Io opened the door to the bedroom and shut off the bathroom light, holding his hair dryer in his hand.
Miriam was sitting on the edge of the bed, running the comb through her hair.
"You ready?" he said.
She glanced down at the hair dryer and smiled. "You're seriously going to dry my hair?"
Hadn't he made that point perfectly clear only a few minutes earlier? "That was the plan." He plugged the hair dryer in then stood beside her.
"You really have a death wish, don't you?" She looked up at him through her lashes, her cheeks flushed. "If my father could see me now, he'd blow a circuit."
"And that thrills you, doesn't it?" Io took the comb from her hands and sat down beside her.
"What do you mean?" Miriam's sapphire blue eyes pierced him as she glanced over her shoulder.
He chuckled. "Something tells me you don't like following orders."
"I follow orders just fine." Her chin jutted out with coquettish flair.
"Whose? His or your own?" Io lifted one eyebrow as if challenging her.
Her eyes narrowed, but she didn't reply, her demeanor suddenly growing cold.
Ah, so there it was. Her trigger.
"Is that why you use?" Io said, speaking in measured syllables, his voice quiet as he ran the comb through the ends of her hair to loosen the tangles she had already started working on. "Or does your father typically allow cobalt use in the royal home?" He was wrecking the mood, but he needed to get her talking about her addiction, or at least thinking about it. He didn't have much time with her, and if he was going to help her, he had to dig, and if that meant pissing her off, oh well.
Her scowl deepened and she huffed. "No, he doesn't allow it." She turned away, a mixture of shame and anger rolling off of her.
"There you have it then. You don't follow orders." He kept himself calm, feeling her emotions rise on a tidal wave.
This was what cobalt did. It burrowed in and fucked with the minds and emotions of those using it. Miriam would be like a roller coaster for the next couple of months as she went through withdrawal, her moods changing in a snap, even if she wasn't showing other symptoms. And if he was allowed to help her through the worst of it, Io would likely trigger her to snap as often as he could just so she could learn how to identify what was happening and cope with it when she did.
She spun around and pointed at him, banging her hand against the comb, causing it to fly across the bed. "Look, no one orders me around." Her eyes blazed with defensive anger even as she glanced sheepishly at the launched comb. "Least of all my father." She jutted out her chin, bringing her gaze back to his.
Miriam was clearly someone who was fighting to find her own voice and to be heard. Io got that, but he needed her to see that there were better ways to go about making her voice heard than going off in search of her next high. He stood up and calmly walked around to the other side of the bed and retrieved the comb.
"I'm just saying, Miri, if the shoe fits—"
"Excuse me? If the shoe fits?" Now Miriam looked hurt as well as angry. "Didn't you hear me? No one controls me, especially not my father." She crossed her arms. "I can't believe you're saying this to me. I thought you were on my side. I thought you were different."
Io knelt in front of her, his elbows on his knees. "I am on your side, Miri, but you have to take responsibility for your actions and own up to them. You use cobalt. You're an addict. A junkie. And you use because, whether you admit it or not, your father made you. You let him dictate your life even in this, Miri."
She looked away from him and tried to get up, but Io grabbed her hands and pulled her back down.
"You're wrong," she said, frowning.
"Am I?" His grip tightened on hers as she tried to pull away.
"I do what I want, when I want. My father has no control over me."
"Really?" Io wasn't buying that line of shit for a second. "Admit it, Miri. You've let your father control you. You've let him direct everything you do. Even your drug use."
She refused to look at him. "Why are you doing this to me?"
"Because you need to see it, Miri."
"There's nothing to see."
"Of course there is. Open your eyes."
"I don't want to open my eyes!" She turned her fury on him, unleashing her voice like it was a whip. "Damn it! There's nothing wrong with me! Just dry my hair, for God's sake. That's all I wanted. Not this…." She inhaled sharply, her eyes darting around since she couldn't free her hands. "This…third degree from you!"
Io released her hands, but before she could get away, he grabbed her around the waist and pulled her to the floor, pressing his mouth against her ear as she tried to push him away. "I don't take orders, either, Miri. Not even from you, who I would die for." The words had left him before his brain-to-mouth filter could engage, but in that moment, he knew he had never made a more honest statement. He would do anything for Miriam. Even die for her if he had to.
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