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Character Archive

Mid 20s. Been here a long time, generally only join friend's rps. Constantly tired. Masc nonbinary, preference for they pronouns but he are ok too!

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| The Yaoi Blade |

"It will show the colour of your deepest desire..."

| Created by a powerful Orange Adept, as the culmination of all her desires |

| Rainbow Sword |

| Irropoi went mysteriously missing after its creator’s granddaughter was found dead, having inherited the sword. |

| Samantha White: The original creator of Irropoi, an American weeb back when anime was incredibly difficult to get a hold of. She used the sword to bring out her deepest desires, and passed it down to her children. |

| No |
Iroppoi is a sword that was created by a rather… quirky Orange Adept many many years ago. It was her masterpiece and the culmination of all her desires. Unfortunately for all those who had the misfortune to witness it, the creator’s desires were to witness men and women alike in love. Yes, the creator was a massive weeaboo who was heavily into Yaoi and Yuri. This blade was her ‘masterpiece’, one that would help her bring BL and GL to the real world! Iroppoi is, of course, so much more than that - but that was the original goal when it came to be. Sadly, this desire does mean it’s abilities come with some unfortunate side effects. Iroppoi is a katana with a rainbow blade and white detailing along the top and at the hilt.

When inactive, Iroppoi is an ever shifting rainbow katana. However when in use, it will change to a specific solid colour, each with a different magical effect. It can only be one colour at once, and it is difficult to change this colour mid battle. This change seems to be random to those who don’t know how it works, as it won’t follow what the user tells it yo do. Instead it will generally reflect its users deepest desire at that moment. They may feel they need an ice cold blade, but deep down at that moment they want passionate love, so it’ll turn red instead of blue. It can only be one colour at a time. For the person who made it, it was near permanently pink. This is what gained it the moniker “the Fujoshi Blade.”

The Many Colours Of Love
Orchid Red ⫻ When burning red, Iroppoi heats up to unnaturally high temperatures. This is enough to melt steel, and burn anyone the blade touches. Along with this as a side effect, anyone who feels its radiating heat (without needing to touch the blade) begins to feel intense, uncontrollable lust.

Hydrangea Blue ⫻ When blue, Iroppoi is coated with a thick layer of ice. This will freeze everything it touches, and if it's stabbed into the ground it will create a line of icicles up to five metres away that shatter upon contact. As a side effect, anyone hit by the blade or the icicles who’s straight will suddenly feel very sorry that they’re straight.

Marigold Yellow ⫻ Turning a sunny yellow, Iroppoi will drain the water out of anything it slices. The more it slices, or the longer it is held against something, the more water it will drain. It could leave people, especially blinds, an empty husk of themselves. It has the odd side effect of increasing hand sizes when used on people.

Carnation Green ⫻ When an acidic green, the Iroppoi is coated in a layer of poison. When this enters the bloodstream it will cause various symptoms: intense fever, pain and sexual hallucinations. These sexual hallucinations are very specific: either the poisoned person will hallucinate about a specific person of the same gender, or watching a gay couple as if they’re an outsider. Generally this poison isn’t deadly, unless applied multiple times. It can be used on the sword wielder.

Daisy Orange ⫻ Turning a bright orange, Iroppoi can be used to send out a powerful, focused wind slash about ten metres. This will hit one target and damage them. It also has the unfortunate side effect of blasting the surrounding area with an air blast that doesn’t damage anything except shirts, which it rips off.

Iris Purple ⫻ Glowing a soft purple, Iroppoi shows things that couldn’t be seen previously and allows the wielder to see through things they otherwise couldn’t see through. It shows those magically hidden, such as by invisibility, and shows all sentient beings within ten metres through a vague purple “aura”. It also acts as a UV light.

Vervain Pink ⫻ Turning a bright pink, Iroppoi can be used to send out a long range, pink energy slash. This can go out up to ten metres and is about three metres wide (able to hit multiple targets, but not going through them). Anything hit by it will immediately want to makeout with something else nearby. Nobody is safe from this - blind, adept, aberration or apparition.

Lily White ⫻ A bright white, Iroppoi cleanses all of the side effects of the other colours and the poison of green. This will reverse extra large hands and ripped shirts, remove sexual hallucinations, and reduce lust. It won’t necessarily take back the gay thoughts.

Rose Rainbow ⫻ Only when used by the purest, gayest of hearts will Iroppoi be able to turning into a shimmering rainbow when active at will. This bolsters all allies that can see its light. It frees them of their worries to make them more confident, removes their exhaustion, makes them feel like anything is possible along with strengthening their magic. It also makes them feel more gay.

(Note: the katana was named Iroppoi by its crafter, a non Japanese weeb who believed it meant colourful. It, in fact, means sexy)

Interactions: Sloane @Atrophy, Drake @Shin Ghost Note, Jack @Blizz
Kari Wilson’s House

”Thank you, Jack, but we’ll take my car,“ Anya smiled at him as he offered his teleportation services. She didn’t want to leave her car behind, and she’d rather take the less disconcerting mode of transport. There was no way Sloane could handle the teleportation anyway, with the state she was in. That would just be cruel after she nearly dead.

Anya carefully supported Sloane, with one arm around her back without gripping onto her too tightly. If Sloane, for some reason, decided she could walk entirely on her own, Anya didn’t want it to become a thing.

”Yes, leaving is for the best,” Anya’s slight smile didn’t waver, gaze flickering between the remaining coven members and slowing on Luna before she disappeared. Ah, Luna, such an idiot. What use was a spy who always got caught? As much as Greyson had seemed concerned about the House of Cards, how strong could they be with someone like her among their ranks? ”My car isn’t too far away.”

Still supporting Sloane as much as she’d allow it, Anya led her and Drake back down the path. She knew that Sloane wasn’t too happy with Drake’s involvement but… she was being good willed enough to give them an opportunity to talk. More to the point, for Drake to apologise. Anya didn’t care for him, but he could be useful - and if Sloane wasn’t talking to him, she wouldn’t be either.

”Here we are.” Just a bit down the road was Anya’s small, but sleek, car. She opened the passenger door for Sloane with a smile, and turned to Drake.

”Before we go anywhere- well, I imagine you just want to go home, Sloane- I believe you have something to talk about,” Anya said with a pointed look at Drake, smile unwavering. ”Now’s a good time.”

It was left unspoken that if he didn’t apologise he wouldn’t be going anywhere with them.
Casey’s Car > Barker Brothers

They were in the car, driving back towards the city… Casey had called Clarissa, but since she didn’t answer it made sense just to head back. Trisha sat in the passenger seat with her knees drawn up against her chest, absentmindedly looking out the window.

With Casey driving, Trisha took the opportunity and lull in conversation to pull out her phone and checked it properly for the first time since… before meeting Casey. When she was alone she’d often be glued to her phone or computer - not so much out of a want to use it, rather than a hope of getting contacted. It meant when she wasn’t alone she didn’t really look at it much.

She frowned slightly as she opened up her messenger. Hundreds of messages in the group chat with her eight college friends… Expected. A couple in the girls only group, also normal. But… There were also about a hundred messages in a new chat named ‘Ruining Trisha’s Weekend.

Trisha rolled her eyes at her phone, and considered straight up turning it off so she didn’t have to deal with that at all. But they would actually find her… and she did kind of miss them. It would be nice to see them. It was just the suddenness of it, and introducing Casey to them. She wasn’t fucking prepared for it. But that’d be fine. They’d met most of her exes… Right, it would be fine.

”Soooo…" Trisha broke the silence, locking her phone and putting it back in her jacket pocket. She did want Casey to meet her friends - the only friends who she had regular contact with - but it worried her. What if they judged him or scared him away? Or he didn’t like them… Well, it wasn’t like they could visit often, aside from Reyna. Yeah, if it all went wrong, she’d just make sure they never met again.

”Are you free this weekend?" She tilted her head to look over at him, arms wrapping around her legs. ”The college friends I mentioned are visiting… I just found out, because why would they tell me in advance? Ugh- anyway, they’d like to meet you. I’d like you to meet them, but if you’re going to be busy with the new security job that’s fine. Or if you just don’t want to, because they can be a lot. They’re nice but intense. It’s totally up to you."

Casey had mostly been focused on the road, half lost in a memory of France. She said her friends were intense, but all he thought about was the quid pro quo of the whole situation. Of course he’d put in whatever sort of effort he had to match her bravery. She was moving in with him!
”Well, I’ll kind of have a grace period. Furio’s still going to be coming around pretty frequently for the next couple of weeks while I learn everything… I think we have a place they can stay if they’ll be staying the night. Not glamorous by any means, but f-”

What was he saying? They were friends of a Vanburen; it was all gravy. What’d they care about forking over for a downtown hotel suite.
”They probably don’t need it, but feel free to let them know it’s a free place to crash. Private, they can stay as long as they want, and it’d be right downstairs from us. There’s so many empty apartments in that building, half of them are storage. It’s… Kind of meant to be a… Stronghold… For… When, y’know…”
He clammed up, clearing his throat as he thought about how to present the idea that he’d always thought was perfectly normal until he made it into the military.

You mean your parents aren’t building magical forts to dominate the coming new world?
Casey shook his head, vaguely shrugging his shoulders and trying not to make himself look crazier than he already probably had. Between the Temple and here, he probably looked psychopathic to her. So brave to stick around…

”I think they’re staying a couple nights… Unless they’re going back to Portland after just a night. They probably have somewhere, but I’ll ask." Trisha wasn’t sure she wanted them to be the floor below her, because then they’d know she’d moved in with Casey and she knew they’d have some thoughts and harsh words on that. She didn’t want to deal with it. Plus, Cass was intrusive as fuck and Reyna was nosey. Thankfully Reyna was also organised and would’ve definitely booked a place.

She paused for a moment, what he’d said about the apartments being some kind of stronghold registering. That was… pretty smart. Was it like orange lux reinforced? Or just a more secure place? A lot of buildings were destroyed when the Stygian Snake was in the city, so it made sense.
”So if something like the Stygian Snake appears again, we’ll be pretty safe?" Trisha asked, seeming to not find it strange at all. After all, the city was beset with magical dangers… and the Stygian Snake had been a big one. Absentmindedly, her hand rested on her upper abdomen, where a scar she’d never gotten magically fixed lay. Ignoring the feelings that came with that, she grinned and joked, ”good to know that I can sit out the next world ending threat- I did my part! I’ll just hunker down in our apartment."

With a light laugh she pulled back out her phone, and shot off a message to the group chat - getting an immediate response back. A few messages and she had her answer, along with enough annoying messages she wanted to turn this thing off again.
”They’ve rented an apartment, but they want to stay there next time… whenever that might be." She shrugged. ”In case you’re worried my friends will be stuck up or anything, they’re not rich like I am. I went to a public college, surprisingly… Anyway, I think they’re quite normal in that regard? Oh- but I should warn you, one of them- Reyna- is an adept. White and… whatever deals with emotional stuff. She can be a bit annoying about just reading auras. She’ll definitely do it to you to make sure you-"

Should’ve stopped at explaining what she did, well done, Trisha, good luck not sounding like a dick.
”That you’re not an asshole."

”Oh, you went to school with someone magical? Did you know one another before?”
He didn’t exactly love Pink Lux users. Learning from Hari, he found out that most of them were… Problematic. It was the power of using your knowledge to manipulate people. His mother often went on about how the world had been spared “Lynette of the Fuschia Crown”.
”Pink Lux. White and Pink. Apparently it’s kind of a common pair, and it works really well in tandem. Shrinks and fast talkers, conpeople. Hari’s a Pinkie too. She taught me about how it works when we were kids. Mom used to have her settle our arguments as practice; we’d all gather around as a family and let Hari dump our brains into a union.”

Yeah… Too much information. Thankfully Casey’s cellphone started ringing. He pulled it out without his eyes leaving the road.
”Warrant Richoux.---. Yep, in the car. Driving down now. —. What? What do you me-”
There was a noise like metal being ripped in half by some sort of destructive force. It was loud, it filled the car, and worst of all it send Casey into a panic. His phone left his hand at mach speed as both hands gripped the wheel and he stuffed the accelerator of the car into the floor.

In the back seat, there was a blinding purple rip in reality that expanded until it was about the size of a door, its shape literally clipping through the solid environment of the vehicle. Carefully, a great big blonde afro stuck its way through, staring forward at the two of them. Clarissa saw Casey’s immediate panic.
”Casey, Casey! Easy, Boo-bear! Easy!”
Casey’s head spun rapidly.
”Clarissa, what the fuck!?”

Carefully, Clarissa let one leg step through the portal into the back seat of the car, followed by the other leg before she made a kind of hopping motion. The portal slammed shut instantly, and Clarissa fell onto the seat.
He was slowing down now that he knew the “convoy” wasn’t under attack, but Casey was still shaking and taking great gulps of air.
”Jesus! Do you know how many times I’ve heard noises like that?! I can tell you, a tank shell peeling an armored transport’s roof off sounds just like that.”

Clarissa was dressed very casually, frilly cuffs on her blouse and a little vest covering the front. Flared bottom pants. A pick was still stuffed in her hair.

