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[SIDESTORY] Morbit Oneshots

Total Scrap Containment Sphere Operations Manual- 2020
knux400, General Morbit 
CW: Medical, death, suffocation, needles, and memory/personality altering
A pamphlet detailing how to operate some kind of device.

The Total Scrap Containment Sphere or TSCS (sometimes referred to as a 'Tuscus' or 'Death Bubble') is a device capable of transferring a person's consciousness to a construct body. Misuse of this device can result in sudden mood shifts, memory loss, electrocution, or death. Please follow the procedures listed in this document as closely as possible to avoid mishap.

Section A: Description of Equipment

The TSCS is a hollow crystal sphere 15 feet in diameter, separated into two halves when not in use. It is contained in a large mechanical frame that holds the bottom half of the sphere in place while allowing the top half to be removed. The sphere is connected via several cables to a Scrap Repository, in which a Scrap Core can be placed.
A Scrap Repository is a roughly cylindrical device that contains a sliding panel to fit a Scrap Core. It is 1 foot tall and 6 inches in diameter.
A Scrap Core is a crystal disc housed in a cylindrical metal frame. It is 2 inches tall and 3 inches in diameter.

Section B: Standard Operating Procedure

Step 1: Prepare an empty scrap core and construct body. The construct body should be open and ready for the scrap core to be inserted.

Step 2: Lead the patient inside the bottom half of the sphere. It may be necessary to provide physical assistance to older or weaker patients. The patient must be wearing a medical gown and be completely devoid of any material that could potentially house scraps or shreds.

Step 3: Apply an even coating of Crystal Adhesive Gelatin to the edge of the sphere. Empty the sphere of all living beings except for the patient.

Step 4: Replace the top half of the sphere. Make sure the edges are perfectly aligned. Remove any excess gelatin.

Step 5: Close the mechanical frame. This will prevent the top half of the sphere from moving as the gelatin dries.

Step 6: Activate the TSCS at a low setting for 60 seconds. This will draw any stray scraps or shreds into the Scrap Repository. Before shutting the TSCS down again, use scrap detecting equipment to verify that there are no scraps or shreds left in the TSCS or in any of the transfer cables.

Step 7: Vent the Scrap Repository into a containment cell. Once the Scrap Repository is cleared, insert the Scrap Core and close the Repository.

Step 8: Once the gelatin has dried, the patient will have to suffocate to death before the procedure can continue. Use scrap detecting equipment to watch for the large burst of scraps upon the patient's death. If the patient's physiology is such that they are incapable of suffocating, see section D.

Step 9: Activate the TSCS at a medium setting for 3 minutes. This will draw all scraps and shreds from the patient's body into the Scrap Repository. Before shutting the TSCS down again, use scrap detecting equipment to verify that there are no scraps or shreds left in the TSCS or in any of the transfer cables.

Step 10: Remove the Scrap Core from the Scrap Repository. Be very careful not to drop or bump the Scrap Core. Insert it immediately into the construct body.

Section C: Cleanup

To unseal the sphere, apply a generous amount of solvent to the seam of the sphere. After 60 seconds, use the mechanical frame to separate the top half. It may be necessary to use additional solvent to remove excess gelatin from the two halves. Remove all material from the inside of the sphere.

Section D: Troubleshooting

Some patients have physiology that makes it impossible for them to suffocate. In these instances, the patient must be given a syringe with a lethal dose of [REDACTED] to take with them into the sphere. Once the sphere is properly sealed, the patient must be instructed to use the syringe on themselves. When extracting the scraps from the patient's body, turn the TSCS to High for an additional 30 seconds to draw any potential scraps or shreds out of the syringe.

If a scrap gets stuck on the patient's body or inside the sphere/cables, turn the TSCS to High for a maximum of 60 seconds. Do not leave it on this setting for any longer, as it may cause damage to the machine. Should the scrap fail to move even after this, retrieve a Scrap Manipulation Tool and manually move the scrap into the Repository. Be extremely careful not to misplace or alter the scrap.

If it becomes evident during the extraction process that the sphere is imperfectly sealed, deactivate the TSCS immediately. If the scraps being extracted are those of the patient, all personnel must immediately retrieve Scrap Manipulation Tools and perform the transfer manually.

Should the patient die before preparations for extraction are complete, the scraps can be contained in the sphere for short periods of time, although some degradation can occur.

Section E: Footnotes

It is extremely important that all the steps outlined in this manual are followed to the letter, as an imperfect transfer of scraps, loss of scraps, or introduction of foreign scraps into the Scrap Core can cause the patient's personality or memories to be altered. In severe cases, this may cause the Scrap Core to become unstable or fail to activate at all. To avoid mishap, always follow these steps:

Check the structural integrity of the sphere before every operation. Do not operate with a damaged or broken sphere.
Do not turn the TSCS to High for more than 60 seconds at a time.
Do not begin extracting scraps from the patient until all stray scraps are cleared from the sphere, cables, and Repository.
Do not disconnect any of the cables during operation.
Do not open the Scrap Repository during operation.
Do not touch the sphere during operation.
The patient should be discouraged from hitting or kicking the inside of the sphere, as it may cause damage to the sphere and disrupt the procedure.
Artificial lifeform/mechanical construct on a mission to obtain every armor type TCP and also maybe make cool stuff along the way

If you call me a bionicle I will stab your feet

[Image: WOxKePR.png] [Image: DGVV5eJ.png]

 Just Pre-Date Banter- 2020
       B. Comorant, Crankshaft Rafflesian One-Sot, Canon, Takes Place Before the Main Thread
   CW: None
       As the Title Says. May Possibly have a Follow Up.

[Image: 68yyEiy.png]

Lex watches the time tick away on her watch, leaning on the fence just on the outskirts of her neighborhood in anticipation for her date to arrive. It's 15 after what was originally planned, but she wasn't too worried yet....



God she needed to get a cell phone....

Almost 30 minutes in, a striking blue construct in a sporty outfit sprinting into view. She waved at her from a distance and got a jokey salute in return. 

Lex: You showed up!

Dotty: I said I would! Sorry for being late, work kept me a bit longer than I'd like.

Lex: That's all good, figured it was something like that. What happened?

Dotty: Did a course on dueling safety, lots of questions which is good but also meant going a little over to cover everything. You know the drill. 

Lex: That why you're not in your usual uniform?

Dotty: Yep. Refs don't have the same type of protection that's standardized for duelists so it's no good for explaining. 

Lex: It's cute, like that part especially.

She points to Dotty's collar. It covers the lower half of her face and carries a distinct toothy pattern. 

Dotty: Asked for that specifically when I got this made, seen some people do something similar and thought it'd be fun you know?

Lex: Makes you look like a vampire. Low key goth.

Dotty: Just a little splash of it. You got anything like that on your uniform? 

Lex: Nah, my dueling outfit is pretty standard. I wanna get a fancy custom one like yours though if I ever get sponsored. Like, something unique. 

Dotty: You'll get there. Today been good for you?

Lex: Not really... but it's already getting better. 

Dotty's earpieces lowered the slightest at the compliment. 

Dotty: We'll make today nice for us. What's up though?

Lex: Just feeling a bit off lately, it'll go away. Don't wanna derail things too much though.

Dotty: You can talk about it a little, don't mind at all.

Lex: Nah not yet... just wanna focus on this right now if it's okay. Been a bit since we've gone out like this, that okay?

Dotty: Yeah, whenever you feel up for it. Sorry I've been so busy this month...

Lex: No worries! You know you can talk about your stuff too, I know work gets stressful for you.

Dotty: Just a little, lots of getting yelled at that I "got the ruling wrong." or that I "step in too much" and it's annoying. I'm not going to look away when someone is going for kidney punches. Not for anybody.

Lex: Not even me?

The rabbit smirked.

Dotty: Especially not you.

Lex: Figures.

Dotty: Nothing personal but I'm scared what'd you do in a fight with no rules.

Lex: No that's super fair! You should be!

Dotty: Bastard.... anyway sorry for derailing things so hard.

Lex: No it's fine! Like... I like hearing you talk about life stuff. You don't do that enough.

Dotty: Same. You're the only one I get to really do this sort of thing. For now though I wanna get back to business. 

Lex: Oh? Date plans?

Dotty: Big ones. I say we deviate from our usual a bit. 

Lex: Yeah? 

Dotty: We go to town a bit. Grab a bite, see a show, yell in the parking lot after. Stay out just a little late.

Lex: Yeah! Absolutely! I know where the closest stop is, I can cover fare.

Dotty: I'll cover the way back. Dinner too. 

Lex: Yeah well... I'll cover tickets. Snacks too.

Dotty: I'm not letting you buy snacks at the theater. We're sneaking shit in. That everything?

Lex: Yeah. Ready to roll?

Dotty: Let's do this.

Costume Shop- 2020
Ringor Mortis, Felid Factor
CW: Suggestive topics, abuse implications
Alias makes a poor Darkest Night purchase.

Alias turns one way in front of the mirror, and then another, tilting their head and making sure their cartoonish horns won’t fall off. The costume they picked up is a little tight- probably made for a TCP without fur- but it fits better now. Sort of.

They wake their laptop up with a sigh, returning to their conversation with Remmy. Best not to leave him hanging. 

[REMNANT_TREASURES]: do i finally get to know the surprise?
[CRITTER_CATCHER]: dont get your hopes up
[CRITTER_CATCHER]: its not anything special and uh
[CRITTER_CATCHER]: i had to make
[CRITTER_CATCHER]: modifications
[CRITTER_CATCHER]: dont do the face its not exciting
[CRITTER_CATCHER]: if anything its embarrassing as fuck
[REMNANT_TREASURES]: i promise not to judge u
[REMNANT_TREASURES]: swear on my life
[REMNANT_TREASURES]: pinkie swear
[CRITTER_CATCHER]: 1) you dont have pinkies and neither do i
[CRITTER_CATCHER]: 2) dont waste your life swears on this
[CRITTER_CATCHER]: 3) if youre going to judge anyone judge the people who made this shitty costume
[REMNANT_TREASURES]: wait did you get scammed
[REMNANT_TREASURES]: what’s the brand
[REMNANT_TREASURES]: agh you should have checked the brand with me before buying!! what was it!
[CRITTER_CATCHER]: hold on i have a tag somewhere
[REMNANT TREASURES]: i’m supposed to be your trusty advisor! i’m slacking!!
[REMNANT_TREASURES]: don’t tell me, it’s trusty treats. they’re a plague amongst darkest night costumes, never get those. the material they use is absolutely bottom of the barrel, worst of the worst!
[CRITTER_CATCHER]: devious goods
[REMNANT_TREASURES]: are they allowed to make costumes for TCPs????
[CRITTER_CATCHER]: there’s no law against it. i didn’t realize it’d be like this and i wasn’t aware of the APPARENT
[REMNANT_TREASURES]: it has devious in the name!
[CRITTER_CATCHER]: i thought it was a spooky branding thing!!
[REMNANT_TREASURES]: i’m sorry to alarm you, crit, but.
[REMNANT_TREASURES]: without even seeing your costume i can tell you with great certainty: you bought something somebody will probably find sexy lol 
[CRITTER_CATCHER]: its fine. it’s fine i put shorts on it
[CRITTER_CATCHER]: like it wouldnt fucking matter either way because fucking obviously but i dont know i dont want to prance around with my legs all the way out
[CRITTER_CATCHER]: feels weird 
[CRITTER_CATCHER]: also too cold, it’s been windy
[REMNANT_TREASURES]: yeah...i mean that’s your best option i think
[REMNANT_TREASURES]: the more i think about it, the more weird it is. the fact that somebody would do something like that- like, go out and make costumes like that for TCPs.
[REMNANT_TREASURES]: at work, we have to fill a lot of different kinds of orders- i always get the same thing because, yknow, quilt type’s kind of specialized…
[REMNANT_TREASURES]: but a lot of the more generalized fabric and sewing-related types, they get all different kinds of fashion styles and types of garments that need making.
[REMNANT_TREASURES]: and sometimes people get stuff thatd be considered pretty revealing by complex standards, like- a bodysuit or crop top or something. booty shorts, except us tiny cats don’t have butts to put in ‘em.
[REMNANT_TREASURES]: that’s not really weird, i guess? 
[REMNANT_TREASURES]: it doesn’t feel weird. it doesn’t feel /weird/ like this does, now that i’m like, thinking about it more. giving it a proper do over in my head.
[CRITTER_CATCHER]: i mean i guess i get that yeah
[CRITTER_CATCHER]: like. i don’t wear a shirt around the house sometimes and if someone comes to the door, i don’t care, because i’m a TCP and it’s not like it matters
[REMNANT_TREASURES]: yeah like. no one’s going to care!
[REMNANT_TREASURES]: but with this its like somebody’s...actively going out of their way to go “hey, look at this TCP...they can be hot too”
[REMNANT_TREASURES]: its very ew!!
[CRITTER_CATCHER]: yeah like obviously ive like. found people attractive or whatever but not like that. we don’t do that
[CRITTER_CATCHER]: that’s not a thing
[REMNANT_TREASURES]: it’s not a thing! and they’re trying to make it a thing! it’s weird!
[CRITTER_CATCHER]: shit...what do i do about the costume then? 
[CRITTER_CATCHER]: shows me for doing this shit last minute
[REMNANT_TREASURES]: hmm i mean you put shorts on it, so thats already a good step i think.
[REMNANT_TREASURES]: if you spoil the surprise, i can give some better advice!
[CRITTER_CATCHER]: fine, it’s one of those stupid devil costumes. i thought it’d be
[CRITTER_CATCHER]: cute or something
[REMNANT_TREASURES]: that is cute! or it will be, when we’re through with it. what’s the components?
[CRITTER_CATCHER]: uh, a horn headband, a choker, and a...bodysuit? with some wings on it.
[CRITTER_CATCHER]: and shorts, now. i have shorts.
[REMNANT_TREASURES] no sleeves, i’m guessing?
[REMNANT_TREASURES]: do the wings come off?
[CRITTER_CATCHER]: yeah, looks like it. magnets, i guess?
[REMNANT_TREASURES]: thats...really good actually, more expensive than i would have expected from such a hack company. that’s the closest you’ll get to a compliment to me though, and we’re going to cover up their work anyway. 
[REMNANT_TREASURES]: got a coat?
[CRITTER_CATCHER]: yeah but its kind of huge
[REMNANT_TREASURES]: i mean u did say it was windy
[REMNANT_TREASURES]: is there anything wrong with it?
[CRITTER_CATCHER]: no, it’s just
[CRITTER_CATCHER]: i mean its my favorite coat
[REMNANT_TREASURES]: is this a sonora thing y/n
[CRITTER_CATCHER]: remmy cmon
[REMNANT_TREASURES]: y/n, i just want to know if it has to do with her so i can help you out
[REMNANT_TREASURES]: okay it is a holiday so im not going to play armchair therapist today
[REMNANT_TREASURES]: would it make you feel better or worse to tell her to eat shit by wearing this coat tonight, your FAVORITE coat, with tiny devil wings on it, for added power
[CRITTER_CATCHER]: ...better
[REMNANT_TREASURES]: then there u go
[CRITTER_CATCHER]: ok. coat on. ready to go.
[REMNANT_TREASURES]: so what’s the game plan?
[CRITTER_CATCHER]: im going to stay in for a bit and take on the first few waves of candy seekers before going out myself, i think. 
[CRITTER_CATCHER]: i like seeing all the different costumes. it’s one of the few times i get to see my neighbors and actually make a good impression, too, so…
[REMNANT_TREASURES]: aw yeah, and i bet u got that good candy too to really win them over!
[CRITTER_CATCHER]: haha yeah i got these taffy type things and they taste so fucking good and

It is in this moment that Alias’ eyes pass over the trash bin by their bed, seeing colorful, familiar wrappers piled within.  The realization sinks in, their paws frozen on their touchpad, that they had finished off their own candy stash earlier that morning. 

[to be continued in the 2020 darkest night RP...]
[Image: TCP%20customs.png]

Two Flowers - 2020
B.Comorant, Masa con Papas/Corazones related.
CW: None
A fiend and a knight acknowledge their growing feelings for each other. 

[Image: 3djoWjO.png]

Arabis and Zinnia were settled down by a small campfire in the middle of a natural clearing deep in the woods. The two sat comfortably in silence, with Zinnia regularly glancing over at the tall spider-like fiend. 

Arabis: If you have something on your mind you can spill it.

Zinnia: Right, might I ask you for a favor?

Arabis: Hmm?

Zinnia: May I lean on your shoulder? Feeling tired.

Arabis: You’ve been doing that quite a bit.

Zinnia: Have I now?

Arabis: Yes and it somewhat confuses me.

Zinnia: If you would like me to stop I can.

Arabis: It’s not that, you’re fine and I do not mind it-

Zinnia immediately rests their head on Arabis’ shoulder. 

Zinnia: Thank you, continue. 

Arabis sighs. 

Arabis: I don’t understand you getting this comfortable about me.

Zinnia: Do you seriously want me to back off? I really can.

Arabis: I find it rather suspicious. Why? 

Zinnia: It’s hard to say, but I feel like I can let down my guard around you.
Arabis: Around a monstrous creature like myself? 

Zinnia: Mmhmm.

Arabis: One that’s dreaded by those who pass through the woods I live in? Who’s kind is seen as an omen of bad things to happen by most?

Zinnia: Yes.

Arabis: One who towers over you and could poison you in your sleep with a single bite?

Zinnia: You’ve had many opportunities to do it and yet you haven’t. Plus I beat you in a fight already. 

The spider rolled his eyes. 

Arabis: I suppose you have. I don’t understand how frankly. Or why you didn’t slay me on the spot after.

Zinnia: You seemed more scared than anything. I wasn’t going to kill someone who fought in self defense.

Arabis: I assumed you were an assassin like many other knights who came before you. 

Zinnia: And you are justified for thinking so, I imagine this is a regular issue for you.

Arabis: It’s frustrating…. but not as frustrating as trying to figure you out.

Zinnia scooted up while resting on Arabis’ shoulder.

Zinnia: I’m sure you will. You’re a bit of an enigma to me too.

Arabis: Why would that be?

Zinnia: You’re a hermit and yet you go out of your way to dress well, and speak elegantly, and well….

Arabis: Are you surprised that a monster like myself is capable of all that?

Zinnia: No. It’s just not common for someone who actively chooses to live alone.

Arabis: I did not choose to live distant from others, I simply do so because going into town alone will make the paranoid and superstitious people whip out the torches and muskets. 

