WRITING Moody's Random-Ass Writings

Discussion in 'SHOWCASING' started by The Mood is Write, Sep 9, 2016.

  1. In answer to Lurcolm's "The Fall of Balthazar"
    Spoiler
    The video feed cut in with a lone figure sitting on a chair. A standard unifier revolver was held so tightly in his right hand that his knuckles turned white and it trembled. The young man had no life in his eyes as he stared blankly into the camera. A faint, forced smile was eternally plastered on his face. His head almost twitched from all the minor movements he made. He seemed his expression changed to that of a cornered animal every now and then, full of panic and fear and hopelessness, before it returned to his broken expression of happiness.

    “H… Hello. Hello E-lizabeth” He started. It seemed like he couldn’t properly figure out how to phrase his words as he spoke it. Clear strain came across his face as he tried to form his sentences together in a coherent way. His faint smile always twitched down, but never actually became anything less than that vague, empty expression of happiness.

    “I-“ He swallowed loudly “I’ve come to tell you th-that I have been given… given insight. Th-the Unifiers. They… They showed me the way. The t-t-t” His head started to twitch violently for a full second, before he finally managed to blurt out “True way. The…” His lips clamped shut, but forced themselves open an instant later “Best way.” His eyes gained another expression, Fear and torment. It went away the instant after it happened, returning to the blank, dead brown eyes.

    In the steel chair he sat on, his left hand started silently tapping on the arm. The patterns could quickly recognised as Morse code. It kept repeating “I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry…” Over and over again. Never stopping as he continued to talk.

    “Th... They, they knew, Elizabeth. That I was close to you and-and your.. your..” an expression of sheer exertion came over him, but quickly went away as he continued “your Lies. They… Taught me, Elizabeth. They taught me… taught me… taught… taught...” He seemed to lose himself for a moment, repeating that one words with an expression of resigned terror. He completely forgot about everything around him. He just repeated the word they used to refer to what they did to him.

    He only returned to his senses with a red hot steel rod that stabbed into his thigh. He made no effort to remove it as it sizzled his flesh. It smelled like long pork.

    “Theytaughtme!” he blurted out in one go, his eyes shooting wide with terror as he anticipated more punishment “They… They taught me the right way. I… I honestly hope you j-j-j-j-j” He twitched again, but recovered quick enough “join us. Make the Universe one” He hissed, pain reflecting in his eyes “Because… Because it’s the right thing. The just thing.” He stated “The… the Hunters” at the last word, he tensed up like a spring for a millisecond. That was the word they conditioned him to associate with pain. A lot of pain.

    Silently, unobserved, the steel rod slid out of his leg.

    “Are w-w-w-wrong.” He twitched again, straining to keep his words coherent.

    His smile quirked upwards for a moment before it fell down into his vague face “As… as a sign of my… my” his strained face came again, always for an instant “loyalty, I’m going to execute Ashley” he was told to give a happy smile. So he failed miserably in the attempt. It looked more like an open scream of anguish, never voicing out.

    All the while, his hand tapped on the steel chair “I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry…”

    The camera turned to a bound girl. Steel restraints held her in place. A leather gag stopped her from screaming. She was very clearly defiant. Her muffled curses and pleas making a consistent hum as the man got up and casually walked to her. The movements he did were jerky. One moment going to erratic, one moment too sluggish.

    His free hand twitched visibly.

    “I’m sure y… you remember Ah-Ah-Ashley.” he stated to the red head. Tears streaked down her face as she kept screaming through the leather gag. The man seemed to have lost his ability to speak for a moment. His one eye twitched and he snarled in effort, but he finally managed to speak “You… You sent us together on our l-l-l-last mission. It’s y…y…” He strained again, eyes watering. His face was a cycling mixture of hate, pain, fear and sorrow “your fault. Your fault we got captured” He gave a small, furious nod that quickly turned into a repetitive twitch. His free hand grabbed his head to make it stop.

    “S…so I’m… I’m…. I’mteachingyou!” he screeched “Teaching you a… a... a lesson! You… you… you…” His bit his own lips to stop himself, but only made blood mix with the flying spittle as the word exploded out of his being “Bitch! You Bitch! BITCHBITCHBITCH!” He screeched suddenly, anger and hatred pouring out of his very being. It stopped just as quickly as it happened, though. Afterwards he seemed even less alive. Like all strength he had was in that single scream

    “I’m… I’m going to k-k-k-k-k-kill her. Because she refuses her offers” he hissed. He moved like a wooden puppet towards Ashley’s gag, undoing the mouth restraints and letting her scream. Letting her beg. They told him to do that. He had to. He had to. He had to.

    The girl turned to the camera first. Her eyes were full of fear and defiance “Don’t listen to him! He got fucked in the head, E!” She tried to defend. She would’ve said more, but the man grabbed her by her crimson red hair. He put the muzzle at the side of her skull so the camera could see the blood spatter perfectly. They would be pleased with that. He wouldn’t have to hurt so badly, later on.

    “Bal! Please! Balthazar! You don’t have to do this!” For a moment, he tensed. He tried, he tried to pull the trigger, but he couldn’t. He couldn’t. He couldn’t. He pressed harder into the trigger. Harder. Harder. He had to! He had to!

    He couldn’t look at the trigger. His eyes were stuck at the crying girl in front of him. She was hopeless, but scared. She didn’t want to die. She didn’t want to die. She didn’t want to die.

    “Balthazar! Listen to me! You don’t have to do this! Don’t do this to E! Come on, Bal! I know yo-“

    Bang.

    The silver round shot right into her brain. The bullet was designed to fragment after impact. Silver shrapnel would be scattered in her skull like a mixer went through it. Burning. Destroying the magic it held. Ending her. Just like they told him to. His expression of detached happiness came back. His smile turning almost real, but his brown eyes stood empty, they didn’t even blink as tears silently rolled down his cheeks. He held the gun like it was his line to life. A bit of blood dripped from his grip as his flesh tore open from the force in which he held the studded grip.

    “My name isn’t Balthazar. It’s Martin.”


    Cat and Canary

    Spoiler
    The recording played in the Council chamber off a projector Minos had installed. Crow sat in the Speaker's seat, and Elizabeth remained quiet as she stared from underneath her hood. It's supernatural shadow created an impenetrable black barrier that prevented any from seeing her face. All of the other Councilmen wore the same garment, though Crow and some others wore their hoods down.

    Crow's expression remained cold as the Unifier ended the video and came back onto the screen.

    "As usual, if you want him back, our price remains the same. Cease interference with us, and we release all of the Hunters currently among our ranks."

    The feed ended, and as Minos turned off the technology, Crow's eyelid twitched. "Councilman Ygvaine, Recorder of the Session, please note that Martin Balthazar and Ashley must have their records updated to reflect his defection and her demise. Please note Unifiers as the cause for both."

    The scratch of quill on paper came a moment later, and Crow looked around the quiet hall. "We need to train our Hunters to better resist the Unifiers' methods. I put forth the suggestion more training intensity, and encouraging trainers to acclimate grown trainees to pain."

    A few murmurs of seconded guaranteed an official vote the next time there was a meeting of all three shifts. Next came a discussion of the security of having a channel open for communications from the Unifiers, and how it seemed unwise. Reassurances from Minos settled the controversy—it was one-way only, and they had no way to track, or even know it was being viewed. A reminder that the Unifiers' bragging served to give them information placated the remaining objectors for the time being.

    "Is that everything?" Crow asked as he looked toward Ygvaine.

    "There are three mission briefings to give to their assigned Hunters and two reports that must be heard."

    "If none object, I move we see to those." A murmur of approval met him, and the Councilmen took their seats. All raised their hoods, and only once that was complete did the doors across from the Speaker's seat open.

    A pair of Hunters walked in, nervous and reeking of fear. The doors closed behind them, and their mission brief began.

    Elizabeth remained silent through it all. Not fully there, she stared forward from her seat until Crow called the meeting to an end. The others began to file out, and she rose to do the same as the last few others exited. Crow appeared in front of her, seemingly from nowhere, and she stopped before the man, watching as he lowered his hood.

    "Elizabeth," he greeted cooly as the door shut.

    "Yes, Eiji?"

    Crow stared at her, or rather the dark shadow under her hood. He reached toward her face, then pulled the hood down to reveal trails of black mascara down her face. His expression shifted to surprise as she simply stared at him, unflinching.

    She sighed, and with it, she began to tremble. "What?" she demanded.

    Crow's eyes roamed her face, filled with confusion. Then, after several moments, his brows furrowed, but he didn't glare at her. "He called you by name. She, as well. I can only assume..." he trailed off, then looked away.

    "Yes?"

    He cleared his throat into a fist, then took a deep breath and looked at her. "I'm sorry."

    Rather than object or wave it off as one might expect, she leaned toward him and gripped the front of her robes. Her forehead came to rest against his chest, and she began to sob, shoulders shaking violently.

    Crow stood stiff at her approach, but as she started to cry, his shoulders eased, and he rested a hand against her shoulder. He had no words for the woman who tormented him for as far back as he could remember, who now sobbed into his chest.

    A knock at the door to the chamber caught his ears, and he gently pushed Elizabeth upright, then pulled her hood back into place.

    "Cry as much as you need. Mourn all you need. Right now though, hold it together long enough to get to privacy. Should I make an excuse and haul you to my office?"

    Elizabeth reached up and wiped at her face. "No—" her voice caught. "No, but, Crow?"

    "Hn?"

    "Thank you."

    "I have no idea why you are thanking me. I was only here scolding you for spacing out." He snorted and crossed his arms, directing a glare at her that was only softened by a single wink before he turned on his heel and charged toward the door. He yanked it open. "What!?"

    "Ah!" a surprised Hunter shouted.

    "Well?"

    "I was sent to find Councilman Leauge. It's Councilmen Kels's request, sir!"

    Crow stared at the Hunter a moment, then snorted. "Fine. I was finished with her." He gave a dismissive wave as he walked out the door, and the Hunter moved out of his way hurriedly, then looked in.

    Elizabeth, silent and hooded, stared out, and the poor man jumped as the dark and hooded figure emerged from the dim chamber.

    "Kels, you say? I know the way to her office on my own. You are dismissed."

    If it was Kels, who slept through every meeting, it had to be important.
     
  2. Elizabeth's Threshold

    Spoiler

    "My name is Elizabeth Leauge."

    "Don't let her finish!"

    "Stop her!"

    "I can't move!"

    Wind whipped around as the black-clad Councilman continued her chant.

    "I have served the Council of Morning. I have served the Council of Day. I have served the Council of Night."

    "Someone—"

    Rapid currents whipped words from the mouths of the objectors as they struggled to remain standing.

    Hunters.

    Hunters trying to take on a Councilman.

    "I serve the Multiverse. By her will I yet breathe. By her will I commit myself. If my actions offend her, thus may I meet my fate."

    Winds came faster. Brock struggled to keep atop Rare as the bites of Stalkers refused to heal. He intended to keep the downed female protected. She was only unconscious—Elizabeth's blow was measured against the demon, but now things were beyond her conscious control.

    A burst of wind threw the massive Hunter, Toothe, from the rocky island and into the stormy, churning sea. Another gust sent Seela after him. The remaining eight Hunters struggled to keep their grip, though the slightest movements sent them into the water.

    Phil. Kael. Caen. Artemis. Ortega. Kyoko. Tybault. Beela.

    And then the only two that remained were Brock and Rare, close to the ground. Elizabeth's words continued to flow from her lips. Lightning struck around the island.

    "Multiverse. Great Spirit beyond all. Release me now from bonds of Council. I seek new contract!"

    Lightning flashed down and struck her, but her voice only grew, even as Brock groaned from impact and sound.

    "Allow me to judge the Council guilty of slaughter, that I may return that which they have dealt!"

    The rocky island began to darken as shadows rose from the sea and oozed toward Elizabeth. Voices like black oil poured into her mind.

    "Slaughter is their purpose, allowed for Her protection."

    "To accuse Her defenders, the weight must be heavy."

    "Show us your proof! PROOF!"

    Elizabeth reached into her robes and drew out a tiny bundle. She unwrapped it and stared into it as black overtook her eyes.

    "We see your proof. We deny you."

    Teeth grit. "What!? This goes against their agreement with her!"

    "Her will is given. Your fate comes for you as you run for it. She does not endorse your revenge."

    "This isn't revenge!" Elizabeth roared. "This is justice!"

    "Your heart says only four names. You may have four names in return... four names dear to others among the Councilmen."

    The blackness left her eyes, and bled back into the sea. Rain resumed, and Elizabeth glared down at her now-empty hand.

    "This... isn't fair," she whispered, voice catching. "It's not fair. I only wanted... Only wanted..."

    Lightning struck her once more, and her awareness spread. She saw ties between people. Each Councilman was tied to a variety of other people: agents, Hunters, other Councilmen, mortals, even the monsters they were supposed to send Hunters to destroy.

    All of them were as guilty as she was of seeking a way to lessen the isolation inherent in being a Councilman. She was merely the one who had an accident, kept it, and loved it—her sweet little Poppy, who died in her father's cooling arms.

    Elizabeth slowly felt her resolve waver as she looked at every bond the others held, and the inspections told her of their relationships. Even those she despised, she couldn't bring them the same pain she held. It was too big.

    "I'll go... a different way."

    The wind picked up again.

    "I will reform the laws of the Council, so none again must experience my pain."

    The wind grew wild.

    "This day, I vow to take action. This day, I embrace that changes must be made. This day, I act to protect not bodies, but hearts, though I may trod over some in seeking my goal, I will carry the burden of those sins. Does this please Her?"

    The whispered voices echoed through her mind.

    "She allows."

    Lightning struck Elizabeth again, shattering the protection of her robes. It surged through her and lit the area in blinding light.

    When the light faded, the white-haired Councilman laid on the ground. Her robes were partly burnt, revealing root-like scars across her body from the strike. The scars shone iridescent, with the colors of beryl just beneath the skin.

    The storm faded, but sky remained covered in grey clouds.

    Hunters helped each other back onto the rock, too late to stop her, and too churned and half-drowned from being tossed. Only Seela appeared unphased.

    She approached slowly.

    Elizabeth's eyes opened.

    "You didn't tell them about my baby." Elizabeth's words were quiet, but they halted Seela's dagger as the female came to realize the Councilman's reasons.

    "That's why I haven't seen her?"

    Elizabeth nodded.

    Seela's shoulders fell. She looked back toward the recovering other Hunters, then back at Elizabeth. Her partner would understand once she explained.

    The water-based Hunter lifted Elizabeth, then ran to the edge of the water. As they met the water, a bubble formed around Elizabeth's head, and Seela became fluid as she carried Elizabeth to an underwater cave, and then into it. Currents and scent guided her to a pocket of breathable air, and she rose, depositing Elizabeth on the dry floor within.

    "Some warning would have been," Elizabeth paused to breathe, "Appreciated." Still, her eyes showed her thanks where her mouth, trained by too long in Council politics, could not thank a Hunter.

    This was only the start. Elizabeth recovered in only a few days, and with Seela acting on her behalf, the Council warily welcomed her back into their fold when they returned. Seela said Elizabeth's attempt failed. Elizabeth said the Multiverse showed her that she had been in the wrong.

    Neither lied, but neither mentioned Elizabeth's plans, nor the blood they would regretfully spill.
     
  3. In answer to Lurcolm's "Third End"
    Spoiler
    Gaius Beridium was a proud man. He always made sure to make a good example, as the planetary governor of the world. He always made sure to appear fearless in the wake of horrors to inspire his people to protect this world from the Hunters and their ludicrous ideals.

    He had to work extremely hard to keep his stomach’s contents inside his body.

    Everywhere was death.

    Absolutely everywhere.

    Corpses of Unifiers lay littered across the battlefield with creatures the local troops called Drones. There was at least one state of death of every kind ever imagined on a battlefield. His troops, who had sons, daughters, mothers, and fathers, had to fight for every, damn, inch of ground ever since the shields came on. There were so many losses, that they had to request reinforcements from off world. Several times.

    The Enemy’s last stand was in a gorge, where he hoped to funnel Gaius’s superior numbers into a bottleneck to give his dwindling forces a fighting chance. There was a temple in there, where the monster himself made his stand. All was for naught in light of superior silver ordinance. His creatures, though powerful, suffered that fundamental weakness. His death was certain from the start, he just dragged it out as far as mortally possible.

    The stench of emptied bowels, rotting flesh and acid only grew stronger as he entered the gorge. The vast cliff faces were built, reinforced. The place looked like a fortress before the Unifiers attacked it. Now it was a smoldering ruin of chitin, bone, and wood. It was probably going to be inhabited and used as a base still, albeit far less effective than it was originally.