”Awwww Sweetheart, I’m so sorry Boo… I wish I could change the sound of it myself, but… It’s pretty intimidating. Scared the shit out of you, didn’t it?” she cackled, adjusting herself in the back seat.
”And loooook at you! I do remember that sour little face… You’re Trisha? My name is Clarissa Natale, Baby… It’s nice to not be watching y’all from afar.”
She held her hand out to Trisha, a wide toothy grin on her face.

Trisha was still trying to convince herself that she wasn’t about to die. One hand had shot out and grabbed Casey’s wrist, squeezing tightly, while the other gripped her seat brace herself for the suddenly stop. Twenty bees had flown out from her jacket, with about half of them hitting the window and ending up rolling about the dashboard in a state of disorientation. The others were also confused, buzzing all around the car in an attempt to find the threat.

”... Hello," Trisha managed to get out, taking a deep breath. She let go of the seat and Casey’s wrist, gently patting his arm before she twisted around to look at Clarissa. With a slightly shaky smile, totally passing as calm and collected, she reached out and shook her head. At least there wasn’t a hug this time.
”I’d say it’s nice to meet you, but my ears are still ringing- one minute."

Trisha realised her bees were still bouncing from wall to wall in the car like fluffy, panicked ping pong balls. At least they hadn’t tried to sting Clarissa yet - because they didn’t realise she was the ‘threat.’ Pursing her lips, Trisha took another deep breath, calming down her alarm pheromones and turning them back to soothing ones. Slowly the bees stopped. They didn’t come back to her, but instead landed in various spots in the car, on high alert. It was easier to talk now.
”Yeah, I’m Trisha… do you know me from before? My face has been pretty cheerful lately-" That wasn’t really the point, but apart from the stuff with Lena a little while ago, she had been in a generally good mood since meeting Casey. A lot of smiling! ”Alright, it’s nice to meet you, and not be watched from afar… can you just teleport into any car? That was fucking- something."

Clarissa gave a big belly laugh.
”No, I can’t! This was one of our fleet cars a few years back, so I had fixed points in all of them in case of shenanigans!”
She cleared her throat.
”One of my jobs a long time ago was making sure Leon stayed safe, which meant a lot of watching you Sycamore Kids doin’ the damn thang. You always looked a little… Annoyed? I thought it was cute, my Daughter’s the exact same now. That lil’ pouty look.”

Her smile was so bright and so wide open it was hard not to get lost in it. And her voice was warm, unironic, and motherly with a gentle authority in its body.
”But now you’re here with our favorite Soldier! God’s chosen Warrior! Clarissa said with a great deal of conviction. Her hand reached around the seat and tightly clasped Casey’s shoulder.

He reached his own up and held hers’ tenderly.
”Oh, don’t start with that Auntie.”
”Listen, Boy, you made it through the hottest war this planet’s seen in thousands of years! If God don’t shine out the Richoux Family’s ass, I don’t know what does… ANYWAY! Lil’ Miss Trisha… You’re moving in? Already? My Furi… We were talking about kids a few days after we met, I’ll be honest… It took us years to actually get it done, but that’s just because we were so busy!” she chattered away in the back seat, her hands moving around. She was also fairly touchy, fingers tapping Trisha’s shoulders punctually on occasion.

”It’s not like I’m stuck if I move in," Trisha laughed, playing it off as a joke - even though it was true. The perks of being rich and having a sister with a large house with far too many rooms. But… She would quite happily be stuck if it meant that Casey was also stuck with her. It was only a problem if- when- he wanted out.
”I already know I want to spend all- well, most- of my time with Casey, that’s easier if we live together. I would’ve basically moved in anyway… But we’re not. It’s just the moving in. We’re taking everything else slow, right?" She looked at Casey for confirmation. There were some things she didn’t mind speeding up - things she could back out of, if needed, that wouldn’t leave her more hurt at the end. Others, not so much. If he started talking about kids in a few days, she wasn’t sure how she’d handle it.

Casey’s head turned slightly to answer Trisha, but it seemed to be destiny that the strong women in his life would speak before his own thoughtful personality allowed him to.
”Oooh girl, he’s a tortoise! You want slow?-” she playfully tugged at a tuft of Casey’s long hair, causing him to strain and laugh at the same time.
”-This is your man for slow. You know he ain’t stop breastfeeding until he was six years old! Too scared to use silverware, he would panic if you got anywhere near him with a fork or a knife.”

Casey’s expression got sour. How could he explain that the cats used to lob forks and knives at him from the dark of his closet?

”It was so cute, and he had that little stone-face otherwise, like he was all tough. But you couldn’t go anywhere near water with him or he’d fuss and scream until he was like eight. Remember your Daddy tossed you into the river and made Leon swim out to get you?”
”Yeah, just… More trauma, Auntie! Yaaaaaay…”

He patted his head gently.
”That’s why it’s important that you’re a big, strong man now. You can protect the people you love, and do things you never would’ve done before. You ain’t that little scaredy baby.”
Clarissa’s expression grinned at Trisha.
”He’ll do well by you, is what I mean. Even if you’re eager to stand by him, he’s gonna walk at your pace. The Soldier’s Drum.”

She held her other hand on Trisha’s shoulder, her thumbs rubbing the both of them comfortingly.
”Honestly? I’m just happy we’re getting out of that place. It’s been awesome living up there, it’s private and the view is amazing, but fuck me if we ain’t outgrown the bitch. It’ll be great for the two of you though, just perfect. Trisha, Honey, what’s your style like? What’re you thinkin’? Casey’s gonna bring us on down to the Barker Brothers, and we’re gonna look at some beautiful stuff, like how we got our actual house furnished. Elise approved you up, Case?”

Casey nodded.
”Yeah, the transfer has already gone through I’m pretty sure.”

The image of young Casey too scared to use cutlery made Trisha’s lips twitch up into a bit of a smile, because how did knives and forks scare anyone? The water wasn’t nearly as funny. If someone had thrown Trisha in a river when she was young she still wouldn’t want to be near it. Not that she even knew how to swim now.

”I know he will," Trisha said softly, mostly to herself, about Casey doing well by her. Perhaps it was to convince herself and that irrational anxiety that said otherwise. But so far he had. He’d already done so much for her.

But there wasn’t the time to dwell on that anyway. There was furniture shopping to think about! Something she had absolutely no experience in because, unlike some of her siblings who got their bedrooms redone regularly, she’d always moved into furnished places. The most she’d bought was some more shelving. She hadn’t even heard of Barker Brothers. But she was going to fake knowing exactly what she wanted.

”My style is… cozy, I’d say. Warm colours, or more natural colours- I like green. I like the space being used without being too cluttered. My mom’s place was minimally decorated and didn’t feel lived in, so it always felt cold. I don’t want a home like that. I want a place that really feels like… home. Probably simpler things, too." She laughed, rubbing the back of her neck. There was a discomfort there, with how intense and familiar Clarissa was acting, but the hand on her shoulder didn't bother her anywhere near as much as the hugs from Lynette had.
”Probably surprising, considering I’m a Vanburen, but I didn’t really like the style of where I grew up. Dad's wasn't as bad as mum's, it was very lived in, but it was so fancy it was intimidating."

Clarissa patted Casey’s shoulder excitedly.
”Dude! She loves green!
Casey was laughing immediately, shaking his head and turning an embarrassed shade of red on his otherwise pale cheeks.
”Yeah, yeah… I heard that…”

The woman was hopping up and down with enthusiasm, her hand smacking his shoulder again and again until he had to shoo it away.
”This. Boy. Loves. Green! He had this little dinosaur jacket that he used to wear when he was a baby, and when you tried to get him a different color sweater or something he would just ball. It was so fuckin’ cute.”
She laughed aloud, her mind tracing back to those good old days of being their Godmother. All the trouble those kids got into…

”You gotta understand, Trisha: Lynette? She’s somethin’ else. Kids? Never should’ve had ‘em. But the Lord requires things of us, so like her duty, here they are. And honestly? I love every single one of these kids just like they’re my own. They’re the sole reason Furio and I waited so long to have our daughter… I was almost Forty by the time our baby girl was born, but I’ll be damned if I wasn’t ready for everything motherhood could throw at me. It’s been perfect. Just perfect.”

Her gaze trailed to Trisha, eyes tired and accented by the crow’s rake marks of time. She was still glowing. Maybe it was the hair, but the smile was just so Goddamn friendly, how could one not feel a little warmth? The passion, the enthusiasm.

It couldn’t be… Real?

”So, one thing I was told is that there’s a general rule of thumb when it comes to stuff like colors. You want mostly neutral things, anything big you’re gonna go for. Couch, rugs, shit like that? Mostly neutral. Whites, beige, light browns; there’s a ton of windows in the place. You’ll definitely want something that goes well with the natural lighting. Not like that fucking dungeon downstairs, God in Heaven…”

“I really don't want it to be like that," Trisha laughed, shaking her head and smiling at Clarissa. It was difficult not to feel comfortable in her presence. And she was right, the basement apartment practically sucked in all the light. Trisha wasn't that fussy when it came to colours - when it came to her wardrobe, she had just about the whole spectrum. She had her preferences. But a living place that was completely black? No way. What she was getting from this, though, was that painting your apartment completely black pointed to not being mother material. Though from just one meeting she knew there were plenty of other reasons Lynette wasn't made for it… not that her own mom was much better. That hadn't even been out of ‘duty.’
“My sister's place- where I live just now- is the complete opposite. Bright white, kind of cold. I think I'd like light browns. Then it'll go with any green bits, since we both like it."

She turned her head to grin at Casey.
“Maybe we can pick you up a new dinosaur jacket too? Ooo, that can be the theme- bees and dinosaurs! How cute would that be?" She giggled, covering her mouth as she did. Her eyes creased into cute half moons as she pictured it. It was cute that it was something they shared - the like of green that was. The way he'd blushed over it was cute too. “Light browns, some greens, some yellows… that sounds nice. Comfortable furniture too. What else? I guess it'll be easier to figure out the specifics when we get there…"

She twisted in her seat again to look back at Clarissa.
“How big is it? The apartment… what kind of furniture can we fit in there?"

Clarissa held back as best she could, but her lips peeled into a precocious grin. A hot laugh bubbled up from her chest, and her afro began to bounce around.
”Oh, no!” Clarissa croaked, her composure cracking until she was finally sprawled across the back seat laughing hysterically.
”No you didn’t! Nooooo!”

Casey’s brow raised up, and he checked the back seat in the mirror.
”Alright, Giggles; what’d I miss?”
It only prompted Clarissa to laugh harder, until after a long few moments she finally came to her senses and sat back up.
”Oh my God… If you don’t see what’s funny in that, you’re both on the same page. And that’s just adorable.”
She cleared her throat, wiping the tears away before leaning back.

”I love where y’all got your heads at. We have a theme, and I think that’s great. But, let’s expand on it a bit; because if you’re just smashin’ bodily fluid colors together, it ain’t gonna go down great. Good news is, we can separate the spaces. And the last catalogue I got, they were havin’ this retro theme… Old cloth prints are chique again! Like back in my parents’ day, when you had a corduroy couch with the wooden arms on it…”
Clarissa’s head tilted back as she sniffed at the air.

”I can still smell every bit of the old cigarette smoke in those couches… Awful awful shit.”
She shook her head.
”But not you two… Pot stink is fine, it comes out easier than nicotine soak. As far as the space, baby, I’d say you’re lookin’ at like eight-hundred or so square feet. Most of it is the main room, it’s got a high ceiling, and the bedroom overlooks the room, shares the windows with it so it gets all that nice light. It’s so pretty on a cool winter morning. Up there, you’d probably fit a king bed if you didn’t plan on having any other furniture up there, but it’s also not technically the big bedroom. Before she was born, I had a little office up there, but once she got too many toys and things, we decided to move our bed up there. So, I’d say we should keep it conservative, but it’s all neutral for color. Nice hard wood floors and glass walls with some places that are insulated walls. Mostly interior walls.”

Trisha didn’t understand why Clarissa was laughing at first. She pursed her lips, clamping down on her initial reaction. Had she said something stupid? No, no… What was it that Cass always said? We’re laughing with you, not at you. It must be that. But what Clarissa was laughing at, she really didn’t get. Bodily fluid colours? What does that- oh. Her nose scrunched up as she realised what was so funny. Vomit colours. Right. You’re so amazing, couldn’t even pick furniture colours correctly.

Her fingers dug into her thighs as she forced herself to relax again, and smile like it was nothing. Just think about the furniture. Eight-hundred square feet. She tried to picture it. That was about… 28 feet wall length. Probably not much bigger than her room. Well, that was fine. She didn’t need a lot of living space.
”We don’t really need anything but a bed in the bedroom, do we?" Trisha said, lips pressing together as she thought about it. Right now, everything was in her bedroom, but that wasn’t necessary. Just have it for sleeping, the main room for living… and then an office in another flat. ”Corduroy is nice… I have a couple of corduroy pants… And conservative is fine, if you think that’d be best. I don’t want something flashy, anyway. I want to feel comfortable rather than showing off."