Zinnia: It’s a real shame. I’m sure that if they got to know you they’d warm up fast.

Arabis: I don’t need their praise or their company.

Zinnia: Yet you don’t seem to mind mine too much.

Arabis: You’re different. You aren’t afraid of me for reasons I cannot comprehend. You insist on being close and eating in the same room. I don’t think I get you.

Zinnia: I’m just a humble dog. 

Arabis: Yes. A strange one. 

Zinnia: If you’d really like to know though I can tell you. 

Arabis: I would like to hear a reason yes. 

Zinnia: I just find your company incredibly pleasant. 

Arabis: Is that all?

Zinnia: And you’re pretty. 

Arabis: Do not jest at my expense. 

Zinnia: I’m not.

Arabis: Pretty. 

Zinnia: Yes? I meant that. You’re quite the looker.

Arabis: No. Why are you playing this cruel game?

Zinnia’s ears flopped down.

Zinnia: There’s no game…

Arabis: The only reason anyone would say something like that is to toy with my emotions. 

Zinnia: I swear to you I don’t want to hurt you, I adore your company.

Arabis: No.

Zinnia: Enough that I perhaps was hoping you’d stick around after my quest is over.

Arabis: ….. 

Zinnia: You do not have to of course.

Arabis: ……

Zinnia: I went and made it all weird didn’t I? I’m sorry… I can stop now. 

Arabis: … 

Zinnia: Please don’t be mad at me.

Arabis: I’m not angry at you, I’m processing things, so please give me a moment to get my thoughts together into something cohesive. 

Zinnia: Alright.

Arabis sat quietly with his thoughts for a good while before finally coming up with a response.

Arabis: I just want full confirmation. Your statements were all genuine.  Not a single one was made as a joke.

Zinnia: Yes! I mean… yes. 

Arabis: Not one.

Zinnia: Ningun, not a single line. 

Arabis: You really like me. 

Zinnia nodded. 

Arabis: You are such a strange knight. Hold out your hand for a moment. 

Zinnia: Of course.

They held out their hand. Arabis reached out and grabbed it. Zinnia’s ears perked up immediately. 

Arabis: Have you thought about this? 

Zinnia: It’s kept me up a couple of nights frankly.

Arabis: It excites you to hold hands with an ancient monster who could poison you with a kiss?

Zinnia: I would take the risk for you, but only if you would like to. 

Arabis: Mm. I suppose I’m willing to give this a shot.

Zinnia: What exactly?

Arabis: Being… close like this to someone else. It’s not something I imagined possible for me so please be patient. I will need time and I will make mistakes. 

Zinnia: You’re willing to-

Arabis: Yes. I’d like to take things slowly though, I’m not familiar with any of this.

Zinnia: of course.

Arabis: Truth be told, I found myself getting butterflies anytime you’ve been willing to make contact with me.

Zinnia: Really?

Arabis: Mm. Even more so the time we were forced to share the one bed available at the Inn. You know you hugged me in your sleep?

Zinnia: Ah… I’m quite sorry about that.

Arabis: It’s fine. I guess I just wonder if you would like to try that arrangement again. It’d be good for my health frankly, I’m cold blooded and we’re getting close to being up north. 

Zinnia: Will you be okay?

Arabis: Maybe. My kind hibernates when our temperatures are too low but with the help of a brave mammal willing to hold me the entire time it might be possible. 

Zinnia: I will carry you if I must.

Arabis: Mm. On a side note it’s kind of late.

Zinnia: If you need to rest you can.

Arabis: Will you come with me? You may hold me if you’d like.

Zinnia: Of course.

Arabis: Just give me a little longer to process this and we’ll head off.

Zinnia: Take your time. 

The dog went back to leaning on the spider’s shoulder. This time Arabis put his hand through Zinnia’s hair and stroked to help them get comfortable.

Both of them slept very comfortably that night.

Title: 404. 
Project: Torn To Shreds 
Author: Winds
CW: Family conflict, yelling.

You’re feeling awful.

Today has absolutely not been your day.

In fact, you are inclined to call this one of the worst days of your life.

Maxim’s voice is firm and exasperated, or maybe you are reading into her tone too much.
[Image: MaximTTS.png]

“Edict, please explain this to me again.”

There are many things that could go wrong when it came to your duties as a High God.

“I tried to explain it already, do you want me to just repeat myself?!”

You are usually very good about maintaining everything: public relations,  managing your zone, oversight, governance.

“And you’re sure you aren’t missing anything, right?”

Now you are sure Maxim is exasperated, you don’t make mistakes often, but… you do have a reputation for creating catastrophes.

“Yes, I’m sure.”

This one impresses even you, you’ve somehow managed to find a way to make a mistake that both is very dangerous and also should not have been possible to make.




You flinch back, the sudden yelling not being something you were expecting.


“How did you even manage that? Where could they have possibly gone?!”
You swallow, unsure what to do. “I don’t know… That’s why I said they’re missing.”

“Right, sorry, I guess that question isn’t actually that useful.”

“Are you angry with me?” You ask suddenly,

“...No.” She sounds unsure.

You don’t know what to do.

You would go looking for them if you could but you know that would be a bad idea. You desperately want to be able to do that, for you or any of your siblings, to be able to get up and venture across Morbit trying to find out where the god you were trying to create is. You shift slightly, moving across the vast earth beneath you.

You know Maxim cares about you, you know Oblivion does too, but this is stressful and you’re scared about what’s going to happen from here. “Do you have any ideas?” you ask, sounding hopeful.

Maxim snorts and you can hear it in the clouds.

“Other than hoping that we don’t have an inter-regional crisis on our hands due to a massive and flagrant violation of established treatise? I’ve got nothing.”

You wince a bit, and try and look anywhere other than at your sibling. Doing so proves rather difficult. “Maxim.”

“What?” She sounds tired.

“That kind of hurt.” You say, keeping your tone as neutral as you can. The words just come out flat and dry.

“...I’m sorry,” she says, you know she means it, you know how stressful being the eldest of the three of you is for her.

But you also told yourself you’d stop making excuses for her.

“Thank you.” You settle on.

“I’ll think about what we can do, okay? I’m sorry for snapping at you and being sarcastic.”

You smile, she’s trying her best, and that’s all you really want.


Oblivion is relaxing, half immersed in the lava that pools at the center of Closure.
[Image: OblivionTTS.png]

You aren’t sure what to say, so it is all the more fortunate that he speaks first. “Are you okay?”

“No, not really,” You say, wavering a bit.

“Is it about the missing god?”

“What else could it possibly be about?”

“You seem to have a new thing every week.”

You go silent at that, that makes two siblings who have trampled over your feelings today. Your head swims as the words play again and again. Did Oblivion really feel that way? After a few moments you find your response

“Oblivion, what the fuck?!”


“That was really shitty!”

“Edict look, Maxim may coddle you but you need to stop catastrophizing things. I’m sorry that I’m being insensitive, but it’s a problem.”

“...” You swallow, Oblivion is right, you know that he is, but the way he says it makes it hurt way worse than anything Maxim says.

Oblivion shifts in the lake of Lava, sending small waves cascading to its banks. “You’ll be fine and it’ll be okay.”

“Don’t just placate me Oblivion. A greater god is missing somewhere out in Morbit, who knows where they could be?! Who knows what power we could have pissed off. How can you be so calm about this?!” You can feel your ribbons rifle in the wind that started to pick up, convection causing air currents to billow outwards from where Oblivion lay.

“But there’s nothing you can do about it, so you need to stop worrying.” Oblivion’s tone was distracted and cold.

You once again find yourself at a loss for words, this time it takes even longer for you to find them, and when you speak your voice wavers.

For the first time since you started talking you see Oblivion shift his gaze your way. You can see his expression change, you can’t imagine you look too good right now. “Edict.. Shit, I’m sorry.”

You laugh bitterly and turn your gaze from your brother. “If I need to stop creating catastrophes every week then you need to stop being so damn callous.”

You can feel the rising cloud of ash and the humiliation it held. “I… y’know, I deserved that one.”

“Do you really think that inter-region politics are the only worry I have? I made them, I’m worried about them, who knows if they have any idea what’s going on, what if they’re scared, or if they get hurt… I don’t want to think about that.”

When you glance back to your sibling you see that he’s shifted so his head is on the closer side of the lake, heat radiates off him and you can feel it through your body. “Ah fuck, sis. I didn’t think of that.”

“Yeah well you should have.”

Oblivion winces again  “Alright, that’s the second one, are we even? If you need another I can take it,” he says, shifting so he’s laying with his head sideways.

You laugh, a genuine laugh and not one of discomfort. “No, I think I’m okay… just… please listen to me? Okay? I know we’ve been working at this a long time, but just… yeah.”

“I’ll do my best.” His tone is flat, but you know he means it. “Oh, and don’t worry too much about any angry gods showing up, the worst we could get from this is some sanctions, do you really think anyone would be stupid enough to bring fire to our doorstep?”

You laugh at that. “I guess not… oh yeah, if you feel anything, tell me, okay?”

“I dunno what I’d be feeling for, and I can’t reach that far, but sure.”

You settle yourself back on your small island, and think about trying to sleep.

Your dreams are filled with thoughts of your missing god.

You feel like shit.

Definitely the worst day of your life.
A Rival Appears in a Inconvenient Place - 2020
Comorant, Masa/Crankshaft
CW: None
[b]Geezer Encounters His Rival at the Fair.

[Image: 2DRhR6o.png]

You find yourself in a particularly odd spot at the local fair. You make eye contact with your rival, a little too much to avoid the confrontation ahead.

You're surrounded by people.

She wouldn't want to instigate a fight right now right?

Still she's tracking you with her glance, there's no way not to acknowledge this. You shuffle toward the side off path, away from the big crowds to avoid any complications with civilians. 

She doesn't break eye contact from you, walking with you the entire way.

You both stand in the awkward dampness of a nearby alley.

Manzana breaks the silence. 

Manzana: Fancy meeting you here today.... so this is the part where we get to yes?

Geezer: 'Scuse me?

Manzana: You looked at me first and you sure didn't seem like you were ready to look the other way. Just wish it wasn't where we'd cause a scene frankly.

Geezer: You never looked away either, figured you wanted to pick a fight yourself. 

Manzana: At the fair? No, I've got better manners than this.

Geezer: Same. 

Manzana: I suppose that makes us a couple of well dressed jackasses standing in a gross corner. 

Geezer: That a compliment?

Manzana: That's the only one you'll get. You dress better than your little mentor at least.

Geezer: Same to you, no offense. 

Manzana: Ali would smite you on the spot for that comment. 

Geezer: So would my grandma.

Manzana: I take it at this point we're not big on the idea of killing each other in a place of pleasantries then. 

Geezer: Absolutely not. 

Manzana: If I see you outside the fair though I will not hesitate to fight you on the spot.

Geezer: If it's what you gotta do, it's what you gotta do. Course hard to say what that means with you uh... your practices.

Manzana: Oh?

Geezer: You sell all sorts of forbidden arcane knowledge to big money corporations, I know how you work.

Manzana: You're effectively a mercenary, you are in no place to judge me. 

Geezer: I curate who I work for. I dunno, you gotta be aware of what the shit you do does to folks right?

Manzana: I sell tools of war, if I don't someone else will do does it matter?

Geezer: A little, it's kind of some high grade messed up blasting someone with the shit that comes out of your dealings.

Manzana: Most of it never sees any sort of formal deployment. 

Geezer: Does see a lot of under the table sales though. Monte's pretty interested in particular I hear. You don't mind that kind of potential blood on your hands?

Manzana: All I'm doing is sharing knowledge for a fee. Once it's out of my hands there is no blood.

Geezer: Yeah?

Manzana: Mm. There's a big gap between my trade and yours. I'm sure you've earned yourself no good sleep being a knight and having to strike down people yourself. 

Geezer: I don't pick a fight unless I feel the cause is right. 

Manzana: You don't feel any guilt raiding lords? 

Geezer: Lords are hella corrupt. 

Manzana: Were the people who work for them as bad though? Or were they just other mercs looking for a job like yourself.

Geezer: They signed up to protect corrupt leadership. I wish it didn't have to go the way it did, but I'm not sorry. 

Manzana: Cold. 

Geezer: Yeah well... 

Manzana: You're in no place to feel like you're better than me. 

Geezer: You know for someone who didn't want to throw hands, you're pretty quick to talk shit.

Manzana: Ah, are you having a change of heart? If that's so I know a better spot for us to duel. 

Geezer: See I'd take you up on that but I paid good money for these fair tickets and I don't know if I wanna burn that sort of cash like this.

Manzana: Admittedly I also don't want to miss out on this. What a tough spot, might have to reschedule.

Geezer: I mean if you're serious about the idea, we can hold it off to after hours. 

Manzana: ....

Geezer: Up to you. I know it's not a real holiday but we can hold a truce til we're out yeah?

Manzana: I suppose so. 

You offer her a hand. 

Manzana: What's this?

Geezer: Formality. Truce til we're both away from the fairgrounds. 

Manzana takes your hand.

Manzana: I'll accept these terms for now. 

Geezer: See? Easy. 

Manzana: I would like you to take me to the caramel corn booth though before we go off our separate ways however. I've been having trouble finding it...

Geezer: I can do that much. No problem at all. 

[i][b]Jam Goes on a Date
Comorant, Crankshaft Rafflesian
CW: None
Jam goes on a solo date with Dotty.

[Image: uKLCZVY.png]

You are Jam, chaos elemental and not-rabbit extraordinaire. 
You're in the middle of your first official date.
The others were kind of circumstantial.... sharing a body means you occasionally have to bail the other person you're living with out of some potential blunders.
Not that you mind anyway, feels good to help out. 
You're a bit of a secret wingman in the middle of all this. Sorta. 
Now you and Dotty are in the middle of the Beachside Shopping Center, a big hub by the surf and sand where tons of people spend their hours off of work looking for a good time with friends and a hot meal after work.
There's a bit of everything here really.
Dotty holds your hand as the two of you walk around together. It's cold, metal, and just a little on the rusty side but it's still kind of nice. 
You kinda wish you made your existence public earlier. You'd been kind of in the background for so long that not even Lex was sure you actually existed despite sharing a head. 
You could have a while ago if you really wanted...
Would have spared me a lot of anxiety when I just don't remember doing stuff.
Real sorry about that.
You know you've been quiet on a side note like... you should probably say something?
You clear your throat and look over at Dotty. God she's so much taller than you.
Yeah and you like that.
Never said I didn't. You like that too.
Jam: So you  hand out here pretty often right? Like, with Lex and all that right?
Dotty: Mmhmm! It's a good place to relax after work. Have you been here before?
Jam: Only as an observer really. Lots of brunch and dinners, browsing around, shopping, occasional visits to the arcade... more Lex in general. She's pretty big on them. 
Dotty: Yeah, we go there sometimes but I've always been more into the analog stuff you know? Pinball, skee-ball, crane games, that sort. I'm pretty good at them actually
Jam: You know how to win at those cranes? Never been any good at them.
Dotty: Yeah! Pretty solid at them, used to play them a ton after work you know?
Jam: Think you could win me a prize? 
Dotty: Don't see why not. We can stop by the arcade later and I can work a bit of my magic. Get you a big old bear or something.
Jam: Nice. I used to be alright at carnival style stuff but I haven't done that sort of thing in so long that I don't know if I still could honestly...
Dotty: We could give it a shot sometime. Darkest Night festival is a month away so... you know.

Jam: Mm?

Dotty: If you wanna hang out there. Lex is coming for sure, might as well join in right?
Jam: We haven't even gone this far on the first date and you're already inviting me on the second one? Am I doing that good?
Dotty: Maybe. Might just be a sucker for a pretty face. 
Jam: Dang, you beat me to the punch on that one. See why Lex likes you so much.
Dotty: What's that mean?
Jam: You're just really nice to be around. Makes me happy.
Dotty: That's sweet.
Jam: Mean it! She's been willing to go out more, gotten so much braver since she met you. Before that she'd go to work, go to practice, and then bum out the rest of the day unless she had a match. You've done a lot for her, and I wanna be part of that too..
Dotty: Now you're just going to make me all red.
She gave your hand a squeeze.
Jam: It's true, I don't lie about things like that.
Dotty:... How come Lex isn't as open about stuff like this as much? Like...
Jam: Thinks you're too cool. I mean you're cool but she thinks you're like....

Dotty: "Too Cool" for sappy stuff like that.
Jam: Yep, doesn't wanna seem like a lamer.
Dotty: Nobody's a lamer.. and I'm really not that cool.

Jam: Sure you are.

Dotty: I mean... If I didn't meet you two I'd probably be bumming it out in front of my desktop poking at tomorrow's paperwork and forums.
Jam: You hang out on forums?
Dotty: Yeah! A little. Just some dorky stuff mostly. 
Jam: Wasn't in on that conversation. Some kind of hobby, just like talking to people, what's the deal there?
Dotty: It's not that important! Anyway I wanna get to know you since... well I guess you've always been here.
Jam: I mean not ALWAYS but long enough that I've been here since you two both met.
Dotty: How much did you watch? Were you just there sitting in on everything quietly?
Jam: A good amount of it. Just making sure stuff went okay you know? Not trying to snoop like that.

Dotty: No I get you, can't see you being nosy just for the sake of it.

 Jam: Not gonna lie, got a little bit jealous at times though.
Dotty: Now you don't gotta be. 
Jam: Now I don't..... anyway sorry for talking so much, you wanna get going?
Dotty: Yeah! But we don't gotta stop talking, I wanna hear everything. 
Jam: You sure? God, where do I even start?
Dotty: Anywhere. 
Jam: Hehe, you did this to yourself. So..... I was born 23 years ago in a factory on the outskirts of Capital City, it was a cold day in fall.
Oh my fucking god. Jam!
She said anywhere!
Dotty laughed just a little at your awful joke. 
Dotty: Guess I did say anywhere huh?
Jam: You want me to skip around a little?
Dotty: Just a bit. Get to the meat of things
Jam: I'll give you the abridged version then. I went through a bunch of years of public school with Lex, a weird puberty, became two people, a English major that kind of went nowhere, and then met a wonderful person... and now I'm face to face with them on a date for the first time. Hoping for a happily ever after somewhere.
Dotty: I'd like that too... 

Jam: Missed a bunch of details here and there but I can cover those. 

Dotty: Sounds good. So whatcha wanna do out here?