    Going down the steps, into the gorge, was a harrowing experience. Destroyed turrets, more corpses, claw marks and bullet holes, more corpses, sprung traps, even more corpses. His retinue followed silently behind him, those who had the stomach anyways. They approached the very centre of the gorge, where a vast temple was erected in dedication of himself.

    He called himself Arenzethir the Third.

    Gaius shook his head at the thought, moving to the dying form that used to be the leader of a six-year-long war’s Enemy side. His breath was shallow, wheezing. His large body broken awkwardly and filled with what Gaius assumed to be at least a quarter ton of silver. His eyes though, pure black, still stared quiet defiance at Gaius as he entered the halls of his narcissistic temple

    “So you’re the reason we lost so many good men and women?”

    Arenzethir laughed, shaking his head. His voice was deep, intimidating even as he had to stop every now and then for a wheezing breath “You… You’re monstersAll of you.” He shook his head “None of you are good.” He stated it with so much certainty, Gaius would’ve believed it if he wasn’t one himself

    “Oh really? At least we’re not stupid. What made you think that building an empire and attacking us here on this world, would enable you to disable the shields? It’s all the way in the capital.” He stated, nodding in approval as he remembered inspecting the controls himself. He had no feasible way to approach them the way he did. All of this was wasted. Nothing came of it.

    Arenzethir only gave a laugh “I suppose I…” wheeze, “Could tell you, then. I was…” wheeze, “The distraction.”

    Gaius blinked, looking at him with confusion “What the hell are you talking about?”

    “There was…” Wheeze “Three of us.”

    Gaius’s eyes stretched out of his skull with shock. Gods have mercy. If he was here, then where was the other two? He grabbed the creature by the throat, shaking him furiously “Where are they! Answer me!”

    Arenzethir the Third only laughed, as much as his failing strength could muster.

    Gaius took a deep breath, calming his nerves. He looked at Arenzethir with hatred as he spoke “Serve, or die.”

    Arenzethir smiled again, his wheezing. His big hand, his big right hand, had grabbed a stone from the mounds of rubble that was his former capitol.

    The last thing Gaius saw was the rock getting bigger.

    *******

    The planetary leader’s head caved in like a fresh loaf of bread. He fell to the ground, leaving the six soldiers to just stare in shock before they all turned in unison and opened fire.

    Honestly, Arenzethir couldn’t feel the pain anymore, what’s a single stab to a mess of wounds? Even if there were a lot of him, he just felt his brain go fuzzy. Somewhere far away, he could hear someone scream “Stop! Stop!”

    Arenzethir felt his vision blur as he tasted cold metal in his mouth

    He chose death.

    Bang

    Bang

    Bang

    *******

    The creature sitting in front of Elizabeth League was one of Arenzethir’s many drones he had on the HQ to serve his daily tasks. This one was different though. He liked to mark them by the colour of their heads, to tell them apart from each other. This one was a very strangely coloured—pink: never before seen.

    After Arenzethir’s death, they reverted to a state of animal existence, helping out in the HQ with minor things nobody really likes doing. They cleaned, carried things, did some grunt work here and there, but not even once did they seem disoriented by their death.

    The pink drone only appeared a month after his death was confirmed.

    It looked at Elizabeth, before giving a slight nod

    “Hello, Elizabeth.” Came a familiar, sad voice. Arenthezir had made the thing memorize his message, and voice it out in an exact replica of his own “I’m… I’m really sorry if you’re hearing this. It means I’m dead. For a month.” He gave a slight scoff. There was no typical showman arrogance in him as he spoke. He spoke honest and true, a side of him he almost never showed to anyone, and those he did only rarely.

    Arenthezir’s message gave a sigh “So when I made this message, it was when that Thessila girl died. It gave me a perspective on how I could die. What would I do to make sure that I can at least say goodbye?” He laughed slightly “Shame is, with this way I won’t feel that satisfaction of knowing that I made any issues with you right, etcetera, etcetera.” He gave another sigh, pink tears dropped out of the messenger’s eyes, burning its face just like Arenthezir’s tears burned his own.

    “I just… wanted to apologize. To you specifically. And… Well… do something incredibly selfish.” The drone reached into his pocket, taking a deep breath for courage “As you may know, your position of power makes love a rather…. complicated issue. Because of that, I never, ever dared to do this. You know what though? I’m dead. I’m beyond caring about stupid shit like that.”

    The drone pulled out a ring. It had an amber centre with two intertwining bands of different coloured chitin running its length. The drone put the thing down in front of her “So, I… I’ve loved you since the beginning. Since I was that stupid shit named Balthazar. I just didn’t know it, back then” A sob escaped the drone as he gently, fearfully pushed the ring a bit forward “After I came back… the idea just popped in my head. An actual fucking wedding ring.” He shook his head “I spent years making that thing, throwing it away if I as much as suspected it wouldn’t be perfect.” He shook his head again, scoffing slightly.

    “So, since a dead man can’t be punished, I figured I’d do this when I die.” He nodded “So, to make it official: Elizabeth League. I fucking love you.” He sobbed again “And with this ring, I make it official. I make it a tangible thing that’ll stay intact far longer than I will ever be. There’s an inscription on the inside, it says, “I will love you eternally”. You know why? Because that’s what I’m doing.” He gave a small, ridiculous laugh “I’m currently bashing the skulls in of the Reapers until they let me, at the very least, have an opportunity to be with you again. You know…” He trailed off “Not talking through a fucking ant.”

    He took a very deep, very forced breath. “The drones are just gonna keep the place tidy, they won’t do anything else I swear. I just… I just hope that you’ll be happy someday, Elizabeth.” His voice broke as he continued “With someone who gives a fuck about you.” He sob and sniffle as the scent of burning flesh came in clear “With someone who cares. With someone who actually managed to stay alive to hope to see that day, even though he knew it was a fucking stupid thing to hope for. A simple fucking impossibility.” He took a deep breath, breathing out as he took control of himself. A small sniff, a wipe of his face, and an adoring smile.

    “I love you, Elizabeth. Now and forever.”


    Antring

    Spoiler
    Elizabeth stared at the drone. A pink head? Tt entered her office, nodded, and greeted her.

    The woman jumped her desk and rushed to slam the door before she looked back at the drone. She walked back in front of it as it began to speak again.

    Dead for a month. It was confirmed. His partners didn't know his fate for certain when they reported in. She'd hoped that despite the odds, he'd just... show up one day. Text her phone and ask her to pick him up. Call her. Appear with a new name or something with some ridiculous reason again. Something.

    Instead... this.

    She remained calm as the creature continued with its message.

    Thessila's death made him realize his own mortality. Laughter, then tears that burned at him. She forgot for a moment it was a drone, and reached out to offer comfort, but stopped.

    She'd hear his whole message. No interruptions.

    Elizabeth stood before the thing and set a ring in front of her. Through the proxy, Martin, Balthazar, Arenzethir—whatever he wanted called now—proclaimed undying love for her.

    He declared it again and again, and each time, Elizabeth felt her shoulders fall.

    This really was the end of him, and he'd loved her.

    Yellow eyes closed, and she knelt to pick up the ring from the floor. Her hands shook, and she dropped it twice before she got a firm enough grip the place it on her desk before she could drop it again. Behind her, she knew Falren and Jerry were watching. Snot from held back tears kept her from scenting their reactions, but she could imagine them.

    Slowly, she forced herself to sit down behind her desk, and one hand wrapped around the ring.

    "Fen. Jer. Just... just so we're clear..."

    She didn't dare look back at them.

    "Just so we're clear, you two... aren't allowed to die... I don't think I can handle feeling this kind of... this kind of loss again."

    Speaking was a struggle. She felt like she couldn't breathe. She had to be strong, but Elizabeth wanted nothing more than to fall into her bed, cry, and be comforted. Unfortunately, her room was a long walk from here. She had a cot, certainly, but she wanted her own bed.

    She wanted to stay there for a week.

    Kels needed her to help with something tomorrow, and she had to help balance the budget for the craftsmen by midnight tonight. She'd also promised Rare that she'd get her out on a mission for a break from Crow. Then Poppy... Oh, she'd promised her daughter they'd all come together and watch a movie Poppy got them, and then play some board games.

    None of that included the rest of the files she had to update, the mission paperwork and assignments, and the shift-end meeting.

    The weight of duty weighed on her more heavily than it had in a long time.

    Martin's message... she'd have to come to terms with all of it later.

    A few slow, deep breaths. In. Out. In. Out.

    She dabbed her eyes and blew her nose, then stood. "Boys?" She looked back at the two finally. "I'll..." she trailed off, took another deep breath, then forced a smile she didn't feel. "I'll be fine."

    Her lie felt so heavy she wouldn't be able to move, but she carried that weight to the door as she pulled her hood up. "Falren, could you get me a mocha and some disgustingly sugary pastry from the kitchen? Jerry, if you could relay a message to Ygvaine for me, he's the current Speaker. Tell him that I'm going to take a few days off work starting tomorrow, and ask if he's willing to take on my jobs for that period. Can you remember that much? I'm going to write a note so you can remind yourself."

    She should have had Jerry get the donut and coffee and had Falren deliver the message, but Falren was better at picking what she'd like, and Ygvaine was patient enough to handle Jerry.

    Once her door was open, she returned to her desk and wrote the note for Jerry. "I'll be in here finishing up what I can. Tomorrow, I'd like to maybe find some sunny beach somewhere. I suddenly just..."

    Need a break? Need to escape? Don't want to think about how her attempt at protecting Martin by making him into her agent backfired spectacularly enough to get him killed?

    What if the same happened with Falren or Jerry?

    That thought froze her in the middle of writing.

    One death among her agents—among the people precious to her—was too many as it was.

    She loved him, too. She loved all three of her agents. She couldn't not.
     
  4. Despurration

    Spoiler
    "Fen? Fen, baby, don't talk like that. You're not—not dying. I won't allow it!" Her voice broke as she pulled Falren into her arms. Even now, the Tritine and Unifiers screamed as the stalkers devoured them. She'd stopped caring.

    For too long, she'd been alone. She had a daughter she couldn't be with most of the time. She had Hunters who came and went. The past century, she'd had Falren. Faithful and fierce and fantastic, and now he grew rapidly pale, despite her and Poppy's efforts.

    "Falren!" Poppy begged, "You aren't supposed to do this! No!"

    "P... Poppy, go get the medic. Hurry!"

    The girl fled, a tiny mercy Elizabeth could offer her as she gripped Falren's hand in one of hers. "Fen, we'll pull you through. Just don't fade on me. I still need you. You're my star agent, aren't you?"

    He didn't respond. She could feel his pulse, longer and longer between each beat.

    "Fen..."

    Her shoulders began to shake, visible despite her layers.

    "Vargo!" Elizabeth barked as she stared at Falren's cooling body. "Vargo, get up immediately! Give me the package I gave you for Rare!"

    Arms tight around the man, Elizabeth trembled. "Give me the knife!"

    Yellow eyes shot toward Vargo, and her hood fell away to reveal a frenzied and feral gaze. Wide eyes with pupils little more than lines stared at him, urging the golem to return what she'd once given him. "I need it! I need it more than Rare might! Give it here! Hurry, or I'll—I'll—! Damn it! Get up! Give me the knife!"
     
  5. Catrifices

    Spoiler

    She had the knife now.

    A quick order sent everyone else away as finally, that female soldier's lights went out. The shadows returned to her cloak.

    Elizabeth straddled Falren's body. A little bit of his blood and a little something extra would be enough.

    "It's ok, Fen. You failed me this time, but I trust you not to do it again. You get another chance. Just one, but it's more than most get." She trembled as she spoke, whether from emotions or cold, she wasn't sure, but that didn't matter. She gathered the edge of her cloak she'd used to stem his bleeding and wrung it onto the black-caked blade.

    The blood of Gerard Falren.

    The spell wasn't meant for him, but she'd ensure it would work.

    An incantation in an ancient dialect of greek slowly opened the magic to change. It would take significant additional power to enact, but she was prepared to offer it.

    She pierced her finger with a tooth and drew a pentagram on the blade's handle, and then a circle around the blade on the floor. Four circles on the floor outside connected to that circle with two lines each.

    A few more rings on the central circle invited higher stability, and she gathered objects from within her cloak.

    A clear crystal that sang with white power. A black orb. Those would cover most of the spell's needs. She found a wand next, and placed it into the third power conversion node.

    She was going to be short. She fixated some curved lines against the main circle's inner surface. Curves that radiated from the center came next, and helped to indicate to the spell where it should begin and end.

    Limited time...

    It absorbed the first three items entirely, and the fourth came a moment later.

    Falren woke suddenly. Wounds healed and body whole, and with Elizabeth laying atop him. He could feel the slow movements of her chest through her cloak as she slept, and beside him, a magic circle housed an unfamiliar silver dagger, half-melted and covered in black char.

    As she heard his heart, the woman slowly lifted her head and pushed her hood back.

    A new scar on her neck showed where she'd been grazed by Melissa's silver bullet. A paler patch of skin on her neck and part of her left cheek seemed utterly ignored by the feline as she smiled tiredly at Falren.

    "I can't bring you back a second time, so," she paused for breath, "You're not to die again, Fen. That's an... an order." The woman stroked his cheek. "Mine."
     
  6. Killing for a Meal
    NSFW Warning: abuse, explicit sexual content, body horror.

    Spoiler
    Through the window, a panting Poppy saw the bright colors of sunset. How there was a sunset when there wasn't a horizon, she didn't know or care—it was easier not to think about those things.

    Despite that, thoughts of the impossible sunset niggled at her mind. It was more than just a marking of the passage of daily time now—that the sun could be seen at all meant spring was nearing. She'd be able to travel again—to resume her search.

    Her gaze lowered from the window, and as her eyes adjusted to the dimness of the chill room, she watched the man who pinned her by her upper arms to the bed as he thrust himself into her. Sweat stood out on his forehead, and his drool dripped onto her breasts as his frantic and needy movements bounced them.

    Poppy couldn't remember how many men she'd let use her. Shame and hate renewed as she remembered that this one gave her his entire meal and his rationed seconds in exchange for a night of 'no holds barred'.

    He throbbed suddenly within her, and Poppy inhaled sharply.

    "Just remember, I already paid you." The man's voice was her only warning before he released one of her arms, and a thick hand slammed her half-swollen belly.

    The young woman's eyes widened as she felt bile rise in her throat. Her guts clenched, and she felt her bladder release. Her mouth formed a long 'O' as her body shuddered.

    "The-the baby—" She tried to curl herself to protect her belly, but the man held firm.

    "You agreed to this!"

    Poppy stilled and stared at the man with fear.

    "I'm going to kill that baby."

    "No—no, plea—!"

    His fist slammed against her again.

    Poppy felt bile again her throat, and her back arched as her body convulsed. Another hit turned her mouth and nose into brief geysers until a hand covered them.

    "Swallow! No refunds!"

    Everything burned. She couldn't breathe. She swallowed, and he released her, only to punch her belly again. More impacts left her jerking and twitching, and then she felt the man's weight shift away. He started to pull his cock from within her, but stopped.

    Poppy's vision slowly began to clear as she whimpered, and the man began to laugh.

    "Fucking freak," he accused as he punched her again, "You're enjoying this! You love having your baby killed! You cumming lots, I bet!"

    "No—!"

    "Your legs say you lie!" More punches.

    Tears and vomit stained Poppy's face as she prayed to whoever might listen that this would end soon. Pained convulsions rocked at her until she lost her bladder and her consciousness.

    The next morning, she flushed red down the toilet before she stepped into the springtime mud, every movement an agony. Her fully-buttoned shirt hid the expansive and dark murderous bruise. She lasted until she arrived at the nearest bridge before she collapsed in tears.

    Teal-clad soldiers rushed her to their outpost's infirmary.
     
    #26 The Mood is Write, May 8, 2017
    Last edited: May 8, 2017
  7. In response to Patch-Work's "Kibiira's Titan"
    Spoiler
    The relic, like a small square, lit up at her touch. The tip of the finger, just hardly touching the thing, seemed to resonate all the way through to her core. She felt it, like something within her finding commonality.

    That was when it finally happened. Her last moments in the waking world.

    In a moment far too fast to comprehend, it was gone. It was in her, and Kibiira's eyes widened with the feeling of overwhelming pressure all throughout. She felt like a light bulb, radiant with something overpowering and alien, before her wide eyes sunk shut as sleep overtook her without a whim of her own.

    The feeling of falling, falling within her own head, as if she could visibly watch the world disappear above her, leaving with it her perceptions and sense of self...