Though she also did like showing off herself, material belongings were never a way she’d wanted to do it. It wasn’t like she’d earned the money herself and her family just came with bigger problems. She’d rather show off a nice, warm and well lived in home.
”So we can have a big bed up there, since it sounds nice. Then all the storage can go in the other bedroom, I suppose… And everything else in the main room. Couch, a small dining table- only need it to sit two, after all. Space for Traitor. Maybe an indoor hive as well for winter. How much space would that all take up…" She zoned out for a moment, trying to figure through the maths without having the proper sizes for anything. While she’d started failing at the advanced mathematical concepts once she hit college, mental arithmetic was still something she excelled in. ”We could probably fit in a three seater couch with a couple of armchairs. I guess we don’t have to worry about a TV since you already have one, right, Casey? And the rest…"

She paused, smiling. Nobody wanted to hear her go on like this.
”You know what, I don’t want to make any proper decisions before we get there. Maybe there’ll be something we really like. This is my first time properly furnishing a place- when you’re rich, you tend to hire people to do it for you. So I might- I might-" Get a lot wrong. She couldn’t bring herself to say that. ”Get a bit too excited over it."

Clarissa laughed again, snorting and tossing her head back as she clapped her hands.
When ya rich! Girl, I fuckin’ love you already. That’s badass.”
Casey smiled, rubbing Trisha’s leg tenderly with his hand.
”I said that to her! You’ve got the perfect attitude, Trisha, seriously. You probably would’ve made a good soldier if you joined, you’ve got that kind of confidence you need when you’re handling firearms and explosives.”
Clarissa nodded along, the big golden afro bobbing up and down like a child television show’s background sun.

Having pulled her phone out at some point, Clarissa swung it around the front seat to show Trisha. She was on the website for the store: Apparently it was one of those ancient boutiques that survived the restructuring of the Country’s infrastructure in the Internet Age’s childhood. The storefront looked prehistoric compared to the surroundings, which seemed to be what Temple members liked…
The Pre-First War hotel-turned-apartments, the old hilltop church in the middle of nowhere, everything just seemed a little more bespoke than the modern sanitized luxuries found in the Financial Downtown.

But Clarissa scrolled away from the banner image at the top of the webpage, opening up the home furnishing selection for couches and living room sets.
”Here we go! Disco Never Died collection: Honestly, I think you’ll love it. Go ahead, scroll away.” she finished, waggling her phone for Trisha to take.

”Of course I’d make a good soldier, I was already fighting for my life at fourteen. Why wouldn’t I be confident?" Trisha said dryly, with a smile. The compliments were nice, enough to bring a light blush to her cheeks and a warmth in her chest.

Of course, she didn’t actually believe she would. Being in the army required a lot of obedience - a strict hierarchy that needed to be followed. Someone told her what to do and she generally got really pissy about it. If someone tried to use violence or yelling to enforce it, she’d sting them with a thousand bees.

She took Clarissa’s phone, knees pulled back against her chest so her arms could rest on them as she scrolled. She was right, Trisha did like it. Couches of varying designs - patterned, plain coloured ones with soft velour surfaces, ones made from corduroy or tartan, some even large enough to be a bed. It was all simple on the surface, but nicely designed. Tables and shelving made out of natural wood. Some of the designs were weird, but overall it was a style she’d like.

”Yeah, I like it," she held up the phone, showing a green, booth style velour couch. ”This one would be really nice if it would fit. I probably wouldn’t bother going to bed though… Is it strange that I really want to feel it? Just seeing the texture on the screen."

She held Clarissa’s phone back out to her. ”It’s a bit scary how easily you got what I’d like. Will they have this stuff in the store?"

Clarissa nodded.
”Even if they don’t have it, you can order it. If you’re out a few things for a week or two, it ain’t a problem.”

The drive into the city brought them by the apartments again. Clarissa mentioned stopping off and letting Trisha see the space, but both of them insisted that her measurements and knowledge of the space would be plenty. Casey also included the fact that he’d been up there and seen it, and would be happy to input when necessary.

As such, they rolled on to the absolutely parking space devoid boulevard that once served as the City’s main downtown stretch. The frontage of the store was just like the website: Abstract art deco reverse arches held the overhanging facade in the air, creating a six foot lip off the side of the building that climbed almost four floors upward and stretched on for a couple of football fields into the block.
As it turned out, the store was two buildings actually melded together; a strange effect from the days of the Stygian Snake, simply never recognized or reconciled. The public gestalt said this store had always been like this; but head to the town library and look up the plans for it, you’ll never find them.

For members of the Temple, it was a little pilgrimage to visit the Amalgamate. But the Blinds would never know. They wouldn’t be able to see the seams between the structures sewn together at their ass ends with unreality.
After finally getting some parking a quarter-mile down the road and walking back to get to the storefront, they were met in a lobby by a few entry attendants who gave each of them a warm paper cup full of coffee. They asked if the group would need any sort of representative, but Clarissa was quick to decline and they were allowed to roam about the massive superstore without trouble. While the main causeway seemed sleepy and empty, there were dozens of mock rooms and display sets lining the sides of the store.

Dozens and dozens of dioramas had different sales people and their prospective customers chattering about. Some stood, some sat on the sets they were looking to purchase in hopes they’d find the one.
But none of the ones on this floor had anything to do with what they were looking for. Not that they weren’t nice, but Clarissa had heard what Trisha said about the furniture in her current situation.

It was all the most expensive stuff; the kind that would be in a wealthy person’s home. Austere, cold leathers and muted colors. Neutral and boring. Clarissa let out a muffled “Blech-”, turning her head to Trisha and sticking her tongue out.
”Gross and cold. Like someone said ‘make office furniture.’”

There were several escalators, as any good department store had, and they led upward to the second floor which was full of more open displays. Rather, the whole floor to the storage area in the back was full of open displays that seemed to hold different collections. One side was beds, mattresses, drawer sets, general bedroom things.
The other side was living room furniture, and among a flurry of wild colors near the back end, the edge of a fat, forest green friend was hidden cleverly behind some warmly colored wood cabinet.

Clarissa didn’t seem to notice it, and Casey hadn’t actually seen the picture of the couch, but it was there. Ready to be slept on.
She did, however, see the sign that was printed in amazing vintage lettering: “Disco Never Died”.
”Here it is! Oh, man, so when this was the big line, they had downstairs done all in that disco style. Even the clerks, and the sales people, everyone was in a period uniform. I don’t know how they pay for it all.”

Trisha had been looking around the store with barely concealed wonder, like a kid that had stepped foot inside a candy store for the first time. She really hadn’t been in a store like this before - any furniture changes in the Vanburen manor were handled by designers who came in personally, selecting what was best and overseeing its fitting. Her mom, when deciding to change something, just ordered online. She was all about cold efficiency. So there was something exciting about seeing all the furniture on display, arranged in little room sets as if ready to just be selected and inserted into a house.
”That’s some dedication… Surely it can’t have worked out financially- well, I don’t know much about that! But the furniture is nice. Much better than downstairs."

She grinned, very quickly finishing the coffee she’d been handed and crumpling up the paper cup. There was a lot to look at. She wasn’t quite sure where to start. Her eyes darted around, quickly passing around the bolder colours- that wasn’t what she wanted. A few pieces in a brighter blue, green or yellow perhaps, but not the vivid pinks and reds that kept catching her eyes purely because they were so eye-catchingly bright. She was drawn to the living room side first - she was more bothered about how it would look, assuming they'd be spending most of their time there.

Trisha stepped in amongst the furniture and quickly started weaving through it, seeking out the kind of things she actually liked. Tables made of warm looking wood… There was a nice, simple coffee table made to look like it was a cut of a tree trunk which she quite liked. Maybe impractical to fit, but nice to look at. Then, some cabinets- oh!

With a bright smile, she scurried back to the other two. Without thinking much about it, and how childish she might look being so excited over something like this, she grabbed Casey’s hand.
”Come over here, I found the couch I was looking at- you’ll love it." Hopefully. Maybe she didn’t have a good read on his taste yet, beyond her… Pushing away any doubts, Trisha practically dragged (as much as that was possible) Casey over towards the back end of the room. Moving past the cabinet, and it was visible in its full glory - the large, forest screen booth style couch. Trisha gestured to it. ”See! I bet we wouldn’t even need a bed if we got this… I’d definitely fall asleep on it."

With her free hand, other still holding onto Casey’s, she reached out and felt the arm of it. The fabric was soft to touch, but not too textured. Nice. She made to get on it, but paused, looking back. ”Are we allowed to sit on stuff to try it out?"

Clarissa was already diving across the two of them, leaping onto the massive sectional couch and bouncing slightly as she hit the springy cushion with a cackle. Casey was in awe himself, eyes wide and transfixed on the behemoth the moment he saw it.
”Holy shit Trisha! You’re basically fuckin’ right, but honestly… I… God, y’know…”

Clarissa’s hands shot up, grabbing Casey and Trisha by their respective sleeves and tugging them down onto the massive couch.
”Hear me out. I think you should put this in Ivetta’s room. With a new TV. A bigger one, with a nice sound system for yourselves… Trisha, you could even hook up a computer to it-”

She coughed, cleared her throat, and turned her head to Trisha with a bit of a grimace.
”-You… I mean… We know you’re plenty smart. Can’t not know all we can, we do our best to keep up with you kids. Knowing where you are, what you’re up to. I don’t know much about computers myself, but hey ain’t this couch just comfy as hell?”
Casey sighed gently, taking a deep breath.
”It really is. Is this what you wanted, Trisha? I think she’s right about putting it in the other bedroom. Making it like a den, leaving the open space part of the house as more like… Work or entertainment?”

Trisha’s heart jolted in her chest, suddenly speeding up. She had been enjoying the feeling of the couch, falling back on it and stretching out. But there was an instant shift in her demeanour when Clarissa used the words we know. She rolled onto her side, propping herself up on one arm and pulling her legs into her chest. A smaller, more curled up and defensive position. Her other hand landed in front of her, fingers digging into the fabric.

What did they know? That she was plenty smart? No, that was a lie. She wasn’t. If they knew she worked in software development- then they must know almost everything. Or was she just overthinking things? No, with how Lynette had already spied on them. She’d told Casey that it wouldn’t bother her. But this meant they probably knew her grades. All the exams she failed. Her pitiful degree grade. Did they know she wasn’t in contact with her own mom? No, they probably didn’t care. But they knew how much of a failure she was. How she wasn’t good enough. Calling her smart was a lie. Why lie? She didn’t know, but far too many people had said the opposite. Her own mother thought the opposite. She bit down on her lip.

The look she gave Clarissa could only be described as cold. It was like all the emotions Trisha felt - the excitement, the joy - was locked behind icy walls. She withdrew. Any openness, the slight peek in that Clarissa had been given, was gone.
”If you really knew me, you’d know I’m not smart at all," Trisha intoned in a low voice. ”Making some money coding doesn’t make me ‘plenty smart.’"

She turned her head slightly more towards Casey, but didn’t quite look at him. Her eyes softened slightly, but there was still a distance there.
”Yeah, I want this one. We can put it in the other bedroom. I don’t mind what we use the open space for, whatever you’d like."

With those noncommittal answers, she unfurled her legs and suddenly stood up.
”I’m going to look at the beds." Without waiting, she shot over to the other side of the room. Absent-mindedly she started looking at the beds- except, she wasn’t really looking. She didn’t really see them. So fucking stupid. So sensitive. You couldn’t have just brushed it off? You told Casey you could handle it, but one small comment sets you off? It wasn’t like Casey had ever noticed. Her hand clenched around a duvet, scrunching it up between her fingers. It was a sore spot. Being decent at coding, and bad at everything else. Can’t let anything go… Should’ve just enjoyed yourself. Trisha frowned, staring at the duvet balled up in her fist.

There was a period of time where Trisha was left alone in the quiet with her own thoughts. There weren’t raised voices, nobody started a shouting match. Casey didn’t lose his temper… But it was an endeavour. How could he ever expect the people around him to not act like they weren’t a magical cult of stalkers?
He hadn’t realized what’d happened at first, too far gone in the bliss of the big green couch to think about what had been said. Clarissa had to come clean for him to know; but he was at least happy she had; and what was more, she admitted her wrongdoing. Casey couldn’t hate that, or her, and she expressed that once she spoke up, she knew she’d messed up.

But now it was Casey’s job to deal with it. Clarissa wasn’t so empathetic.
”She’s a computer person. It ain’t that complex. You wanna date her, you smooth things over. That’s what you ask for, you don’t think Furio ain’t deal with my bullshit?”
He figured if anyone had, it was that man. He took more shit than anyone.
So there he was, quietly walking up behind Trisha with his hands in his pockets.
”Tee? I’m… I’m sorry! Again… For the fifth time today, I think? This… It’s gonna keep happening, Trisha. I’ll do my best to put out a PSA or something. To not talk to you like you’re in on it... It’s my fault.” he said with a sad, longing voice.

”It’s not that," Trisha muttered, not moving. It wasn’t. She didn’t care about them talking about shit they’d overheard. Sure, it was invasive, and she’d rather she wasn’t spied on in the first place - but it was better that they came out with it. It was digging into certain bits of her past. Things she didn’t like anyone knowing. Embarrassing things. Was it hypocritical to get so upset over that specific thing? Probably.