Jam: Honestly? Kinda wanna do some clothes shopping. Need more stuff in my style..

Dotty: Yeah, sounds good. What type of thing you into?

Jam: Shades, jackets, fur trimmings on coats, uh... a lot of witchy vibe stuff? Personally like my hair kinda fluffier than this but It'll have to do.
You know a shop for that?

Dotty: I know a few. 

Jam: Nice, let's get going then. I wanna look cool.

Dotty: You already do. 

Jam Goes on a Date: Aftermath
Comorant, Crankshaft Rafflesian
CW: None
Jam continues their date with Dotty.

[Image: WFmMpmL.png]
Jam: Hey Dotty, how's this look?
Dotty: Good I think, you tempted to pick it up?
Jam: Not sure yet. Don't know if orange is a good color on me like this. 
Dotty: You have a preference?
Jam: I'm big into reds and browns personally. Like a lot of stuff with a fur element you know?
Dotty: You got fancy tastes?
Jam: Nope, just cozy you know? I like how soft and warm that sort of thing is...
Dotty: I get that. You know it's usually pretty warm around here though right?
Jam: Yeah but there's still some winter and the sea breeze on the beach gets pretty chilly and all so... it has some use right?
Dotty: I guess that's fair. You have any clothes of your own?
Jam: Not really? But I get to input a lot on what Lex and I wear these days so that's something. Today I mostly got to pick though.
Dotty: That why you're rocking the white and blue hair?
Jam: Yeah. Lex likes it too but I think it's a nice dye option you know?
Dotty: Looks great honestly. You know I gotta wonder.
Jam: Hmm? 
Dotty: Don't know if this is intrusive but uh... I mean I've been meaning to ask for awhile?
Jam: Go ahead, no worries.
Dotty: What's your natural hair color? Don't think I've seen you two every go a day without dyeing it. 
Jam: Never?
Dotty: Wouldn't be able to tell honestly! Changes so often.
Jam: It's just brown. Like kind of a mid brown? Not super super dark but darker.
Dotty: I always figured it'd be blonde or maybe white or something. 
Jam: Used to be lighter as a kid but it darkened up. Happens to a lot of us dops you know?
Dotty: Were you around when Lex was a kid?
Jam: Sorta? Like kind of dormant so... I have a lot of the same memories I guess? Aw jeez hold on...
Jam takes a look at the price tag of the jacket.
Dotty: Something wrong?
Jam: This is hella expensive.
Dotty: Jackets tend to be.
Jam: How does Lex have so many? 
Dotty: She gets them thrift shopping. Guessing it's out of your budget?
Jam: I mean I could but that'd be like, all my money for this trip you know? Not up for that. 
Dotty: I get you.
Jam: Like we wouldn't be able to do anything after. Gonna pass on that one.
Dotty: I feel you.
You look through the rack and find something a little closer to your price range. 
Jam: You think this is good?
Dotty: That'd look cute on you, why?
Jam: Let me try this on. You tell me something about you too.
Dotty: Oh? Like what?
Jam: Like... what is your little mouth thingie? It's like a sticker right?
Dotty: It's a spray actually. 
Jam: Yeah but what is it? Is it an overbite, a smile, what's the deal with that?
Dotty: It was supposed to be a smile with a gap between the middle teeth but everyone seems to think it's something different? 
Jam: Huh. Was betting on it being an overbite. 
Dotty: It's whatever you really want it to be. Used to have a mouth plate apparently but... I don't want it to just be a blank mouth you know? So I filled it in to have a smile similar to later rancher units.
Jam: Makes sense. So like... what are you supposed to be?
Dotty: Huh?
Jam: Like, you got these ears right? Are you supposed to be based on something?
Dotty: Oh! I mean... a cat technically? Like one of those weird grinning cats from the fairy tales. 
Jam: Like that one book?
Dotty: Think so yeah. For some reason whoever designed a lot of constructs from the era I was made really was into that sort of thing. Fairly tales, especially ones that come from unknown origin. 
Jam: Wild... it's a good look though. Cute.
Dotty: You think so? I got mixed feelings honestly but hearing someone say they like it always helps. 
Jam: Yeah, it's really cool honestly. 
You spend some time looking in the mirror.
Jam: You think this coat looks good?
Dotty: Turn around?
You do so.
Jam: How is it?
Dotty: Cute honestly. I dig it.
Jam: Nice.
Dotty: You wanna pick that up?
Jam: Honestly? Yeah. Especially if you like it.
Dotty: That's sweet...
Jam: You're sweet! 
Dotty's turn away.
Dotty: Shit, I don't have a real comeback ready.
Jam: You just gonna take the compliment and run?
Dotty: Yeah. Yeah actually...
You reach for her hand. She accepts it.
Lex: Good, you deserve that. 

Hares - 2021
B.Comorant, Masa con Papas
CW: Implications of Abuse
Geezer and Manzana have a talk

[Image: eddDPQk.png]

 Geezer arrived in front of a wall between pathways, Manzana sitting there in anticipation of his arrival. 
Geezer: Hey cool, you're here on time.

 Manzana: You're a couple minutes late.
Geezer: Had trouble finding a spot to park, sorry about that. Glad you made it though.

 Manzana: So, what do you want? 

 Geezer: Just figured that we could talk, you know? You're a Judgment too and all so-

 Manzana: Don't make the mistake of assuming I was granted that title like you were.

 Geezer: I mean Aunt Ali raised you right? Why wouldn't you be part of the family?

 Manzana: There are no familial ties here, it's strictly business. 

 Geezer: That's hella weird.
Manzana: That's the truth of the situation. Alighieri Judgment is my mentor and not much more. I owe her a certain respect for what she's done but we've never really pushed our relationship past student and teacher.

 Geezer: So you didn't get a crest or nothing?

 Manzana: I'm not a knight so... no. 
Geezer: What's that on your hat then?

 Manzana: An accessory for brand purposes. Don't make too much of it.

 Geezer: You design that yourself?

 Manzana shot Geezer a glare. 
Geezer: I'm just asking, genuine question.

 Manzana: I hired someone to handle the final look but the initial concept is mine.

 Geezer: I dig it. Minimalist in a good way. You’ve done a good job.

 Manzana rolls her eyes. 
Manzana: Back to the question, what's your real reason. Are you here to pick a fight? Maybe try to convince me to join you to live in whatever backwater town you and your family stick to?

 Geezer: Not quite.

 Manzana: Then what?
Geezer: I guess I just figured that since we both got today off maybe we could get to know each other past our usual routine of clashing swords and all. 

 Manzana: Normally I'd laugh in your face but... I'm tired, so I'll humor it. 

 Geezer: Really?
The construct seemed genuinely surprised.

 Manzana: You didn't bring any weapons with you so I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. 

 Geezer: So how are we gonna do this?
Manzana: You may ask me a question and I'll respond and ask another in return. My condition is I get the first and last question and I have a right to decline an answer at any point.

 Geezer: I can work with that. So-
Manzana: So I'll ask first. I want truthful answers.

 Geezer: Alright.
Manzana: Why did Erica choose you over anyone else?
Geezer: Honestly? Hard to say really but... guess she just saw a lot of potential in me and that I wasn't in the best situation before. What about you and Ali?

 Manzana: I had a talent for witchcraft despite what little resources I had living on the street. She needed a squire who could help her with her equipment as a knight and I was apparently good enough.

 Geezer: She was also looking around these parts around the same time too? Why?
Manzana: That's a second question, answer mine first. How old were you when Erica adopted you?

 Geezer: 13-ish going 14. You?
Manzana: Same about. I remember seeing you with her around the time I was brought in by Ali.

 Geezer: Really? 
Manzana: She pointed your mentor out in the crowd and you were with her. I find that interesting timing-wise.

 Geezer: What are you playing at?
Manzana: That's another question so let me ask you first. Why did you agree?
Geezer: I was happy at the idea of having a real home and... I got that. What were you talking about with timing?

 Manzana: I have a few theories regarding that.

 Geezer: Yeah? Like?

 Manzana: Another question but I'll allow it. I don't think it's a coincidence that we both were picked up by two rival knights around the same time in the same region. Neither of them are locals of the area. Makes you think, no?

 Geezer: I don't think I like what you're getting at.
Manzana: Neither do I. Let me ask you a couple of questions now since you asked two. 

 Geezer: Alright.

 Manzana: Does Erica care about you?

 Geezer: Course she does. Treats me as if I were her own you know? Never had that.

 Manzana: How can you know for sure? 
Geezer: You can just feel it you know? Like... I can't put it into words but anytime I visit her it's with the same enthusiasm as her own flesh and blood and that's just... nice.

 Manzana: Interesting response..
Geezer: Real talk. Did Ali care about you?

 Manzana: In her own way, though I know we were never as close as being family. She did quite a bit though to get me as far as I am today and I'm grateful for that. Tell me this, if she cared about you so much why did your whole body get replaced?

 Geezer: That had nothing to do with her at all.

 Manzana: She clearly didn't protect you enough.
Geezer: It was out of her hands, don't blame her for my own mistake. Did Ali protect you?

 Manzana: I decline to answer. Are you frustrated?

 Geezer: Little bit, you're really starting to push some buttons today. You frustrated?

 Manzana: Depends on how you answer the next question. Do you think there's a possibility one of us was adopted by the other's mentor out of spite?

 Geezer: I really hope not.
Manzana: That doesn't answer my question. 
Geezer: I mean... I guess the timing is kinda sus...

 Manzana: So you do think it's possible.
Geezer: What about you? It's your theory, what do you think?

 Manzana: One of us absolutely was adopted out of a petty rivalry. The big question of the night is do you think it's you or me?

 Geezer: I really don't wanna answer that..
Manzana: Regardless of whether your "grandmother" made you feel cared for or not, knowing how intense her grudge against my mentor you could absolutely see it. Even if she made you feel warm and welcome, she's just as much the type of person who'd pull something like that as Ali if not worse. 

 Geezer: What makes you so sure it's not Ali?
Manzana: Because Ali didn't bother to make it seem like anything more than business. Ali let people know the hell she put me through. Ali had a job she needed filled and in exchange she gave me a place to live and the resources to become my own person when our long term collaboration is done.

 Geezer: Sounds like it was cold and distant.
Manzana: It was more genuine than anything you had.

 Geezer: ......... 
Manzana: You done talking? 
Geezer No just... thinking.

 Manzana: About what now?
Geezer: What did she put you through? What the fuck did Ali do to you to make you this cold?

 Manzana: She cracked a few eggs to get what she needed done. That's how she did it and that's what I need to do too.

 Geezer: .....

 Manzana: Honestly? People like you piss me off. Pollyanna piece of shit. You think you worked hard? You think you're special because grandma said you were?

 Geezer: You don't know-
Manzana: What you've been through? I really don't care. It clearly didn't do enough for you. Anyway, this all turned out to be a big waste of time anyway.

 Geezer: I'm sorry.

 Manzana: Don't apologize, you knew what you were walking into and you accepted my terms. I was promised the last question so I'm going to get my answer and then leave. Do you hate me now?

 Geezer: I'm hella mad, don't get me wrong but.. I dunno right now. I'm kinda just upset. Partly at you, partly at myself, partly at a few bad thought loops you've dropped on me. As far as genuinely hating you though? I think you want me to say yes, and I'm not giving you that inch.

 Manzana made an audible sigh before jumping down from the wall she was sitting on. 

 Geezer: You walking out?
Manzana: I'm taking a breather. It's for your own good.

 Manzana walked off down the street.
Geezer: Doubt it’s any good for you though.

An Old Man's Cooking - 2020
Ringor Mortis, Vest Party (Pre-Sleepwalker)
CW: drugs, alcohol, abuse, mentions of death and torture.
Flynt and Melvin share an evening meal.

Melvin’s sitting in his usual armchair, oversized to anyone but him. He had made the call to stay back at the base with Flynt while the rest of the crew went off on some kind of shopping trip, and seems more than content to just kick back and rest.  Flynt flops onto the sofa near him with a plate of chips, just as ready to bum it out and get a little quiet time. 

FLYNT: You think they're up to anything exciting?
MELVIN: Most likely just looking at expensive jewels and booze. 

He yawns, stretching out his claws. 

MELVIN: Ashton will get his wine as usual, Huck will get his beer, and Leo will get his vodka...I don't even want to know what Muriel drinks.
FLYNT: Muriel drinks fermented poison to scare off the kids. Probably.
MELVIN: I wouldn't even be surprised at this point. 

He shivers. 

MELVIN: This conversation never leaves this room, obviously.
FLYNT: To our graves. 
FLYNT: Honestly though, they stockpile like they're expecting the world to end.
MELVIN: And mow through their stockpile just as quickly...

The de’moneres’ face softens, looking over warmly at the OBJ. 

MELVIN: I'm glad you're starting to move away from that yourself, you know.
FLYNT: Yeah well.... I'm trying my best there. Was hard at first.
MELVIN: Is Leo giving you any hell about it still?
FLYNT: Little bit, thinks I'm going too soft.
MELVIN: He doesn't know the first thing about "soft", don't let that get to you.
FLYNT: I try not to, just praying he doesn't heckle me on the clock.
MELVIN: If he does, you come to me and I'll sort him straight. 
FLYNT: You don't gotta do that for me.
MELVIN: I don't, but I will if you ask. 
MELVIN: It's your choice, but if it gets severe again, I'm not going to stand by and do nothing.
FLYNT: It's appreciated...
FLYNT: ...Don't know why he's been worse.
MELVIN: ...Does he know about the therapy?
FLYNT: Not yet.
MELVIN: That's...probably for the best.
FLYNT: Wish I didn't have to keep quiet but... you know him.
MELVIN: My door is always open, even if you just need to get a break for a little.
FLYNT: Thanks. Things been any better on your end?
MELVIN: Well, my wife's still distressed that I've been coming home roughed's hard to lie to her and the kids, but I can't drag them into this, you know?
FLYNT: Yeah... they catching on at all?

Melvin nods, looking defeated. 

MELVIN: The kids have stopped asking questions in general, and don't seem to want to talk about it at all.
FLYNT: You should take some time off for them. 
FLYNT: Refresh things with all of them a bit.
MELVIN: With how busy Stope's kept us? 
MELVIN: This is the first day off we've had in weeks, and my wife couldn't find a good way to get out of work on such short notice. Kids have school.
FLYNT: Got no idea why Stope's been on us this hard...
FLYNT: You ever think of transferring to less dangerous work?
MELVIN: All the time, every day.
FLYNT: What's been stopping you?
MELVIN: I'm not exactly in this job by choice.
FLYNT: Yeah?
MELVIN: I got caught up in some mob business years ago, and I was given a choice. 

He holds up two fingers, counting down. 

MELVIN: Let my family be killed as punishment for what I'd done, or work for Stope for the rest of my life.
FLYNT: How'd you piss off stope that bad?
MELVIN: I caught the attention of one of his guys, same job that you and I are in now, just before he had a proper team for it- that came with Leo. 
MELVIN: I got stalked for a good while, and when I found out, I did what I had to to defend my family. 
MELVIN: In return, I got slammed into his job.
FLYNT: I'm sorry.

Melvin shakes his head, dismissing it.

MELVIN: I've been here a long time. It is what it is.
FLYNT: I'd be willing to cover a few days for you at some point if it gets you some time off.

His gentle smile returns just as quickly as it left, reassuring Flynt immediately. 

MELVIN: You don't have to do that, but...I'm selfish enough to take that offer. Thank you.
FLYNT: Mm. You've helped me plenty of times, it's worth returning the offer.
MELVIN: You're a kind man, Flynt...too kind for this kind of work.
FLYNT: My hands are just as dirty as anyone else's here, I just don't wanna be like that forever. I know you don't either.
MELVIN:'d you even get in this business to begin with? 
MELVIN: You don't strike me as the type that wants to beat down on people either.
FLYNT: Didn't really have anywhere else to go, got in through Leo.

Melvin nods, leaning back and closing his eyes. know, if we ever were able to get out of here- and I don't mean just out of the job, I mean Monte entirely- I don't think my wife would protest much if you came with us.
FLYNT: Wouldn't mind leaving this place with a friend, just gotta find the right moment to ditch this mob business.
MELVIN: I can tell you're good with kids too, seeing how you handle helping out with Stope's daughter. 
MELVIN: Pretty sure mine would love you.
FLYNT: Surprised how well that's gone, honestly.
MELVIN: She's a lonely kid, never got along well with her siblings, practically ever since she hatched. 
MELVIN: I've been here longer than she's been alive, and you're one of the first friends she's ever been allowed to have.
FLYNT: Yeah, hard to believe she's from the same line as Stope. Good kid.
MELVIN: If we ever get out of here, we should try and come back for her too someday.
FLYNT: You think she'd be alright with that? Know she doesn't do well with her family but...
MELVIN: Maybe not now, when she's so young...but when she's older, we should at least offer the option.
FLYNT: Yeah.
MELVIN: I probably shouldn't get too latched onto this idea, though...but I don't think I can help it, at this point. It hurts not to dream of something other than this.
FLYNT: I'm with you if we ever find a good out to this.
MELVIN: What would you do, if you ever got out with us?
FLYNT: Find some honest work, a small quiet little place, maybe with a pet.
MELVIN: A pet, huh? Guess that makes a lot of sense for you...what kind, big, small, fluffy, what?
FLYNT: Something easy, no good with big jumpy animals.
MELVIN: You could hold something big in one hand, though. They still startle you that bad?
FLYNT: Big animals?
MELVIN: Yeah, like... 

He gestures to Flynt's massive hands. 

MELVIN: If there was ever a fight with something big, I'd say you'd win it.
FLYNT: That's a fair point. Probably.
MELVIN: Still, small animals are kids keep asking me for one of those patchy things, somewhere in the middle size-wise.
FLYNT: Patchy?
MELVIN: Yeah, one of those critters with the quilts on their backs.
FLYNT: Think I saw one at a local fair once. Those legal to own?
MELVIN: Some regions use them as therapy animals, so I'd imagine so.
FLYNT: I could get used to one, maybe.
MELVIN: I hear they nibble on fingers sometimes, though. Not biting, just...nibbling.
FLYNT: You trying to pitch one to me or something?
MELVIN: I dunno, I think they could be a good fit for you. You seem like the type to appreciate the soft things in life.
FLYNT: It'd be a nice way to retire from this kind of work.
MELVIN: If my kids ended up getting one, I'd probably end up giving it walks for them...guess it'd just be us guys walking our living quilts.
FLYNT: I'd be fine with that, living in the same neighborhood.
MELVIN: You'd make a fine neighbor, Flynt.