    A deeper sleep than any she may ever have.



    Her first sense of anything at all came not from the waking world, but the darkness. Something caught her, her decent had stopped somewhere between where she had fallen and where she was falling. Then, an embrace. Something soft stretching over her arms and legs.

    'I am Dream Maker. Who are you?'

    It came with no voice and no sound. Kibiira herself, unable to feel herself speaking, or hear her own words.

    "Kibiira."

    As the softness spread over her limbs, she began to feel... Whole again. This softness, mistaken to her mind as clothing, was what she could feel. This was no mere fabric to her, this was her body. The more that was made, the more she could feel herself.

    The longer it went on, the more lucid this dream began to feel. She was remembering herself and feeling more comfortable.

    "Am I dead?"

    'You are dreaming. I will help you sleep soundly, Kibiira.'

    As she began to feel this strange blackness stretching up her neck, Kibiira halted it.

    "Wait. Will I dream?"

    'You do not need to. I will keep you safe now... And sleep comfortably. Leave the dreams to me.'

    "But I want to dream..." The spread, nearly consuming her face, stopped again. More than that, a smile spread across her face. "I like to dream of wild things... And see what there is to see." The spread pulled away slightly, allowing her own face to remain. "And when I wake... I will have something interesting to tell."

    The Dream Maker stopped. A face loomed over her, seeing her smile. A being of primal forces that had its hand in shaping the place dreams go in the twilight of existence, found itself surprised by this corporeal being.

    It was more than her words. Looking down at Kibiira, he could see more than what her words told him. A will of fire, and endless curiosity. It could see more in her of how she dreamed and found it exceptionally... Worthy.

    It was going to let her sleep. A drifting unconscious ever peaceful, just the thing that happened to bring him forth. However... As odd as it was, she seemed more a kindred spirit than a simple mortal from the solid world.

    Instead, it decided there would be a compromise. It would meet her halfway, taking a true form and shape... And she would share herself with him. Together, but separate; A partner in the vastness. Her joyous being at her core, and his own agenda to coincide with hers.

    Together, a being of wanderlust, out to explore the world of dreams. She could coast along as she pleased, and it could fulfill its inherent purpose as watcher. Fifty percent of each... A compromise that seemed fair.

    A new sort of dreamer to be born.


    What If...
    Shitty previous version:

    Spoiler

    Kibiira was gone again. Aspa's emotions, for the first time in too long, completely overpowered what she felt from the others around her. Kibiira didn't even seem to realize this wasn't a dream.

    Aspa's legs gave out underneath her. Her throat, painfully tight, hurt.

    Kibiira was gone again, and worse, she knew the truth. Some creature was dragging her away, keeping her mind so fogged she couldn't tell dream from reality anymore. Seeing her here, after trying to pull her out with that spell, seeing how Kibiira didn't even know the difference—

    Pain radiated through Kibiira. Emptiness surrounded her. She didn't hear as Violi shouted for everyone to go away. She didn't notice him pick her up and steal Onawa's key from her. She didn't notice him throw her onto Onawa's room and lock himself in her.

    Her mind didn't register his arms tight around her.

    ⋯﴾﴿⋯

    "Well..." And wiped the remnants of tears from his eyes, then sniffed as he looked toward Onawa's invaded room, "I always wanted to be trapped underground with a person whose voice carries their emotions."

    Kina just sighed. "Let it be. I can get some sedatives from my room and use them on her... With Onawa's permission to enter her room." Her ever-present smile only covered part of her face, its attempts at meeting her eyes stopped by a deep flush and worry. "We need to start by figuring out how far that scream traveled and how many were—snf—affected."

    Drake, silent and almost entirely unnoticed, leaned his back against the wall. The large man trembled, fingers combed through his hair, gripping it by the root as he struggled through the wave of despair as it bounced through his head, kept within by his own depression. He breathed through clenched teeth as he struggled internally with the same urges he'd wrestled since the Great Devouring, but here, now, they felt so much stronger, like he should pursue his end actively rather than wait for it to come.

    A touch to his shoulder from Kina jerked his head up.

    "Dlake, give me youl daggel."

    A burst of irritation found the dagger through her offered hand. She hissed and withdrew, taking it with her, "Fffffuck you, Dlake..." The smile started to falter.


    REDO:
    Spoiler
    Kibiira was gone again. Aspa's emotions, for the first time in too long, completely overpowered what she felt from the others around her. Kibiira didn't even seem to realize this wasn't a dream.

    Aspa's legs gave out underneath her. Her throat, painfully tight, hurt.

    Kibiira was gone again, and worse, she knew the truth. Some creature was dragging her away, keeping her mind so fogged she couldn't tell dream from reality anymore. Seeing her here, after trying to pull her out with that spell, seeing how Kibiira didn't even know the difference—

    Pain radiated through Kibiira. Emptiness surrounded her. She didn't hear as Violi shouted for everyone to go away. She didn't notice him pick her up and steal Onawa's key from her. She didn't notice him throw her onto Onawa's room and lock himself in her.

    Her mind didn't register his arms tight around her.

    ⋯﴾﴿⋯

    Over the next week, Violi stayed with her. He slept when he could, but Aspa refused, alternating between silent trembling and wailing.

    Stuck in the only soundproof room in the compound, Violi struggled to support both himself and his partner emotionally. In a deep and shielded part of himself, he cursed Kibiira. Had she never clung so tightly to Aspa, his partner would never have gotten so attached—would never have gotten this hurt.

    "Aspa," he murmured for what felt like the millionth time, "Let me help you center."

    "No!"

    Her scream sent him onto his back. He gripped his chest as tears spilled and agony ripped through his body and soul.

    "Aspa," he groaned, "Let me... help you...!"

    "No!" She didn't scream this time, but her broken sob yanked his heart from his chest.

    Violi forced himself back up, then wrapped his arms tight around her from behind, even as she struggled and clawed at his arms. She hissed and pulled her neck back, as though she really were a snake ready to strike.

    For someone so small, she nearly pried herself free of the large male.

    "No!" Violi shouted. "No more!" His voice broke, and he sobbed. "No more. Aspa, please, please... No more. How... can I help you? How can I help you heal?" His shoulders shook as he clung to her, face buried against her neck.

    "I can't... take seeing you like this..."

    The female's tension and struggles eased as he realized part of the pain she felt was external. She stared forward through a half-shattered visor and thrust herself into Violi. She felt his emotions, felt the scars she left, and then quickly withdrew as she began to tremble.

    "Vi, I... hurt you?"

    "Shut up. I don't care about that." He sniffed loudly. "I don't. Just let me help."

    Aspa grew more silent as she closed her eyes. A loud sniff, and she wiped at her nose. "Keep... holding me," she finally requested.

    The blond nodded firmly and held her tighter in his thick arms.

    ⋯﴾﴿⋯

    The pair of Hunters emerged finally from Onawa's room, and after a few months, things seemed normal again.

    Aspa refused to sleep.

    Coffee. Espresso. Sugar. Energy drinks. She even got her hands on a wristband that woke her any time her pulse slowed a certain amount and shocked her if she didn't wake. Through her new visor, the only ones who could see her deprivation were those who knew she typically didn't slur or stumble.

    She avoided Violi and turned away from Onawa. She sidestepped And and pushed Kina from her path. Everyone was best avoided, in her mind as she struggled in self-imposed silence, fearful after she heard Drake had to be returned to HQ after he attacked his partner.

    Half a year went by.

    ⋯﴾﴿⋯

    Now or never.

    They were alone. Aspa straddled Kibiira's waist as she stared down at her with unfeeling eyes.

    "Wake up," she rasped. Voice unused in months, it carried her scarred emotions.

    "Wake up."

    Aspa's open palm struck the side of Kibiira's face as she whispered the plea again. She lacked the strength she once held.

    "Wake up!" Her voice rose in volume, and as one hand gripped the front of Kibiira's hospital gown, the other backhanded the woman.

    "Wake up! Wake up!" Her shouts carried her pain as she slapped Kibiira's face with each exclamation. Every slap echoed off the shower walls, harsher-sounding than they truly were.

    "Kibiira!" She shrieked as both hands grasped the front of the other woman's hospital gown. "Kibiira wake up! Wake up!"

    Her voice cracked and gave out, but she refused to stop. She took a deep breath, then yanked Kibiira's head up.

    "Wake up you... you... selfish brat! Wake up! I want Kibiira back! Give my Kibiira back!"

    She shook the sleeping woman firmly, then dropped her as she struggled to catch her breath.

    Face directly above the sleeping woman, Aspa felt hot tears begin to come. She thought she'd run out. As they fell onto her friend who chose fantasy over her, Aspa shuddered and let herself curl forward until her head rested on Kibiira's cheek.

    "I can't sleep. I'm too scared to sleep. I can't make myself eat. I struggle to drink water, and I don't... dare to speak. Can't you hear it? All the hurt? You chose... you chose a stupid muppet... Pokemon... thing over me. Over everyone." More tears fell as her grip on the gown tightened.

    "I hurt..."

    A sob ripped from her, followed by another. With every new sound that left her throat, Aspa's depression, betrayal, loneliness, hunger, fear, sadness, anger, love, hate, hurt—all of the confusing and conflicting and crippling emotions battered at the sleeping fortress, growing stronger as Aspa's voice did.

    She forced herself to sit back up, then yanked Kibiira up and shrieked with all the power in her lungs. "You are hurting me! You're hurting me and all you care about is a stupid! Fucking! Muppet!"

    Voice and emotions raw, Aspa panted as she stared down at Kibiira. Tears and snot left trails on her face.

    "If you don't wake up..." She hiccuped. "If you don't wake up... I don't think I can—"

    Aspa felt so weak. She couldn't keep her head up. With adrenaline gone and emotions vented, her strength gave out, and she let herself roll to the side, though her hands continued to go grasp Kibiira's garment. Sleep took her finally, but in her dream she only relived her pleas for Kibiira to wake, her mind locked into her own misery as, in her dreamscape, scars covered everything—each a moment when Kibiira's absence caused her pain.

    It was Aspa's turn to be unable to tell the difference between dreams and reality now.


    Continued by Patch-Work
    Wrap-up to Ease Moody's Obsession
    Spoiler
    Oh yeah~ I was gonna write up what was essentially the 'next' post but wasn't 100% sure how to go about it.

    I can say where I thought it would go, or at least some things I wanted to stress:

    So Aspa is now in the dreamscape. Permanently, trapped in her own nightmare.

    Kibiira arrives pretty much just on schedule to retrieve her to drag her along, though it is clear Aspa isn't having any of it.

    However, this time there is one difference: For once, Dream Maker takes notice.

    Normally he regarded all the 'real' people as if they weren't anything special.

    Even when it was apparent that they knew Kibiira, he never truly delved into it, figuring it was none of his business and had nothing to do with what he and Kibi were doing anyway.

    However this time he notices something odd; Aspa's connection to the waking world has been severed.

    It's enough to spark some curiosity in Dream Maker, to have someone who knows Kibiira to have such an oddity.

    From here, I figured there were a few ways it could go. But here's just one I'd subscribe to:

    Kibiira, just wanting to drag Aspa away with them to do their thing, is stopped for once as Dream Maker apparently is asking her questions. However, Kibii has zero sense of gravitas, so keeps trying to brush it off as unimportant by basically thinking out loud. "Hm? What? You want to ask Aspa something? Nevermind that, let's just go~" and "What is it Dream Maker? What could be so important that you want to stay in this dark place (Aspa's nightmare)?"

    Eventually, if Aspa could just clue into it or maybe a realization strikes her that Dream Maker has literally never acknowledged her before (Or, hey, both) then she too would eventually try to press the ever-dim Kibiira too.

    With both of them, Kibiira finally stops trying to get a move on long enough to relay a question to Aspa from Dream Maker: "He asking why you can't wake up anymore."

    At which point, given that Aspa can't verbally communicate with Dream Maker, she figures it might be better to just show the strange thing rather than tell and risk Kibiira losing patience and wanting to move on again (I imagine at this point she certainly 'has no love' for Kibiira as she is here, so to speak, hence why she isn't happy to see her like this in the dream).

    So, in what I'm sure would amount to a very emotional bleeding-heart kinda journey, Aspa takes Kibiira and Dream Maker down memory lane. Outwardly, she masks it as a sort of 'Do you remember when we did this, Kibiira?' while dream-Kibi basically just giggles and says something to the effect of 'Yes, that was fun' even if it's something that should probably make her cry (she seems so out of it that she feels little else other than dream-like ecstasy). Though, truly, she knows she is essentially doing this for Dream Maker.

    It is either now or at least soon that she begins to realize that Dream Maker is the more 'sane' one in their strange relationship, steering Kibiira while compromising with her wishes.

    By the end of it, I imagine it would end in heartbreak. Going through essentially the reasons she loves Kibiira and what she had come to mean to her along with the weight of losing her like this would probably weight very greatly on Aspa.

    Maybe she even breaks the ruse and directly pleads with Dream Maker.

    Kibiira, oblivious, would have a very "Hehe, what are you talking about?" but Dream Maker, though outwardly emotionless, has heard everything...

    He isn't stupid. However, he too has been rather blind in a way, naive in his own sense.

    He never even considered Kibiira's origins. When she activated the titan power and he emerged, he never took into consideration Kibiira's life. He originally just thought she was the one to wake him, and little more, but then chose to find this partnership as a compromise after looking inside her and being impressed by what he saw.

    Never once did he ever think that he might have been robbing someone of something precious.

    He comes to realize that he knows woefully little about the waking world, disregarding it all this time, but seeing what Aspa had to show he realizes there is more to it than he imagined, and that he had sort of robbed many people of a wonderful person without thinking.

    He is, of course, unable to answer Aspa and express any of this at all.

    Kibiira, finally deciding they had stayed here long enough, decides that it was time to move on now that the tour was over. Dream Maker, having said nothing to her yet (knowing she wouldn't understand him) finally speaks up, and tells Kibiira not to bring Aspa along this time.

    Kibiira, outwardly whining about it, agrees so long as they come back later.

    They leave Aspa all alone to go do their thing. At least, that's how it looks to her. Aspa is not sure if what she had shown at all got to Dream Maker or his thoughts. For all she knew, it was all for nothing.

    However, as Kibiira resumes her trip of wanderlust, Dream Maker silently takes the time to think of it all to himself...

    Time goes on. Exactly how long, I dunno; Enough to have Aspa hospitalized alongside Kibiira.

    But, eventually... Dream Maker, mind heavy with thought, decides to pull Kibiira aside.

    Given that they share all their time together, it is very rare for him to literally ask to stop and have a heart to heart. Kibiira, in particular, seems incapable of doing as such. Though, out of respect and thinking he has something fun in mind, stop where she is to listen to what Dream Maker has to say.

    Totally oblivious to what he has to share.

    His mind had been heavy with something like guilt. Not in that he felt bad about it, no. Moreso, the revelation that there were people he was unaware of that Kibiira was important to. He never saw those in the waking world this way before, like individual minds with their own will. Kibiira, in a way, had broken that notion for him. In her, he saw something... Wonderful. Something very warm and appealing, the kind of something he could agree to share the rest of eternity wandering the world of dreams alongside.

    Now though, he realized he wasn't the only one to see Kibiira this way. Indeed, it seemed obvious now that others might also have wanted her in their lives. Maybe some of them were not just little nothings as well, especially after seeing what Aspa had to show. She was such an integral part of Kibiira's life too, after all, yet he never did see that before or even consider it.

    He could repair Aspa's connection to the waking world... But what would that solve? It seemed a cruel thing to do without also letting Kibiira return to the waking world too.

    However, it wasn't so simple. Kibiira and him, they were one now. 50/50. She couldn't go back...

    Unless he was willing to back down.

    This was more than just a matter of reuniting friends... For once, selfishly, he had to think of himself. If he wanted to allow Kibiira to wake up again, he would have to lessen his influence. But, if he lessened his influence...

    He would slip away, somewhere into Kibiira's unconscious. His own free will as his own being, his own thoughts, and feelings, would effectively dissolve into Kibiira's. And just like that, he would be nothing.

    This was not just a choice of being kind... It was a personal sacrifice he wasn't expecting he'd ever have to make.

    Give up his own existence, and allow Kibiira to resume hers.

    In time, as the silence between them lingered, he finally spoke to her.

    'I never thought I'd be saying this. You and I, we have been partners the likes I could never have imagined.' he began.

    Kibiira just giggled. "Sure have. You're my huckleberry~" She cooed, smiling, oblivious to Dream Makers intentions.