”It’s not your fault, anyway. You’re not the one looking." She did believe that. After all, there were other people to blame. Clarissa, and the woman above her. If she was to blame Casey, then she was blaming him for who he was related to. She wasn’t angry enough to go that far… yet.
”Being watched is creepy, but I can deal with it. I’m used to what I’m doing being questioned." Though for her, it was her mom questioning why she wasn’t studying enough, why she left her room, why was the location sharing showing her being in a park? Not really the same scale. ”Of course they saw everything when fighting the Stygian Snake. Leon was there. Bet they even know about-"

She stopped, choking on her words and clamping her mouth shut. A person that had died because of her and a memory she’d forcefully forgotten. Not going to poisonous feelings welling up in her chest.
”Whatever. I don’t care. But none of the inbetween. They can know about the Snake, and now, but nothing else. I want my life to come from my own mouth."

Trisha finally let go of the duvet, letting it slip from her taut fingers. She turned around, at first glaring past Casey at Clarissa, before looking down at the ground. With a step she closed the gap between them, leaning her head against his chest and letting her arms hang limp at her side.
”I want to tell you about myself.” And keep what she didn’t want shared secret. ”And I don’t like people acting like they know me because of some fucking facts on paper.”

Casey couldn’t do anything but hold her. Poor girl, he thought, having it slowly taken from her. He agreed with the sentiment, that she deserved to tell him from her own lips, so that he could trust her to be accurate. He wasn’t looking for Rome to be built in a day, after all.
”They’re so much better around Blinds, you know… They can’t act like they know things, people are usually paying attention. But, when you’re magic, they just expect you to be ready for it.”

Shaking his head, he held her tightly in his arms, hands rubbing up and down her back slowly to comfort. He never thought it’d be so exhausting trying to show his family someone he was interested in, and wondered if Elise had so many problems back in the day. Probably not…

”Clarissa already said if you want her gone, she’s gone. No sense in fausting anything on you… But I’m sure she’d be willing to apologize and put it behind her.”
The woman in question wasn’t staring back or watching; she had her hands in between her legs, sitting at the edge of the couch with her head looking down. In wait of a verdict, she was ready for whatever came next.
”Or we can take a break. Just walk around the store, I’m sure she’d wait for us if you just wanted time to process things.”

Trisha closed her eyes for a moment, pressing her face in the fabric of his hoodie and taking a deep breath. Was she willing to accept Clarissa’s apology and put it behind her? On a surface level, perhaps. She was good at pretending when she wanted to. But the door to the true Trisha that began to open up at Clarissa’s disarming friendliness was slammed closed and locked to her now, for who knew how long. She was willing to at least try a little bit for Casey, which was more than she’d normally bother with. But it was difficult to change who she was - someone who held grudges over the smallest things, and took a while to get over it.

”I want to walk around a bit first," she said softly, finally pulling back a bit to look up at him. Her expression wasn’t so cold, but it wasn’t particularly warm yet either.
”Just a moment so I don’t-" Snap and say things that will make her look worse. ”Say something I don’t mean. I was just upset thinking about what they might know. It wasn’t like she said anything bad… Yeah, working as a developer is a bit embarrassing, but it’s fine.“

It was just what other things she- and by extension, other temple members- might know.
”We can actually look at the beds. That’s the kind of thing only we should be picking, right? Let’s find one we like, test it out to make sure it's comfy enough, then we can go back over. I’m sure I’ll have cheered up by then. I just want to spend a bit of time with you first."

Casey was trying to figure out how she could be embarrassed working with technology. Even if he was a meat-head who didn't get it, he knew how important digital infrastructure was to the burgeoning New World. There was no reason for…
”You think working with Computers is lame. Like, what, it's not girly enough?”

His arms scooped her up rapidly, and suddenly Trisha was cradled in Casey's arms fully. He could feel the buzzing vibrations beneath her coat, and remembering the bees stopped him from wholesale tossing her onto the bed.
”Newsflash: There's only one computer person on this planet who I don't like. And, hopefully you don't like him either. Because otherwise, I'm afraid I'd lose you to him. Silly, huh?” he grimaced as his knees pushed up onto the bed.

Feeling the softness, he already knew this wasn't the mattress for him, but he let Trisha wriggle away so she could get a feeling for it herself.
”I'm a firm kind of guy… We have the cash; I'd like to look at those electric beds with all the crazy independent side shit. Have you ever used one? They looked like two separate beds in the advertisement, so that makes me leery. I want to sleep with you, not next to you.”

”Working with computers is lame," Trisha mumbled. There were all sorts of stereotypes, and guys always seemed to get the wrong idea about what she was like because of it. Sure, she knew it was stupid. Reyna, her ex and a software developer, said there were all sorts of people in it. She had horror stories, of course, mainly of men thinking they were better purely because of their gender. Reyna said to ignore it all, but she really couldn’t.

She leaned out of his arms to feel the mattress - at first with just a hand, then wriggling out properly to kneel on it. It sunk beneath her weight. Probably the kind of bed she’d never be able to get out of. Comfortable enough… but if Casey wanted firmer, she was fine with that. She’d never really thought that hard about what kind of mattress she liked. She just knew she preferred sharing it with someone else.
”Of course you want to sleep with me in a firmer bed," Trisha teased, finally smiling again. It was easy, for now, to shove away all of her annoyances when the source wasn’t currently around. She leaned from knee to knee just to test just how soft this one was. ”I’m fine with anything. Never tried an electric bed like that… I’ve never lived with anyone like that, so why would I? If it’s two mattresses or something it sounds a bit pointless… We’d either end up uncomfortably sleeping in the middle, or bundle on one side. No way am I sleeping on separate sides only holding hands or some shit like it's the 1900s. But we may as well try it out."

With a light laugh, Trisha spun on her knees to face him and wrapped her arms around his neck. She leaned in and rested her head against his shoulder, face close to his.
”And that computer person you don’t like? I’m sure I won’t like him too. You definitely won’t lose me to him. I like you, not some smart computer guy who’s probably an asshole if you don’t like him."

”Well… Junior’s pretty charming around people who don’t know him… Little fucking sociopath…”
Casey thought about his menace of a younger brother. There was no respect between them; frankly Junior didn’t respect anyone. He figured that may actually be a bonus here, seeing as how if she didn’t really buy into it, he’d probably just make himself look like an asshole.

Looking back for a moment, Clarissa had moved off the couch and was walking around in a further part of the store on her cellphone. He felt a little bad, having invited her only for her to say something dumb… He had to put her on time-out, right? Even if she was an adult, there had to be some kind of reflection on the action.
He’d been listening to the Base’s Shrink too much.
”C’mon. This ain’t it.”

Getting up, he began to saunter around between other beds. One hand slipped into his pocket, grabbing ahold of his glove before he stopped. He knew he could solve the issue right away with a simple trick… But did he want to? Was it worth cutting out the time he was spending with the person he-
Liked… A lot… Liked enough to move in with her pretty well instantly.
His fingers released the glove, and he simply slipped onto the next bed. It was nearly the same, which actually pissed him off a bit until his head scanned and looked up at the wall.
”Oh, shit! Look!”

Casey pointed up at the wall. There were these blue and white signs informing the customer of the firmness and texture of the mattresses that were there. He looked left, looked right, and finally realized.
[color=577d06]”I guess we’re in the soft section!”
He sat up, looked around again, and saw nobody in the immediate area to stop him from reverting to childhood.
”Think you can bounce across more beds than I can?” he looked at Trisha with a wicked grin.

Trisha looked at Casey, then the signs, then at the beds.
”Like… bounce from bed to bed?" She pointed to the mattress he was currently on, then her finger moved to the next one in an arc. They were pretty close together. It wasn’t something she’d ever done… since she hadn’t exactly gone bed shopping ever. Was it a normal thing? It did sound fun. Could you even bounce between beds like that? She was thinking too much about this, wasn’t she.

”You’ve got, like, an extra foot on me, doesn’t that give you an advantage? You could probably just bounce-shuffle between them." She snorted, laughing at the image of that. She leaned over the mattress he was sitting on, hitting it with one hand to test the springiness of it. Maybe she was thinking about it wrong… she was smaller and lighter, which meant she could probably bounce more easily.
”I don’t think I can, I know I can. I bet I’ll be an expert from the first bounce."

She stepped back, folding her arms and tilting her head back a bit as if she was a judge at an olympic trampolining contest.
”I’ll let you go first. Obviously we can’t go at the same time, or you’ll launch me across half the store."

Bee careful. I don’t want anyone getting squished, maybe you should take your coat off.”
Ever the worrywort, Casey was still thinking about safety and security despite the growing feeling of enthusiasm building up. He rolled back on the bed, pulling his shoes off and standing up into a squat. At first his long legs pushed into the mattress, bouncing him up and down until he was hopping around like a long frog.

Laughter. It filled him, and he couldn’t help but find his inner child again as he slowly hopped toward her.
And then his legs and arms all pressed down at once, shooting him across the beds. He cleared one fully, landing across the way on the bed beyond. Due to his overall size, the entire ordeal proceeded to skid across the tiled floor, making a loud scratching noise.

Clarissa looked over, reaching into her purse with her free hand until she saw what’d happened. Casey was already laughing hysterically, and she started up half way across the store.
Now it was on Trisha to follow suit.

Trisha slapped a hand over her mouth as she burst out in laughter. What the fuck? She hadn’t expected him to jump between the mattresses like a frog. It was stupid, it was funny, and it was far more endearing than it should be.

But there was no way could she jump across a whole bed like that! She wasn’t even sure if she’d make it between the first two! She shook her head, carefully pulling off her coat and lying it across a bedside table. The bees clung to her sleeves silently until she commanded them to go back over to her coat and inside it.
”Alright… now watch a master at work."

She pulled off her shoes and climbed onto the first bed. She shuffled right onto the middle of the bed before standing up. She bent her legs and straightened them a few times before actually bouncing on the mattress. She couldn’t do what he did, with the hands and legs- it was just too embarrassing. She was really glad she’d worn shorts underneath her skirt as she began to bounce up and down, loose skirt swooshing up and down with her movements. With each hop closer to the other leg she bent down further and jumped up higher, going from a proper squat into a straightened jumping position.

Then with one final crouch, she jumped across the two beds. She landed on the next one over, two feet together and bending like she was doing a proper gymnastics landing… only to wobble and fall back on her ass. She let herself properly flop back, legs kicking in the air and landing on the bed. After lying there for a moment, she rolled onto her side and started laughing.
”Alright… you won this one… it’s harder than it looks!"

Casey was laughing like it was the Scottish Comedy Festival. However, that wasn’t enough to prevent him from getting back into position and leaping vertically, so that he crashed down into the bed next to Trisha. It caused her to bounce upward in turn, and he took the chance to swing his arms up and suck her into his full embrace.

And now they were cuddling in the middle of this unmade bed in a very public place. Thankfully there just weren’t many people on this floor. Not that Casey would’ve cared, if someone had something to say about public displays of affection he figured he’d give them a public display of aggression.
But it was bliss. Frenetic peace, energy and calm all at the same time. His face buried into Trisha’s hair and he squeezed her as tight as he could without it being painful.
”You make everything way more comfortable… Everything.”

”Everything?" Trisha grinned, practically melting in his arms. Her heightened heart rate from being bounced up into the air started to slow down again. A giddy laugh escaped her lips. She pressed herself closer to him, curling inwards and closing her eyes for a moment. She could just stay here forever. It didn’t matter that it was a furniture store and there were other people aound. In his arms, held so tightly, she could just forget about everything.

”So even if you were lying on hot coals, or nails?" she asked, not quite sure why. Maybe because she wanted to see how far he’d go. No, that was silly. She didn’t really want that, not like- like what? She didn’t remember. It wasn’t important. She tilted her head up to kiss his chin, then again, before smiling with a radiant joy that lit up her entire face.
”I’m comfortable too. More comfortable than I’ve been in a long time- maybe ever. I wouldn’t just cuddle anyone in the middle of a store, you know."

She didn’t want to move on to looking at more beds yet - even though this one was barely firmer than the last, and clearly still not right. They had time. Plenty of time.
”I can’t wait to move in with you and do this every night and morning. The cuddling, obviously, not furniture shopping. I hope you don’t need much space, because I’ll be in yours all the time. Except when you’re working. I’ll be like a little koala, constantly hanging off you. I really can’t wait. I don’t think I’ve looked forward to something like this in… a while." She didn’t really want to think too hard about that. ”I’m really glad we’re doing this."

Casey nuzzled tightly into Trisha, baring in mind that besides his sisters and Mother, he'd never actually been this close to a woman. Not in a relationship where he could bring them close and cuddle them. He could think of one time in the Reserve where this Eltee was having problems and she asked for a hug, but…

He only really knew what this looked like from television. From whatever media he'd seen. And now he didn't want anything to take it away from him ever…
”We'll get you stronger too… So you can come to work with me if I ever have to leave. I'll wear you like a backpack, you can be my dangerous insect dispenser.” he giggled, thinking of the mental ramifications of being drone-striked by a few thousand bees.