Melvin smiles, all warmth. 

MELVIN: I'm sure no matter where you end up, you're going to make a positive impact on someone's life. 
MELVIN: You're just that kind of person, even now...and you deserve an out to this, a situation where you can let yourself really be that person.

Flynt can’t help but smile back, just the smallest bit. 

FLYNT: It's good to hear that from someone. One day we're gonna get out of this.
MELVIN: One way or another, right?
FLYNT: Mmhmm. We'll find our escape to Luxson, I know a few folks who can start us off maybe.
MELVIN: You have people waiting for you there?
FLYNT: Hopefully. Had an offer a while back, praying they're still willing.
MELVIN: What are they like, over there?
FLYNT: Mm? What do you mean?
MELVIN: The people you knew.
FLYNT: Softer than this... absolutely not a bad thing.
MELVIN: You think I'd get along with them at all?
FLYNT: Honestly, yeah.
MELVIN: Go on. Tell me about them.
FLYNT: Most of who I know, I met through the infestation. 
FLYNT: Offered to help me settle in after, but I went with Leo instead.
MELVIN: We'll get you back to them.
FLYNT: You're coming too.
MELVIN: It sounds like a nice happily ever after, doesn't it? 
MELVIN: No more breaking kneecaps or coming home with bruises and cuts.
FLYNT: No more worrying about getting shot at through your windows or meeting quotas...
MELVIN: No more horrible alcohol and cigar smell.
FLYNT: I'm okay with that.

There’s a comfortable silence between the two of them, Flynt taking the opportunity to munch some chips. 

MELVIN: Can I ask you to promise me something, Flynt?
MELVIN: When we get out of here, can we promise to keep going to therapy? 
MELVIN: Both of us, not just you on the hook here.
FLYNT: Yeah. We'll motivate each other to find docs in Luxson.
MELVIN: I'm no expert, experience has taught me that even when we move, this will follow us.
FLYNT: We'll be safe if we stick to a busy enough area.
MELVIN: Yes well...I meant more internally. We could go to whatever utopic afterlife people believe in and still carry the weight.
FLYNT: Then we'll make it up to the world somehow.
MELVIN: Maybe find some kind of way to make a positive change, to pay up for all we've done here.
FLYNT: Finally get to put it all behind us.
MELVIN: Guessing you wouldn't keep in touch with anybody else here, if that's not too much to assume.
FLYNT: Not a lot of people here for me these days.
MELVIN: I hate to be blunt, but... 

He glances away, averting his eyes. 

MELVIN: Leo's not going to let you go without a fight, if he finds out. 
MELVIN: I hate that you're even in that situation to begin with, but I can see it coming.
FLYNT: He had his chance. 
FLYNT: I don't like where things have been with him and he's making it clear he's not gonna make the effort.
MELVIN: That's the best attitude to have here. 
MELVIN: You deserve a hell of a lot better than the way he treats you, and...I'm glad that therapy has helped with that.
FLYNT: I just don't get why he's turned so hard.
MELVIN: Do you want the honest answer?
MELVIN: There hasn't really...been a turn, Flynt.
FLYNT: Yeah...
MELVIN: You were in a war together, things were different then. 
MELVIN: A lot of his tendencies probably came off more as prowess in combat and fending off the plague, and you weren't aware of the fact that they'd extend beyond that. 
MELVIN: He showed you the parts of himself that he knew you would like, and when he was sure you wouldn't leave, well...
FLYNT: Yeah. You're probably right on most of that.
MELVIN: The fact that he's practically in control of your living situation doesn't help, either. 
MELVIN: That kind of power imbalance always leads to trouble, even with the best intentions.
FLYNT: I don't want to have to fight him honestly, he's gonna take it as far as possible.
MELVIN: If it happens, I'll try to be there to help. I know you probably want to keep this between him and yourself, but...
FLYNT: I just don't want anyone in the crossfire.
MELVIN: What's he going to do? Shoot me?
FLYNT: I wouldn't tempt him.
MELVIN: I could lay him flat with a backhand.
FLYNT: He'd absolutely hold a grudge.
MELVIN: Without a doubt, but what could he really do in the long run? He doesn't know where my family is and I intend to keep it that way.
FLYNT: You'd have to be ready to get out immediately if you did that.
MELVIN: Then I'll save it as a last resort.
FLYNT: Yeah.
MELVIN: But mark my words, if he tries to pick a fight with you on you leaving when I’m around, he's getting a bruise he won't soon forget.
FLYNT: I appreciate you looking out for me like that.
MELVIN: Someone has to make sure this place doesn't harden you up entirely, right?
FLYNT: Yeah. Don't think it has yet.
MELVIN: And I don't think it will. 

He reaches out to pat the OBJ's shoulder. 

MELVIN: We're going to get you back home.
FLYNT: You'll really try to come too?
MELVIN: Of course. 

He nods, smiling wide. 

MELVIN: I want you to be able to meet my family properly, and to have a friend like you in a safe future...that would be a dream for a raggedy man like me.
FLYNT: I got no complaints about those plans.
MELVIN: We'll have to-

He stops talking, an ear twitching as the faint sound of people coming up the steps can be heard in the distance.

MELVIN: ...we'll have to discuss more of this later.
FLYNT: They back already?
MELVIN: They shouldn't be... 

He tries to relax, keeping his posture natural as the door unlocks. The familiar sound of hooves on hardwood echoes as Leo walks up the steps, holding a bag of equally familiar bottles. 

LEO: Just stopping in for a sec, dropping these off...don't want to get caught with the good stuff in the car. 
LEO: Ashton drives like a fucking maniac.

Flynt tries his best to keep casual, hiding the tension creeping in all over his body. 

FLYNT: They'd accuse him of being too friendly with the liquids huh?
LEO: Yeah, and bastard would probably make me pay the fines. 

He leans over and kisses Flynt on the forehead, rattling the bag of bottles a bit. 

LEO: You and me, we can catch up later and unwind, right?
FLYNT: Yeah, you have fun out there and we'll figure out what to do after.
LEO: Still don't understand why you won't come with. 
LEO: You used to be a hell of a lot more fun, you know.
FLYNT: Trying to break a few bad spending habits, meet a few personal resolutions.
LEO: And what'd those resolutions be?
FLYNT: Not dropping the same kind of money I used to on stuff to inhale.
LEO: What, you think that stuff's bad for you now or something? 
LEO: I only directed you to the good shit, you know that.
FLYNT: Money can go toward better things.
LEO: Tch.

He pulls away, making a bit of a face. 

LEO: You really are no fun. 

He turns to Melvin, glaring. 

LEO: Stop filling my boyfriend's head with your old man shit. 

The older de'moneres holds his hands up and said nothing, returning the glare. Flynt stays quiet, still trying to hide any sign of feeling tense with all he can muster.

LEO: Whatever. 

He tosses the bag of bottles on the couch, not caring that they clank together. 

LEO: You two go ahead and be boring, I'm going out and making use of my day off. 
LEO: Have fun playing board games or whatever the hell you get up to.

Flynt looks over at Melvin, catching him making a face at the de'moneres behind his back, more of a sneer than anything silly. The OBJ pretends not to notice, keeping his voice even.

FLYNT: You stay safe out there Leo. We'll talk about things more after.

LEO: Yeah, yeah. 

Leo waves a hand dismissively, slamming the door behind him. Flynt takes a moment to wait, making sure that he’s gone. 

MELVIN: ...coast is clear, I think.
FLYNT: We're good?
MELVIN: As good as it gets, with that son of a bitch. 

Melvin exhales hard. 

MELVIN: Are you alright?
FLYNT: Yeah. Thanks. 
MELVIN: You sure? That whiplash was...something, but not unexpected, I suppose.
FLYNT: I'm getting used to it. 
FLYNT: Won't be something I deal with forever though..
MELVIN: Well...I'm proud of you for standing your ground, there. 
MELVIN: Moving away from using, both the booze and the harder stuff, is incredibly difficult, and I can't imagine it's easy on you.
FLYNT: It gets a bit easier with each day.
MELVIN: How's it feel?
FLYNT: I can tell you I don't miss the hangover after.
MELVIN: I used for a while, years back when I first got into this job- did I ever tell you about that?
FLYNT: You mentioned it a few times, not in full detail.
MELVIN: People I worked with here got me into it, and it made me a person I didn't want to be. 
MELVIN: Once my first kid was born, I realized I had to clean up or risk being a terrible father to him, and I couldn't deal with the thought of that. 
MELVIN: My wife supported me the whole way through, and still checks up on's not that she doesn't trust me, but she wants to make sure I stay clean, and is looking out for me. 
MELVIN: She's just like that.
FLYNT: And you've been able to keep good about it this whole time?
MELVIN: Well, I've slipped. Everybody slips. 

The de’moneres shrugs, looking just a little tired at that. 

MELVIN: But having someone to look out for me helps.
FLYNT: You don't mind helping me out if I slip too yeah?
MELVIN: Of course not- but when we get to Luxson, you should seek out a bigger support network than just me.
FLYNT: Yeah, I got people there. Just hoping they'd take me back.
MELVIN: I have a feeling that they will, just by knowing you. 
MELVIN: Some people had to have given you a lot of love for you to turn out like you did, and I mean that genuinely. 
MELVIN: I don't see enough of it out here.
FLYNT: I guess I just don't want this city to swallow me. Does a number on most folks.
MELVIN: It's corrupt, from the ground up. The very man we work for is an affront to what a god should be. 
MELVIN: The fact that Fallow itself rejects him is enough proof of that, and its entire faith is based on benevolence and forgiveness.
FLYNT: Wish XXI had the guts to actually do something. 
MELVIN: Luxson is a good zone, but XXI is...well, spineless, if I'm being blunt.
FLYNT: You're right, I'm not gonna stop you on that.
MELVIN: It's a miracle that Luxson even survived the plague to begin with- people like you are rare, people willing and able to handle horrors, and I'm willing to bet that you weren't exactly picked by choice so much as you just...being there, and available. 
MELVIN: Please, correct me if I'm wrong.
FLYNT: I didn't have a lot of options at the time. 
FLYNT: Got in a lot of trouble when it started, was that or nothing.
MELVIN: Family troubles?
FLYNT: ...Little more complicated than that.
MELVIN: Well...You don't have to go into painful memories if you don't want to, but I'm always open to hearing what's on your mind, both past and present.
FLYNT: I wanna be able to open up about it some day. I'm just not sure if I can yet.
MELVIN: The door's always open, Flynt.
FLYNT: I'll work my way up to it, if you don't mind.
MELVIN: Please, I don't mind at all. 
MELVIN: You don't have to worry about me pushing an issue unless it's for your health.
FLYNT: I appreciate that a ton.
MELVIN: Though, if you ever get yourself in trouble, I am going to call you out on it. I imagine you'd do the same for me.
FLYNT: Yeah, I can promise that much.
MELVIN: Good. 

He rises out of his chair, stretching out. 

MELVIN: Well, we've got a few hours before the rest of them come home, I'd bet...I should probably make us some early dinner.
FLYNT: That sounds nice, honestly. You gonna be good for that?
MELVIN: We should have enough in our kitchen to make something, though it won't be fancy. 
MELVIN: Most likely a simple pasta, if you're alright with that.
FLYNT: That's more than enough.
MELVIN: Cmon, then. You can sit and talk with me while I work.

Flynt follows close behind as they head to the tiny kitchen, barely enough floor space for them both to stand together. Whoever had designed their base of operations clearly didn’t expect anyone to actually cook there, the room little more than food storage and an obligatory oven and sink, just to call it some semblance of a kitchen.

FLYNT: We got sauce yeah?
MELVIN: Mm, though I'll have to spare you the charcoal chunks. 
MELVIN: I love them, but I figure you don't have the taste for them. 
MELVIN: Very much a de'moneres thing.
FLYNT: Yeah, don't think I can get much out of them.

Melvin pulls out a chair for Flynt to sit in as he starts prep. 

MELVIN: I'll save them for my own plate, then- do OBJ have anything they particularly enjoy in their diets?
FLYNT: Most things are fine. 

He sits down, hands on his knees. 

FLYNT: Honestly I'm just glad for the quiet time.
MELVIN: Same...besides, we don't get time to bond like this enough. 
MELVIN: I love my family, but it's nice to have a friend outside of them as well.
FLYNT: I'm just glad to have someone to talk to, Leo's no good for real conversation.
MELVIN: Oh? What's the average talk like?
FLYNT: You got a bit of a glance earlier
MELVIN: Lots of pressuring, potential emotional whiplash, insults?
FLYNT: Yeah…
MELVIN: Hmph. 
MELVIN: I'd say he needs a lesson in manners, but I'd honestly hate to see him cover that sleaze up in polite words. 

The de’moneres gets out a box of pasta, waiting for the water to boil. 

MELVIN: At least now, you can see him for what he is. 
MELVIN: The fact that he doesn't even try to cover it up anymore says a lot about him, flags are easier to see when there's no rose tinted glasses.
FLYNT: He doesn't want to communicate on any of this at all. 
FLYNT: Not expecting this to last more than it has to.
MELVIN: No looking back if you can help it- only good way to do that is reflection, and even then you have to use moderation or else, you'll get stuck in it.

He drums his claws on the counter. 

MELVIN: I'm guessing your therapist's already told you as much though, yeah?
FLYNT: A good amount yeah.
MELVIN: Good. That whole clinic is full of good professionals, I wouldn't've recommended it otherwise. 
MELVIN: Have the coping techniques been of any help?
FLYNT: Yeah, like I said, it gets easier everyday.
MELVIN: Anything you've been struggling with in particular?
FLYNT: I'm not exactly the happiest person around... so there's regularly that.
MELVIN: And yet, here I've been able to get a smile out of you. Give yourself credit.
FLYNT: Yeah. You got me there.
MELVIN: I can understand that, though...there are some days where I can't muster up a positive attitude no matter how much I try. 
MELVIN: I could blame the city for all of that, but I know a good chunk of it is just the way my mind is at this point. 

He pours the pasta into the now boiling water. 

MELVIN: Not that that can't change, you know?
FLYNT: Don't think it's too late. 
FLYNT: Getting out of here would probably help you a ton.
MELVIN: And the same for you. 
MELVIN: Can you imagine what it'd be like, being able to take up proper hobbies?
FLYNT: You don't do much besides work, I'm guessing?

He nods, stirring the pot. 

MELVIN: I used to garden, when I had my old job. 
MELVIN: Have you ever tried?
FLYNT: Nah, never had an opportunity. 
FLYNT: Used to work indoors mostly.
MELVIN: Oh? Doing what, if it's alright to ask.
FLYNT: Security for a lab, making sure nothing got robbed at night.
MELVIN: Muscle, then...I mean, I've never seen an OBJ with arms like that, and certainly not as strong. 
MELVIN: You'd be a shoo in for literally anything to do with it. 
FLYNT: I had a lot of help.... pretty much how I ended up here too.
MELVIN: You planning to try something different when you move out of this city, or keep up with the heavy lifting?
FLYNT: It's what I'm good at, don't have an education in a lot of other stuff.
MELVIN: Never too late to pick something new up, though.
FLYNT: Yeah. Don't know what I'd do though.
MELVIN: Hmm...any hobbies before this?
FLYNT: Nothing that'd be worth much to employers.
MELVIN: Tell me anyway, you'd be surprised at what's applicable.
FLYNT: Mostly just watched a lot of movies, still try to sneak some in here and there.
MELVIN: Any kind in particular stand out to you? 
MELVIN: Genres, tropes, things like that?
FLYNT: Like a lot of the older stuff, there's an appeal to the limited film and tinny audio.
MELVIN: Ahhh, old black and know there's actually a lot of classics shot here in Monte? 
MELVIN: A bit too violent for my tastes, but there's a pretty big movie industry if you know where to look.
FLYNT: Yeah, I’m a bit familiar. Always wanted to see what it's like shooting a film.
MELVIN: Maybe we can sneak off and see if we can find one before we move out.
FLYNT: You think they'd let us on set to watch?
MELVIN: Oh, no. We'd have to be covert.
FLYNT: Nothing we're not already used to.
MELVIN: I can't imagine it'd be harder than the average mission, with far less risk. 
MELVIN: Could be a fun outing.
FLYNT: How'd we get them to not notice we're messing around?
MELVIN: I mean, we could just flash our credentials. No one messes with Stope's people.
FLYNT: Fair enough, might just work out.
MELVIN: Could make things a little tense, You got any ideas?
FLYNT: We could tell them we're hired security.
MELVIN: You think they'd stop to check, or would we sell it on appearances alone?
FLYNT: They wouldn't question, we look intimidating enough.
MELVIN: high would you estimate the risk of being recognized? 
MELVIN: I'm sure we have a reputation among the other mobs.
FLYNT: If we lay low and don't make eye contact nobody will notice too much.
MELVIN: Maybe we could get you a hat.
FLYNT: Hat could help.
MELVIN: Have to find something that works with those horns of yours, though. We'll have to shop at a proper hearts outlet with that kind of curve.
FLYNT: Yeah... now that you mention it, I'd be pretty recognizable in general. 
FLYNT: Needs to be a huge hat.
MELVIN: A glamorous sunhat, perhaps.

Melvin smirks, working on straining the pasta now.

FLYNT: Yeah, that'll fool them. Just passing by.
MELVIN: Would sunglasses add to the effect, or just look silly, do you think?
FLYNT: I don't got eyes. They'll notice that.
MELVIN: I've seen stranger trends in this city, and I've seen plenty of OBJ try to go for a glasses look.
FLYNT: ...Why?
MELVIN: Beats me. Familiarity, I suppose. 
MELVIN: How much sauce do you like on your pasta?
FLYNT: Get me as much as you can.
MELVIN: That's what I like to hear. Cheese on top?
FLYNT: Please.
MELVIN: You got it.

Melvin starts plating the pasta, giving both servings a healthy dose of sauce and cheese sprinkled on top. He pulls a stick of charcoal out of the spice cabinet to top his own, grating some shavings on. 

MELVIN: Annnd there we go. 

He brings the plates over and settles down, making sure to pass Flynt a fork- large enough for him to wield properly. 

MELVIN: Dig in.

Flynt takes the fork in hand, smiling just a little.

FLYNT: Really appreciate it. Thanks.
MELVIN: No problem, my friend. 
MELVIN: Ah- we need drinks.

He gets back up, rifling through the fridge. 