    Dream Maker never thought about it much, but... He really had grown to love what Kibiira was. She really brightened up his existence in a way he never thought anything could, or that it was even something he would have ever wanted. It was that very reason, though, that he felt secure that he could do the right thing.

    'I had a lot of fun. But, I'm afraid... Our time chasing rainbows together is coming to a close.'

    Kibiira tilted her head, then smirked and giggled, flipping herself upside down. "What are you talking about Dream Maker? Aren't we after the same?"

    Dream maker, ever unmoving with his inhuman face, simply could speak.

    *'When we came together, I never imagined it would end up like this. Two drifters, we had become... Never lonely." He turned to her. He knew this was all going to go over her head. She was just too naive to understand the implications of what he said. That was okay though...

    'And I never will be. I'm going to go away, Kibiira. You will never hear my voice again. But I will still be with you, somewhere. I will forever be a hazy memory, forgotten as quickly as you forget your dreams.'

    Kibiira looked confused. "Hm? You're leaving?"

    'Yes, Kibiira. I am going to fix your friend Aspa's connection to the waking world... And then, you will wake up sometime after.'

    Kibiira frowned. "Aww... But I don't want to wake up. What about all the things we haven't seen?"

    Dream Maker just nodded its unusual head. 'You will have to see those places for me. Maybe bring your friend Aspa along.'

    Kibiira just seemed disappointed. Dream Maker knew, as she is now, it was impossible for her to understand what he meant. But, she didn't need to. This was the right thing to do, even if she would never know he did it.

    'It was fun Kibiira. Take care of yourself.'

    With that, he allowed himself to become lesser. Kibiira held the majority over the two of them now, and as soon as that balance was broken, everything Dream Maker was merged and dissipated with Kibiira. All his memories, all their adventures, he peacefully relinquished to allow Kibiira enough of herself back to wake back up in the world where she belonged.

    -Sometime later, in the real world-

    Kibiira finally stirred. She groaned weakly, the fatigue in her whole body so immense, like she slept for just way too long. She felt something near her, and by sheer force of habit, assumed it was Aspa. Before she could even lift her eyes yet, she mumbled. "... Nnn... Aspa... I had... The wildest dream..."

    HARDCUT!! There ya go.

    From here, basically, she retains her strange powers. BUT, and I have yet to decide which of the two ways I wanna do this: She has to relearn how to actually use them, OR she can ONLY do it in dreams and is just her regular self otherwise.

    Ya know how you rapidly forget dreams after you wake up? Often times, even if it feels fresh in your memory, you can recall just a little of it and usually not great detail? That's basically how she takes the entire thing. To her, she was just dreaming and none of it was real.

    Imagine her surprise to be informed she'd been out for who knows how long. xD

    She totally doesn't even remember Dream Maker. She can remember Aspa being there though, but that's pretty common in her dreams anyway.

    The only reason she knows it ever existed is because of the weird powers/suit and other people's accounts.

    I imagine Aspa, who'd wake up first, might have a spark of hope after realizing that 'There's no way I just woke up alone' and hog the bed beside Kibiira.

    After dealing with all the tears of people thinking she was gone too, of course. xD

    Anyway, get back to me on this! Hope you like it!
     
    #27 The Mood is Write, May 13, 2017
    Last edited: May 23, 2017
    • You Get a Cookie You Get a Cookie x 1
  8. Kitnapped
    Featuring: Poppy
    Possible Rarest of Sins spoilers.

    Spoiler
    Slow, deep breaths. Poppy should have been terrified and gibbering-useless, but being a mother and wife to firstborn meant only that she knew some things weren't worth the hassle of fear. Rather, she felt annoyance at this kidnapping.

    "Ya know..." she began, "Dis really ain't a smart idea, know what I mean? I 'ave a 'usband, two daugh'ers, a co-wife, an' parents who'll all be 'appy ta show yew 'ow stupid yew are."

    Her warning earned her a slap that jarred her mind and left her blinking and limp in her chair. Delicious iron in her mouth warned that she bit herself.

    "Well, we don't need to worry about two of those," a familiar voice spoke with a laugh from somewhere behind Poppy. The cat stiffened, and footsteps approached her. A hand gripped her shoulder tight. "Rare is preoccupied, and your mother was kind enough to send herself to hell just yesterday."

    "Liar!" Poppy screamed as she whipped around, trying to turn despite her restraints. She bit at the arm, but it was gone. Yellow eyes glared at the turncoat even as her throat tightened.

    "We have video," he said as he motioned to one side.

    Against her will, Poppy turned her head slowly to look.

    The looping video showed Elizabeth mid-charge at the camera, only to jerk back as a dark dot appeared between her eyes.

    The same two seconds played in slow motion again and again before Poppy's wide eyes.

    "Mum...?" Poppy never felt so helpless before. Her voice caught, and her eyes sought through the video for any sign that she might have seen it wrong. There had to be something! Her mother wouldn't just leave her like that! It wasn't possible! Her mother couldn't be killed so easily!

    "M... Mum...?"

    "I'll give you a few minutes, Miss Leauge."

    Poppy barely heard the man's words as he left, followed by his mooks as the ivory-haired woman stared at her mother's replaying death again and again.

    The door clicked shut, and the traitor shook his head. "Shame that's how far we have to go to convince her we aren't lying."

    "Can't be helped. Everyone from that backwards organization is too stubborn."

    The traitor glanced at the man beside him. "Is that so."

    "Not you, of course!"

    The traitor laughed and shook his head, and then his head hit a wall. A burn-scarred hand gripped him by the face, claws sunk into his skin.

    "I hear you have our daughter. My grandbabies have been asking for their mothers back, and their father is growing... irate." Her face looked feral, and her lengthened fangs gave her a growling lisp.

    "Be glad I got here before he did. He's even more vengeful than I am."
     
  9. In answer to Lurcolm's "Obsession"
    Spoiler
    "Carefully! Now use the smallest one to soften the inside, but don't make the teeth round! That doesn't help!"

    Martin was busy teaching his latest project, a Hunter by the name of Gus, the finer, very complicated art of gear filing. Where you hand filed your own gears instead of using machines like a lazy man.

    Gus was captured and tortured by some militia group in a mission he was sent to. He had a bad case of PTSD, even after a month with Alsoome. So he was sent to Martin, who had an eerily similar experience.

    His answer to the man was Obsession.

    "So uhh... Martin. What's your obsession?"

    "Hmmm?"

    "Well uhh... You told me obsessions are the things that make you get up out of bed every morning right?"

    "Yeah?"

    "Well what's yours?"

    Martin gave a smile, patting the man on the shoulder as he looked through a giant magnifying glass to keep his work accurate "Well, Councilman Leauge and Rare."

    "Really? Both?"

    "Yeah.... That was unexpected, though."

    "Really?"

    "Yup. Originally it was just Liz, but she allows me to... explore. That's how I met Rare."

    Gus gave a small nod, working at the gear. He tensed, cursing as he grabbed another circular disk of brass, tossing the other into the scrap heap for remelting

    "So what's their hook?" Gus started

    "Pardon?"

    "What's their hook? Why are they your obsessions?"

    Martin gave Gus a small smile "Well it's important to remember that they're different. You can't go comparing Liz to Rare, or Rare to Liz. That's just an insult to both of them."

    "No compare, got it."

    "And it's honestly not something I've thought about expressly. For Liz... I'd say it's her possessiveness of me. I'm her little ball of yarn and I'm perfectly happy being that. She also surprises me. Gave me new fancy bionics the other day."

    "Really?"

    "Yeah. She's also fucking hot. There's that too."

    "Amen."

    Martin gave Gus a glare. One he could feel without even needing to look

    "Okay. Let's get something straight. You touch these girls and I castrate you with a silver blade. Got it?"

    Gus gave a furious nod, cursing as he tossed another wasted gear "Got it."

    "You'll get used to it, the failures I mean. It's all the more satisfying if you get that perfect gear though."

    "Sure." Gus muttered, clearly not convinced "What's Councilman Leauge's best quality."

    "Hmmm." Martin furrowed his brow, then nodded "It's her protective nature. She may not look like it, but she can fawn over you like a mother bear. Makes you feel all wanted and shit."

    Gus gave a nod "She's a pretty feral looking gal. That a problem."

    "No sirree. That is most definitely not a problem. I get submissive moods where I like to be the prey, so to speak."

    Gus turned around and looked at Martin with an amused look. Martin replied with an unapologetic shrug

    "And Rare? What's Rare's deal?"

    "Cocaine."

    "What?"

    "She's cocaine."

    "What's cocaine?"

    Martin blinked at Gus, "What kind of world are you from"

    "Some guy called it Neolithic, why?"

    "No reason."

    "Okay.... Fuck!" Gus hissed, tossing another gear into the mix. He's clearly getting worked up by it. Maybe Martin shouldn't assume he's capable of it.

    Gus continued with another gear "What's cocaine mean?"

    "Simply put, I can't get enough of her. She brings out my possessive side, rather than my submissive side."

    "So you don't play a prey with her?"

    "I don't with Liz, either. Let's say it like this: I'm dominant when it comes to Rare, but Liz is dominant when it comes to me."

    "Ahh, okay."

    "Yeah, that's why you can't compare them."

    Gus nodded, tossing away another gear with a groan.

    "I learned it's easier to do the last bits in one movement, rather than a bunch of up-down movements."

    "I'll Try that. What's your favourite bodypart of both of them?"

    "Is this a quiz?"

    "I like talking about romance. It gives me hope."

    "Ahh... okay then... Best bodypart? For Liz I'd say it's her eyes."

    "Her eyes?"

    "She can send a shiver up your spine and make you want to run away all at once, just with a single hungry look"

    "Wow."

    "For Rare.... I'd say it's her face. Skin too."

    "Really?"

    "She looks like a princess."

    "Ahh, okay I get that."

    Martin looked at Gus, he was making good progress with the current gear.

    "What about personality? What's the best part?"

    "Hmmm. I'd say... with Liz it'd be her protectiveness of me. Admittedly she can be too protective at times, but I don't blame her."

    "And Rare?"

    "She's just.... I dunno, pure?"

    "Pure?" Gus turned to face Martin with a smirk

    "Okay yeah it's weird saying that, but it's true. She has this pure quality about her. She's always nice. Always. She never wants to bother people with her feelings, either. Liz does that too, but with her she does it so well that I legitimately don't notice."

    "Huh."

    "Yeah, they're similar like that."

    "Who's your favourite?"

    Martin blinked, looking at him with surprise

    "Well you gotta have a favourite, man. It's how it works."

    Martin shook his head "I don't choose favourites."

    "Why not?"

    "Because a favourite is just a way to hurt the non favourite."

    "Fair point."

    Martin sighed looking at the gear in it's full completion. He gave Gus a a pat on the back "Nineteen more to go!"

    "So who spends the most time with you?"

    "Rare. Liz tries, but she simply doesn't have the time. That and she has like three other guys.

    Gus turned towards him with surprise "Wait, you're mated with a girl who has three other guys?"

    "I try not to think about it."

    "Oh... sorry."

    "It's fine. It is what it is."

    "So I'm assuming you feel rare belongs to you more?"

    "Yeah, though I don't own her either." His face went a little melancholic at the thought.

    He didn't own any of them.

    "Damn, that's true. Forgot about Crow for a sec."

    "Damn isn't nearly the right world. Again, I try not to think about it."

    "I get it...."

    "Go ahead. I can tell you're itching for it."

    "Who's the best in bed?"

    "Rare." he stated, surprising himself with how quickly he answered that. "Liz if I'm feeling sub. I doubt I'd ever be able to not turn the tables on Rare if she goes dom."

    "I see....."

    "Ask."

    "Well... have you tried talking to Crow to g-"

    "Every day. I send a letter to his office every day to ask him to give Rare to me."

    "He's not biting, huh?"

    "Nope."

    "Damn."

    The two quickly fell silent, the conversation losing steam the more adept Gus became at the gear carving. Martin was glad for it, it was answers he liked to give. Answers without consequence.


    Drunk Reflection
    Takes place in Dzhed AU.

    Spoiler
    "When do you wish for us to reopen your portal, Councilman?"

    "I'll send a text," she muttered with a wave of her hand, "Remember, nobody is to follow me, not even one of my agents. They all have phones and my number."

    The portal mage frowned at Elizabeth's oddness, but said nothing aside from "Yes, Councilman."

    The portal opened to a noisy bar with a broken sign, and Elizabeth stepped through, then stood in place as she waited for the portal to close behind her before she walked into the bar and pulled down her hood.

    Seated at the bar, a man in a Hunter's coat looked over, only to choke mid-gulp from his pitcher.

    "C... Councilman!"

    He scrambled to his feet, knocking his stool over as he set down the drink and stared at her, then glanced around. "You uh... Ha... Ya found me." He reached up to scratch his head of scruffy yellow hair.

    "Stop scratching and order my drink, then sit with me." Elizabeth walked through the bar and took a seat in a distant booth.

    Soon enough, the blond man joined her, providing a pitcher each for her and himself, and a glass for her.

    "No snacks?"

    He opened his mouth to say something, then shut it before he finally spoke, "Out of money."

    "Here. Get enough of whatever's made of the most grease and regret that I double my weight." She slipped him a bill. "They can keep the tip. I'll give you some spending money after I'm done here."

    By the time the Hunter returned with not only a huge paper-lined bucket of fried 'cheese' sticks and two more pitchers, Elizabeth's first was half-emptied already.

    "I... uh... Councilman, is something... wrong?" The man spoke slowly, uncertain as he placed the bucket between them and took his seat.

    "Heavens no, what ever gave you that idea? I can assure you, it's probably similar to why you're here and not with your family, Ober."

    Ober stiffened, and a flash of anger crossed his face, but fear kept him in place.

    "What do you want."

    "To complain about being second-fiddle."

    Ober lifted his face to stare at her, and the glamour over his eyes faded to show quadruple iris-and-pupil in each eye. "Yeah?" He tried and failed to sound bored.

    Elizabeth sighed. "I had an agent—you haven't met this one—and he died. He fought the reapers to get reborn so he could come back to me because he was in love. Gave me a ring delivered a month after he died, and then showed up on HQ just... out of the blue, half his body missing and barking that he needed to be brought to me."

    "That sounds... like first fiddle, if you ask me." Ober scratched his stubbled cheek with one finger.

    "I'm not done yet, idiot." She chugged her next glass of beer before she scarfed one and a half cheese sticks, then aimed the half-eaten food at him, wagging it like a finger at a naughty child or puppy.

    "Anyways, he's gone all... Victorian gears-and-steam. Signs on as an examiner and sets up on a nice world where he can pass six months there to a few hours on HQ. Things are.... alright for a while. He gets lonely. I don't have a lot of time to visit him. I... told him he could invite people along, even sent some people to keep him company, but..."

    Ober frowned. "But what?" He noticed he was leaning forward and forced himself to sit back and take a drink.

    "He's been having Rare go with him. He's... I should have told him anyone but her."

    "No..." Ober's chest hurt, and he reached across to grasp her hand, full aware of Rare's addictive nature.

    "Yes—" her voice caught.

    "And he's...?"

    "He says she's his drug. I've... heard rumors he prefers her in bed over me. He won't name favorites, but... she gets years versus my hours." Her voice rose in pitch as she tried to restrain herself from crying. Her hands and shoulders shook as she forced herself to confront it at last.

    She'd told Martin that as long as it was her that he returned to, she wouldn't fault him for having other lovers.

    Now, she felt like his 'other lover', and like it was Rare he returned to.

    "I can't keep on like this... I just can't. It'd break his heart if I forbade him from Rare at his point, and I can't just... break off from him, not after..."

    A quiet sob.

    "I can't end a relationship if I still love him—" she lifted her head to find Ober gone.

    A moment later, thick, leather-clad arms wrapped around her and squeezed.

    The tears and sobbing came as she let Ober hug her, and he, in turn, let her indulge her drink and her snacks.

    "He's drif-... drifting away...!"

    Ober couldn't lie and tell her it would all be ok. He could only hold her tight and shield the sight of the woman from the rest of the bar.

    There was one thing he could say.

    "That... Cripes, Councilman, that's... one'a the worst feelins..."
     
  10. Sanctuary from Sin
    Based on the video called "Shelter".

    Spoiler
    Rare and Sinclair were loaded into their escape shuttle. It was a small vessel, only large enough for the two of them and what they'd need to survive. The calculations were perfect—assuming Bio and Sin were correct in their projections of the impact and its force.

    It was Bio's own idea to remain and buy the two time to escape. A series of fired projectiles slowed the impact, but Bio's screens flashed and alarms blared that it wasn't enough. A few squeezes to some triggers, and the sirens slowly quieted, and the screens settled back.