But there was a vague sadness to it. The idea that at some point she would have lonely nights. She’d deal with the ramifications of his devilish deal, and he wondered then what would happen if she never found the spirit of it.
Furio and Clarissa worked because they were both conditioned to it. They were both used to ridiculous requests and unbelievable working hours supervised under tremendous scrutiny. There was going to be a time where she was going to make him choose… How could he trust Her? How couldn’t he?

She was God’s Voice. What else could she be? He couldn’t just turn…

”That… Makes me nervous. Thinking about that. The things Furio and Clarissa do for my Mom aren’t normal. And now I’m taking his place, but you’re not taking hers. Part of me knows that’s why she picked Lena: Because she’d fill the role expectedly. But you won’t… You won’t hurt people for her. You won’t break into a State Representative’s house for her, you won’t hurt someone because she asks you to.”
Casey’s eyes slowly blinked.

”But she will ask me. I’ll do it for her. And maybe you’ll suffer because of my actions… It’s a lot to think about with you talking like that… Like I’m… Not who you should be with, I guess.”

For a moment, Trisha felt cold. Even in his arms, she felt a chill. It wasn’t because of the thought of whatever ‘role’ there was that Clarissa had filled, and Lena would have filled. The mention of Lena again was part of it- she’d do it, she was better suited. It was that her talking about wanting to be with him made him nervous, made him think they shouldn’t be together. A rejection? Not a rejection… No, it is. It’s fine. It’s fine.
"Who should be with me, then? Someone with no-one else," like her, "who somehow likes me and can put up with me. The perfect person doesn’t fucking exist. I’m not that fragile. I won’t hurt anyone for her, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t for you."

She forced herself to take a deep breath, curling inwards so her head pressed into Casey. Don’t spiral again. You can’t blow up twice- no, three times, in a day. He’s just concerned. It’s alright. Calm down. Once she looked past the perceived rejection, she could understand. It was a lot she was getting into. Moving in with him, risking the control of a cult and watching him do things for them. But what was it that she had in her life otherwise? The bees. What else?
"I don’t care. I want to be with you- me, not Lena. I won’t fill that role, but if I have to direct my bees to kill someone trying to hurt you? I’ll do it. Maybe, one day, I will help. Or maybe we’ll have moved away somewhere else. We won’t know until we try."

Her hands came up to grasp Casey’s hoodie, crumpling the fabric in between her fingers. It was difficult to see her face, hiding against him as she was, but her suddenly quieter voice held a hint of vulnerability to it. Closer to the true Trisha, perhaps?
"I don’t think I’ve ever felt that it’ll work out like I do with you… I… don’t give up before we even start, please?"

He had a tear in his eye, and he pulled Trisha close. There was nothing else but them. One hand pulled her waist close, the other wrapping around the back of her head and gently rubbing it. He didn’t want her to see him cry after that. With her so close to his chest, she couldn’t look up and see him struggling trying to keep from weeping like a child whose parent tried to take his favorite stuffy away for a wash.
His breath was hitching, little movements causing panicked vibrations between deeper breaths as he tried to contain himself at least a little bit. He’d spent entire years not crying, or doing so quietly in places nobody could see.

Sometimes the panic overwhelmed him. Like being stuffed into a trash can that someone starts hitting with baseball bats. The noise, the violent jostling… And then the sledgehammer usually hit, leaving him crippled in that quiet place for a long time until someone or something came to force him onward in the march.

The Endless March.

“E-excuse me? Sir?”
Interrupted by a strange voice, Casey nearly jumped out of his skin. He probably would’ve if the bed hadn’t gotten the brunt. There was a fighter’s speed and precision present as hands holding Trisha deftly swapped to flat, planted positions from which his arms could power his body feet into the air.
When he landed, one leg was hanging off the bed and both hands were pressed behind him, reaching over Trisha as if to block her and keep her safe. His wrists even pressed into her, almost pinning her down like he was protecting the President from an active shooter.

It was a woman in some nice clothes: She had a nametag and a clipboard, and some glasses on. Casey’s heart was still beating like a bomb had gone off.
“While we do want you buying the right bed for you, we do discourage customers from using our facility like an Inn…”
Still wide-eyed, face covered in tears and hair, Casey wiped his nose on his sleeve and cleared his throat.

”J-jesus, I’m so sorry…”
He slipped from the bed fully.
”C’mon, Babe.”

They were both fully shoeless, and the beds were all slid about from where they’d jumped about. The woman smiled.
“It’s alright, don’t rush too much… Was this what you were looking for?”
”We were… Discussing that, something else came up. It’s nice, but I’ve got some lumbar issues from the War?”

Her eyes widened. Her name tag said “Kathy”.
“Oh. My. God. Thank you for your service, Sir, I’m… Of course! Something firmer. Can you both come with me? We’ll take you upstairs to the tester, we can get some exact metrics for you…”

Having let Trisha up, Casey waggled his eyebrows at her.
”Pays to get shot at I guess.”
His hand did reach for her hand, squeezing knowingly… As if the conversation wasn’t done.

The two of them spent around twenty five minutes with Kathy the saleswoman, a welcome reprieve for Casey who was going to look pretty stupid if he started blubbering about how he always felt so lonely.
No place lonelier than a bomb-hole next to the corpse that was once your friend… Except maybe a bed where your other half once slept. He knew he didn’t want to do that to her, and knew for certain it wouldn’t happen to him. Not her.

Coming back down the escalator, Casey turned back toward where they’d left Clarissa; by the big green couch that he only had a moment to get used to before things went sour. The loyal woman was still sat on it, blabbering away on her phone. She didn’t stop as they approached, but did let her free hand snap out a bit of sign language.
A man of many skills, Casey read and understood, nodding at her and signing his own. He and Trisha had, after getting a recommendation and testing one of the beds, found a suitable fit that had some modern adjustable features built in.

They were satisfied, and let the woman take the sale on the bed and the rest of the furniture they intended to buy. The store had a funny beeper system, with them having a buzzer that allowed them to summon Kathy from wherever they were. She’d also given Trisha a funny clipboard with a pen and a sheet of paper. It was a purchase form, and had a bunch of small sections for putting different information found on the furniture’s tags.
Once they filled it out, all they had to do was approve the sale. Since no loans were coming out, they didn’t need to talk to the financing office or anything.

Then was the matter of finishing what had been started, which meant coming back. Back to Clarissa. Casey hoped that Trisha felt a little better, and equally hoped that they’d be able to simply explain to Clarissa what the problem had been without any other issues.
But for now, she was busy on the phone. She slid to the end, patting the big cushions with her empty hand.

”-know that! You think I ain’t done everything in my power to get that shit runnin’ smoothly, then you can take it up with the Boss. She knows my style, she knows that when things click they click. Now, I think I deserve a bit more respect than that.”

Casey leaned into Trisha as they walked.
”She’s doing the Boss Bitch thing. It’s kinda cool, she does a lot of like… Engineering? Stuff having to do with machines, I don’t know. Above my paygrade type things, but they’re magic and they do things that require math. Just ignore her.”
He flopped back down on the big green couch.
”Ohhhh God… Yeah, this’ll be something to come home to. Veg out on it in front of a big ass television. Nothing on it, just a video of a nice fire. Read a book, watch the rain fall down the glass windows.”

By the time they got back, Trisha felt a bit more prepared to see Clarissa again. There was still that cold resentment in the back of her mind, covered up by nagging anxieties brought forth by the unfinished conversation with Casey. But the warmth she felt from just being with him, how comfortable it was as they chose furniture for their home, meant she did feel better. Better enough to listen to Clarissa's apology without telling her to fuck off, and to probably accept it. For her that was a big deal - not that people often apologised when they wronged her, which just further fueled her resentment. She was willing to hear her out.

The mention of engineering - magical engineering - caused her to pause. Like her mom. No, not the same. It wasn't like her mom actually worked with machines (or knew about magic). She just wrote papers filled with complicated mathematics and did other things Trisha could never understand, being well liked among the people she taught while simultaneously managing to make Trisha feel like she was the stupidest person in the world.
Not the same.
“That is kind of cool. I know a bit about math, but not that kind of stuff."

She perched on the couch, just looking at Casey enjoying it with a smile for a moment. Then she put down the clipboard and got more comfortable, legs pulling up so that they were crossed over each other and turning to face him properly.
“That sounds pretty perfect. Just us, and our books, or whatever we want to do. Relaxing in our own space." Trisha smiled softly at him, eyes filled with a warm light. It was really nice to think about. She'd never really had a space outside of her bedroom to just relax in. Her life, rich as it was, was always constrained to the one space that actually felt like her own.
“Maybe I can set something up so that we can play video games on the television together. Nothing too serious… I'm not really a gamer, I just enjoy it occasionally. One of my college friends, Sal, dragged me into it. There's some relaxing games that I enjoy playing, and a couple of two player ones I've always wanted to play through but haven't been able to. I tried with him but he's impossible to play with… there's nothing less fun than shouting at each other over a game. But I think it would be fun with you, if you'd like to try."

Casey had some experience with gaming; mostly the Reserve barracks, where the college atmosphere of the entire facility could be felt as a quiet undertone. Most of them were respectful, but they were allowed their hobbies and free time in a way you just didn’t see on a frontline.
Well… He had met a few dedicated gamers in North Africa. The FOB he’d been in had a working television and an old Gamestation that they played an old shooter together on. At that point, Casey hadn’t cared. In all actuality, it made him mad how they could just forget that war was going on all around them…

Now, he understood. One simply needs to get out of that moment.Living in the red zone twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, was impossible without seriously fracturing one’s psyche. Since then, he’d become more accepting of the hobby, and didn’t hold such a grudge against it.
”I’m always willing to learn. At worst, I’ll still watch you play whatever you want. Sometimes I catch myself getting lost watching the younger guys at the Base playing. Usually it’s football games, but some of them play this shooter game… It’s bubblegum colored.”

He called it “The Candy Game” or “Bubblegum Game” because of all the colors and effects happening on the screen at once; someone deciding to build a massive tower or odd cover structure in the middle of a gunfight.
”They build shit. It’s nutty, but then I think about how actual magic fights go and then I remember we’re not so different.” he laughed. There was a slight readjustment on his part, mostly to grab Trisha by the sides in order to drag her down onto the couch fully.

”You can’t escape meeeeeeee-”

”Maribel Worthurs, you’re fuckin’ done for. Do you hear me? Yeah. Yep, go ahead! Call the police, they won’t be able to figure out what the fuck happened to you!”
A violent pause. Casey was surprised to hear such a thing. His eyes got wide, and he stopped playing around, now looking at Clarissa.
[color=e0c4ff]”It’s my fucking business Mary! The fucking machine doesn’t work without my spell, Mary! So I guess it’s all [i]mine, isn’t it Mary!?”[/color]

Clarissa was getting visibly frustrated, free hand gripping in and out of a fist until she finally lashed out. In the action, there was no tension. She simply stood, let the phone down to her side, stepped, and hucked the phone across the store, watching it smack into the escalators and fall down to the first floor of the building with a clatter. She cleared her throat and smiled at the duo.
”My my, today is just… One of those days, ain’t it? How y’all feeling, better?”

She sat back down on the couch, a warm smile filling her face in stark contrast to her last few motions.
”Trisha I’m so sorry sweetheart. Forgoing any desire to overly explain myself, I’ll simply say that I understand what the problem is, and I’ll take steps to prevent it in the future… Can you accept that from me?” she asked, holding out her hand.

Trisha had been trying to figure out what game Casey was talking about, expression scrunched up cutely and easily allowing him to pull her properly down onto the couch. Before she could guess, or snuggle up to him again, Clarissa absolutely lost it beside them. Trisha automatically flinched at the aggressive tone. It didn’t necessarily set her off, but it was just… incredibly different to the Clarissa she’d seen so far.

And the switch back to warm and smiling was just as jarring.
“Yeah, I’m feeling a bit better." Trisha then looked at Clarissa’s hand, then over at Casey. As far as apologies went, it was fine. Not that Trisha knew what a good apology was. She hardly got one towards her, and she certainly didn’t apologise very often herself. But there were no excuses. What had been said couldn’t be taken back, and the way Trisha had started to open up wouldn’t resume, but it was fine.

“I can accept that," Trisha said, a bit awkwardly, sitting back up and reaching over Casey for Clarissa’s hand. She didn’t smile, but she wasn’t frowning either. A neutral expression.
“I don’t care if you bring up anything to do with what happened during the Stygian Snake, or my magic. It’s my mundane life I don’t want mentioned… Especially not my family. I’m sure you can both understand why."

Of course, the real reason why was that she didn’t want how bad her relationship with her family was all round. A mother she had no contact with, siblings she barely tolerated, a father she’d hated right till the day he died… It wasn’t good. Not that Casey’s was either, and he’d introduced her to them, but at least there was a relationship there at all.
“But we’re fine as long as it doesn’t happen again."