MELVIN: Ugh, these people...there's only half a thing of juice left, the rest is all booze. 
MELVIN: I don't know how anyone survives in this team. Care to split what's there? 
FLYNT: Yeah, you can take the bigger half if you'd like.

Flynt takes a bite. The pasta’s nearly perfectly cooked, and the sauce is flavorful. Melvin pours the two of them drinks, making sure to keep them even. 

MELVIN: It's not a half if one's bigger, you know.
FLYNT: Fair, you know what I mean... also this is great, as a side note.

Melvin passes the cup over, careful not to spill. 

MELVIN: Just pasta out of a box, sauce out of a jar...but it's nice to have someone cook for you, isn't it?
FLYNT: Yeah.. you got it right either way and you put in the effort.
MELVIN: I love to cook for my family when I get the chance- most of it's stuff like this, out of the box. 
MELVIN: But they love it all the same, even if my wife's is leagues better. 
MELVIN: The thought counts for a lot.
FLYNT: You show that you care.
MELVIN: You know any cooking yourself?
FLYNT: Don't know much more than eggs.
MELVIN: Eggs are good breakfast. 
MELVIN: Nothing says that you care about somebody quite like making them eggs in the morning.
FLYNT: You think so?
MELVIN: Mhm. Don't sell yourself short- eggs can carry just as much meaning as any other meal.
FLYNT: You saying this from experience?
MELVIN: My wife makes the best sunny side up.
FLYNT: She cooks you breakfast sometimes?
MELVIN: Sometimes she wakes up before dawn, just to try and catch me before I sneak out for work. 
MELVIN: Makes sure I eat, she knows I'd just take something barely substantial on the way.
FLYNT: You not good about eating on your own?
MELVIN: Not as much as I should be, especially for a guy as big as I am. 

He pokes at his bicep. 

MELVIN: I need to keep my strength up better if I want to make sure I can do my job, and while she doesn't know the nature of it...she knows that much. 
MELVIN: So, she makes sure I eat.
FLYNT: I'm gonna do her a favor and make sure you get food in the tank too.

He laughs, pointing his fork at the OBJ. 

MELVIN: She'll warm up to you real fast, I can just tell.
FLYNT: Good, I wanna keep on good terms with you and your family, especially if we do make it out.
MELVIN: I don't think you'll have any trouble with that, not one bit- and I want to get to know your family as well, whoever that may be for you...even if anyone qualifying as that is someone you've yet to meet.
FLYNT: Don't know if I'd call any of them family, but I'd be glad if there's someone that cares that much left.
MELVIN: That's something they don't teach here in Monte. 
MELVIN: Chosen family is just as good as blood ties, if not better a lot of the time. 
MELVIN: When you're in a better place, you'll be able to make those choices.
FLYNT: I'd settle for any kind of family, long as I don't gotta deal with more getting shot at.
MELVIN: No blood waiting for you back there at all, though? 

He takes a bite of his pasta, swallowing before continuing. 

MELVIN: Feel free to pass on the question.
FLYNT: None. You got anyone in Luxson?
MELVIN: None myself. The only blood I have aside from my children is my father, and I have no plans of saying goodbye to him.
FLYNT: Not on the best terms, yeah?
MELVIN: He's a big supporter of the caste system, even though we're on the lower end. 
MELVIN: If I hadn't married another graftelle, he would have treated me even worse than he already does.
FLYNT: Caste system is all levels of screwed up, to be honest.
MELVIN: I hate that I'm enforcing it in any way.
FLYNT: You won't have to forever.
MELVIN: And neither will you. 

He takes a sip of his drink, thinking to himself. 

MELVIN: You know, I think I have an idea for future work.
FLYNT: Lay it on me.
MELVIN: So obviously our job here revolves around muscle. 
MELVIN: We break kneecaps and make sure operations go well- and we could seek out employment along those lines in cleaner ways without any violence, sure. Working on construction sites, heavy lifting in general...  

He points his fork at Flynt again. 

MELVIN: But you know what else we do a lot of? 
FLYNT: We talk about wanting to do something better?
MELVIN: Well, yes. 

He can’t help but snort a bit. 

MELVIN: But I mean on the job.
FLYNT: We look big and menacing?
MELVIN: We keep our eyes open. 
MELVIN: We try to pick up on details that nobody else does, and scope out areas to make sure they're safe. 
MELVIN: A lot of communities could use sharp eyes like that.
FLYNT: You think they might want a couple of watchmen?
MELVIN: I was thinking more on the lines of sleuthing.
FLYNT: Detective work?
MELVIN: Exactly. Private, of course. 
MELVIN: I don't think either of us would do well with authority figures, at this point.
FLYNT: Definitely private. Anything else would get us investigated thanks to the mob shit, and I don’t want to deal with that hanging over us.
MELVIN: Our background would prevent anything like that, and I honestly don't trust anyone in that kind of power to actually send people on cases that matter.
FLYNT: Yeah. We'll have to avoid getting negative attention either way but a private business seems like the better option here.
MELVIN: Sounds like you're taking to the idea already.
FLYNT: It'd be something I can do and tons cleaner than our current job.
MELVIN: Besides, it'd be like something out of your movies. I think it might just be a perfect fit.
FLYNT: Never thought I'd be living a film like that.
MELVIN: Can you see yourself in that role?
FLYNT: I can make it work.
MELVIN: You've already got the coat for it and everything. 
MELVIN: Besides...that whole...scrap ability of yours, isn't it? 
MELVIN: The powers that you and Leo have?
FLYNT: Yeah. What about it exactly?
MELVIN: I imagine that's got to come in handy with something like that.
FLYNT: Guess it would, don't wanna have to use it more than I gotta but I have the option.
MELVIN: Not a fan of it?
FLYNT: Gets a bit spooky sometimes, you know?
MELVIN: How so?
FLYNT: Ghosts. Sometimes you gotta deal with them.
MELVIN: I've only heard stories, never seen any have, I'm guessing.
FLYNT: Plenty, more than anyone would really want to. 
FLYNT: This place is cursed like that.
MELVIN: What are they like, if it's alright to ask.
FLYNT: A lot of them are just sad honestly.
MELVIN: there anything to be done for them?
FLYNT: Sometimes. Taking them somewhere peaceful.
MELVIN: And do they just...remain there?
FLYNT: Hopefully. If it's nice enough it'll be good for them.
MELVIN: Is there ever an actual end, once someone hits that point?
FLYNT: No idea. Don't like the idea of a definitive end, personally.
MELVIN: You'd want to live on forever in some form, then?
FLYNT: I'd like to think I just don't stop existing altogether maybe. 
FLYNT: Oblivion is a nasty thought.
MELVIN: I think you live on through the people who love you, the stories you tell, and the impact you leave behind.

He sets his fork down, finishing his pasta. 

MELVIN: I hope that mine is a positive one.
FLYNT: Hope so too. I think you will.
MELVIN: I've done a lot of terrible things, but I do have a family that I love very, very much- and I figure that must count for something.
FLYNT: They'll understand once you're out of here.
MELVIN: You think so, even after everything? 
MELVIN: I mean, I'm sure my wife suspects already, but to hear it from my own mouth…
FLYNT: You were looking out for them. 
FLYNT: You clearly don't enjoy this line of work.
MELVIN: Even then, I've gotten caught up in it just as much as any of the others.
FLYNT: Won't be like that forever.
MELVIN: Mm...but for now, it certainly is. 

He takes his plate to the sink, rinsing it off. 

MELVIN: And for tonight at the very least, we get a little break. 
MELVIN: What would you like to do now?
FLYNT: Not sure, didn't think we'd get this much time off at all.
MELVIN: I'd say we have at least two hours to burn, one if we're particularly unlucky.
FLYNT: What can we get done in that?
MELVIN: about a walk?
FLYNT: I can do that.
MELVIN: I'll try to get you back in time for the gang coming back, much as I'd like to spend the night roaming around, I don't want you getting yelled at.
FLYNT: Appreciate it. You wrapped up with everything in here for now?
MELVIN: Think so, after I rinse off your plate.

He holds out a hand, Flynt handing his plate over. 

FLYNT: Gotta cover our tracks, huh?
MELVIN: I'm sure you'd be thoroughly mocked for eating an old man's cooking…
FLYNT: They’re the ones missing out.
[Image: TCP%20customs.png]
Sabbath - 2021
Comorant, Masa con Papas
CW: Implied physical and emotional abuse.
Erica finds a Rabbit in the Storage Room.

[Image: vJFfO9G.png]

You're Erica Judgment, gunslinger knight extraordinaire...
At least you were, these days you consider yourself mostly retired. 
Admittedly it's in a bit of a loose sense of the word but you sure don't travel the world hunting abominations like you used to.
These days you've taken over the family duty of watching over the Judgment house, something you know you got down more than any of your relatives.
Part of that, of course, is keeping inventory and taking care of the old family storage room, a massive armory of tools, loot, and archived information saved for future generations.
For the most part it's been standard routine, a few things are out of place but you figure your grandkids must've shuffled things around at some point...
At least you figured in the moment.
You hear a fumbling in the corner. 
Erica: Charon! Geezer! You there?
There's an immediate whimper, one that's vaguely familiar but not one you recognize as either of your grandkids.
You hear the sounds of someone trying to get back onto their feet and failing miserably. You creep around the corner quietly, you can make out the top of the head from behind a counter.
You manage to get close enough that if they tried to book it you'd pin them easily. 
Erica: You stay there, got no idea how you managed to break in here but if you don't wanna make things hard for yourself you'll keep calm while I escort you out. 
You see their ears perk up slightly, vaguely rabbity. 
???: ...Mom?
Their tone immediately hits you in a hard way.
Erica: ...Bucket?
You immediately scramble over to get a proper look at them, a metal rabbit on the ground shaking.
???: Sorry for making a mess, I've been locked in here for a long time... couldn't figure a way out.
You shake your head and offer a hand to them immediately.
Erica: No worries, lets get you out of here kiddo.
???: Kiddo?
Erica: What, you don't like that?
???: I dunno.. feel too old to be called something like that. 
Erica: Fair, sorry about that. Kind of a old habit.
???: It's fine...
They grab onto your hand, you help pull them up. They're wobbly.
Erica: You doing okay there?
???: Trying my best, starving honestly....
Erica: Yeah? Hungry?
???: Yeah...
Erica: Lets see what we have in the fridge then...
The two of you quickly scoot to the kitchen, you can worry about cleaning up the storage room later. The mystery rabbit sits down in the middle of the kitchen, fussing about with the table cloth to pass the time. 
You take a look inside the fridge.
Erica: You up for pie?
???: Sure, what kind?
Erica: Some recipes from overseas my grandsons took a crack at, they're out right now but you'll get to meet them soon. Very fruity, ¿querés?
???: Yes please! If it's okay...
Erica: It's nothing, don't sweat.
You take the pie to the kitchen counter and start getting a slice ready.
Erica: You want a big slice or a small one?
You hear a shy muttering you can't make out.
Erica: Can't hear you, gotta speak up!
???: Big please... 
You cut the slice and served it to them with a plate and fork.
Erica: There you go kiddo, just for you.
They took a big bite with zero hesitation. The poor thing clearly wasn't lying about being in there for a while if they were that hungry.
Erica: You like that?
They look at you with a mouthful, unable to speak fully.
???: Mmm!
Erica: So tell me about yourself a little yeah? Not often I find a stranger in my own home.
They pause for a moment. 
???: Stranger? I mean... I guess so... I don't feel like one.
Erica: Guess you did just call me mom like it was nothing. 
???: I mean... it feels right in my head. That's probably weird though.
Erica: Doesn't bother me as much as you'd think, you got a name?
???: Don't think so. Don't remember all that much outside of this house and the woods around.
Erica: No family or anything?
???: I mean... I remember you pretty well, and I remember there being someone else. You're a lot older though... I feel like I missed out on a lot. 
You go quiet for a bit, they didn't look any older than your grandkids so there's no way they could have possibly been around that long right?
You might've heard a story about something like this but...
You'd need to fish around to confirm.
???: Is everything okay?
Erica: Just thinking, sorry about that. Who's the other person?
???: My partner! You'd know them, dog just like you, really strong too. Long hair, dyed it pretty often. 
Erica: Bucket..?
???: Mmhmm! We trained together for years, two of us had been through a lot... stuff got weird though. You two started arguing a lot.. hated that a ton.
Erica: Yeah... I'm sorry about that.
???: Still really hurts, honestly? Just started thinking about running away, felt like you just couldn't really get me no matter how much I tried to talk to you.
Erica: ....
???: Didn't see as much of you after that. Two of us started training with Ali instead.. really pushed us to the brink once we really got more committed to the idea.
???: Think we ended up crying a lot after our sessions. 
???: Then one day Ali wanted to test us. Pulled out the biggest hunk of metal we'd ever seen. Worst fuck up we've ever done-
They stopped themselves.
???: Sorry, didn't mean to swear like that in front of you...
Erica: It's fine, keep going. 
???: She was swinging so big and hard she could hit us from across the clearing, kept really putting the pressure on us. Scared she'd straight up kill us. Did my best to block it, really did but I couldn't take it...
Erica: You tried clashing with her?
???: All we could do in the moment, chunked us both super hard for that. They barely made it out with their life, if it wasn't for whatever magic she had they would've survived. Told us to keep it a secret if they wanted to still train the "real way"... guess they never told you. Wasn't as lucky myself though...
Erica: What'd you mean?
???: They couldn't fix me without a complete reforging of the blade. Shelved me in the storage room for a bit, never came back for me though. Guess I can't blame them though, did an awful job in the end...
Their tone goes incredibly somber. 
You place your hand on their head. 
Erica: Bucket's got a lot going on these days, it's been hard for them to come back.
???: Are they okay?
Erica: Hard to say honestly kiddo.... guessing with all you've said though you don't have anywhere to go huh?
They shake their head.
???: Not really no, got no clue where to start either.
Erica: Well worst case scenario, you can stick around here. We got rooms to spare and I wouldn't mind extra company. Grandkids are always busy during the day so it helps.
???: You wouldn't mind that?
Erica: Nah. We need a name for you though. 
???: Need to think on that one..
Erica: First thing your gut feels good about.
???: I mean... there's Sabbath. They were considering it but thought it was too much...
Erica: Honestly it has a nice ring to it, how do you feel about it? 
???: It's kind of nice...
Erica: Then we'll go with that for now. Sound good?
Sabbath: Mm.. 
Sabbath goes quiet, focused on finishing their slice of pie and scraping at the leftover crust and cream stuck on the plate for a good while.
Erica: You need another slice?
Sabbath: Mm....
Erica: Use your words, kiddo.
Sabbath: Yes, please. 
You grabbed their plate and went back to the counter to serve them another slice.
Erica: Gotta make sure to tell Geezer and Charon how much you liked it when they get back. Gonna have to introduce ya'll to each other, especially if you decide to stick around.
Sabbath: Of course. You're sure it's okay? 
Erica: Yeah, treat this place as your own home.
Apple Cider - 2021
Comorant, Masa, Crankshaft
CW: Mention of Death
Manzana takes it easy for a night.

[Image: V8sM7FS.png]

You're Manzana.
Under most circumstances you are the master of magic, top of your field in all things supernatural.
You take great pride in this frankly, it takes a lot of work to get as far as you did.
The training straight from hell, the hours, the tiresome task of sweet talking executives and selling them on the idea that maybe they shouldn't build theme parks on cursed land. 
It pays well, it builds reputation, and it gets you invites to big fancy parties that you can't help but get increasingly sick of...
But for now you are back home in your private little slice of Plaza, the region you were born in.
You're not alone of course, Platino is keeping you company. He's your... friend? Business partner?
Regardless you've known him for some good time at this point and you don't think he'll leave anytime soon.
Your feelings are always a little conflicted. On one hand he's a ghost in your head with all the caveats.
On the other hand your pool of familiar faces in life are otherwise your "mother", your thickheaded rival, and a couple of others you don't get to see often enough.
Right now though that ghost in your head is crashed on your couch watching god knows what.
You lean over the sofa taking a peek at the telly for a bit- you're not entirely sure what's going on but it's some hot garbage.
He seemingly doesn't notice you at first, but eventually looks up at you.
Platino: Sup?
Manzana: Not much really. You settled in fine.
Platino: Gotta take advantage whenever we get a little time off right? No offense but traveling as much as you do is a pretty intensive job.
Manzana: Puts me ahead of the competition, not apologizing for that.
Platino: It's hell bad for my sleep and joints, those hotel beds get pretty rough you know?
Manzana: Can't always be booking luxury, you'll manage. Tonight's not going to be much better anyway, don't have a second bed set up so you'll just have to use the living room. Don't you normally just vacate and go all ghost by now anyway?
Platino: Normally, but you got so much weird supernatural crap in your house I don't wanna take the risk at night.
Manzana: What do you mean?
Platino: Leaving a body unattended in a place where there's a real chance you'll be intercepted by some otherworldly nightmare is a way to lose it really fast. 
Manzana: Thought it strained you to stay in this world full time.
Platino: Not if I plan things out a little, just gotta live things a little nocturnal right? It's pretty common in this region anyway...
Manzana: If you're under 30 and depressed maybe.
Platino: You're under 30 and depressed, don't even start.
You grumble to yourself.
Platino: Anyway if I'm not around in the mornings don't sweat things too much, I'll be back by the time the sun starts setting. 
Manzana: I'm not worried, you can do whatever you want.
Platino: You sure? Won't miss having someone to talk to at your desk?
Manzana: I'll be fine, I can rubber duck off anything else really. 
Platino: Sure. 
You look back at the television for a moment, a scene of a child in a cave telling a washed up skeleton about their day plays in front of you. 
Manzana: What the fuck are you watching?
Platino: Not sure? Your cable box is pretty weird, never even heard of half the shit listed. Like earlier I saw this weird ass thing that... actually you wanna sit down for this?
Manzana: I'm fine here, continue?
Platino: I don't even know what went on. Guy claims to be some sort of government professional but not sure I really buy that? There's a lady who just walks around with a piece of wood everywhere... everyone acts so weird that it made my skin crawl a little.
Manzana: TV setups here tend to pick up on weird stuff like that...You going to be okay?
Platino: Me? I mean yeah no, it's obviously all fiction but I dunno. Gonna be thinking about that for some.... 
Manzana: Maybe you should take a break? 
Platino: I dunno, feeling pretty comfortable watching stuff like this but feels like going through channels is some wild russian roulette you know?
Manzana: I mean... I got a movie collection if you really need something. 
Platino: Since when?
Manzana: A good while actually, collect a lot of local stuff while traveling based on recommendations.. you've never seen the shelf?
Platino: I try not to look through your things like that. 
Manzana: For the best. In this case though it's better than you freaking yourself out late at night because you decided to watch something a little incomprehensible to the flesh. 
Platino: See when you put it like that, I feel like I got out easy.
Manzana: You probably did, that TV setup is super cursed. 
Platino: Why do you even have something like that?
Manzana: Work.
Platino: You're not going to go into any more detail than that?
Manzana: Don't really need to, you figure it out from there.
Platino: Gotta say I'm not used to you being a cryptic bastard like that. Full of surprises today. Guess that's not too hard though when you keep things so close to the vest, yeah?
Manzana: I've got my way of doing things. 
Platino: Now that I think of it, there's a lot of things about you I don't know like... do you even have a birthday? Never seen that come up really.
Manzana: Don't really celebrate it.
Platino: Yeah? Why not?
Manzana: Overlaps with some unpleasant stuff so I just.. don't.
Platino: What do you mean?
Manzana: Had someone important pass away the day of one year, still leaves me kinda fucked. If it's okay I don't really want to go into it more than that though. Tend not to tell people the day since they're tempted to surprise me in some way.
Platino: I can get that.
Manzana: Only three people really know about this; you, me, and her. Keep it like that.
Platino: That big a secret? And you're sharing it with me? Dang...
Manzana: At this point I feel like I can trust you with something like that, you're good about keeping quiet.
Platino: Before you were the only person I could talk to, now I actually COULD go spreading it. 
Manzana: You won't and I don't want you joking about doing it. 
Platino: I mean you're right. 
Manzana: I'm serious too.
Platino: I know you are. 
Manzana: It's... pretty hard for me to open up. Haven't had the best track record with people in the past really so... don't waste this. 
Platino makes room on the couch and pats down on the cushion, prompting you to sit next to him. You shake your head.
Manzana: I'm good. Just... don't make me regret this. 
Platino: Lips sealed. 
You peek at the screen again, you can't help but be a little put off by the imagery in front of you.
Manzana: I should go get you something better to watch. Spare yourself.
Platino: Yeah... you gonna join me? Could order a pizza, make it a real movie night. 
Manzana: Maybe. 
Platino: Wouldn't be a bad way to start your break. Just two friends, a couple of tapes, and a deep dish. Get yourself some of your favorites and bam, easy night.
Manzana: Needed to figure out dinner anyway, fridge isn't properly stocked since we're usually away from here. 
Platino: Then it's settled right? 
Manzana: On a few ground rules. No hugging me if you get scared, no falling asleep on my shoulder, and if you make a mess you pick it up. Easy?
Platino: Easy. 
Manzana: Give me a few minutes and I'll call the delivery place... 
Platino: You take as much time as you need, I'll just be here. 
Manzana: I'll be quick about it. 
Midnight Toast - 2021
BaftComorant, Crankshaft Rafflesian
CW: None
Two Supernatural Rabbits have a heart to heart about past days.