    A few glances between expected impact site and her screens assured the woman that the readings were correct.

    She just had to keep things going smoothly. With any luck, Sin and Rare would be off-world shortly, and one of the hundreds of thousands of shelters she constructed would hold well enough for the people within to survive.

    Mostly the construction of the things kept the people from panicking and getting into their way. Chances of any of the locals surviving were abysmal at best. Even giving her pince-nez to Sin didn't mean she'd make it, either, but someone had to manage the timing of the collision so he and Rare could get away. Of the three of them, Sin and Rare still had hopes. They had dreams and the will to live.

    Bio did not.

    She'd never tell Sin, but she realized long ago that even Sin hadn't saved her from being 'old'. She still waited for death. Waiting had become less unpleasant was all.

    A beeping caught her attention, and she pulled the trigger again. She was buying milliseconds at best as she held the trigger in place to work at counteracting the growing effect of gravity.

    Time seemed to slow as the alarms blared that impact was imminent. A countdown began, and Bio leaned back in her seat, hand still around the trigger.

    "Good luck," she murmured.

    The shockwave liquified her soft tissue.

    ⋯﴾﴿⋯

    Rare sat, asleep in the vessel made for two. Attached to life-sustaining machines, she slept with her hands in her lap and head bowed as a shockwave propelled the vessel from the gravity of the colliding planets behind.

    As it broke free and flew towards the nearest asteroid belt, where it could use the gravity of larger bodies to adjust its course according to an AI pilot, Rare's slumber grew deeper.

    ⋯﴾﴿⋯

    No new messages in 982,649 days, the screen informed as she woke on the bed from a time long distant. Its significance had faded with time, as had the weight of the memories in this place. She didn't bother trying to remember anymore because this had become her reality.

    Vaguely, she recalled V2 telling her that the lack of memories would help her through a long wait.

    After so long, it didn't bother her anymore.

    Whatever this place was, she never needed to bathe or brush her hair. She never needed to eat or drink. Nothing forced her to stay up or to sleep earlier than she wanted to, and her whims changed the world however she wished. The only urges she felt anymore where the urges to occupy herself, usually with books or waking dreams, where she and V2 explored a randomly-generated world.

    She idly browsed through the holoscreen for a few more moments before she sighed.

    "Miss Rare?"

    She looked up toward the newly-appeared holoscreen beside the bed. V2. Rare smiled at him and didn't need to say anything. V2 nodded, and the two began another adventure as her clothes changed for her into a comfortable and simple sundress and her jacket of pockets.

    Their adventures continued day after day. Sometimes, Rare requested rain and a book. Sometimes, she simply watched documentaries narrated by V2. Sometimes, she laid in bed, half-asleep and snuggling with a pillow.

    ⋯﴾﴿⋯

    Something landed on the girl's head. Its weight rested between her horns, and she extended her neck to feel it more firmly against herself. Her throat tightened, and tears formed as, instead of a pillow, she felt a hand from long ago.

    Pale brown eyes opened, expecting to see a man. Instead, only the wall of the bedroom.

    A curious hand lifted and found the offending pillow. Her eyes squeezed shut tightly, and grey eyes stared at her with the quiet intensity of a being beyond the cosmos.

    She opened her eyes quickly, then shook her head.

    Who was he?

    Elliot Sinclair.

    The name rang through her until her chest hurt.

    "Miss Rare?"

    She lifted her face and stared at Vargo, but... No, it wasn't Vargo. It was only a face on a screen, even if he looked like Vargo.

    Her breathing quickened, and then suddenly slowed. Consciousness faded, and then returned.

    Rare opened her eyes to stare at V2. She remembered now, Sinclair and Bio programming him together when they thought Rare wasn't paying attention. She remembered also other things—news broadcasts hastily turned off when Bio or Sin noticed her approaching.

    They thought it best Rare didn't worry about it. Sin spent time with her, doing those things she enjoyed—they went shopping, they spent lazy mornings together doing nothing, and they went for walks together. The pair read quietly in the company of each other and hunted for pretty rocks and shells at the beach.

    And when she noticed there were two 'moons' with one growing ever-larger and remaining visible during the day, they stopped going outside abruptly.

    One morning, as she was waking, she recalled the sensation of Sin's hand on the back of one of hers. He lifted and flipped her hand, and she felt a needle pierce her wrist.

    Her eyes opened to the sight of Sin withdrawing an emptied syringe from her wrist.

    "Sleep."

    And she did, despite her resistance and willpower.

    Her memories played out around her in this place she lived, just like they played in her mind, giving a strange doubled experience.

    "Miss Rare?" V2 queried.

    Her hands formed the signs as she stared down at the bed. Sin's bed from his apartment in Cork City.

    "WHERE-OTHER-PEOPLE?"

    V2 didn't answer.
     
  11. In answer to Lurcolm's "Obsession" and my "Drunk Reflection"
    This is more of a mini-RP.

    Spoiler

    VeilofRain - Today at 1:38 AM
    I can more easily imagine Falren being a little pissed at Liz now though.
    "Ya fucked... that!?"

    ~*~

    The Mood is Write - Today at 1:51 AM
    Liz counters with a bitter "Don't remind me," after that incident. And then a rant.

    "He used to be so sweet. Even a little charming back when he was a Hunter. He had this childish facade he pulled to hide his weakness, and I thought it was so cute. I bossed him around a little and he liked it. I thought things would be OK when he came back but he's even more broken than ever and... I'm done. I'm just done. I can't handle loving someone who doesn't love me back!"

    She wipes at her eyes, then reaches for Falren's hand. "I wish I wasn't like this, always loving too much and wanting to fix everything..."

    ~*~

    VeilofRain - Today at 1:56 AM
    Falren sighs and smiles at her. "It's okay Liz. You can't fix everything. But I wouldn't ask ya to change, not ever."

    That very night she finds the note about him leaving.

    Fieldset
    Dear Kittles,

    I love ya. Don't ever doubt that, but I'm not just mortal, I'm human. Never thought of myself as sensitive, but as it turns out, I can't live with loving ya and having you need to love others. Jerry and the others'll stick around. They've proven to be good men, better men than me. They'll make up for me, I promise.

    Too selfish to share, but always in love,
    Fen


    The paper is stained with two tear drops that somehow fell just right to sort of form a heart in the paper. A corner is burned from a cigar he had smoked and dropped from his lips mid writing. Speckles of ash leave dark streaks over where he tried to wipe them away with his hand.

    ~*~

    The Mood is Write - Today at 2:06 AM
    Liz doesn't go to work for a week. She leaves a note on her office door that she's taking time off, but doesn't say why or how long. She stays in her room, alone, reading and rereading the note, and sometimes she stops and screams at the door that she should try being homosexual. She throws things, she breaks things. Sometimes she just lays on the bed crying. Sometimes she drinks herself stupid, but she doesn't chase Falren. She wants to, so badly. She wants him back, but she also respects his choices enough to force herself to try to 'get over it' and 'move on'.

    Another week, she's barely functional, but she manages to get out of bed, get dressed, eat something, and distract herself on her phone for several hours. She can't bring herself to care enough about work even though she's heard the pounding at her door and other Councilmen yelling at her through it.

    After two months, she emerges. She seems like she's pulled herself together, and asks Jerry to keep an eye out for Poppy and go with her for a while. She kisses him goodbye, then goes to the portal room in the admin hall and texts Sin,
    Sinner
    I need to ask a favor of you. Help me find Falren. Please.
    ~*~

    VeilofRain - Today at 2:13 AM
    Sin sighs and turns to look at Falren who is smoking a cigar while stroking a white cat. They stare out into the horizon, which is a collection of planets and stars, too close to be safe without Sin. Sinclair takes a slow drag of his own smoke, and lets out a glowing vapor.

    "What's her name again?" Sinclair asks, not mentioning the text.

    "Eliza. Eliza Bethany." Falren doesn't even look at Sinclair.

    "A bit on the nose isn't it?"

    "You think so too? Well, it was that or Yuki-onna."

    "An ice demon?"

    "She was all white alright? Better than snowflake."

    "True. Well, do you miss her?"

    "Every damn moment. Like my heart's been ripped out."

    Sinclair doesn't look at Falren or saying anything. He just holds out the phone until Falren takes it. Falren reads the message. Over and over and over again, before a single tear creeps through the wrinkles on his face. He sighs and chucks the phone into the vast ocean before them.

    "She'll get over it." Falren tries to sound cold, but Sinclair can hear the trembling in his words.

    Sinclair says nothing and just takes another puff of his smoke.

    "How's Rare?"

    Sinclair doesn't say anything, just shrugs.

    "It's easier for her to be alone."

    "For her or you? Ain't you got that addiction?"

    "Hn? No. I'm fond of Rare, but... addiction is dangerous for me. If I was... she wouldn't be gone right now."

    "Makes sense," Falren mutters and sits back, slumping in his seat a little. He begins petting Eliza a little harder than he means to.

    "I miss her," Falren says.

    "I know."

    "Should I go see her?"

    "Not my choice."

    "Yer a useless sod, you know that."

    Sin just sighs.

    "Yuki-onna was what I called Liz when I first found her. Just a cat, I thought. Never thought I'd be recruited for some interdimensional bullshit."

    "Do you regret it?" Sin asks, but he feels like he knows the answer.

    "Not a damn second."

    Sinclair pulls out another phone, it has the same message, as if he had never lost the first one.

    "What're you doing?" Falren asks.

    "Preventing you from becoming me," Sinclair says and responds to Liz one word.
    Elizabeth Leauge
    Why?
    ~*~

    The Mood is Write - Today at 2:19 AM
    Sinner
    He's my Falren. I want him back by my side where he belongs! I miss him.
    Sinner
    I love him.
    Sinner
    I just want to wrap my arms around him and hold him, even if he only lets me do it for a few seconds. I miss his scent and his love and his words and kisses and his silly nicknames and how he somehow learns more about me than I even know but he still loves me somehow even knowing all he does about me.
    Sinner
    Please, just help me find him. Even if he runs away again, I want to see him again. I waited because I wanted to respect his wishes but I'm too greedy for that and I can't stand it anymore. It hurts just as bad now as when I found his note. I'm willing to do anything. Please help me find Fen.
    The texts come in rapid succession, in a blur of stream-of-consciousness as she trembles in the portal room, unable to cry because the mages are watching her, waiting for her orders.

    ~*~

    VeilofRain - Today at 2:37 AM
    Falren is the one holding the phone, just watching the messages come quickly. Each time the phone goes off he feels his chest tighten just a bit. Falren begins to type into the phone. He types out: I love you.

    Falren stares at it, and wants nothing more than to send it. He doesn't though, just goes back to her messages.

    "Afraid it won't work out if she tries to change herself for you?"

    Falren doesn't say anything, just sits there, clenching the phone for dear life before he nods slowly. He hates that Sin knows this, but Sin was the only one from his past he spoke to.

    "She misses you enough. Not the others, but you. I won't call her actions mistakes, but you can you accept that she might just be able to love you and just you?"

    "I want to." The answer comes from Falren faster than Sin expected. The words rushed together as much as he had rushed to say it before Sin's breath had finished.

    "I wasn't supposed to be like this. Love. It was never important. Work was important."

    "I'm not judging you."

    "I know you're not! I just... damn it, Sin. Yer an ass." Falren pinches the bridge of his nose. Eliza Bethany hops from his lap and looks up at him, mewling.

    "What about Eliza?" Falren uses the cat to deflect the conversation.

    "I can take care of that."

    Falren erases his message and types something else. It's just coordinates, but it's coordinates to the place they met. The pound where he had found her again once. Now, he would find her there again.

    "We gotta go," Falren says as he stands up. Sin sighs and pockets the phone as he stands.

    Falren doesn't plan on fixing everything, but a chance to talk might help a lot.

    "I hope she won't mind the fake leg," Falren says and taps the material below his pants.

    "I'm sure if you tell her it was consumed by a Djerbra when you were trying to save a universe, she'll understand. Besides, your replacement is nearly done being synthesized." Sin sounds so bored, but Falren is just happy to get the chance to see Liz.
     
  12. Nothing but Politics
    Inspired by conversations between VeilofRain and I and Lurcolm and I, a variety of songs, and my late night urges.
    A prequel to the roleplay "The Tyrogian War".

    Spoiler
    Elizabeth sat alone in her office.

    Jerry was off on an 'adventure' with Poppy. Ortega was on a mission with Rare and Vargo. Martin was the only one she couldn't send away, because his PTSD kept the poor child HQ-bound, but she'd given him plenty of errands. Bril was helping Kels with some tricky paperwork. Seela was on a mission with her new partner... Richard, Elizabeth thought his name was. He was stone-based, and she felt pretty sure his nickname was 'Rocky'. Kyoko was on a scouting mission, Beela was with her as a diplomancer, and Elphel, sweet foolish thing, was on a mission with his own partner.

    Ygvaine was having a meeting along with the rest of the Day shift. Crow was on one of his vacations.

    Elizabeth forced a deep breath and told herself that sending everyone away was for the best, though she longed for rough and familiar fingers to stroke her hairline, just behind the ear. She could feel it, and her neck arched habitually.

    A coarse voice and the sweet smell of tobacco led her into Falren's arms as the man lifted her from her seat and held her by hand and waist.

    "Mind if I take this dance?"

    She loved the Cork City native's accent, and began to purr as he hummed an off-key little number and danced a few steps with her as her smile grew.

    Falren took advantage of a dip to turn on the old radio, with its singular functional station, and his mustache spread with his grin as a song they both hated came on, and their dance ended in laughter as both hurried to try and turn the damned thing off, only to fall over the other. Even in her heavy robes, Falren didn't complain about her weight as she laid across him, robes tangled with his coat and arms.

    They untangled themselves, and their laughter continued, slower and interspersed with lighthearted accusations until their lips pressed together.

    "Fen," she groaned against his lips.

    "Councilman?"

    Her brows furrowed.

    She felt a shift in light in front of her face, and cracked her eyes open. Alsoome stared down at her. The most gentle and trustworthy male on headquarters reeked of worry as he propped her up and held her favorite mug from his collection to her lips.

    Elizabeth sipped the warm liquid. Catnip, cream, and a few other flavors teased her tongue as her eyes roamed the infirmary. Martin stood nearby, hyperventilating as he stared at her with that strange and obsessive intensity he got at some point when he was under Unifier control.

    Where were the others? Why was she in the infirmary?

    Where was Falren? They'd just been dancing and laughing and kissi—

    As her eyes rested on Martin, she remembered.

    Falren left because... she slept with Martin. She'd told him about it, and she'd apologized when she smelled the shift in his emotions, but he was gone with only a note left behind the next morning—a note that said he didn't think he was enough for her, that he loved her, but he was leaving.

    It hurt. It felt painful, but she loved him, and she let him go, because that was what you did when you loved someone—you respected their wishes. You tried to make them happy.

    A pang of loneliness forced her eyes shut to block out her tears.

    "Don't think about that, Elizabeth. Just drink. It will help you regain some of your strength," Alsoome urged, and she obeyed until the tea was gone before she allowed the doctor to lay her back against a pillow.

    So tired. Her body felt heavy.

    "Al?" Her voice had no strength.

    He closed his eyes, then opened them after a moment and looked into hers. "You've been poisoned. Kina found you on the floor in your office. You weren't breathing."

    His voice was quiet, but she heard every word clearly.

    He explained that the poison was slow-acting, and he could try to clear it from her system, but she should have come to him when the symptoms first began.

    "I didn't... feel any...?" She frowned thoughtfully. So out of breath, the Councilman squinted as her breaths came in slow pants.

    "You said it was a cold," Martin blurted. "Told... Told told told me not to worry-worry-worry-worry..."

    A sharp glance stopped him, and he forced himself to take a deep breath.

    Elizabeth returned her attention to Alsoome. "Do what you can, please. At some point, I'd like... privacy for..." It was hard to get enough breath to say it, but she forced it. "Phone call."

    Martin, crazed and broken as he was, took samples—skin, hair, and blood. Alsoome consulted some ancient notes and compared them between each other. The lack of space in the shaman's tiny office soon sent Martin to another room to work his investigation.

    Elizabeth faded in and out of consciousness. Each time she woke, she noticed she felt smaller, and her body felt unnaturally heavier. Alsoome fed her tea and soft foods that went down her throat easily. His teas lifted some of the weight from her body, but Martin's sample-taking left her so incredibly tired.

    Finally, she woke not long after Martin scurried away to his studies. There were a few patients in the office, but Elizabeth felt a strange peace and a familiar compulsion.

    This time, she gave in.