Clarissa nodded along.
”We just… Don’t keep secrets. Not among the Crones and the Closest. Lynette hears us, every single one. And she listens, and we know. So we don’t act like she doesn’t know, we just…-”
The bright expression she usually carried softened to something like sadness. Fatigue.
”-We just live with it. It may seem like they’re all reading your mind, but it’s the wheel of gossip that releases your business to others. Like that… That stupid fucking nickname that you don’t deserve.”

She shook her head.
”I’ve never felt so ashamed meeting a newcomer. Ashamed of us, our people. For being how we are.”
None of this was what Casey expected to hear, and his brow furrowed. He sat up, pulling Trisha tighter.

”Because it’s not right…” he intoned gently.
Clarissa simply nodded, fingers playing with themselves in a nervous fashion.
”You are part of the Sycamore… For most, it doesn’t mean anything. They don’t really know what you kids were doing. But I watched. The whole time, I watched, just like I would watch Leon and Elise when they went out, I’d watch you all and just think about… Everything, I guess. I’d think about what y’all were gonna do with your lives, if we’d have to step in ever, what things would be like after the smoke cleared. There were a lot of times I… I probably could’ve helped.”

She sighed, shaking her head again.
”I’m sorry. It ain’t about how I feel. Your privacy is yours as far as I’m concerned; but I can’t stop the others. You’ll do the dance again and again.”
Casey rubbed Trisha’s arm. He had a strange feeling that Trisha was just going to leave, that he’d wake up one morning and find her and the bees gone. Or that they’d get outside and she’d be too put off by the prospect of having to keep going through this that she’d just say fuck it.

But he couldn’t imagine what would happen if she asked him to leave. Leave them all… He thought about all the faces he loved, and about all the faces who gave him love despite the pain he’d been through with his closest family. He didn’t want to leave someone like Clarissa, who was a good soldier and did what she was told.
He still had a great deal of respect for that aspect of her life. The loyalty and willingness to do her duty.
”She’s got me… We’ll get through it, Clarissa. Right Bee?”

“Right," Trisha nodded. After Casey had explained what Lynette was like - and this morning - she expected it. She should’ve expected it with Clarissa too. Did she like her privacy being invaded? No. Did she care about most of Lynette’s ‘closest’ knowing? Not really. She disliked certain things being brought up- being used against her- but at the same time she didn’t give a fuck what they thought.
It was a strange conflict.

“I’m not going to pretend to be happy about it, or that I won’t get pissed off. I’m not that nice or forgiving. But I was more bothered because…" Because Clarissa’s warmth had caught her off guard and began to break through the walls Trisha had up. She’d started relaxing around her, after such a short period of time, and it had been more of a shock. She hadn’t been on edge like she had at the Temple. “Well, Casey’s close to you. I care more about what you know… Because I want to be able to be around someone Casey likes."

A partial truth. It was fine for now. Her want to be with Casey outweighed the rest right now. She was used to people saying shit about her that was based on assumptions or what they thought they knew. Everyone from the old coven she’d met since, her half-siblings… She could handle it.
“If you were around Sycamore a lot, you know what I’m like. I can get through that, I can get through anything."
Even if there were patches in her memory from the time that weren’t quite complete, facing the petty coven drama along with a world ending creature was a lot worse than this. She leaned into Casey with the hint of a smile.
“And I have Casey. I’ve already seen how much he’ll defend me, I probably don’t even have to lift a finger."

”Whatever I may hear, sweetheart, has no bearing on how I see you as a person. You are who you are, understand? Don’t let anyone you meet among us make you feel like you’re anyone other than exactly who you are. Because we’re a big group of rejects. People nobody else wanted. Lynette knows we’re important, and that we have purpose.”
Her head bobbed from side to side as she considered what to say.
”Judgemental people may feel bigger, or better, but they’re only hiding their own insecurities.”

Casey nodded.
”Like Lena, and her parents being in Sonnenrad.”
Clarissa pointed at him.
”Your girl’s sitting here talking about how she doesn’t want her private bits getting thrown in her own face.”
Casey looked at Trisha and frowned, then put his hands up.
”Hey, she already made Trisha feel like shit. As far as I’m concerned, my girl deserves some payback.”
He waggled his eyebrows at Trisha.

“Yeah, she already knows and said a bunch of shit about me, it’s only fair," Trisha shrugged, smiling at Casey - a slightly smug, devious smile. Trisha wasn’t exactly some kind of amazing person who just let things go… She was the opposite. And she wasn’t nice enough to care that it was hypocritical that she was fine about Lena’s privacy being broken but not her own.
“No wonder she was so nasty to me - she’s just jealous. If there’s one thing my parents have going for them, it's their good reputation."

Aside from the whole having many children with different women on her dad’s side.
“As long as she never says shit to me again, I’m not going to bring it up, anyway." Though she was fairly certain if she ever saw Lena again, she would. While she wasn’t above petty revenge for the sake of it… she’d rather just never see Lena at all.

Barker Brothers > Claire’s

It was another few hours the three of them spent in the furniture store. Accents were picked out, massive curtain rods, even a new wood stove for what would, presumably, be a more formal entertaining area. Clarissa had shown off various pictures of the interior, and there was a side with enormous floor to ceiling two story windows. Lots of natural light and a clear enough skyline that it's the tallest thing around; no chance of people watching through them outside of a hot air balloon or… Oh, I don’t know, magic. Still, curtain rods were purchased, and massive drapes (which would need to be cleaned of dust regularly) were purchased.
Clarissa seemed to know half a dozen of the employees, many of them joking about “When her next shift is” and acting friendly by name. It seems the store had some experience with the property as well, having furnished the very same apartment before the war when Clarissa and Furio had moved in. They even kept some pretty specific styles and patterns required for quirks of the design.

In the end, Clarissa was satisfied with the thoroughness of the new couple. At the billing, she said her goodbyes and expressed her apologies a final time before leaving off with a “Can’t wait to see you on moving day.”
She disappeared into the store, and after sorting out logistics for the deliveries, there was the inevitable bill. Twenty-five thousand dollars. Even Casey had to think about whether or not he had to worry about it or not; but for the moment, they wouldn’t go hungry even if they were broke. Too many tributary deltas to fish from.

So the papers were signed, a card was swiped clean, and they had a lovely bill of sale that they could frame and put up in the house, or let rot in an organizer somewhere. Casey checked his account as they were leaving and nodded. By then, it was after noon, and the perfect time for some food.
As they were leaving, the storefront was getting busier and more boisterous with families and window shoppers lining the street and coming in for the warmth and the coffee. Stepping back out into the cold, the two had a moment to themselves again. Casey had a wide smile on his face.

”Spending money is pretty fun… I liked getting rotated back and hitting the vendors at the base… Oh shit… he bit his lip, looking at Trisha, then shaking his head. ”Never mind. I have like three apartments downstairs I can put stuff in. Are you hungry, Baby Girl?” he tucked her in his arm, rubbing her shoulder lovingly.

“Yeah, shopping’s hard work," Trisha smiled softly up at him. Honestly, she didn’t actually feel that hungry. She’d accidentally trained it out of herself a bit as a teenager - studying for so many hours without eating, and no one bothering to make sure she did. Nowadays she just tried to keep to a schedule of eating. It worked, even if she didn’t really feel it physically.

Trisha shuffled in close to him, shivering slightly at the cold and trying to steal a bit of his warmth. A shorter skirt hadn’t been the right decision for the weather, with the slight breeze chilly against her bare legs. It would be fine when they were actually moving.
“What do you want to do? Find somewhere to sit in, or get something to take away and eat it… well, my place, maybe? Since our place won’t be ready." That was nice to say. Our place. Maybe, eventually, it would become somewhere that truly felt like home to her. “I’m happy with anything. I don’t really get the opportunity to eat out often."

”There’s a cool place up the Shore a bit. We’ll drive, but in the summer it’d be a great walk. Hopefully it’ll be a peaceful little lunch. First peace we’ll get since getting glitter bombed.” he laughed.
”So how does it feel? Happy to be a little bit safer at least? If nothing else, at least now you have the interest of the entire Temple watching your back. Not a moment alone for you to get movie murdered.”

He shuffled her in front of him a bit, letting her control the pace at which they walked to the car while holding her around her shoulders to keep her as warm as possible. Knowing the bees were in there, he felt a desire to keep them just as warm.

“That’s one way to look at it," Trisha laughed, though… Yes, it was nice to not have to worry about getting stabbed at any moment. She walked at a moderate pace, not feeling a particular rush, but not going especially slowly either. His arms around her shoulders helped keep the chill away, anyway. The bees had gathered together on her upper arm, a small ball of fuzzy warmth.
“It is nice to feel safer. Saves me from trying to explain it to my non magical brother so he’ll fund a security team… It’s like a weight’s been lifted, because I spent most of my time alone. I half expected- Anyway, that’s not the case anymore, right?"

She tilted her head back to smile brightly up at him.
“I can’t believe getting beaten up led to me being safer!" She laughed, seeming to be joking… but it had. She bet Adora would be pissed if she found out that she’d inadvertently helped Trisha. Really, Trisha should thank her. “I guess I was lucky it was you who came along… Like some kind of weird fight caused fate."
Trisha didn’t actually believe in fate, but it was a nice thought.

Casey nodded.
”It means a lot that I can help. But it means a lot more that you like me. So, thanks for that. And for being ready to put up with it.”
He kept her safe from the wind all the way back to the car, and opened it like a pure gentleman would before politely pressing the door shut. He got in on the other side and rubbed his hands together.
”Give me the desert heat any day. I’m already done with winter.”
He shot Trisha a smirk, started the car and flicked the heat on again. It was stone cold after being outside so long.

But they were off and gone, and before it got any warmer they were at the place Casey intended them to be.
”This other guy my brother knows took us here once for lunch. They’re just good sandwiches, and they do an eggplant parmesan that I think about a lot.”
It was a little hole in the wall, some Italian sub shop that had the kind of mom and pop look you’d expect in the neighborhood. They catered to the workers at the docks, and he mentioned they had a great selection of fried fish affairs as well as the typical staples.

Walking into the little storefront smelled like fresh bread and french fry oil with tomato sauce bubbling away over an open flame burner. There was an old man at the front of the line, and it seemed like he had a big order to fill. They’d probably be there a while, which meant time to chat about the little things.
”What’s your favorite kind of pizza?” Casey asked Trisha with a cheeky smile.

“Well… You have to agree to not hate me for it first,” Trisha smiled back.

Casey’s eyes widened and his nose scrunched.
”You’re… Lucky I’m French. I mean… I still don’t really want you to say it. But go ahead… Tell me about what there is to like on Hawaiian Pizza, Ms Controversial?”

“It’s just-” Trisha made a large gesture with her hands as if it would somehow explain it. It was, after all, a discussion she’d had many times. “It’s nice, okay? The different flavours and textures… It was what mom used to always order when I was round there, so fond memories too, y’know?”
It was one of the rare times her mom would actually spend with her. Nights when she drank a little, relaxed a little, and ordered in food for them both rather than leaving Trisha to fend for herself. That was probably more why she liked it.

Casey went from being skeptical and cautious to mournful.
Emotional connections… Shiiiiiii-
”Alright, alright. I guess we’ll have to get two if we ever get pizza though, ‘cuz I’m not eating it.”

There had been a ding behind them while Trisha was talking. Casey hadn’t bothered to turn and check on the person who happened into the store behind them, so it wasn’t troubling him at first.
”There’s zero percent chance you have a soul in your body.”

Casey’s brow furrowed. He assumed the voice wasn’t talking to them, but there was no way it wasn’t familiar. Like a voice he knew through a phone.

”There’s no such thing as Hawaiian Pizza, Pewtrisha.” the voice taunted.

Trisha didn’t need to turn around to recognise who was talking. Even after ten years. That slick tone and needling words were unforgettable.
“Wow, what a surprise, no one’s shot you yet, Greyson?” Trisha sneered out his name, twisting around to properly glower at him. Perfect. Exactly who she wanted to bump into while on a nice lunch date- not that she wanted to bump into any of Sycamore, but he was up there as one of the worst. Back in the day Trisha had voted for him to be kicked out - not because she cared if he’d stolen any of the shit, but because she didn’t want to even breathe in the same room as him at that point.

Her feelings hadn’t really changed much there.
“I’d say it's nice to see you, but it really isn’t. Don’t you have better things to do than police my taste in pizza? And you know, if liking that means I don’t have a soul, where does that leave a criminal like you?”

Edict had a wide grin across his face, those same sunglasses from so long ago still wrapped around his head like they grew into the skin. He wasn’t wearing anything flashy, save for a shimmering watch that slipped out from under his sweater sleeve. Casey was trying to figure out who he knew named Greyson, which totaled out to zero people. But, there was only one way to know for himself who it was.

He spun around to feel shock.

Casey’s eyes were wide, and he looked between the man he knew as Edict and Trisha.
”Wait… Greyson? Greyson Devola!? Edict! You never fuckin’ told me you were part of the Cov-”

Edict held up his finger to his lips.

”Easy, Cowboy.” he grinned, lifting a hand to point at the two of them as he rested the arm against the other that crossed his chest in skepticism.
”Now… What’s going on here? They try’na make a superhuman over in that Temple of yours? I’d choose a fresher cow.”