[Image: ni0G9lH.png]

Spice: Targe went up ahead to handle some stuff with the van, finished packing up everything. The bunch of you are doing alright?
Jam: Yeah, mostly.
Spice: Ah, she tuckered out. 
Jam: Yeah, whole thing was a little too much for her, I think. Doesn't really do the big social setting stuff like this.
Spice: Poor thing. 
Jam: She'll be fine though, I think she had fun. Really appreciate you two inviting us out here, haven't done a big city festival in a long time, especially one with a proper witch meetup.
Spice: Surprised by how hard you went in on it, just needed a couple extra hands with the booth and then you came full outfit with guns blazing. You really make that outfit yourself?
Jam: Dotty gave us some help but yeah, Lex and I managed to scrape something together last second.
Spice: No kidding, gave you two days. Hope you weren't busting your ass for this.
Jam: Only a bit, we didn't have time to do a real dye job unfortunately so we had to go out with our hair all natural. Would've really brought the look together to splash some color..
Spice: Don't think anyone noticed, you uh... kinda helped us sell a lot of stuff today actually? We never get that much attention at these things.
Jam: Guessing that means you got another opportunity down the line?
Spice: I mean if you want, you're already a part of the staff at our little mall setup so....
Jam: Then you know where to call. 
Spice: Honestly though I should've expected that much, the customers love the two of you. 
Jam: Do they?
Spice: Yeah actually, the online reviews of the place bring you up a good bit. The rabbit in the swirly shades! They're so helpful and nice! They're so fun to talk to! It's good stuff. Lex’s been good since she jumped in too, people love the sweet clumsy rat who suplexed a shoplifter.
Jam: Really still appreciate that you came in clutch with the job offer.

Spice: You did me a favor honestly. I like working with people I know I can trust if I can and you really came through too. Hella scary when you’re going from selling stuff online to setting up an actual physical storefront.

Jam: I do my best. 
Spice: The two of you do good, it’s why we brought you along.  High key you were kinda popping off hard. Shit with the sign was nuts, they came running to our booth.
Jam: They got so hyped over the sign. Glad Lex tagged in to help me do that.
Spice: I swear to god I've never seen people so enamored with someone spinning cardboard before.
Jam: Then Dotty came in with the worm and, and...
Spice: That audience went apeshit! They fucking loved the worm!
Jam: You know some of them tried to give me their number after that?
Spice: You serious? 
Jam: I am! Funniest thing I've seen. 
Spice: No idea how you managed to keep that energy going the whole time.
Jam: The audience fuels me, they love a confident rabbit and their lucky oversized worm on a string. Wallet is stuffed with flirtations. 
Spice: You took people's numbers?!
Jam: Course I did, wallet's stuffed. 
Spice: You're... you're not gonna call them back right?
Jam: Nah, it's pretty great though. 
Jam: Gotta say while not having Lex around the past months was hard, one of the nicer things was catching up with you though.
Spice: Yeah... honestly kinda surprised you're still not pissed at me though.
Jam: I mean it was on me too, you know? I just... I dunno. 
Spice: Yeah... 
Jam: Like, Lex would just go into these depressive slumps and I'd have to take over from there, you know? Most people in the circle didn't seem to notice though.
Spice: To be fair you and Lex were kind of in the background for a good while. Ya'll were so quiet. 
Jam: Yeah but like.. you managed to catch on that I wasn't Lex right?
Spice: Yeah.
Jam: And... you weren't weird about it. You were really cool and... I guess my first real friend. 
Spice: That just makes me feel worse about it. 
Jam: Don't beat yourself up over it, I was pretty damn shitty about it. I dunno...
Jam: Lex kinda blacked out for a couple of weeks and I got stupid really fast. Asked you out even though you were clearly still recovering from kind of a rough place with Targe and...
Spice: I mean I took the offer. Hell I feel like I did you more dirty than anything you know?
Jam: You weren't doing great....
Spice: Yeah. And I kinda used you as a bandage when you really deserved better you know? I liked you but not in the same way I was and still am with Targe. 
Jam: I just wanted to spend more time and really... I dunno, keep a friend in my life I guess. Didn't think about you or if Lex would've been okay with this sort of thing you know? Hell I kinda was assuming a lot like...
Spice: Assuming?
Jam: I don't think I ever really straight up told you that I wasn't Lex you know?
Spice: I mean... I knew.
Jam: Yeah but at the most we kinda just vagued through it and you had figured it out you know?
Spice: You’d ask me stuff that pretty much confirmed it. "If I wasn't who I said I was, would you be mad?"
Jam: I was scared as hell. You looked me dead in the eye and went "Yes." before doing a flip. 
Spice: That sounds like young me...
Jam: I was crying! That was the hardest question I'd asked and you just did a you! Laughed so hard I couldn't breath!
Spice: Almost died too!
Jam: You did! We were right next to the stairs!
Spice: You almost died!
Jam: Fucking tried to take me with you!
Spice: Accident, swear on my life.
Jam: Gay bunny bitch. 
Spice: WHOOOOOA! When did you get a mouth like that?
Jam: Dotty. 
Spice: ...Really?
He looks over at her sweet sleeping face leaned on your shoulder.
Jam: Swears like a sailor, you didn't know that?
Jam: She's so fucking cool.
Spice: Would've never thought it honestly, she seems so nice..
Jam: She is, she's just... a very distinct kind of sweet. 
Jam: Anyway though I dunno, it was nice to be accepted like that...
Spice: I mean, I still kinda ruined things in the end.
Jam: You were honest! You weren't clicking with the relationship and you wanted to just be friends and... I didn't really take it well at all. I handled it super poorly.
Spice: I mean it makes sense that you felt hurt after that...
Jam: I said some worrying ass shit and then ghosted you for the rest of college!
Jam: You came running over to our dorm asking if we were okay and... 
Jam: Lex just happened to be there and answered and wasn't doing all that great herself at the time...
Jam: And... you kinda just sat with her and comforted her through it even though you knew it wasn't me.
Spice: ......
Jam: Even when I went off the rails you still tried to take care of us. Hell that's how she became good friends with you and Targe.
Jam: You both took care of her, makes me happy you know?
Jam: Kid had just gone through some personal loss stuff, fell off with a bunch of her high school friends, and what she had left just... moved all the way to the other side of the region.
Spice: Yeah well... I dunno. I just hurt you a lot and hoped that you still just.. I dunno. I wanted to still be friends.
Jam: I mean I... I was just kinda nasty for a bit. One day I had to sub in for Lex and you managed to catch on. Tried to talk to me, apologize and just... 
Jam: I played dumb, acted like I had no idea what you were talking about and insisted it was just Lex, kinda just puposfully made you feel weird and awkward.
Spice: Yeah.. that really hurt a lot in that moment. Tried to tell myself that maybe I did make a mistake but uh... Lex didn't remember a lick of that when I talked to her the day after. Cut kinda deep no lie.
Jam: Poor thing had to deal with the aftermath of my shit too, she REALLY didn't deserve that.
Jam: I guess just... being rejected like that made me worry it was over. When relationships fell off for us in high school we just never really talked to that person again you know?
Jam: We never go back to being friends the way we used to... 
Jam: I didn't want to be alone again.Looking back I assumed a ton and made it so much worse...
Spice: I mean I wouldn't sweat it like that you know? Good amount of blame is on me too and really.. We were all kinda dumbass teens. Just barely out of high school and figuring things out and neither of us were really in the best mental space.
Spice: And at the end of the day I think we're better friends than we were back then. 
Spice: You're a good person at heart, a good person who was going through a lot emotionally at the time. 
Spice: I dunno, just... 
Spice: Don't beat yourself up so hard. 
Jam: I usually don't but it's really hard not to on this one. 
Jam: But you're right honestly. Been enough since then that we can kinda bury it behind.
Spice looks over at Dotty.
Spice: Can't believe she managed to sleep through that..
Jam: She works pretty hard, she deserves it. 
Spice: Gonna feel bad waking her up when Targe comes back with the van.
Jam: We can carry her. 
Spice: She's a head taller than you and almost three times as heavy.
Jam: Lex can help me.
Spice: Does it work like that? 
Jam: Maybe, Lex is pretty buff when she wants to be. Honestly I should let her back soon anyway, getting pretty tired after all that.
Spice: Ah right, you don't last too long on your own huh?
Jam: Nope, I already pushed myself way too hard today. That said I'll stick around until Targe shows up, let things settle down before throwing her back to the front. Cool with that?
Spice: Yeah. Appreciate this talk, think we both needed that.
Jam: Think so too, got a lot of weight off my shoulders after that, you know?
Jam: I'm finally free.

Sketchbooks - 2021
BaftComorant, Crankshaft Rafflesian
CW: Mention of Parasites, Discussion of Past Trauma
Dotty to Lex about A lot of Shit Actually

[Image: jBeZt0g.png]

 Lex: Whatcha doing?

 Dotty: Nothing...

 Lex: You drawing?

 Dotty: It's not done...

 Lex: Oh wow, that looks good...  

 Dotty: That? That's just a doodle...

 Lex: How come you never told me you draw?

 Dotty: Never really got super into it until recently, like... while you were gone. before that it was really just a bunch of casual doodles at work...

 Lex: Makes sense... 

 Dotty: Mostly done with this one though, still gotta put the ears in. 

 Lex: I'm digging it a lot so far. That's a pretty distinct style...

 Dotty: It's okay.. I can do a lot better than that if I try. 

 Lex: Oh?

 Dotty: Let me find a good one...
 She leans on your shoulder. You try to speed through faster. You're not used to others seeing your art.

 Lex: You do a lot of stuff in ink...

 Dotty: Yeah. Apparently I used to do this for fun on the side before uh... stuff happened. When I got back into the groove of things it kinda felt natural. Took a few months to really get comfortable again but... I think I'm doing pretty good honestly.

 Lex: Yeah, a lot of these are really pretty...

 Dotty: You haven't seen the darker ones yet... keep those in a separate book.

 Lex: You gotta show me those too then, I love that kind of stuff....

 Dotty: It's... a little more complicated for me.

 Lex: What do you mean?

 Dotty: So I've been going to a therapist for a good while now. While you were gone a lot of memories started popping up.

 Lex: Right, we talked about this a little.. you never really went into a lot of detail though.

 Dotty: I know, told you I would but I've... it's been pretty hard. Before I couldn't think of anything about the old me as well.. me. Now I don't know anymore. A lot of feelings pouring in that I didn't know I had I guess.

 Lex: What kind of feelings? Like, if you're okay with talking about it right now.

 Dotty: A lot of anxiety about the future, a lot of being lonely... a lot of warm and cozy stuff too though. There were people who meant a lot to me back then and... it's weird? Even though I can't remember them clearly I can still remember how they made me feel pretty well... miss them a ton.

 Lex: You know who they are? Like, names or something?

 Dotty: Nope, can't even remember faces sometimes. Just that they were really important to me.

 Lex: We can go look for them, you know?

 Dotty: I mean... I don't know if any of them are still around. It's been a heck of a long time you know?

 Dotty: And if they are... maybe I didn't matter so much to them... they would've looked for me at some point after I got brought back.

 Lex: Maybe they don't know? You haven't been in big news lately right?

 Dotty: I mean Erica tracked me down eventually.

 Lex: Uh... who was that again?

 Dotty: Geezer's grandma, the cowboy. 

 Lex: Right.. scary old lady...

 Dotty: Actually remembered some stuff about her not too long ago. She hasn't aged that badly actually? Just a little more grey and tired... in hindsight I'm not sure she's actually a dog?

 Lex: What do you mean?

 Dotty: Like... I met her decades ago. 

 Lex: I mean she looks sorta old.

 Dotty: Right but... like 50 years ago maybe? 

 Lex: Some folks age way slower than others, not that weird. 

 Dotty: She's a ruffneck though, she's already pretty late in her lifespan.

 Lex: Maybe a hybrid? I dunno.. 
Dotty: Either way, had a good number of memories with her there. She was with someone else a couple of times actually? Kind of a tall person, did a drawing of them actually...
[Image: 7BqKSJL.png]

 Lex: Pretty... That's a lot of ink, looks like it took awhile to make.

 Dotty: A little... never really got to my point on this. Therapist wanted me to start writing down what I remember but it was always kinda hard to keep up with it. Friend of mine said I could try drawing it instead and well.. stuff happened really.

 Lex: And this is someone you met way back then?

 Dotty: Yep. Can't remember her name much but she was really nice and we hung out whenever she was in town. Was always pretty sickly though... She had these glowing red eyes. Some of the memories are... weird though?

 Lex: What do you mean weird?

 Dotty: Like.. I remember one day I was visiting her and Erica. Erica had gone out to pick up something to make dinner so the two of us just relaxed together. She was doing kinda bad that day though, excused herself for a bit and went to her room. She took a good while so I went to check on her. Saw her body on the floor, scared the heck out of me...

 Lex: Wait, you found her dead?!

 Dotty: Thought I did! But something about her really looked off like... I dunno, it freaked me the fuck out I was gonna call emergency services when something grabbed me? I look over and I see the door try to close itself. 
Dotty: Managed to stop it in time for a moment, got a look inside and... there was some sort of weird fuzzy blob. Pitch black, looked... scared? We made eye contact for a short moment and I guess it just clicked together that it was her... pretty sure it was.
[Image: WMNz46S.png]

 Dotty: After that it managed to shut the door and lock it. Heard her voice from inside frantically asking me to leave... Didn't know what to do at that point. Erica made it back shortly after. Told me to go home.

 Lex: What happened after that?

 Dotty: She kinda just went quiet for a week. I'd pop in but Erica wouldn't let me in. Then after she just drops by looking like nothing had happened. Seemed really embarrassed by the whole situation, said she had some sort of condition that was parasitic or something? Came over here since there's a lot of research on Plaza for uh... angelic infestations, I guess was the wording.

 Dotty: We still hung out a little bit after that but... my memories end pretty shortly after. I hope she's okay...

 Lex: I mean... we can do some sleuthing right? I know a guy or two. 

 Dotty: We've already got a ton on our plates these days, I dunno...

 Lex: I can put some stuff aside, gotta look out for you and all that.

 Dotty: Look out for me how? 

 Lex: I dunno.. you always bailed me out of all sorts of scraps and trouble though. If you really wanna find out all this stuff about who you were and who these people are I can pitch in there.

 Dotty: Might not even want to see my face after all this time..

 Lex: Sure they do, hard not to like you.

 Dotty: Still, I wouldn't be able to remember the bulk of things so... I think it'd make them more sad than anything.

 Lex: Think they'd be more happy just to know that you're okay and you went out of your way to find them all.

 Dotty: Lots of those folks were in jobs that involved a lot of trouble and risking their own lives. We might have to go through some actual hell.

 Lex: You think I wouldn't shank someone for you? I'll do it! I'll do it and you can't fucking stop me!

 Dotty: I hope you don't have to! Anyway, I guess I can give it a shot, but...

 Lex: No buts! If you wanna do this even a little, I'm down to go that extra mile. Jam would be too and I can ask around my own groups if they know where we could start! I know it'd be a lot of work and it could take a long ass time but you're worth that. If these people meant so much they're worth that too!
 You can't help but smile even if there's a little bit of a somberness over you right now.

 Dotty: You'd really jump at anything to help me out...

 Lex: Nothing less, I'm your personal bastard.
 You lean over to nuzzle up to her, and she returns it with full enthusiasm. 

 Dotty: I wanna collect a bit more of what I forgot a bit first before we meet anyone, and I... I guess I wanna show you everything too but..