    So calm, she dragged fingers across her phone screen until she came to her contacts.

    An asterisk kept certain numbers grouped together in her contact list. Her eyes glanced between two of those names, and she slid Sinner's name to the right, then directed the fall of her arm toward her head. Her phone in hand, both fell beside her ear.

    "Hello, Sinclair." She paused for breath, her voice quiet and slurred. "Falren is... with you, yes? Could you... put him on? Please don't let him hang up..."

    After a moment, she heard the familiar sound of Falren's breathing on the other end. Too quiet for a human to have heard the difference, it brought a smile to Elizabeth's face.

    "Hey, baby," she murmured. "I just... missed you. Tried to be good. Tried to..." She trailed off. "If you love them, let them go, you know...? I'm not... gonna force you back, don't... don't worry." She had to pause for breath often as she spoke, and her mouth refused to cooperate fully, but she tried to keep going.

    She had to keep going.

    "I just wanted to tell... I love you. I've missed you. It's been... painful without you... How have you been...? Sin taking good... good care of you for me? I... had a feeling you'd maybe... be with him."

    Her voice trailed off, and her eyes slid shut as she listened for an answer.

    Even if he didn't give it, the sound of his breathing was enough. It soothed her heart to hear it—to have some contact with him.

    When the call ended, Alsoome helped her hang up, then guided her hand to deposit the phone back into its pocket, and she slipped back into dreams and unconsciousness.

    Falren returned. He comforted her, and the weight of her weakness fell away as she told him all the 'I love you's she couldn't since he left and before.

    In the eternal waiting room, she requested one simple thing.

    "I want to watch over a few young ones for a time, if I may?"

    Jerriko watched her, then nodded. "Of course. Think about them and look out the window."

    "Thank you." She smiled and stood. Her legs carried her to the window, and she looked down as her mind drifted to thoughts of her daughter. She was with Jerry. Jerry would keep her safe as long as they stayed together.

    They didn't know yet. Jerry would find out when he returned—all of her agents would. Alsoome would tell them, and would relay her post-mortem wishes to them.

    She watched Alsoome take the pulse of her body, and thoughts drifted to what she asked him to tell the others.

    She viewed her office, where her will rested in a large brown envelope atop her desk. Secured with red string and a wax seal, it was addressed 'For Councilman Ygvaine's Eyes Only'.

    Ygvaine, who she requested all her agents answer to, should they wish to continue serving. Ygvaine, who guessed at her child's existence, and left toys for little Poppy, and occasionally asked after her.

    Only now did she realize what that look in his eye had meant.

    He had a child, too.

    She felt a throb of fondness in her chest. In a way, he felt like he could have been her brother now that she realized that.

    Ygvaine would protect and care for Elizabeth's beloved agents. He would ensure Jerry bathed and ate. He would help with Martin's continued recovery from his horrible PTSD. He would tell Falren gently, if Falren ever came back. He'd keep Poppy secret, he'd be fair with Bril despite her being a former Unifier.

    Rare and Kyoko would be able to take care of themselves, even if Ygvaine couldn't help them because of silly office politics.

    Kels would help, if he asked her. She mentioned it in her will. Sweet little Kels, who looked so young and tiny, and slept so much, but her intelligence and ability to take her time meant she was a clear-thinker. Elizabeth didn't trust her with secrets, but she trusted her to keep a clear head and to remind Ygvaine to control his immolating anger.

    Seela was the only one not mentioned in her will, but her former partner, Faust, was. She explained Faust was taken against his will and forced to serve the Unifiers like Martin had. She urged Ygvaine to be merciful if Faust was encountered. She told him how Faust had turned a blind eye when she and her coterie was on their way to the end point of a mission, and he refused to fight against them.

    She didn't mention that he was the one who broke Poppy's leg so long ago.

    Poppy had forgiven him, and that was enough for Elizabeth.

    She let her mind wander, and with it, the view in the window wandered as well. She knew that only one person knew of her passing so far, but looking out so calmly at everyone, she felt her worries for them ease.

    If anything went awry and she was needed, Vargo and Poppy each had a method to bring her back, though she doubted it would be needed. Her role felt finished.

    The woman's attention turned toward Falren one last time. "Keep loving me," she whispered, "But don't be afraid to heal and love someone else, too. It might be me again, if I'm lucky."

    "I think I can arrange that," Jerriko offered.

    Her answer was a bemused "I'd like that. Can I keep my curls?"

    The man chuckled, and Elizabeth walked to the door of rebirth, and then through it and into the warmth of a mother's womb, where memories faded to nothing as her soul released its ties to her past lives.
     
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  13. Carry On
    Mini-RP of a possible after-story to "Nothing but Politics".
    Warning: MANY FEELS.

    Spoiler
    The Mood is Write
    After Martin took Elizabeth's body and many years passed, Crow and Poppy resurrected Elizabeth. Her most recent incarnation, a first grader, was killed by the spell. Elizabeth woke in a temple dedicated to her, and discovered that Martin had used his biomancy to change himself into a giant insectoid creature, create a massive empire, and wage war against Council and Unifiers both.

    Elizabeth stopped Martin, at a heavy cost to her mental well-being, and ended the war. She went home and called Sin again. She recited her message for a half hour in front of the mirror beforehand.

    "Hello, Sin. Sorry to bother you as a way to contact Fen again, but... Could you tell him that there is an old lady back home who has just ended a catastrophic war and would like nothing more than to see him again?" Even though she recited everything prior, she began to ramble as her nervousness grew. "Oh, hell. I want to see everyone. Could you help me arrange a reunion that doesn't involve world-shattering shenanigans? Maybe a cookout at a beach? If you can help arrange a location and figure out a good setup for seating and things for people to do, I'll plan the meal. We should have everyone bring a side dish or desert to pass. The main course can be a dozen pit-roasted pigs. Maybe some chickens for those who don't like pork. Maybe some beach volleyball. We should tell everyone to bring swimsuits—and make sure it's safe to go into the water. I—Maybe it'd be better to just reserve a restaurant's event room for all of us?"

    She paused. "Sorry, I should have thought more about what to say before I called. I'm... happy to be back home, and I miss everyone badly... Especially Fen." Her voice caught as she spoke her favorite agent's nickname, and she realized she'd given the man at the other end all of no time to even verify that he was Sin, and that the number hadn't been recycled to someone else, or that she didn't remember the number wrong.
    VeilofRain
    Sin listened to Elizabeth and sighed as he looked to the woman beside him. Felicie's eyes peered up at him, concern clear in her features. It had been a long time since the two of them had spoken to anyone else. Their lives had taken a strange turn, and in the worst of it, it seemed only Felicie could truly stand by Sin. Still, that was not the worst of it. Sinclair took a deep breath and looked out at the nothing.

    "A reunion sounds fine... but-" Sin then paused and explained that Falren died. Sinclair made up some grand story about how he died bravely. In truth, dark beings which had been awakened threatened everything. They tried to consume everything through the collective concept of the dreamscape. The only way to stop them ultimately was to trap them in Falren's mind and erase it. Falren was alive, but his memories of everything were burned away.

    When Sinclair was done explaining he just said "I'll see what I can do," before he hung up without waiting for her response.
    The Mood is Write
    Falren. Dead.

    It didn't seem possible, after all he'd been through.

    Elizabeth's first instinct was to follow him, but Sin said he'd see what he could do. Whether he meant the plans that she rattled off that suddenly no longer mattered or about Falren, she didn't know. The lack of knowing gave her the strength to take the secret pathway from her office to her bedroom. It smelled of Crow and Poppy both, but she ignored that as she entered her bedroom at the end of the long and winding hall.

    She walked to her bed and collapsed onto it beside a bundle of white fur, and her arms wrapped around her abruptly-awakened daughter.

    "Smells like Mum," Poppy mumbled as she began to purr, and Elizabeth purred in kind, until both of them drifted into sleep.

    When Liz woke, her daughter's fur was wet with tears for Falren, and her own forehead and hairline were damp with Poppy's spit from the kitten's attempts at comforting her at some point.

    "Mum...? This a dream?"

    Elizabeth ran her hand along her daughter's soft fur as she answered, "No, young cat. Mama's here."

    She couldn't follow Falren to reincarnation yet. She had responsibilities and other loved ones.

    As Poppy began to purr and snuggle against her, Elizabeth murmured quiet reassurances to her.

    It was time to be strong again. It was time to take her place among the Council again. It was time to protect people, and this time, she decided she'd stop taking in every stray she found. Last time she did, her decision not to put Martin out of his crazed misery led only to pain.

    Her pity cost her Falren. Twice.

    Her pity cost her the ability to be there when her daughter needed her badly enough to bring the death of her most recent reincarnation.

    Her pity cost her a beating heart and hundreds of reincarnations. It cost her the chance to live, to love, to care, to protect—she was fortunate to have a second chance at all, though Falren didn't have a 'backup plan' to have his own second chance—for them as a couple to have a second chance.

    Her chest hurt, and she held her daughter tighter.

    "I'm sorry I didn't come home sooner, Poppy," she whispered. "I won't let myself die off so easily again. I'll stay here, where I can take care of you, and Jerry, and Bril, and Rare, and Kyo..." she trailed off, wanting to add another name, but how could she take care of someone who wasn't there, and dead besides? Her throat tightened.

    "Promise?"

    Elizabeth nodded as she buried her face into her daughter's fur. She refused to let Sin's words over the phone bring her any hope for seeing Falren again as the man she knew. That would only hurt more.

    It was time to do as the English always did—drink and carry on. The saying was actually 'drink tea', but she was sick of tea right now.
    VeilofRain
    "Where are the secrets? Everything. Is this not the Sinner's somnus?" The dark ones looked around, the strange tentacles writhing and curling.

    "Sorry boys. Just lil ol me." Falren turned in his swivel chair, grinning as he sucked on a cigar. The dark ones angrily curled around him, roaring and hissing and threatening him. Falren just closed his eyes and thought of Liz, and none of their tendrils were able to touch him.

    "Thanks, Love. Protectin' me even here. Looks like I had one last show in me." Falren closed his eyes and sat in a dream/memory of Elizabeth in his arms, her own wrapped around him as the world burned around him. His memories were taken away, killing the somnus and the dark beings.
     
  14. Continued Longing
    Continued from "Carry On"

    Spoiler
    Two years passed since Elizabeth learned of Falren's death. It started to hurt less, but the pain remained a dull ache that tormented her when she laid alone in bed at night, unable to sleep because she had to have that last cup of coffee.

    Her newest unhealthy addiction.

    Her body could only barely digest it. It tasted disgusting. It kept her awake to get her work done, though, which gave her a distraction and the opportunity to vent her protective urges by sending Hunters to do that which she couldn't directly.

    She forced herself to remain detached, to never accompany on a mission. She heard of other failed missions like Cork City, but hardened her heart against them.

    She couldn't afford to let her pity and care make her choices for her—not anymore.

    Yes, she saved Falren once from a life of being the only survivor in a world that had no idea why he survived but nobody else did, but she also, through offering herself to someone else, sent him to his death. In the same emotional decision, she prolonged Martin's suffering, paved the way to her own death, started a war against her own people that they couldn't win, and so much more.

    One decision could cause so much suffering.

    With her hood raised, she cast aside her emotions as she sat behind her desk, then paused and looked up.

    Had she forgotten to lock her office door?

    A pregnant female sat on the other side of the desk, head dropped forward. Elizabeth fought the urge to throw a 'baby fit' over the incoming bundle and regarded the female carefully.

    By the fit of the coat, she could tell the female was a Trainer. Were they even capable of breeding? It seemed so.

    "Yes?" Elizabeth asked after a moment, too curious to scold the female for entering when she was asleep.

    The Trainer jumped, then lifted her head, eyes wide.

    Elizabeth gave her a moment, then prompted again. "What's your name? Is there something you need?"

    "Ah—" she gulped, then forced herself to answer. "Hundra. My name is Hundra," she answered, "I... was wondering if you know anyone willing to adopt a baby." Hundra looked away. Her sorrow reached Elizabeth's nose as the feline watched her.

    "Who is the father?"

    "Another Trainer. Named Puma. We were cold one night and—"

    "Any remarkable family history?"

    Hundra remained quiet for a moment as her cheeks reddened, unable to look Elizabeth in the face. The scents of pride and shame mingled from the female.

    "Well?"

    "Puma's a feline... Don't know much else. Named by Al. I'm—" she cut off. "I'm... hoping my family history will... will encourage you to find a good family for the baby."

    Cold chills ran up Elizabeth's spine. "Spit it out." Her eyes narrowed, suspicious.

    "Falren. Falren is... is my great-great grandfather."

    Elizabeth became still. The familiar pull in her chest urged her to adopt the child herself immediately, but the darkness of her hood reminded her to keep distant.

    Silence extended between them, and Elizabeth watched the trainer squirm.

    Finally, the Councilman spoke again. "Ask again in a month. It's another two before the delivery, I assume?"

    Hundra jerked erect in her seat. "Yes, Councilman!"

    Only after Hundra left did Elizabeth let herself slump. She walked to the door and locked it before she turned to rest her back against it. Slowly, she slid down to sit on the floor. Her throat tightened, and a sob tore at her throat, the sensation as painful as the hurt in her chest at the idea of a descendant of Falren in need. That the unborn child was from two Trainers concerned her even more—Trainers weren't equipped for children, she felt certain.

    Trainers were the ones who didn't perform well enough on the Hunter exams.

    They were the ones capable, but unworthy. Despite their weaknesses, they performed an important role.

    She had a month to decide what to do, but for now, she let slip ragged sobs and tears.

    ⋯﴾﴿⋯

    "Must he do that?"

    "Hm?"

    "He's pulling faces at me."

    "For having the interests you do, you're rubbish at knowing how to deal with children." Under her hood, a half-smile tugged at Elizabeth's lips as she let her gaze leave the management paperwork she and Crow were discussing.

    The little boy, nicknamed Juni, short for Junior, short for Gerard Falren Jr., used three fingers from each hand to stretch out his lips and made bitey gestures at Crow. Little white teeth clacked together.

    "That's just how little boys are, Crow." Her eyes crinkled as she kept her gaze on the naughty child. "Juni, come sit in my lap. You can show Creepy Uncle Crow how good you are at helping me with work."

    Crow sighed, then turned to look at the runed door before he looked back at Elizabeth. "So, I see this one is doing well. How's your older one?"

    "She's doing well. Right now, she and Jerry are doing a bit of shopping, looking for nice clothes for themselves and Juni." She rested a scarred hand on the little boy's head and stroked his hair. "He's growing faster than Poppy did when she was his age. I half think he's going to get as tall as Vargo."

    "And he's...?" Crow scowled, though it was concern that her nose found.

    "Human. I've never had to chase a shadow off him."

    The tengu nodded and sat back as he watched Juni reach for one of Elizabeth's pens.

    She let the boy have it, then gave him a pale yellow sheet of paper to scribble on. Yellow meant he could scribble. White meant it was important and scribbling it would make mommy rip out her hair.

    "And his namesake?"

    Elizabeth paused mid-reach for the file she and Crow had been consulting.

    "Still heard nothing, then."

    She took up the file and threw herself into reading it aloud to herself, opting against answering. She let Crow draw his own conclusions as the hand on Juni's head moved down to the boy's shoulder and squeezed it, reminding herself that she at least had the ability to watch over and protect one of his descendants.
     
    #34 The Mood is Write, Jun 26, 2017
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2017
  15. Chocolate Chip Chat
    A further continuation from "Continued Longing"

    Spoiler
    The Mood is Write
    Also my brain has been tormenting itself with the Lonely Liz AU. Specifically her blaming herself, Poppy trying to contact Sin about why her "mum always smells sad even when she's laughing", Liz eventually texting Sin with coordinates and "Rare and Vargo are there on a simple mission. Should take just a few hours to complete. You have seventeen months before Crow gets back and notices what I did. Have fun and don't end any worlds." and "I figured she might like to see you, since I found her cuddling that old sweater yesterday."
    VeilofRain
    Sin sighed and decided he probably shouldn't go to see Rare. Instead, he sent Liz coordinates in return. No words, just coordinates for her to arrive at.

    With a bit of apprehension he went to the place where Falren was just sitting, fishing on the side of a coast. Cigar between his lips, gun on the table beside him along with his badge.

    Sin waited for Liz to arrive.

    Falren still had no memories of his old life, but Sin set him up with a new one where he could do what he did best. Falren adapted well, but the man had a strange affection for white cats and dark-skinned women. He didn't look for love—no—Sinclair had witnessed relationships try and fail because something always held him back.