There was a shift in the energy around them at that moment. Casey wasn’t happy to see Edict anymore; not after he said something like that. But, he wasn’t ready to be done with it yet. In his mind, Casey believed everyone deserved a chance to explain themselves before judgement could be passed without bias.
His massive body shifted forward, almost tucking Trisha behind him.
”You’ve got a few seconds to explain what you Sycamore have against Trisha. Honestly. Because I’m getting sick of meeting you assholes when none of you have anything good to say about my Girlfriend.”

Edict didn’t flinch. He wasn’t concerned about the Richoux or their size or strength; it was business. And he did business with the only one that mattered directly. The friendliness was a formality.
”She’s a bit of a whip, Casey. Little Miss Too-Good, can’t be bothered to do anything but yap and sting people. She doesn’t feel any better about any of us, and honestly I don’t blame her. But, we’re all adults here, so a little verbal jousting isn’t an excuse to get a raised temper. Trisha?” Edict finished, as if to ask her to call her dog off, or at the very least agree with him for once.

“At least I didn’t spend all my time forcing my way into people’s heads,” Trisha hissed, glaring at Edict around Casey. She put one hand on Casey’s arm, fingers curling into the fabric of his sleeves both to comfort herself and him. She was pissed. She’d been pissed from the moment Edict opened his mouth, and it got worse the more he said. But there was also a hint of fear there. What if Edict said something that made Casey reconsider?
“Don’t fight him here, Case, he’s not worth it… you can beat him up outside later,” she said softly, still glaring at Edict.

“You’re right that I don’t like any of you either, but at least I tried. Nobody gave me a fucking chance then- and they still don’t. You said all that knowing how I’d react, so save the shit about it being ‘a little verbal jousting’, E-Dick. Mind your own business and stay out of ours.”

”I said that to you to see if you still didn’t have a sense of humor. Good to know! Jesus Christ, you say a little something, all of a sudden you’re the bad guy.”
Casey took a deep breath, frustration filling him.
”Y’know, we’re gonna be working together a little more closely if everything is staying the same way… Don’t make it difficult man. Just apologize.”

Edict’s ears perked up at that. He lifted his glasses up, staring at Casey.
”You? What uh… The whole-?”
Casey shook his head.
”Quitting time. The program is set up, they either want me in deeper, or not at all. So, taking on more responsibilities here.”
The gangster’s nose crinkled up, looking between the two of them.
”Furio’s moving on?”

His face became thoughtful. Edict took a deep breath, looking at Trisha.
”You’re right. I didn’t give you a chance. I’m sorry.”
It sounded sincere. Of course it did; it was Greyson Devola.

Trisha didn’t trust the apology one bit. She trusted Greyson as much as she trusted someone who’d just lied to her face. But… right now she didn’t want to make things too difficult for Casey. Not that she would in the future, either, but if she kept snapping at him Casey might realise that some of what Greyson had said was true.
“Apology accepted,” Trisha said tersely. Unlike him, she wasn’t such a good actor, and her reluctance was written across her scrunched up face and tense shoulders. She was going to do what she always did - remember this, and hold it against him. It wasn’t like he was actually sorry, he just didn’t want to ruin whatever business he seemed to do with the Temple.

She tried to force herself to relax a bit, but it was difficult with all that resentment she held onto towards the coven coming up to the surface. Her fingers dug into Casey’s arm enough that even as her expression seemed to lighten it would be obvious she wasn’t exactly happy about the whole thing.
“So…” she looked between Edict and Casey. “The Temple does business with him? Any other surprise coven members hanging around?”
She shook her head, taking a deep breath. Calm down. She forced a smile up at Casey. “Maybe I need to send out a memo too, something like ‘please don’t bother me and my boyfriend’, to stop this from happening.”

Edict laughed aloud, if not a little nervously on reaction.
”Trisha, listen… As far as I remember, being around you was difficult. But, like you said, I spent all my time trying to get into people’s heads. So, who am I to judge you? But, you know… This is gonna happen with everything going down. This city is bustling with Sycamore coming home, the chances of interactions like this are highest now.”

Casey nodded, lip curling into a frown. He didn’t like to hear the truth like that, but he had to agree.
”Honestly? He’s probably right… Aah-about it happening again, I mean. But, we’ll try to keep it minimal after this, eh?” he turned to Trisha, nudging her gently in comfort.
”Business is business. And, if you’ve gotta know? It ain’t my “Family” benefitting from our deal. My “Company” buys interesting materials and ingredients for distribution from their organization. The money goes around, and everyone’s happy with the product.”

Casey cleared his throat.
”If we started selling your honey outside of St. Portwell, it’d uh… It’d be him distributing.”
Edict’s face became wide.
”You’re gonna sell the fuckin’ honey!? Do you remember when we were sixteen and the Club was starting? And everyone said you should do that, and you got super pissed off!? I’m actually so glad you’re coming around to it! That’s a shit ton of money just sitting around not doing anything for you!”
For a moment, he was childlike again. The same sixteen year old Greyson.

I was fourteen,” Trisha rolled her eyes, unnecessarily honing in on a small, incorrect point. She did remember that. Back then her honey production hadn’t been what it was now, and her view of where her life should go wasn’t the same either. Everyone had assumed she was pissed off because she was from a rich family and didn’t need the money. It hadn’t been that. Selling the honey would mean going down a path her mom wouldn’t approve of. Less time to study, less chance of going to University. It had felt like they were telling her she wasn’t good enough to do anything else.

She regretted it a little. Not the getting pissed off part, but not even considering trying.
“I’ve matured. Ten years ago it seemed like a stupid idea when I could finish school and go to college and get a job. Do you know how much work goes into that honey, without trying to sell it?” Why was she even explaining it to Greyson of all people? She just felt that she… had to. Maybe it was more for Casey, or for her own benefit. “I didn’t have the time with, y’know. What was happening. Things are different now.”

Then she looked up at Casey, smiling at him - genuinely, and almost sickeningly sweet.
“I wouldn’t be able to do it by myself anyway.”

Edict grinned again, but this one wasn’t so malicious. Truthfully, he was a romantic at heart.
”Well… Either way, y’know? I guess I just hope you’re happy.”
Casey grinned as well, but was directed down at Trisha with warmth in his eyes. Inside, all he wanted was another moment in the car without anyone around.

Like God parting the clouds to reveal Heaven in the sky, the old man who had ordered what looked like an entire catering order finally waddled up to the door to push past Edict. The counter was open.

”Hey, look at that… Let me get you guys your food, eh? There’s uh, no pineapple in this place. I checked.”

“Just cause it's my favourite pizza doesn’t mean I want pineapple in everything,” Trisha glared at him, though it wasn’t half as sharp as the earlier ones.

”And me letting you spend your money on my lunch doesn’t mean I forgive you for being a dick.”
Edict laughed aloud, holding his stomach slightly as the other hand waved them forward.
”Marcooooo, I’m back again. Get these two lovebirds whatever they like, on me Fratello.”

Trisha’s (Sabrina’s) House

After a delightful encounter with Edict, Trisha really didn’t want to stick around and eat there. What if another Sycamore member ambushed them? She just wanted to have lunch and spend time with her boyfriend, was that too much to ask?

So she suggested they take their food back to her place, since they needed to go anyway. Sabrina should be at work, and her other two sisters were out of town. The place should be empty with no risk of someone ruining it.

In the time that they’d been away, someone had been in and cleaned the mess that had been in the living room. No more empty pizza boxes or alcohol bottles, just pristine white couches in a cold space. Trisha didn’t particularly like being in the living room, but eating in her room meant the smell would linger and the bees would swarm.

“You mind eating in here? I know it’s not super friendly but… I don’t want to stink up my bedroom. Nobody’s around, so it’ll just be the two of us, don’t worry,” Trisha asked with a smile, gesturing towards the couches. At the same time she headed towards the attached kitchen, looking out some plates and cutlery for them both. She came back out and put them on the table in front of the ring of couches. They could sit at the dining table but… that felt a bit too formal for her. Bad memories.
“Plus, out here you don’t have to fight the bees for your food. It’s worth risking the blinding white, I promise.”

She sat down on the couch, assuming he wouldn’t disagree, and patted the space beside her.

Casey had seen a lot of bright places. Mostly the desert, since there was really nowhere to go. The closer to the coast you got, the whiter the sand got. Blinding. Like this. Like she said.
”Christ! How does it stay clean?”
He knew what was wrapped up in his sandwich; a thick slab of eggplant fried and smothered in cheese and red sauce. It wasn’t going to be good if any fell…
There were at least paper towels readily available, and he ripped a yard of them off the roll to insure there was enough space for the desolation that was coming. But he sat down, the low sofas kinking his legs up until he was practically in the fetal position.

It didn’t matter… It just made an amphitheatre of carnage. He didn’t even say anything else. The paper unwrapped, and a quarter of the sandwich was gone in an instant. After a day of dealing with people and furniture ordering and patterns and anger and love, it was a perfect remedy. Just good warm vegetables and milk byproduct.
As he crunched down on the first bite, letting it fill his mouth to pull the saliva directly from his cheeks. He smiled, laughing with the food still in his mouth, and swallowed before speaking again.
”I know, I know… I missed you too, sweet fuckin’ sandwich. I don’t know why I’m not over there more, ugh… So good!”

The ascent into Sandwich Heaven lacked only the quiet strum of harps, yet it was not sweet angelic music that soon reached the ears of the young lovers. No, instead it was the awful sound that had been plaguing couples seeking a moment of privacy for eons, the terrible rattling of metal and wood as a key wrestled with a lock., the noise like the wail of a banshee, echoing through the foyer and cutting into the living room to kill the mood. Still, surely they could rest easy. Sabrina had most likely just come home early, but she was the kind of housemate who was savvy enough to not intrude too long when someone brought a guest over to what should’ve been an empty home. A quick hello, a nice to meet you, a playful quip, and then a proper fuck off to her own floor of the house so she wouldn’t be a bother.

Then all hope was shattered by a shrill, bloodcurdling,Knock, knock. Helllllo, darlings~

The clunking of block heels towards the living room did not give Trisha enough time to grab Casey and flee before a statuesque woman appeared in the threshold. She was nearing middle age, the fact mildly hidden by pounds of makeup on her pale porcelian skin, and dressed in a vintage, dark green houndstooth dress. Her blonde hair was preciously curled with rollers to mimic that of an actress from Hollywood’s Golden Age and kept in place with so much hairspray that striking a match within several feet of her was a good way to cause a firestorm. In her hand was a large, half gallon water bottle, partially filled with brownish-green sludge. Blue eyes brightened with joy as they fell upon Trisha, her ruby red lips parting in a wide smile made perfect through thousands and thousands spent on dentistry work and whitening treatments.

“Ohmigosh, Patricia, I am so happy that my favorite baby sister is here today!” squealed Tansy Vanburen, Trisha’s oldest half-sister and personal tormentor, the look of joy a thin veil for a precisely calculated cruelty.

Tansy continued talking, ending her sentences with an upwards inflection and affecting a kind of cutesy accent some adults naturally fell into when speaking to young children or a particularly cute dog. The room was filled with her chatter, the words crashing out of her mouth like a rushing river breaching the dam. Tansy sounded truly excited to see her young sister, yet every once in a while there was an offness to the way she said something, noticeable only if you were like Trisha and had been conditioned by years and years of dealing with Tansy to translate the passive aggressiveness.

“You weren’t here the last couple of times I came to visit, even though I gave you plenty of notice ahead of time to clear your very busy schedule. I was absolutely devastated. I had to spend my entire day listening to Brooke, I mean, she doesn’t shut up you can hardly get a word in, I can’t imagine how you stand to live under the same roof as her, I just can’t. But seriously, if I didn’t know any better it almost felt as if you were avoiding me. You look…well…”

Tansy squinted in a look that could only be disapproving and then acted as if she had suddenly noticed Casey instead of having chosen to just ignore him, “Ohhhh, Jamie! I’m even more surprised to see you here. With the long hair I almost didn’t recognize you. Very cool, it looks good on you.

The moment Trisha heard the key in the lock, she felt tense. The prosciutto, mozzarella and tomato filled ciabatta that had been raised to her mouth for a second bite, after the first tentative one, was immediately put back down. It was probably just Sabrina. Of all her siblings, Sabrina was the one she was most alright with meeting Casey - she was reasonable and would leave after polite greetings.

But it wasn’t Sabrina. Instead, it was the worst option possible.

For just a moment Trisha considered jumping over the back of the couch and fleeing, with or without Casey. But she couldn’t do that to him - or herself. That would only give Tansy the opportunity to fill his head with lies, to try and turn him against her while pretending to just be a caring older sister.

“I was avoiding you,” Trisha said harshly, not even bothering to play along. Her whole expression tightened, eyes narrowing into a venomous glare and lips curved down into a nasty scowl. Tansy’s voice was grating enough without the words that came along with it. “You look just as fake as normal.”

“Just like a doll, I know! Impossibly flawless from head to toe. Aww, you’re too sweet, Patricia!” squealed Tansy.

