Facing the Challenge

Date Posted: August 7, 2018

Koh summoned up all of her willpower as she approached the door to Amon's apartment. It was a peaceful morning, still fairly early, and a good enough excuse for her to bring by breakfast as a way of smoothing things out.

Not that she'd done anything wrong. She'd simply... not known what to do.

Now that Koh had more time to think about Amon's story, she was able to produce a better response to it. Even so, she didn't know if he'd be receptive to her at all. Not after she completely blanked out the way she did last night.

She knocked lightly at the door and waited for a response. It was possible Amon was still sleeping - she wasn't very familiar with his daily routines at all.

"Hello?" she talked to the heavy wooden door. "It's me, Koh. Are you awake?"

She heard the sound of Amon clearing his throat, then a rather forced reply, "Enter."

Though she'd not asked to be let in yet, she took the invitation. This wasn't the first time she'd been to Amon's sparsely decorated apartment, but it had usually always been at his initiation. It was the first time she'd come there of her own accord.

Koh took a deep breath and opened the door. About 85% of the time she came in contact with Amon, she never knew what to expect. That morning was no different.

He looked like he'd not be awake for very long, still dressed in what was apparently his sleep ware. He reclined in a highly ornate chair that Koh was sure hadn't been there the last time she'd visited, and the whole thing just looked... the furthest thing from what Amon of Allag should.

She gaped a bit, not sure if laughing would insult him. Especially since he was already flinching as she walked inside. He wasn't wearing his visor, and obviously struggling at hiding what appeared to be anxiety under a strained smile.

"Oh my gods, Amon," Koh blurted the first thing that came to her.

He winced a bit until she added.

"You've got carbuncle slippers!"

He wheezed out a half laugh that almost sounded like relief. "Aye, I do. ‘Tis funny to you?"

"It's just... Nevermind." Koh didn't know a polite way of proceeding, so she shook her head instead, trying to shift the topic. She held out the tray for him to see. "I brought you some breakfast."

He looked at it, then glanced back at her. "Why?"

"Because I did a rotten job of being supportive last night."

"Supportive?" Amon shook his head. "Earning your support was not my aim."

"I know, but I thought about it and I've made up my mind," Koh set the tray of food on a table that looked more like some weird Allagan conglomeration than a a functional table. Then she came to sit in the other outlandish chair next to him. "I'm not going to do it."

"Not going to do what?"

She took a deep breath. "Judge you."

His eyebrows lifted.

"Last night, you asked me to judge you," Koh said. "I can't. I don't have enough data."

Amon laughed at that, a genuine sound. He was slowly becoming less tense as they talked. "You are generous. I don't deser-"

"Noah already lectured you about that whole ‘deserve' thing," she interrupted him.

"And I see she's influencing your bark a bit, too," he pointed out.

Koh smiled a little at that, feeling somewhat complimented. "Maybe. Is that bad?"

"No," Amon told her, suddenly sounding a bit wistful. "Stick by your own thoughts. They belong to you and no one else."

He picked a muffin from the tray and helped himself to it. Koh peered down at her hands, trying not to look at him too long. She had a hunch, but no confirmation, that he wore his masks for reasons. And though she'd seen his face through Noah's hazy memories, it was the first time he'd allowed her to see it as herself.

"So... you're..." she tried to approach the subject.

Amon looked at her with a mouth full of muffin.

"...Not wearing your visor today."

"Mmm..."

"Can I ask why?" Koh glanced at him.

He leaned back in his chair, responding in a half-joking tone. "I suppose after traumatizing you with my stories, I owe you that much."

She smiled a bit.

Amon told her, "Let's just say, I've realized that I can't keep running away from my fears. I need to learn to face them. Pun absolutely intended."

She ignored his attempt to route the conversation through humor and stuck to the point, "Fears? You're afraid of...?"

"'Tis completely irrational and probably sounds absolutely ludicrous," He took a long breath. "I feel great unease when people can see my face. I use the mask to help me interact."

Koh blinked in surprise at this. "I had no idea. I just thought that you liked wearing weird hats."

Amon laughed. "I do like that, too."

"Are you afraid that someone will figure out who you are?"

"Well, 'tis a bit of that," he answered. "Though aside from Echo-blessed, which can see beyond the mask, and people studied in Allagan history like yourself, I don't know that too many common people would even have heard of me or have any inkling who I am. I've always felt comfortable enough using my real name, after all."

"Then what?"

"I suppose 'tis a holdover from the past. If you do enough biological alterations on yourself, 'tis bound to mess you up," Amon grimaced, eyes looking distant for a moment. "I hated what I was becoming, so started covering it up. Small things at first, but eventually it led to the flamboyant persona I took on. Acting... becoming something else... made things more bearable. And no one dared confront me, of course."

"Until now," Koh said with a cheeky grin.

"Aye," Amon laughed. "And I am all the more blessed for it."

She beamed brighter, feeling truly happy. Maybe she had been able to help Amon, after all. It wasn't easy to hear his stories, or try to understand why he was the way he was. But here they were, eating muffins on an early morning and he... he was actually letting her see his smile.

Before she could revel in the feeling for too long, another loud knock sounded on the apartment door. A cheerful voice came from the other side.

"Hey Amon! Koh! I hear you two talking in there! I'm coming in!"

Instantly, he responded in panic, hands reaching for the safety of a mask that was nowhere near him. When Zuri walked in, all smiles and sunshine, he visibly relaxed just a little, though it seemed as if he was grappling the instinct to cover his face with his hand.

"Kami above!" the Au Ra exclaimed when she saw them sitting there.

Her eyes widened focusing directly on Amon. He paled a bit, his breath catching, frozen in fear.

Then Zuri laughed, "Where did you get those carbuncle slippers?!"

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