    --When/if Liz arrives--

    Sinclair watched Liz. Knowing she saw Falren, he placed a hand upon her shoulder. Sinclair paused to explain to her the truth of what happened, and how Falren sacrificed himself to save everyone.

    Sinclair told her a little about his new life, and how the man is more constant than anything he had seen. Always dedicated to being a warrior. Sinclair avoided telling her about how Falren seems incapable of loving anyone else, that sometimes he's haunted by dreams he can't remember, but he mutters her name.

    Somehow, Sin knew Liz carved herself into more than just Falren's head, but he wanted to let Liz decide what to do.

    So, finally, after he gave her only what he felt she needed to know, he released her with only one line: "I brought this if you need an ice breaker." He held a fishing rod and a tackle box.
    The Mood is Write
    Elizabeth stared at Falren—a man she thought was dead, and then slowly looked toward Sin, expression lost and confused as he explained the truth. It made her chest hurt, knowing Falren remembered nothing, but she took the offered rod and tackle once Sin released her shoulder.

    "Thanks," she managed in a choked voice. She already knew she wasn't going to turn away from Falren now. She was too selfish.

    Too greedy.

    She swallowed the lump in her throat, then kissed Sin's cheek. "Go see Rare," she urged with a small smile. "She's lonely for you, and relationships between people are important."

    She didn't give him time to answer as she trotted toward Falren, unable to tear her eyes from him. The Councilman knew it would be painful to be aware he remembered nothing, but part of her felt elated for a chance to be near him at all. There was hope that they could enjoy each other's company again, and that was enough.

    Elizabeth slowed to a walk as she came nearer to the detective, then brushed off her robes and pulled down the hood. She'd lost weight, grown paler, and her fingertips always trembled. Her hair wasn't as thick as the last time they met—it had gone slightly limp, and her piercing yellow eyes looked tired. She didn't fret, though—he wouldn't know she'd been any nicer-looking before. She was old, anyway, and stopped wearing makeup months ago because it didn't feel worth the effort.

    "You look like you know what you're doing," she began, "I don't suppose a pretty young man could help me figure out this fishing business?"

    Her smile refused to fade or lessen as her eyeteeth popped over her lower lip; the woman tried in vain to contain her eagerness, but it slipped out as easily as her fangs.
    VeilofRain
    Falren just turned to her, quirking a brow. For a moment, his gaze raked over her, surprised by her robes. It looked too hot to wear something like that. She looked a bit worn, as if she had traveled far to come to this point. Worst of all, his heart skipped a beat looking at her.

    "If ya want a pretty young man to teach ya fishing you gotta go across the island to the rooks that think they know a thing or two. If ya want tuh learn from a seasoned old fart like me, come take a seat." Falren stood up and put his rod into a pole buried in the ground. It held the rod while he walked over to his jeep and returned with another fold-out chair. Falren plopped it down beside his.

    "By the way... do I know ya from somewhere?" Falren asks, though he didn't seem convinced by his own question.

    Sinclair watched them from a distance for a bit longer. With the eyes blessed to him by Bio, he read Falren as best he could, detecting new anomalies in his mind. Among them, traces of something that shouldn't be. Well, Liz deserved some happiness for a bit.

    Once more Sin looked to his phone and read the coordinates for Rare and Vargo. If they were on a mission, it was probably best if he waited. Knowing him, he would turn that one mission into a grand war.
    The Mood is Write
    She let him go on like he wasn't speaking to an ancient immortal, then sat beside him. His question made her own heart skip a beat, and it took all her willpower not to answer 'yes' immediately.

    He didn't remember, and she didn't want to drive him away by confusing him. She didn't know if he could regain his memories, or if it was just an echo that would haunt him similarly to how Jerry struggled with the ability to track a conversation.

    A moment or two passed before she managed to come up with an answer: "In an infinite multiverse, anything is possible."

    She wouldn't lie to him, she decided, but that didn't mean she had to break him with shock or confusion. She knew he could handle incredible strain, but for now, she wanted to enjoy his companionship.

    "Let's leave it at that for now, hm? My name is Elizabeth Leauge. I like poppies and the color blue, and I have a soft spot for grizzly detectives who think they're old." Her eyes narrowed with a smile as she watched him, uncaring for how it deepened her crow's feet. "Mind if I slip into something a bit lighter before you teach me how to wave a rod around the right way?"

    Oh hell, she realized, she was already flirting with him. Elizabeth intended to start slow, but here she was, too childishly excited.

    Her winter robes were too heavy for this, though. HQ was only just starting to warm after mating season, and she was ill-prepared for a coastal fishing trip.
    VeilofRain
    Falren quirked his brow at her strange explanation for having possibly known him. It didn't really matter, she was right. He shrugged and sat himself back down as she introduced herself, telling him a bit more than he needed to know. Her flirtations didn't go unnoticed, and admittedly, he felt a bit flattered for the first time in a long time. Her smile was somehow brighter than the sun. A strange urge to kiss every wrinkle that bothered her welled up and vanished like a ghost's whisper; a feeling that was too fleeting for him to grasp.

    "Mind it? Recommend it."

    Falren didn't flirt back. A part of him wanted to, but he had been down this road plenty of times so far. Love didn't work for him. He wasn't in the mood for a tryst. Not out here, where he wanted to relax for the first time in a long time. He didn't need this woman getting attached, but he wouldn't mind a little company. Just for a little while.
    The Mood is Write
    Elizabeth rose, then unhooked her outer cloak and spun it before settling it back onto her shoulders. She'd have to detangle it later, but for now, as it settled into place, the entirety of the full-body garment shrank away into a stylish black blazer over her dark blue sweater vest and pale yellow blouse. She removed the blazer, then used crossed arms over her middle to pull off the vest, only to pause with it halfway up when she felt the breeze on her belly.

    Her cheeks reddened, and she glanced toward the man. "Could you tug my blouse down a little?"

    Once she was settled with significantly fewer layers, she reached for the pole Sin gave her, then looked it over.

    "So, how do I use this?"


    It could have ended there, but it got stuck in my head, and I had to add more.

    Spoiler
    Once Elizabeth was settled in to her fishing lesson with Falren, it didn't take long for the cat to being purring. Unable to stop it, she simply paid attention to him and asked questions when she didn't understand something.

    Finally, both had their lines in the water, and she looked to the man. Her purr didn't stop, but grew subtly louder as she simply watched his face. She wanted to flop into his lap and tell him to 'deal with it', but kept to the seat he provided her.

    He didn't know her. The lack of flirtation in response to her attempt told her he wasn't looking for that right now. Sinclair's mention of a lack of luck in love likely meant Falren was going to hold back.

    If he was interested in her at all, of course.

    That thought turned her face from him and toward her rod. Her throat tightened and choked away the purr. Rapid blinks fought tears, but she said nothing of the thoughts that sliced so cleanly through the balm.

    "So," she started, then cleared her throat, "I introduced myself. What should I call you, young man? Tell me about yourself." Even to her own ears, her voice sounded thick.

    ⋯﴾﴿⋯

    The sun began to set.

    It was time to go home, but Elizabeth didn't notice. She'd calmed since her arrival, and seemed content just to be near Falren.

    Once upon a time, the man stood at her side through countless struggles to protect the multiverse. He was her agent and love, and she called him her own. He was the father to her daughter, and the namesake and ancestor to her adopted son.

    Even without memories, he was so like the man she knew that a sense of comfort nestled around her shoulders as she continued to remain near him.

    Despite being fully awake and aware of her surroundings with ears, nose, and hands on her fishing rod, her closed eyes and quiet purr gave an obvious tell of feline trust and contentment.

    From the silence, she hummed briefly in preparation to speak, then glanced toward Falren with half-lidded eyes, more to see if he was paying attention than from being disturbed.

    "So, how often do you come here, FeN—!" she began, but a chime and a vibration from her jacket pocket cut her off as she jumped. She hadn't meant to say her old nickname for him. Another chime, and a third, and she started to dig through her pockets for the "Damned phone!"

    "Who would be texting me, I told everyone I was taking the—" she cut off as the screen lit and half-blinded her. Quick adjustments dimmed it, and she looked toward Falren after she caught sight of the name.

    "Sorry. It's my daughter. I'd better see what she wants." She sighed wearily, then put her phone back and reeled in. "Excuse me."

    A few strides away, she unlocked her phone to read the messages, then sent one back:
    Mum
    Thank you, Poppy. Yes, please put Juni to bed for me and read him a story. I'm not sure when I'll be home.
    Mum
    If you get a chance, please ask Crow if he'll cover for me, in case I'm not back in time for work tomorrow. I'll make it up to him, of course.
    Mum
    I'll be home when I can, but it shouldn't be more than a couple hours.
    She didn't expect to stay the night. In fact, she thought her time with Falren would be over shortly.

    A text came back from Poppy, and then another, and more.
    Poppy
    You're not out drinking again?
    Poppy
    You promised you wouldn't go out getting wasted anymore.
    Poppy
    NO DRINKING
    Poppy
    Not even stuff that doesn't do anything to you!
    Poppy
    NO DRINKING
    Poppy
    NO DRINKING
    Poppy
    NO DRINKING
    Poppy
    NO DRINKING
    Elizabeth winced at each chime. "Young cat, I'm going to spay you with an ice cream scoop!" she hissed through her teeth as she wrote a response.
    Mum
    No drinking. I'm being good. Stop spamming my phone. I'm trying to talk with someone. Emergencies only, young cat!
    Poppy
    OK Mum
    The Councilman sighed and waited a moment for any other messages, then stuffed her phone back into her pocket as she returned to Falren. "Sorry about that. She's trying to tell me it's past my bedtime and she's going to ground me," she explained, only half-joking.

    "Actually, she just wanted to scold me a little and ask if she should go ahead and tuck little Juni in, since it's past his bedtime."
     
    #35 The Mood is Write, Jun 29, 2017
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2017
  16. Lessons in Blood

    Spoiler
    Crow was vacationing.

    Rare planned to be naughty. Vargo didn't think it wise, but to Rare, it seemed all too necessary.

    He kept his teaching books in the Pink Room. A bit of spying over the past few years led her to the location when Crow was teaching Kyoko, and now, Rare stood before the door.

    So long spent on missions for Elizabeth and in the company of certain individuals made her realize how she hated the password Crow gave her to enter the Pink Room.

    Still, she had no choice. Her right hand formed an L, and she used its thumb to slide down her nose twice in her name sign: L-doll.

    She wasn't a doll. Shouldn't be a doll. Her eyes and ears burned with shame at using that ancient namesign, but she refused to let that slow her. The door opened, and she stepped into the room and held the door. A silent glance requested for Vargo to warn her, should anyone come snooping, and then she withdrew into the hated room.

    The moment the door shut, the slender girl began to shake as she sought out the books.

    Last time she was in this room, the bed was strewn with her innards, and a beast planted its seed inside of her, as its voice within her head threatened to overwrite her personhood entirely—to destroy her individuality.

    Just before she'd broken, Crow unleashed Vargo on the creature.

    Rare's memory fell into a blank during Vargo's rampage, after he turned his attention onto her still-lusting body.

    When she recovered, the first thing she remembered was Crow looking down at her as she huddled against the back of the bed. His quiet chuckle clung to her mind as she shook her head to force the vivid memory from her present mind.

    She was here for the books. One in particular.

    One trembling hand reached for the wardrobe.

    It stopped short as she reminded herself that Vargo was outside, not locked into the horrible furniture.

    Vargo was outside.

    She reminded herself once more before her hand found the strength to grasp the handle, and twice more before she pulled.

    A shape within stopped her heart, but as she finished opening the first door, the shape became nothing more than a dress.

    She shoved pale arms through and between the greyscale dresses within, then pushed them apart. A trick panel opened as she pushed it upward, then held it firmly as she eyed the blade on its underside. Slowly, she drew out the first book. Elemental magic. Without guidance, it was useless. The only one who could use it well thanks to the externally-based sources was Kyoko, because of her innate air-based magic, though she was far enough removed from her heritage that it didn't make much difference.

    The next book, golemancy, would be useful. She could increase her understanding of Vargo, if the systems were compatible. She put it with the elemental book to be returned—she couldn't afford to be greedy. To be caught with one book was better than to be caught with multiple.

    She began to search more quickly as she realized how much time was passing, until she reached the book she needed finally.

    It was written by Crow himself, the magic developed by him. He and she were the only practitioners aside from anyone she taught who used it.

    She knew each of them—their faces, their hopes, their dreams, their names, and why they wanted to learn. For some, it was curiosity. For others, it was a way to fight when they had no other strengths. For some it was a matter of recording knowledge and history.

    There was one person who she didn't get to teach yet, but his crazy life and hers often gave them no time for lessons when they met.

    Besides that, every time she reminded him that she still had to teach him on a parting, they met again. It was like a lucky charm. Until she could teach him, they would keep meeting.

    But now, her limited magic was preventing her from keeping up. She was slowing down their effectiveness during fights, and that... that was unacceptable. She had more blood magic to learn, and Crow would never teach her unless she became what he wanted.

    Fuck. That.

    Rare's pride refused to allow her to be sidelined. Her hands itched as she placed the book beside the others, and began to load them back into the compartment, their order the same. Once loaded, she slid shut the door and picked up her prize.

    She spread the dresses back as they had been, using her memory to adjust each wrinkle and fold to perfection before she closed the wardrobe.

    Book clasped against her chest, she forced a deep breath, then slid it into a pocket and hurried to the door. Arms and legs burned and itched. She felt the temperature of her flesh rise as she stumbled toward the door.

    Vision blurred, and she toppled near the door.

    Unless Kyoko came, Crow would discover her in this place...

    Rare woke with blood on her fingers and limbs and coat. The room around her smelled of herbs and tea, and something heavy restrained her arms and legs. Her eyes opened and roved until they spotted Vargo above her, holding her down with care. Al was near, tending to a patient. Brock sat in a chair against the wall, watching her with worry. Bruises marked him as freshly-returned from a mission.

    Elizabeth's voice came from just out of sight.

    "She's awake? Good."

    The Councilman's voice sounded so cold, it was easy to forget that Elizabeth was her ally and more.

    "Rare, your first punishment for snooping in the hall of offices and putting yourself into this state is to kowtow to each person currently present in this infirmary and apologize for wasting their time. After that, report to my office."
     
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  17. Ribbons and Rain

    Spoiler

    Rare's back hit a wall as the burn of silver spread through her shoulder. Sweat fell into her face as she grit her teeth and blinked away her pain in silence. Gunfire and shouts surrounded the leather-clad Hunter.
    ~*~
    "Rare. War is coming."

    The warning turned Rare's stomach. The egg in her hand stopped short of the edge of the bowl.

    "It's the Unifiers," Elizabeth added quietly. "And they have new weapons against us."

    Rare stared into the bowl, then placed the egg gently beside it. She turned to look at her superior.

    Elizabeth's hood covered her face with impenetrable shadow—she didn't want to show weakness.

    "You're going to fight," Rare said after a few moments watching the hooded figure, "And you're going to ask me to look after Falren for you."

    A sharp inhale from under the masking shadow verified Rare's assumption.

    "I can't."

    "You what?"
    ~*~
    Rare's legs, so thin, held up her weight admirably despite how they shook. When he arrived, she didn't know, but Brock tied cloth around her arm, the knot turned inward to apply pressure to the wound directly.

    "Miss Rare," he cupped her face briefly with one hand, then allowed his hand to fall away. "You should get to Al."

    Rare shook her head. With the worst of the initial pain gone, she could focus again.

    Her grip on her daggers tightened, and she forced a smile for Brock, lids narrowed in subtle challenge—'make me'.
    ~*~
    Fear kept Rare silent about the coming war to her family, even as Elizabeth kept her updated.

    "Tech level four world. The natives, they're eager to help us, but we don't have the manpower, based on recent intel," she said once. Another time, it was "They have new toys. We can't find the world spirit. Our spies came back unable to recall who they were and what they were doi—."

    "And my sister?" Rare interrupted that time.

    "Among them. Taylor is working on removing the bindings."
    ~*~
    Fleet feet in tall heels charged toward the nearest Unifier, weaving side to side as she used her inhuman strength to her advantage.

    She rammed into the firing soldier and heard bones shatter under the force of her own skull and horns. Her ears rang as dizziness brought near-heaving.

    "Got your six!" a voice shouted from the side, and a streak of shadow solidified into Kina, standing atop a Unifier's neck.

    "Your left!" Brock this time. His fist tore through the chest of a soldier, and Rare spotted someone aiming at him.

