels the cage. Now that he has Varian; well, there’s no need. His brother spills limply onto the ground at Eugene’s feet.
Varian, he whispers. It’s okay. It’s okay.
The boy shudders and trembles and pushes himself off the ground with unsteady hands. He tucks his legs under him, looks up with wide and blank eyes; and he is kneeling before Eugene, head drifting forwards, neck arched. He does not speak. He barely breathes.
Eugene holds out a hand, bracing their forearms together and pulling. Varian comes up easily, fine movements still weak but supported by the steel in his bones and the magic in his blood. It is so easy to pull his brother closer. It is so easy to press a hand to the top of his head, protective, possessive.
He can’t help the dry, small smile. Varian tilts, just barely, nudging into the palm of Eugene’s hand. See, kid, he says. I knew you’d come around eventually.
He leads. He pushes forwards. Varian follows, always at his side.
Eugene shifts his hand to Varian’s jaw, lifting his head with a gentle, firm nudge. Relief trickles cold down his spine, a feeling adjacent to pride rising at the blue glow that casts a highlight on Varian’s cheeks, the unburdened and quiet expression, the slow and steady beat of Varian’s pulse under his fingertips.
This is how he will protect them. This is how he will keep them together and keep them safe. This is how he takes power; claims it for himself.
(He remembers life in these eyes, just minutes ago. A fire he hadn’t wanted to put out. But this was necessary, just so Varian could understand. Just for now.)
(But Varian never will - never would - never gets the chance. Because the mindtrap will never be shattered and his eyes will never clear, not so long as the stone has a grip on Eugene’s mind.)
And it is those two - one standing tall, unable to see the world for what it is; the other leaned forwards, drifting, unable to see the world at all - together with the black stone that rises around them-
It is them that cuts a tragedy into the dark of the night.