 Lex: Gonna take some time yeah?

 Dotty: Yeah... there's a lot of heavy stuff and I got them all collected in these sketchbooks but... I wanna be ready before I bring them up.

 Lex: No rush at all okay? I know this is all pretty big for you so don't think we got any deadline for this.

 Dotty: I'm hoping so... still don't wanna wait too long, people move and a lot are probably pretty old by now if they're still around..

 Lex: We got this, don't you worry... Oh! Jam and I made a pie together... should be almost done by now. You wanna take a break from what you're doing and curl up on the couch a bit?

 Dotty: Yeah, just a minute. Gotta check up on some texts if that's okay?

 Lex: You're good, got a few minutes before the pie should be ready anyway. Don't take too long though, might get cold.

 Dotty: Mmm... I'll be over quick.
 You check on your texts, a lot of messages from your friend who's in the middle of their date. You reply to them and pocket the phone. 
 You hurry on over to the other room where your rabbity partner is waiting for you.
 You're glad to have had so many good folks around in your life.
Paella - 2021
Comorant , Crankshaft Rafflesian
CW: None
A Rabbity Bastard and a Bastardly Rabbit have a talk while making dinner.

[Image: EORinf6.png]
Lex: Paella...
Jam: Mmhmm..

 Lex: That's looking so good...

 Jam: Yeah, took a lot of time and a little help from a good friend, but...

 Lex: I mean you did most of the work, I kinda just nudged here and there.

 Jam: You did a lot, couldn't do something that needs this kind of work all on my own. 

 Lex: So what's the occasion anyway? Never really told me why you wanted to make a fancy dinner tonight.

 Jam: Well for starters, we both promised that we'd get better about eating healthy and I wanna make good on that.

 Lex: Yeeeah. We used to dump so much cash on fast food...

 Jam: Exactly, left us hell broke too. 

 Lex: Yeah... honestly I don't wanna go back to the days of barely making it by every week. Not that we're doing the best right now but it's different lately.

 Jam: Both of us got consistent jobs and we moved into a place with Dotty. Massive improvement from a few years ago.

 Lex: Really though. Honestly it just... feels nice to like... I dunno. Can't really pin down the words like that.

 Jam: Give it a shot anyway, I wanna hear. 

 Lex: I guess it's just nice to feel like I'm going forward in life. Was hell lost before. 

 Jam: Lucky you got a navigator around, one who knows you better than anyone else.

 Lex: Can't argue with that, you're literally in my head. 

 Jam: Close as humanly possible, maybe a little more. Makes me feel special honestly. Anyway, the second reason for making something this fancy is 'cause I wanted to treat you and Dotty both to something nice tonight.

 Lex: You're not going to be the one out for dinner?

 Jam: I mean.. maybe a little but I wanna let you get a taste too you know? Get to see you smile.

 Lex: Gonna die when you say stuff like that...

 Jam: You absolutely will!

 Lex: Fucker.

 Jam: Love you too. 

 Lex: There you go again.... 

 Jam: It's what I do best.

 Lex: Maybe. 

 Jam: ...Was it too much that time? I can stop if it really bugs you.

 Lex: I mean... it always feels like too much I guess. You know exactly what I wanna hear and it always gets me but... I don't like being messed with like that. Don't want my feelings to get played with for a reaction.
 Jam: What makes you think I don't mean what I say?

 Lex: You kinda do it so casually. Do it with me, do it with Dotty, used to do it to a few friends sometimes just to see their faces. 

 Jam: Ah you remember that last one...

 Lex: Little bit. A lot of you being around is kinda lost memory-wise but... I remember enough chunks to know that happened. 

 Jam: Yeah, that was actually a big bad on my part...

 Lex: Think a couple of them asked us out actually... had crushes on them at the time so like... I dunno. 

 Lex: I guess really I just feel jealous sometimes you know? You got us a consistent job while I was gone, you always made friends easier, I.. I don’t even know for sure if that was me on the first date with Dotty in hindsight.

Jam: Pretty sure it was mostly you.

Lex: Mostly...?

Jam: To be honest, older memories are kinda blurred like that for me since we share them soo… can’t really give you a straight answer there.

Lex: Makes me feel worse honestly. People just seem to like you better at this point and I can’t really blame anyone for that.

Jam: Don’t think that’s true.

Lex: Everyone smiles so much more around you, even Dotty just-

Jam: I’m going to stop you there for a sec. Dotty fucking bawled when you were gone, she missed you so much that she sat down and told me she wanted to move somewhere else because this part of town reminded her too much of you and she had no idea if you were ever coming back.

Lex: ...She what?

Jam: It got that bad, it really did and honestly? I missed you that much too… maybe more if that’s even possible. Shouldn’t really say that but like…. Words feel dumb.

Lex: Keep going.

Jam: I guess it hurts that you always kind of shrugged me off as being goofy but I didn’t want to press further since maybe you just really weren’t into the idea but… I really want to be with you. Like… do you remember all the mystery love letters, the penpal with no address, the random gifts in your locker and all that?

Lex: ...Was that you?!

Jam: Yeah…

Lex: Oh my god…

Jam: At the time though we were pretty disconnected, hell I think you forgot about me… parents sure made a point of trying to gut me out of your thoughts with therapy. Worked pretty well too, scares the shit out of me to think how hard it cut me off.

Lex: Everytime I asked them about it, they said I was yelling about ghosts or something. Put me on some hard antipsychotics…

Jam: Oh, the cocktail? Yeah, I hated that too.

Lex: Didn’t realize I was on the wrong stuff until I got away and talked to a doctor without them over my shoulder…. I mean I’m still taking a lot but at least I got a combo that feels alright these days you know? Anyway, I guess that explains a ton, no idea how some rando could pick a school locker like that..

Jam: Yeah…  Always told myself I was doing it because I wanted you to never feel alone or unloved or whatever but.. Honestly I kinda just did it because I was gay? That was kinda the only way to do it, so…

Lex:  Honestly? If I knew and we weren’t well… whatever our deal is? I would’ve actually gone to prom…

Jam: You mean you would’ve told your mom and dad you’d go to prom and we’d hang out on the beach getting feelsy over weed and street tacos until midnight.

Lex: Yeah. I mean we could still do that.

Jam: Think your parents would be scared if you asked them about going to prom at this point.

Lex: You know what I mean. Honestly knowing everything though… I want this too. Wanted this for a while really but I also thought you wouldn’t go for it. Guess that really made the teasing hard for me too. Hot best friend asking you to spoon them everytime it rains but not knowing if they’re serious is some deep pain.

Jam: Now you’re messing with me.

Lex: Mean it.  Your style, the way you talk, your bastard grin with the little canines...

Jam: Have to gnaw so much to get that look down in person, your overbite grows back so fast…

Lex: It pays off you know?  I guess just… we should probably bring this up to Dotty at some point but like…

Jam: I means she knows I got feelings for you if you’re worried.

Lex: Wait… you told her without telling me?

Jam: Yeah? You told her too.

Lex: Yeah… god we’re stupid.

Jam: Two halves of an idiot…

Lex: Speaking of, uh… we should probably check on the paella.

Jam: Ah… yeah that uh… shoot okay.

Lex: Uncover the lid and....

Jam: Oh thank god, didn’t burn.

Lex: Well mostly… bottom is a little crispy but.

Jam: Eh, everyone burns the bottom layer of rice from time to time. We made plenty. You ready to start serving?

Lex: Yeah and uh… thanks for always being here for me you know? Can’t imagine not having you here with me.

Jam: Same. I don’t wanna stop talking about it since it’s still kind of a lot but..  Continue after dinner? Figure out some stuff, get Dotty’s input on this?

Lex: Sounds nice.
Fishbowl - 2021
Shivers, Patchwork Kernel
CW: violence, unhealthy dynamics, surveillance mention
Pepper enlists Blink's expertise on something new.

Light sweeps across the dusty space, sliding across all the boxes of forgotten knick-knacks and old furniture as it fills the room.
The storage unit's metal shutter slides open fully, pushed up by a grey pockitt with tired eyes.

"So any piece of junk works?"
"Items that are more personal to the user have a better chance of working, but...
Technically, you can use almost anything as a base object.
I'd suggest the former, though.
For the record."

"Yeah yeah, got it."

Blink waits out by the entrance, checking their nails as Pepper steps inside.

The pockitt glances over all the piles of unused junk they'd left here,
the space immediately difficult to navigate thanks to the sheer volume of clutter amassed over the years.

As they squeeze through a gap between a ripped-up loveseat and a non-functional TV set, something catches their attention.

In a corner, well off to the side, a glass fishbowl sat atop a pile. 
It was filled with old toys and various odds and ends.

Pepper gets a long look at it before making their way over.
They hesitate.

the 'personal' thing is bullshit.
i dont need to dig through all that
blink said anything would work

but whats it hurt to look

After a few seconds of staring, the pockitt reaches in, sifting through everything buried inside.

Memories come flooding back . . .

The little astronaut stood motionless in the middle of the room, surrounded by bean bags and a bunk bed that were unfathomably larger than they were.
A little alien stood in tandem next to them, as if in greeting, wearing the same kind of space suit.

A tiny pockitt was crouched in front of the spaceship playset, staring blankly at all the pieces.

The child's shadow shifts suddenly, pulling their eyes towards it.
A figure pulls itself up out of their shadow, erupting from the floor.
Black, white and pink, and covered in eye-like spots, the shadow looms beside the pockitt... 

"...hey, Mystery."

...only to sit down next to them.

"The foster people seem really nice.
Just look at this roooom..."
Mystery marches around the room with their hands behind their back, taking everything in.
"And this, too!" They peer through the spaceship window at Pepper.
"Lots of fun toys, looks like!"
"'s all hand-me-downs from their real kids."
"Well... I still think it looks fun."

Mystery tilts their head, looking for any reaction from the pockitt.
When there was none, their ears drooped.

It didn't last, though, their ears popping back up as they got an idea.
They walk around the spaceship and flop behind it.

They reach an arm out, picking up the alien figure and proceeding to wiggle it as they spoke in its voice, its plastic feet making tiny tapping noises as it touched the floor from the motion.

"Cadet Pepper, it's time to launch!
You're the best pilot, we can't do this mission without you!"

The figure winces as they reach their other claw out, enough to barely reach the astronaut figure.
Gently, they slide it forward, closer to Pepper.

No reaction.

Mystery wilts.

They get up, walking over by Pepper before taking a seat beside them once more.

"Are you sad?"
I'm scared, too."

"Why're you scared?"
Pepper curls up.
"I don't like it here, I don't wanna be here.
I don't like them, either.
I miss dad, a-and..."

"I miss them, too.
...but you have me, it's okay!"

The pockitt sniffles, looking up at Mystery.
"But what if they come to get me?"

"No, the people who... had...
...who were with Bazil..."

Mystery frowns, watching the toy set as they think it over.

They look back at the little pockitt, sporting a smile now.
"...I'll protect you! 
I'll keep us safe."

They can't get past me!
I've got eyes..."
Mystery stands up and sticks their arms out. 
"...eeeeverywhere!" The many eye spots along their hide spin in a silly-looking manner.
Pepper can't help but giggle.

Mystery grins back.
"You wanna play now?"
They pick up the little astronaut.
"Cadet Pepper ready for pilot duty!
Co-Pilot Mystery... 

...Are you ready?"

The shadow - thrilled - lifts up the little alien.

"Let's launch!"





Pepper's finger presses the button on the side of the walkie talkie, over and over.

Rain pings off a sheet of metal propped between tree branches, the cacophony nearly overtaking the click of the walkie.

Their yellow hoodie - already soaked - drips on the exposed tree roots below.

They take a breath now, glancing past the tree to a neighborhood near the forest path.
They watch one particular window of a house there.

The light inside is on.

They switch on the walkie, taking a deep breath before clicking in the button.


I'm at the spot."

The radio is quiet.

"I was um... thinking we could go hang out?
It's raining, but... means it's extra scary to go exploring.

Got you an extra flashlight if you don't have yours."

They turn away from the window, leaning their back against the tree.

"...Hey, we could... go out past the ridge this time?
If you want to...
I know I was freaked out last time, but I'm good now.
I got this."

Their leg bounces.

"...I also got this new movie, for my birthday.

...I... guess you missed my party on Friday, but it, um...
It wasn't a big deal, you must've got busy. 
It's cool. Y'know, I get it."

They close their eyes and wince, popping the walkie talkie against their forehead.

"And about the thing that--
...that we, talked about.

...You're right.
It was dumb, and
I'm not gonna mess with that anymore.
Any of it.


The pockitt looks back around to the window.

The light was off.

"...Kim...? "

They take a few steps back from the tree.

Their lip quivers.

Pepper turns away and starts hurrying down the forest path, picking a random direction.

A sniffle starts, one that gets worse the longer they walk.

Finally, they stop.

A whimper escapes their throat.

They turn, reeling back their arm before lobbing the walkie talkie at a tree as hard as they can.
Its case snaps off, and it tumbles down into a pile of dead leaves on the forest floor.

Their shoulders start to droop seconds later, as their anger cracks away.
Pepper presses their claws to their face, collapsing to the mud and leaves below as their chest heaves.

A familiar claw touches their shoulder, ever-so-gently.

Pepper falls still.

"...We should get back home, okay?
It's not really safe out here this late, and with all this rain you might catch a cold.
We'll get you cleaned up, and we can put on the heater so your room's nice and warm.
Sound good?"

"...go away."


Pepper springs up, their fur caked in mud, and slaps away Mystery's hand.
"I said go away!
This is YOUR fault!"

Mystery stumbles back in surprise.

" fault?"

Pepper wipes the mud and snot off their face, breath still shuddering.
"I told Kim about you, and all the other--
He... said that's s... stuff for 'little kids.' 
I got mad, and we had a fight, and now he doesn't wanna be friends anymore!"

Tears pour down again, Pepper wiping them away in frustration.

"Do you know h-how... hard it was to make any friends at another new school?!
I got one and you RUINED it!"

Mystery's eyes watered; both of them crying now.
"...but... we're... still friends. still have me, at least."

"No! I don't!
Imaginary friends don't count."

It hurt.

"Pepper, please don't... say that to me.
That m-makes... me feel bad--"

"Even the new foster people don't like me cause of you!"

Concern flashes over the shadow's face.

"...but, we never talked when they were around.
We were careful--"
"They had cameras everywhere, stupid!
The living room ones aren't just for show, and they have 'em in the bedroom, too!"

Mystery's eyes grow wide.

"...How much... did..."
"They've known since the first day we got there! They just waited til I turned twelve.
Said I'm too old for imaginary friends, and that it's not okay to talk to you."

"But I've... b-been around you, a lot... longer than they have.
We made it through everything. The two of us--"

"And look where you got me!"

Pepper pants in the rain, mud now caked into their fur as they shook from the cold.
"I'm just gonna be all alone, thanks to you!"

The pockitt wipes their face on their sleeve, walking away to retrieve the broken walkie.
Once they manage to dig it out, they toss it in their pocket and continue down the path, heading away from home.

"...where are you going?
Mystery hurries to catch up, but Pepper turns to stop them.
"I'm going out past the ridge.
Kim might talk to me again if I do."

"It's way too dangerous, you--"
"And you're NOT gonna stop me again!"
"...but, Pepper..."

They reach out and shove Mystery over onto the muddy path.

"Don't follow me.
I don't wanna talk to you anymore."

They look up at Pepper, every ounce of betrayal showing on their face.
Pepper shies away as they notice, trying to hold back more tears.
"...D-Don't come back."

They keep walking.



It hurt too much to hear.
Guilt and anguish burned in the pit of their chest.

The pockitt began to run.


Mystery's voice faded with the rain.

A flash of light reflects in the broken window.

The motor spins the rollers, pushing out the fresh photo.

Pepper's feet creak along the busted-up floor as they snag the picture, beginning to shake it.
The bulky instant camera dangles around their neck.

The old bank building had sat abandoned for nearly twenty years.
Decay had long-since set in, overtaking the once carefully-maintained building and filling it with holes and perilous drops.

They look the developed photo over before pocketing it, glancing ahead.

The pockitt had managed to clamber up to the second floor by climbing atop furniture through a hole in the floor - the stairwell entirely impassable below - and now sets their sights on a few precarious boards laying between them and a clear path to the rest of the stairwell.

All the upper floors were within reach, full of who-knows-what, all they had to do was make it over this.

They approach the first board,
mentally preparing to cross.

The pockitt recognizes the voice behind them all too well, 
but they don't turn; they don't flinch.

"I... I know you don't want to listen to me,
but... that could kill you.
This isn't safe. 


Their feet were already on the board, balancing their way across it inch-by-inch.
Possibly out of spite, they were moving faster than they should've, not really bothering to be too careful.

Mystery has stopped talking by this point, 
too afraid to do anything other than watch in grim anticipation.

The boards creak ominously under them, each subsequent step seeming to lower their chances of making it across as the boards start bending.

They snap.

Pepper doesn't feel it, 

already on their way down.

A stray stanchion catches their leg,

flipping them onto their back 

just as they slam hard into the tile floor below, knocking the wind out of them.

Pepper coughs and wheezes, gripping their torso tight as they struggle to breathe properly.
They groan, climbing to their feet only to hunch over, 
stray tears falling down their face.

"Hang on!"
They hear Mystery drop down to the first floor, hurrying over as the pockitt begins to recover.
"Let's... get you out of he--"
Mystery reaches out a claw, 
only for Pepper to slap it away.

Their face was red, anger welling up through the tears.
"Can't you take a hint?!
Leave. Me. The hell. Alone!"
Pepper screams.

Mystery froze stiff.

"...You aren't even real.
I don't need you hanging around anymore."

"...I am, real.
We've... I've been here, with you, since we were kids.
You can't act like that didn't happen, how would you explain all the--"

"Cause I got kidnapped by a fucking cult and I needed people there with me!
So I made you - ALL of you - without thinking about it, and you just stuck somehow.
That doesn't make any of it real."

"But... but I remember things from before then, too.
I remember dad... and I remember--" 

You don't get to talk about them like they were your family, too.
You keep them out of your mouth."
Pepper snarls.

"Fine, yes, you were there before.
I was a stupid, lonely kid, even before all that, and I needed friends,
so I made you first.
And then all that happened and I needed you more.
Now I'm AWAY from all that, and I'm practically an adult already!
So why would I need you? "

"...I," They sputter. 
I help... keep..." 

Mystery swallows.