    He was hers! Her dagger found the soldier's neck, and the weapon dropped. Kina's next shout of 'got your six' came from somewhere further off as the strange Hunter, assumed so dim-witted, preserved the lives of her comrades against Unifier ambushes.
    ~*~
    "The Council is too stubborn! We could have had an army of allies if we just gave in and handed over those three traitors from the dungeon. Three criminals in exchange for an army a hundred times the size of ours!"

    Rare sighed wearily. Their private discussions were becoming more common as Elizabeth grew more distraught.

    "Please, Rare, I need to fight, but you don't have to. Watch over the rest of the family for me."

    "I can't. I need to fight for our family, too." Rare looked toward Elizabeth. "For all of them. Valiant, Penelepe, Sin, Poppy, Felicie... Ozy, too. Falren and Jerry, Vargo—the more I hear, the more I know."

    "What will you tell them?"

    "I don't know." Rare closed her eyes.

    "If we tell Sin, who knows what will happen," Liz murmured.

    "Have more faith in him. He's a good man—passionate."

    "That's what I'm worried about. He's too impulsive!"

    "To be fair, mother-in-law, we all are." Rare changed the subject. "How are you telling Falren?"

    Elizabeth fell silent.

    Moments passed, and Rare frowned. "Coward."

    Elizabeth's glare snapped toward Rare, and she snarled as she lunged at the smaller woman.
    ~*~
    A feline scream tore through the air.

    "They have a Councilman!" The shout of alarm traveled quickly, and Rare knew immediately which one.

    Elizabeth. Rare started in the direction of the cat's howl.

    "Miss Rare!?" Brock broke his opponent's nose into her skull and followed after the slender woman.
    ~*~
    Despite her accusations of cowardice toward Elizabeth, looking at Sin and the rest of the family at the dinner table, knowing what she did of the war, she couldn't make the words come out. Elizabeth's pointed glance as Rare cleaned up the dishes from the meal felt like an icy javelin.

    She reached for the last dish on the table, and a hand caught her wrist.

    "Tell us."
    ~*~
    Elizabeth hung limp between Rare and Brock. Rare held the key card in her mouth, but they had to get to safety before they could free Elizabeth from the shackles.

    They ducked behind a massive, fallen tree, and Rare shoved the card into every slot of the full-arm shackles, and then the neck shackle, and the one around Elizabeth's forehead.

    Elizabeth's eyes stared forward, unfocused. Despite fresh burns on her own hands, Rare slapped the Councilman's face with a tiny whimper. She could smell Brock's confusion, but she'd have to explain later.

    Right now, the grandmother of her children needed care.
    ~*~
    "The Hunters are going to war. Unifiers are making a move against several of our weaker allies."

    Rare's explanation was simplified. It didn't include the politics that left Hunters entrapped in a war with multiple fronts in multiple universes.

    "Elizabeth and I plan to go fight."
    ~*~
    Elizabeth coughed and sputtered as Brock poured half his canteen onto her face. Yellow eyes refused to focus.

    Rare snapped her fingers, and Elizabeth turned her head to stare at her, uncomprehending as Rare signed to her.

    The Councilman didn't even react to the sound of Martin in the distance, screaming her name as he tried to find her atop an animal of his own creation.

    Instead of speaking, Elizabeth meowed at Rare, inquisitive. Ribbons bound Elizabeth's neck, arms, and torso. The sharpest scissors could do nothing against this new Unifier weapon.

    Rare swallowed, then looked toward Brock sharply. She signed Elizabeth's namesign, to, and then the sign for Taylor the tailor. Her throat and hands burned as she gave the order.

    Brock stared in shock.

    Rare motioned for him to go before she peeked over top of the ridge, then she lunged back into the fight, trusting him to get moving.

    She could do it herself. She just had to fight her way through and meet up with the infiltration group. Once they did, they could take down the shields and get supply and communication lines back up.
    ~*~
    "Why?"

    "Mamamama! Why? Why you going away?" The girls clambered from their seats and threw themselves at Rare as Poppy stared, mouth fallen open.

    "You'll come back safe?" Poppy asked, "Both of you?"

    Elizabeth inhaled sharply, ready to disagree with her daughter, to doubtlessly say they couldn't predict who would live or who would die, but Rare spoke first.

    "We're both too selfish to be martyrs, and I was hoping Daddy and Ozy could help a little bit with some of the other battlefronts."

    Elizabeth pursed her lips—this wasn't what they agreed on.

    "Y'didn't answer the girls. Ah ain't agreein' ta shit without hearin' an answer." Ozy, late to dinner, entered the dining room with a scowl.
    ~*~
    With many more horns, spikes along her back and limbs, a bladed tail, lengthened spine, and changed colorations, the female demon lunged forward and spun. Rare's tail sliced deep, and she clawed her way over several Unifiers' bodies.

    She turned as she heard clicking nearby.

    Fire-pain sticks pointed at one of her creatures. Worse, her creature held the black-clad and white-haired figure she admired.

    Her tail shot toward Brock, and with a spin, she flung him behind a pile of Unifier corpses.

    The demon's movements were too slow. Too tired. Two years too tired.

    A rain of silver meant for Brock directed itself at Rare.
    ~*~
    Rare looked down to the girls, and then smiled. "Love."

    She knelt and hugged her babies. "Mama wants to keep you safe, because she loves you."
     
    #37 The Mood is Write, Jul 2, 2017
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2017
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  18. A Familiar Stranger's Question
    A little drabble where I wanted to explore Elizabeth's feelings on interpersonal relationships.

    Spoiler
    The question stunned Elizabeth. The tall woman pursed her lips after a moment, then held up a finger to indicate she needed a moment to process.

    She was a cat, who operated on instinct and emotion.

    Sinclair was a man, but most of that was only appearances and self-induced limitations. She'd known him long enough to realize by now that his emotions were those of a being outside of mortal comprehension. The barrier was easily forgotten due to his human appearance, but now, it seemed he had taken notice of it.

    Or at least, he'd decided to ask about it.

    She forced herself to remember that he was a creature of curiosity as she pondered how best to answer. Giving him an improper answer might lead to later difficulties.

    "It sounds like you're becoming more human, in an emotional sense." She kept eye-contact, letting him read her expression with that stony and eternal stare of his. It unnerved her when they first met, and for many encounters between them afterwards. Now, she saw it for what it was—a desire to observe, with a curiosity borne of the most frightening love she'd ever witnessed in her life, but to her, it had become just how her son-in-law was.

    It still tickled her, being able to call someone her son.

    "I told you before, didn't I? At the beach. Relationships between people are important. Friendships, romances, alliances, rivalries, family—the heart needs them."

    She sipped her catnip latte with a purr as she watched the melting feline-shaped solid creamer melt into the hot liquid.

    "The heart needs to know that there are people who want to make an effort to understand it. Without that, existence becomes lonely and..."

    Her purr grew louder, switching frequencies to the same she'd used when she felt pain. Her gaze shifted away—remembering the past as her eyes and lips tightened.

    "It becomes physically painful. As someone with experience, it feels like you're dying of poison. Worse, actually."

    The woman lifted her cup for another sip, and when she set it down, she asked, "Does that answer your question? Hopefully I didn't mangle the answer too badly. It can be difficult to translate instinct into words."

    Her eyes narrowed as her smile returned, warm and maternal. "If you have any other questions for me, you don't have to hesitate to ask."

    It took a moment, but she realized her mistake, and then that it wasn't so bad—she'd not promised to answer them all.
     
  19. Isolation's Destruction
    Sequel to "Killing for a Meal"
    Takes place in the Shattered AU
    NSFW Warning: abuse, asphyxiation, explicit sexual content

    Spoiler
    Poppy pretended to sleep as she listened. There was nothing else she could do. Beside her on the bed, the man who said he'd stay with her forever plowed another woman—one that claimed she was an eighteen year old virgin.

    "Ah—how... how much longer?" the other woman asked breathlessly, "How much—AH!—longer until we can be together without being a secret?"

    "Right now, love." he crooned. "We're leaving tonight."

    Poppy laid still as she felt his fat, clumsy hands pry her ring off, and she grunted, then rolled onto her side, facing away from them as she heard them fall silent before continuing.

    She'd known this day would come. She'd known since day one, when he pulled this same move on her. He proposed to her while she was beneath him, and they never had a true ceremony, but he'd introduced her to people as his wife.

    Poppy knew.

    From the first time he used her as nothing but a place to put his seed, to the first time he slapped her into a concussion, to the day he began to use her body less to satisfy herself, she knew that there was nothing truly binding them together.

    Desperation made her agree to anything he wanted.

    She'd whored herself for him. She'd tried embarrassing and painful fetishes he wanted to put her through. Anything to keep his interest, and now it was gone. Her efforts went entirely into keeping silent and unmoving until the two finished. She waited through their painful cuddling, and then as they dressed and packed and left.

    Just like she'd done with him four months ago.

    Once they were gone, Poppy couldn't hold back. The first sob was sandpaper in her throat, and the next was gravel. Her body trembled as she curled up as tiny as she could, and the scent of the man's betrayal filled the room.

    This wasn't the first time. Just the most recent. She lost count of how many times she gave herself to a man in hopes of having someone stay with her and fend off her loneliness. Anyone would do. She couldn't find her mother or father. She couldn't find her friends.

    The Hunters were extinct. She didn't know which incarnation of BC Corp would be friendly. Most of the life forms in the multiverse were dead. She had no clues that would lead her to anyone she knew.

    She clung to whoever offered attention.

    She clung despite knowing it'd end in tears.

    And when morning came, she packed her belongings before she could be kicked from the hotel room. She stumbled from the door and into the arms of a strange man, and the cycle began anew when he asked her, "Why the tears, pretty girl?"

    ⋯﴾﴿⋯

    "Let's have some fun," Jonathan, a former farm boy, crooned as he ran a hand through Poppy's hair and pushed her down, until she knelt between his legs. "Gimmie a BJ while we wait for the bus?"

    A slight edge to his tone was all the threat she needed as she sank to her knees and began to eagerly rub her cheeks against his crotch. "Yeah," she murmured as she shot an adoring and desperate glance upward, "Anythin' yew want, Johnny."

    This close, he smelled like sweat, and the strong scent of his pee clung to him still from his last trip to the bathroom. At least this one washed himself regularly, though—no massive collection of smegma he wanted her to clean with her tongue.

    She sniffed audibly through his trousers, as though too eager to start to get the cloth out of the way before she began, and then deft fingers untied the lacing and pulled the cloth down and away.

    Already half-stiffened, his cock bowed under its own weight. It was a massive thing, too big to get rock-hard, but big enough that most women avoided him. He was her newest meal ticket, and he knew how desperate she was to fill her stomach and ward off her loneliness.

    One of her hands found his balls, and the other his shaft as she rubbed her face against it. "My fave-ooooorite cock," she lied as she licked it from base to tip. His hand in her hair pushed her to his balls.

    The wire-like hair pricked at her as his shaft leaned heavily against her face, but she eagerly pulled one of his testicles into her mouth and used her tongue to tease the sack. Quiet moans escaped her closed lips as she made hungry whines. The lipstick he made her wear left a ring as she pulled back, sucking along the way before she switched to his other side to tease it as well.

    A few pubic hairs clung inside her mouth as she used one eye to give him as adoring a stare as she could, just like she'd seen Rare do to Sin a long time ago. Rare knew all the ways to make a man feel worshipped. If Poppy just did what Rare would do, she could manage for a long time to keep someone by her side, she was sure.

    Rare kept Sin under thrall for centuries.

    Poppy licked the man's balls until he yanked her head up, and then down onto his waiting shaft. She kept her adoring gaze on him as the head pressed against the back of her throat and his shaft stretched her lips to their limit. She could feel his flesh bend under her teeth as she tried to keep her jaw open wide to avoid biting him.

    "Go on," he urged.

    Poppy managed a nod as she pushed her head down his shaft, even as she choked on his girth. Cut off from air, tears began to well and slip from her eyes as she glanced down at how much more length she had left to go, and then jerked her gaze back up to him as he pressed his thumbs into either side of her jaw.

    Her chest burned as she inhaled and the suction pulled his shaft deeper. It stretched her throat until she was sure it would burst open around him, but she pushed herself further until her lips kissed the base.

    "Good girl," Jonathan praised as Poppy began to shake. His fingers in her hair didn't offer any soothing as his overhung cock began to pull back, only to punch back to the hilt. Poppy's body jerked as she felt bile try to rise, but it couldn't get past the massive cock. "Move your head," he grunted as he thrust himself down her throat again, and her body jerked in violent, air-hungry response.

    Poppy clawed the tree stump he sat on as her nostrils flared and her eyes began to roll up behind her lids.

    Still, despite it, she forced herself to move—or thought she did. Consciousness faded quickly as she felt punch after punch inside of her.

    A sharp blow to her chest forced air from it, and she sucked fresh in on instinct as she blinked and coughed awake. Vomit surged, and she rolled to her side to unleash it. A voice above didn't register as she panted, her breath sending ripples through the bile and seed from her stomach.

    Her lungs burned, and every beat of her heart brought pain. Cold liquid soaked her jeans, and the skin of her face was stiff with dried tears and snot.

    Someone lifted and dragged her somewhere by her leg, but the energy to object was gone. The energy to process that there might be danger was wholly drained. Instead, she let herself slip back to unconsciousness.

    Her next waking found her tied to a tree trunk and topless while her legs dangled over the edge of the fragment, held in place by weights and kept spread by a stone outcropping. She blinked as she stared at the next fragment's edge, and then leaned forward until she saw it—the TV-snow static of the void below.

    Her throat tightened and pupils dilated as she tucked her tail tight against one thigh, and a yowl escaped as she tried in vain to scoot away from the edge. A few voices laughed nearby, their source just out of sight.

    She howled again, low and hoarse and loud, and then she began to cry with a pain-filled chest.

    "I w... want my Mummy! Daddy!" Poppy began to squirm against her bindings as she howled again in fear and want for a rescue. Hiccuping sobs interrupted her loud cries as tears refused to form in her dry eyes.
     
  20. Breaking the News
    An answer to Lurcolm's "Nothing to Lose"

    Spoiler
    From Elizabeth's seat in the chamber, a quiet mew escaped after the eerie hivemind left.

    Crow glanced toward the sealed woman, whose seat on the Council remained despite her helpless and mindless state. Weariness dogged at him. At least the war was over, though losses were high on every front.

    After the meeting ended, he escorted the sealed woman to her office, then drew her phone from his pocket, and sent a singular text to a singular recipient.
    I.C.E. Elliot Sinclair
    The war against the Unifiers is ended. The Hunters as an organization have barely survived. The cost was catastrophic. I regret to inform you that Rare has passed away and Councilman Leauge was sealed by the Unifiers and does not remember her identity. We the Council are keeping her among our ranks in hopes that we can discover a manner in which we can remove the seals. This is Nanzo Eiji, known as Crow. I am aware of the existence of a younger Leauge. I will continue to keep this secret for her.
    He stared at the message, then sighed and deleted it.
    I.C.E. Elliot Sinclair
    This is Nanzo Eiji. You may know me as Crow. I am in possession of Elizabeth Leauge's phone because she is currently unable to send this message herself.

    She has been sealed by the Unifiers, utilizing a new magic-based technology we are working to unravel. She does not recall who she is, nor can she access even the most basic of her powers and abilities.

    Rare fell in battle, protecting the lives of Elizabeth and Brock both after verbally ordering Brock to deliver Elizabeth to our resident expert in cloth magic, who she likely assumed could free Councilman Leauge from her sealing. We have not found Rare's remains.
    He had to stop typing as he stared at the screen. Loss clear in his expression in this place of privacy, a tear fell down his long nose as his illusion faded.

    Rather than the straight-backed and beautiful Asian man he disguised as, the red-skinned tengu's head hung low. His wings shifted as he struggled to cope with the reminder of the loss of his beloved Rare. Now that she was gone, he missed her rebelliousness and her stubborn refusal to be wholly conquered, even when he took punishments too far in his own anger and pride.

    The man pressed send, then began to type more.
    I.C.E. Elliot Sinclair
    I am truly sorry. For now, Elizabeth retains her position among the Council as we seek a way to remove the seal. There is a memorial for Rare and the other fallen Hunters planned to be built where she fell. I can provide further details as plans are finalized.
    Seated atop her desk, Elizabeth mewed at Crow as she watched him, and the man reached out absently to scratch her scalp before he looked up at his purring coworker.

    "Idiot cat," he muttered through a tight throat.

    The Unifiers sealed Kyoko as well, he remembered as he looked at the damnable teal ribbons that bound Elizabeth's body. The female tengu now lived in Alsoome's infirmary. Crow's sense of guilt made it impossible to look at her.