"...keep you safe.
You remember? 
Back wh--"
"If I get hurt, I get hurt." Pepper interrupts.

"It doesn't matter, and even if it did, 
I do NOT need some kid's crayon drawing brought to life coming to my rescue, okay? 
I can just--" 

They sling their arm back and slam their fist into a nearby desk, busting it into pieces. 
"What're you gonna do? 
I-spy a cultist to death?"

Mystery struggles to find words.

"W... What...
...What if it's... like with Bazil and Chelsea, where--"

"Don't bring them into this.
It's not like it's contagious or something!
How the hell would I have the same thing?!"
"I don't know, but... maybe it... 
I mean, that could... 

A flash of light blinds Mystery, widening their numerous eyes.

"I'm sick of this."

They pull out the picture and shake it.

"I'm done with you, alright?
This stupid game we've been playing for years where even when I push you away,
or ignore you or- Anything."

"Pepper, wait--"

"You just keep right on trying to crawl your way into MY life again.
And again, and again, and again."

"It's- We can talk about--"

"Always making things worse.
Always making me feel like I'm losing my mind."

They glance at the photo.

"Because I am down here, screaming my lungs out at NOTHING!"
Pepper throws the picture at Mystery. 
The shadow struggles to catch it after it bounces off their chest.
"At fucking AIR!"

Mystery manages to steady the photo.

They bring it up to look at it in the light.

Nothing shows in the photograph.

Just the bank building wall.

They weren't there.

As Mystery stares at the photo, 
running their eyes over it again and again,
the photo slips through their fingers.

They grab for it, but their claws would no longer hold it.

"...I knew it.


There's nobody here."


Mystery stood still, staring down at their hands.

The pockitt turns away, making their way towards the exit doors.

Pepper's hand was tugged back, the pockitt turning to see them standing with tears in their eyes.

It felt just as real as every other time.

don't leave me by myself anymore.

I... I know you don't believe that I'm here and I know you don't want to mess with any of it,
but I won't... bother you anymore or cause any problems, I promise!
I swear,"

They closed their eyes and shook their head. 
"I swear I won't be an issue, I just need to-
I haven't... talked, to you or anybody in so long...

...I won't bother you, we can just... talk. 
About anything. 
And it... it'll be okay-


I don't wanna be alone.

I can't do it anymore..."

Pepper slowly pulls away.
Their paw phases straight through Mystery's, leaving them grasping at air.

The pockitt could hear Mystery behind them, choking back sobs.

They push through the exit doors.

"...I miss y--"

The doors shut behind them.

Pepper's chest burns as they struggle to catch their breath.

The guilt rises into their throat.

But they swallow it down.

Bury it.

" P    e    p    p  e  r . "

Someone nudges Pepper's shoulder, causing them to recoil.

Blink stood next to them, holding their arms up in an apologetic gesture.


"...I asked you a question."
"Sorry, zoned out."
"I can see that, yes."
"What's up?"
"Is that what you're going with?"

Blink points.
Pepper looks down at their hands, realizing they were holding the instant-print camera.

No, I uh..."

They drop it back into the bowl.
Their eye scans over the objects inside once more.

A little astronaut figurine, 
a busted-up walkie talkie, 
and so many other countless knick-knacks.

Pepper picks up the entire fishbowl, 
and dumps all the objects out into a nearby box.

They hold the bowl up to Blink.

The snake raises an eyebrow. "A fishbowl?"
"Had a fish that died, and I was sad about it.
I used the bowl for a while afterwards to put old junk in.
That's personal enough, right?"

"I... suppose so?
We can certainly try it."

"There you go. Done. Let's go."

Pepper shooed Blink out the door.
"Fine, yes, there's no need to rush me."

Once they were clear, Pepper hops up and snags the handle of the metal shutter, 
using their weight to pull all the way shut in seconds.

"Now what's this spot you picked out?"

"Fairly remote little forest just outside the city.

Not too
far from here, thankfully."

"We need to bus?

Or is it within walking . . ."

The camera once again sits in the dark of the storage unit, 
as Pepper and Blink's voices fade off into the distance.


Wind brushes gently across Pepper's fur on its way through the forest clearing.
It sifts the grass just as smoothly.
Pepper closes their eyes to feel it, relaxing just a little.

"I'll take a 'thank you' now for picking the Perfect spot for this. 
That just so happens to be less than a mile walk from your storage unit."

The kangaroo reluctantly opens their tired eyes.
"Yeaaah, yeah."

Blink removes their backpack and pulls a blanket out of it.
They unfold it and sit cross-legged at one end, gesturing for Pepper to do the same.

"What, like we're having a picnic?"
"You're more than welcome to stand for however long this takes, instead."
"...Alright then."
They sigh and take a seat.
"This is gonna destroy my knees, though."
"Well, the good news is,
you'd hardly be any shorter without them."

...Cheap shot."

"I kid, I kid."

The snake reaches back into their bag, this time retrieving what looked to be an air purifier.

"...A filter?"
"Shred collector."

Blink pops the top off, and a clear plastic jar emerges.
They pop it out, the bottle sealing itself in the process.

The corvice holds it up for Pepper to see.

Inside, plentiful particles of colorful, vibrant, glowing dust fill up the bottom half of the jar.
The pockitt leans in, genuinely intrigued.
"...Thought I couldn't see scraps..."
"Shreds. They're different.
Anyone can see them."

Blink unscrews the lid and puts their hand over the top.

A small amount of the glowing dust floats upward, 
all manner of colors gradually tinting into a deep maroon as the shreds reach Blink's claw.
They lift their hand up, idly rotating their fingers to float the particles around just above their palm.

"Shreds change color to suit the user currently handling them."

Pepper was entirely transfixed, much to Blink's amusement.
"So... I can do that, right?
It cool if I try?"

Pepper reaches forward before getting an answer, 
and Blink quickly seals the shreds back in the bottle.

"You're forgetting those hands of yours."
The kangaroo cocks their head to the side, their ears shifting over.
"Shreds are drawn to scraps.
Including the ones you buried in your hands."

"...Won't that mean this works better?
Like, it's easier to pull 'em if my hands do the work for me already?"

The shreds will absorb into the scraps instead,

The snake idly looks upward as they think things over,
bobbing their head side-to-side for a moment.

"Technically, it's not typically dangerous to allow that to happen.
Scraps encounter shreds all the time. 
You can think of shreds as a natural energy source for them.

However, too much at once can have more... Explosive effects.
I don't think I have nearly enough collected here to cause that,
but I doubt you'd want to risk losing your hands, hm?"

The pockitt shrugs. 
"Eh, I guess."

"On top of that, 
it's counterintuitive to this process."

"Which iiis? "

"Putting it simply:
We'll be feeding shreds into that fishbowl of yours 
until something happens.

...That's it?"

"Having a clear picture of what you want often helps, 
but otherwise, yes.
It's the safest and most effective method to spawn your own proxy."

as far as your hands are concerned,"
The snake pops off the lid again.
"I think I may have a trick."
They point. "Set your bowl between the two of us."

Pepper puts the fishbowl down in the middle of the blanket.

"When I say so, 
you are going to gently - very gently - pull the shreds from my hand.
But you aren't going to pull them all the way to your hand.
Instead, just 'let go' of them when they're over the bowl,
and I'll provide a bit of a counter-pull to keep them from being yanked over too quickly.

Does all that make sense?"

Pepper's tired eyes were focused straight through Blink.
"...Sure, yep."
Blink rolls their eyes.
"Just be Careful, alright?
I am not going to haul you to a bus stop with stumps."

"You got it."
"Let's give it a try, then.

Pepper raises a paw.
"Hit me."

Blink pulls a scant amount of shreds up from the container,
tinting them the same deep shade of maroon in the process.

They swirl them slowly, keeping them a few inches above their hand.

"Gently, now..."

Pepper focuses, leaning in.

The shreds begin to move, starting to trail away from Blink towards Pepper.
The pockitt's bag-ridden eyes light up with wonder.
Blink can't help but grin.

"Your mouth is hanging open, you know."
"Shut up, this rules..."

The hybrid struggles to maintain their concentration.
Their flow is unsteady, the glowing dust looking like it could all teeter and fall at any moment.

But, they keep things just steady enough.

The shreds' hue shifts, 
mostly to an energetic yellow.
However, stray particles start to solidify into other colors:
Pink, orange, green, black; all sorts of tints springing up in scattered amounts.

Blink watches the shreds intently.

Pepper doesn't notice, far too focused.

As the shreds float over the bowl, Pepper stops the flow.
The glowing particles drop inside and seem to simply pop out of existence.

The kangaroo takes a breath.

"Well done!
I'm surprised, you're picking this up rather quickly."

"What can I say," Pepper shrugs. 
"I'm the best."
"...Sure you are."

The serpent leans in and squints, studying the shreds in the bowl.

"Though, the color is... odd."
"There's more than one.
I haven't seen that before, though it might simply be a rare oddity.
Either way, I... assume it's nothing to worry about."

"Good, 'cause it looks cool."

Blink tightens their tie a little as they raise a single claw,
just as a professor might when lecturing a class.
"...since it may take Quite a long time,
let's go over some basics while we continue the process."

Pepper's posture slouches with renewed disinterest.
"Or we could just. 
You know.
And not talk."

The snake glares, straightening their back.
"Well, you want to be prepared with this, don't you?

Wouldn't you like to know how to work your proxy?

Think of all the potential you'd have with it..."

A sigh seeps its way out of Pepper.

"Okay but this IS gonna help me fight better, yeah?"
"Knowing you?
One-hundred percent."

"Fffffine, alright..."

They sit up.

"Let's do it,
I'm all ears."

The pockitt lifts their paw.



Pepper gazes skyward, their eyelids beginning to droop.

The blanket is warm underneath their back as they lay, reclined, 
one paw still raised as they pull and drop shreds with monotonous rhythm.

Blink snaps a few times.
"Pepper-" "I was listening." 
They clear their throat.
"...Sorta." Blink pinches the bridge of their snout.
"You really could stand to take this a little more seriously.
This isn't--"

The fishbowl rattles.

Blink abruptly stops the flow of shreds.
Pepper's ears perk up.

The bowl floats off the blanket.

Blink and Pepper stand and back up.

Water fills up the fishbowl.

Blue gravels materializes at the bottom, along with a little plastic treasure chest.
A metallic-looking, hard plastic brace spawns just below the bowl,
looking not unlike those on the treasure chest.

From the brace erupts various lengths of soft plastic tubing, more metal braces, 
and more fish tanks in odd shapes.
A rough template of a body gradually takes shape,
all the pieces melding together into legs, arms, and a torso.

Three-fingered claws covered in golden-orange scales grow from the proxy's 'wrists',
while a similarly-scaly, two-finned tail flares out from behind, 
finishing the process.

The proxy stands tall before Pepper.

Its spindly limbs begin to stir as faint motion pops in gradually.

Fully-prepared for this outcome, Blink starts speaking.
"As of now, 
the only two functions you'll notice are that you should be able to see through its eyes,
and anything that happens to you gets mirrored onto it; including movements.
The sight especially may be... disorienting, to say the least."

They watch Pepper expectantly.

Pepper raises a hand.

The fishbowl-headed proxy raises the same fishy claw above its head.

Pepper grins a mile wide.

"...And the mirrored sight?"
"Yeah I'm getting a little bit of that?
It's all fuzzy, though."

The synced pair gives Blink a simultaneous thumbs up.

"But we're good."

Well... keep up the practice."

Blink puts a thoughtful claw to their chin.
"I suppose that particular aspect doesn't matter too much yet..."
The kangaroo was ignoring them, 
doing various poses just to make its proxy echo them.

They strike a pose.
The proxy mimics it.

And another pose.
Mirrored with gusto.

"...must you Really?
Shouldn't we be... practicing with it?"

"Huh?" Pepper pretended not to hear.
"Sorry, busy right now.
hanging out with my best pal:
This weird fish thing."

The corvice rolls their eyes.

Pepper points at the proxy with both hands, giving it the finger-guns.
The proxy counter-fires much to Pepper's continued amusement.

The pockitt mimics a camera frame with their pointer fingers and thumbs, lining up the proxy inside.
The proxy freezes in place.

It roots to the spot.

All motion halts throughout its body,

as if frozen in time.

Pepper's smile fades.


...Broke it, or something?
Can't see anything at all from it anymore, either."

"That's..." Blink trails off, shaking their head in shared confusion.

The treasure chest inside the bowl opens on its own.

The proxy jitters suddenly, as if it had been electrocuted.
It begins to move again, 

though its doesn't follow Pepper in the slightest.

Simultaneously, Pepper shudders, looking almost sick.
Their paw goes to their temple.
"Is... is it supposed to give me a... bad headache...?"

"You... should Probably dismiss it now."
"...How the hell do I do that?" "I... told you, earlier--"
Pepper's knees shook.
"Feel like I might... pass out, or-- 

Pepper glances up to find the proxy standing just in front of them.

It towered over them.

They pull back their fist, readying just in case.


"You need to--"
A bright white flash of light left Pepper blind.

Something slugs them in the stomach. 
They double over,
only to be caught by the shoulder.

Pepper coughs.

They look up.

The proxy's color scheme has now changed dramatically; 
pinks and shades of monochrome replacing everything.

An instant-print camera had now appeared in the fishbowl,
with a photograph currently releasing into the water.

One of the proxy's claws is holding a small crack at its torso.

A murky voice raises up from the being.


Let's make this one count, then."

The fishbowl leans down into Pepper's face,
the camera lens studies them carefully.
"How about it, Pepper?"

"W... what--"

It reels back a fist and smashes dead center against Pepper's face,
leaving no time to react.

Glass splits noisily.

The grey pockitt is sent sprawling over into the dirt.

A large crack appears across the front of the bowl, obscuring part of the camera.

The fishbowl cocks its head over to the snake,
who had been approaching from the side.
A whirring sound springs forth as an eerie glow emits inside the bowl.
Blink takes a stance.
"Pepper, dismiss it NOW, you onl--"

A pink flash hits Blink.
Their eyes widen, unfocused.
Their muzzle opens, but doesn't move.
The corvice falls to their knees.

Over their head now floats a swirling pink eye.

"I'm sorry, are you part of this?"

Blink doesn't move.

Well, that's what I thought."

The proxy approaches Pepper,
who was still trying to get to their feet.
It snags their arm and hoists them up.
"Did that get your attention?

Only a few years too late, then!"

Pepper winds back a punch.

"I wouldn't."
The proxy simply drops Pepper.
The swing at thin air as they hit the ground.

That whirring sound returns.

Pepper shuts their eyes.

It doesn't seem to matter:

The pink flash of light penetrates straight through anyway.

Pepper's vision goes hazy.
Everything they could see is swallowed up by rippling black,
like smog rising up from a fresh fire.

Their legs grew heavy.

Their thoughts raced.
The headache made nothing easier.

dismiss it

dismiss it dismiss it
how do i do that

what did they tell me

i dont remember

In the billowing dark that surrounded them,
Pepper began seeing things.


Of old memories.

Jumbled together.

[Image: GNHXHDc.png]

sto p

All the memories yielded,
frames paused,
shimmering in static.


the void fills up with eyes

every one of them trained on Pepper.

In the dark,
a pink and black figure walked towards them.

Each step left a ripple,
as if dark water had flooded the void.

Pepper couldn't move.

Mystery looked down at them.
All their eyes locked with Pepper's.

"...It isn't fun, is it?"
They effortlessly lifted Pepper off the ground by their arm.
"Not being the one in control."
"...wait--" "Being ignored.
"Listen, listen we--"
"In your own head, no less!"

Their eyes bore down on Pepper like knives brushing skin.

"This is my head, too, after all.
I have no idea what else to do to prove it to you.
Hopefully you understand now.

But then, 
you always knew, 

didn't you?"

"I... I-I..."

"Don't bother.

I'm aware.

Denial just comes easier for you than anything else, right?

If you push your problems away,

run from them,

then you never have to bother with them!

Isn't that right?"

"I... didn't... mean to--"

None of that.
You know exactly what you did to me.
You just don't care.
I doubt you've cared about anyone else, at any point.
Especially everyone you share a body with.

...I bet you don't even know their names anymore."

"Mystery... Mystery we... we can just talk--"
Well, let's see, Pepper...
I think I've been asking to talk things out siiiince..."

The shadow pretends to count on their sharp claws.

"Twelve years or so?

Something like that.

I could be losing track, though!
Could have something to do with lacking consistent stimuli for years,
who can say!

It makes sense, though.
Buried things do tend to 
 rotdon't they?

But really, who's keeping track, anyway?

Certainly Not You."

They lean their face in close.
"No more of that, though.

Oh, don't worry.
I'm not going to ignore you forever, Pepper.
I won't pretend like you don't exist.
What kind of monster would do something like that!"

Mystery pauses, letting that simmer.

"So, you're welcome to talk with me anytime."
They place a claw to their chest.
"...But you won't be calling the shots anymore.
Anyone but you."

dismiss it


do ANYthing, body

come ON

"Just because you don't give a damn whether you live or die 
doesn't mean you get to drag the rest of us to an early grave alongside you."

As their position starts sinking in,
Pepper can't help seeing cage bars
in the periphery of their vision.

They panic.

blink get up please Please

"So, good news, then:
You just get to take it easy for a while.

Not that you deserve it.
Because you don't.

I won't do what you did.

No one deserves that."

Pepper closes their eyes.
it isnt real
its not here
im not here

"It may take me a little while to figure out how this proxy works.
But as soon as I do, you get to rest easy.
Sound good?

it isnt real

this isnt happening

bury it

A twinge shifts through the void, startling Mystery.

They turn their attention back to Pepper.

"I am NOT spending another second stuck in that..."
Mystery winces, 
trees beginning to show through the dark.
"...thick SKULL ...of yours!"

The shadow grasps their head as their voice grows fainter.

"I won't let... 

do this...


Mystery shuts their eyes tight.
Pepper spots a tear.


The shape of Mystery burns away
as the eyes over Blink and Pepper's heads fade into nothing.

The proxy lets go of Pepper as it collapses.

Every component of it disappears,
save for the photo from the fishbowl.

It drifts slightly in the wind,
landing nearby.

Finding themself on their back,
Pepper sits up.

Not far away, they find Blink, panting.

The snake peers over at Pepper,


Neither gets up.

Neither speaks.

Pepper spies the photo laying next to them.

They pick it up.

Nothing shows in the photograph.

Just the trees behind where they sat now.

They weren't there.

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