But the mention of Jamie made Trisha visibly flinch towards Casey, fingers digging into her thighs. Tansy wasn’t stupid enough to mistake one man for another. As with everything, she was doing it on purpose.

Jamie was someone she’d dated for a few weeks almost eight months back. It had started as most of her relationships did, with an intense physical attraction at a club, and ended just as quickly. The in between had quickly turned toxic, escalating from two way explosive arguments to physical aggression. She’d been far too lonely then to even consider ending it. Then he broke up with her because he ‘couldn’t handle her’ even though he was the one that had slapped her across the face and he didn’t even know about magic so he couldn’t blame her for the thousands of bees that stung him afterwards.

Tansy knew all of this because she’d barged in the day after and seen Trisha.
“Is your eyesight going in your old age, Tansy? Or are you going senile?” Trisha sneered, quickly pushing down the hint of panic as she glanced at Casey. She was going to have to introduce them. She really didn’t want to, but if she didn’t Tansy would do it and that would just be worse. She reached out to rest a hand on his knee, expression lightening a little bit as she looked at him. “This is my boyfriend, Casey. Casey, this is my oldest half-sister, Tansy. I mentioned her this morning - the one with the ‘special’ water that she clearly hasn’t moved past.”

Casey had long ago lost the mindset of standing up and saluting, or stopping whatever the fuck it was one was doing to address someone in a proper and respectful way if they had some kind of rank or authority. In the beginning, they teach you that your officer is the most important thing, and you must acknowledge them or face wrath.
Nobody in the PSS was like that. It was too much of a clusterfuck of Warrant Officers and Specialists for someone to pull rank in the middle of a meal because he felt like he didn’t get a good enough welcome. So, here? To stop eating because someone’s addressing him? It didn’t even register.

But around the time the boisterous and screechy woman called him Jamie, he slowly put his sandwich down as he finished the bite. He didn’t know Jamie, but that certainly wasn’t his name. Hearing “special water” made him giggle.
”Oh, the Alkaline Water Wonder. I would’ve got you something too if I knew you were here.”
Casey stood up, sliding the paper arena he’d made onto the glass coffee table, a paper towel sliding between his hands to wipe the errant grease off.
”Chief Warrant Officer Casey Richoux, Ma’am. A pleasure to meet you.”

He was going to do his damndest, at least, to try and get familiar with these people. She was doing the same for him, and with a braver face.

“Oh, no, please, it is an honor to meet you. Thank you for your service,” said Tansy, putting a hand to her heart before giving Casey a slight curtsy. Her nose wrinkled ever so slightly at the sight of the food. “I appreciate the gesture, but I’m actually on a juice cleanse right now anyway. It turns out that alkaline water is made from the same stuff they put in batteries, can you believe it? Honestly, I don’t know how they’re allowed to sell that stuff in the store. I’m trying to get it banned.”

She jiggled the cup of sludge and took a sip, making an mm sound with her throat as she winced at the taste.

“Patricia you simply must try it. It’d do wonders for your skin,” said Tansy. She put her hand on her hip. “And why didn’t you tell me that you were dating such a handsome hero, Patricia? How long have the two of you been together?”

“Are you saying there’s something wrong with my skin?” Trisha glared at Tansy, not bothering to stand up. Why would she? Honestly, seeing Tansy curtsy made her want to gag. She wanted to tell Casey to sit back down too but… if he was standing maybe he could make a run for it and at least save himself. “I’m not drinking that sludge.”

Nooo, I’d never say that, lied Tansy, the Why, do you think there is? lingering on her lips, held back only because Casey was in the room.

But there was the question to answer. Not that any answer to how long she’d been with someone would get a good reaction. This was Tansy.
“I didn’t tell you for the same reason I don’t tell you about anyone in my life. You always come in and try to fucking ruin it… We’ve been together for a day. So congratulations, you’re the first to meet him.”

Casey wasn’t used to the kind of openly hostile pushback that Trisha was giving her sister. He wasn’t put off by it necessarily, but it certainly wasn’t what he was expecting. In his experience, there was always a kind of friendly back and forth, two parties well and good knowing their positions without having to make it so real so fast.
He was probably better off that she was like that. It’d be better for the honesty in their relationship if she didn’t hold back like that around him.

He laughed and raised both his hands, wiggling them a little bit.
”Yaaaaay. Surprise! Best part is you can’t make things any more awkward than my family can, so… Here! Sit down! Let me try that juice you’ve got; I doubt it's any worse than what my Dad used to give me.”
Casey looked at Trisha with a smirk. He couldn’t quite convey “Lets have fun with this.” into a look, but he did his best.
”Do you know anything about Boxing, Tansy? Like the sport, not the things shoes come in…”

“Me? No, I’m afraid I don’t know a single thing,” said Tansy, jumping at the invitation to sit down.

She squeezed herself between Trisha and Casey, turning her back completely on her half-sister, accidentally on-purpose flipping her hair in Trisha’s face. She pinched the straw between her manicured fingers and pulled it a bit further out of the cup, offering it to Casey. However, before he could take a sip she turned back towards Trisha, her eyes the size of dinner plates.

“Wait, one day!?” Tansy threw her head back and laughed. “No, you silly billy, I mean how long have you two been actually dating? Like how did you meet and when, etcetera, etcetera. I don’t care how long you’ve been hanging out for!”

Trisha’s expression went from bad to worse when Tansy not only sat down with them, but in-between them. She leaned back to not get a face full of curls, not so subtly shifting so there was a good gap between them. She… half got what Casey was trying to tell her with his look, but the thought of having to spend any more time with Tansy outweighed any fun she could get out of the situation.

“One day,” Trisha intoned, hitting Tansy with a flinty stare as her voice turned near monotonic. She was trying her best not to be as scathing as she normally was for Tansy, that slight fear Casey might find it distasteful at the back of her mind. “We met yesterday at the festival.”

”She’s super right, and honestly it’s been a pretty fun day so far. I’m thinking of actually doing a second one. Probably a third too? Trisha, what do you think, are we likely to keep stringing days together like that? ‘Cuz y’know, that’s how they work.”
He quickly plucked the straw into his fingers and sucked the opaque green sludge into his mouth. But it wasn’t like he was being polite, rather he was taking massive gulps from the straw like a man determined to suck the ocean from the planet.

Thankfully he could tell right away it wasn’t alkaline water. She struck him as the type of ditz to get something banned and still use it. He wondered how badly she’d burned her throat from the third party water filters.

“Yeah, we are, these days will just keep going until we lose track of them,” Trisha said, though the words coming out hadn’t exactly been well thought through. Since she hopefully still had Tansy’s attention while Casey finished her vegetable slop, she attempted to turn things around a little.
“Didn’t you always say, when I was younger, that if you find someone you like you shouldn’t let anything hold you back from getting together? At least, that’s the reason you gave every Christmas when you brought home a new boyfriend. How is Charles, by the way?”

“He’s dead,” said Tansy, all too casually. Socially dead, anyway, like all of the other men she had dumped or that had dumped her. She didn’t flinch as Casey drained her drink, pushing the cup even closer to encourage him to finish it, backwash and all, giving him a playful wink before turning to Patricia. “Honestly, I’m so happy to hear that you took what I said to heart. What else is a big sister for? Seriously. I think it’s great that you’ve known each other for only a day and aren’t only comfortable enough to call one another boyfriend-girlfriend, but to even introduce yourselves as such. That’s just so, so incredi—”

She coughed.

“So incredibly you,” said Tansy, giving Trisha a fake smile.

As Tansy looked back at him, he felt a shock of fear go up his spine. Instantly he backwashed the last bit he had in his mouth and sat back up stiff on the couch. He’d met this archetype before; a pair, actually. Two Warrants in Europe who were both so unhinged and over their service that they no longer showed fear of the unknown. It was like they were equipped with shields of ignorance so thick they could block artillery shells.

On base, there was a long standing tradition of fucking around and subsequently finding out. And those two were the Kings of it. For a brief moment, he felt like he was looking at the equivalent Queen. Feeling equal parts fear and disgust, he did the only thing he felt like he could do at that moment.
Holding his gut gently, he felt the kombucha base bubbling, and held it in for a moment before releasing the loudest, most protracted belch he possibly could. The scent of ginger and spinach was mixed with the marinara and garlic from the sandwich, forming a potent weapon of biological terror in the form of a gaseous cloud that now hung between himself and Tansy.

And to top it off, he blew the last little bit.
”Damn, thanks. That shit was pretty good.”

Trisha’s scathing retort to Tansy dressing up questioning their relationship in flowery language died on her tongue. She turned around and away, hand covering her mouth and nose both to avoid the smell and stifle laughter. Normally, she’d find something like that disgusting… but in this situation, against Tansy? It was just hilarious. Her hatred for her half-sister outweighed everything else.
“You’ll have to let me know where you got it, Tansy,” Trisha said, still trying not to laugh. “Since he’ll continue to be my boyfriend for a long time, and he enjoyed it so much.”

A little curl of Tansy’s hair wilted as it came in contact with the chemical bomb released by Casey, but the woman stayed resilient with her phony, polite smile. Her eyes watered as she carefully set the empty drink down on a coaster, taking the moment when the two couldn’t see her face to silently bleh in disgust, and sat back up with a smile on her face yet again, hands folded in her lap, shoulders in perfect posture.

“O-of course,” said Tansy, her guard slipping ever so slightly as she was hit by a second wave of the belch that had lingered in her spot.

It was typical for Trisha to have a boyfriend who lacked manners. Charles, the worthless, stupid, balding, fat, lazy, ignorant, incompetent piece of shit, at the very least knew how to excuse himself. She turned her head ever so slightly, her lip puckering as if she had just bit into a rotten lemon, and she steadied herself. She had one goal and one goal alone: get Casey to adore her more than Trisha. A fun little “game” she played with all of her family’s partners, winning more than any of them would ever admit.

“That’s actually a sign that it’s working. It’s your body releasing its toxins,” said Tansy, turning her back once more on Trisha to give Casey all of her focus. “I posted a blog about Eastern medicine before—you know, with how multicultural my family is I just love to learn about all kinds of foreign traditions. Better out than in is their theory. I’ll have Trisha give you my number and I’ll send it to you to read. Oh, but you were saying something earlier? Something about boxing?”

Ding ding! They were about to enter into a new round. Tansy moved to grab Casey’s bicep, “Are you a boxer? You’re definitely built like one.”

”Oh, right! Right, no, I was wondering if you know my brother? “Timberwolf” Richoux? Leon to his friends…”
Casey was frankly impressed by her sturdy constitution, but he couldn’t let her see that it affected him. If you gave these types the fear response, that was a victory. He had to keep up, for every Marine and Airborne crazy fucker he’d ever met. The entirety of the United States Armed Forces was riding on this performance.
”Trisha didn’t tell me if you were a globetrotting slag or just a regular local one. I figured if you stayed local he’d probably tried to fill that kalehole of yours at least once. But if you’re not a sports groupie, you must be into fashion.”

“She’s both,” Trisha snickered, still covering her mouth. Honestly, she didn’t feel the need to say anything… she could just sit back and watch the show. She was worried for a moment when Tansy started on her fucking flirting, the very thing that led to more than a few ruined relationships, but it didn’t seem to faze Casey at all. Thankfully.

There was a second where it looked like the annoying_sister.exe crashed as Tansy stared at Casey unblinking, the mirthful shine in her eyes suddenly dull and dead like the fresh catch of the day. Her body tensed. It seemed at that moment as if the plastic pleasantness was about to reveal itself to have been covering a mold made out of some slightly more volatile plastique. Then, the corner of her eyes crinkled in a look of amusement as her kalehole twitched until she was able to fully reboot and offer him a fake smile again.

“ I see that you must not have served with a lot of women. Did Patricia snag you up as soon as you returned from deployment? That explains so much. You’re so brave. Reintegration takes some time,” said Tansy ever so politely before cocking her head and twisting a strand of blonde hair around her finger. “Since you’re curious about fashion, I’ll give you this tip for free: slutshaming is no longer vogue.”

The piece of hair popped perfectly back into place as Tansy returned her hand to her lap and grinned, ready to shut up Trisha’s snickering with a fearsome knockout punch, “Or was it my body count that you were actually interested in, soldier boy? I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours.

Casey could do nothing but laugh aloud at the sheer power. The strength, the poise, the rebound potential put her in the top scoring players throughout the entire WNBA and probably the regular one as well.
”Trisha? I’m… So fucking impressed. Are you gonna be like this when we argue? Am I in for, like, the worst stone face I’ve ever gotten?”

His nose crinkled in a mix of shock and disgust as his focus shifted back to Tansy.
”You took the Kalehole line like a fucking champ. My Dad, and my Brother, are both professional boxing champions. Like, world recognized. I’ve seen sturdy motherfuckers, Tansy Vanburen, and you’re one. I’m just… I’m at a loss.”

Tansy turned to look at Trisha, the smugness of her smile unable to be masked as the ref signalled to ring the bell.

Trisha's laughter very quickly stopped. Tansy, the bitch that she was, had completely stepped past Casey calling her a slag. While she hadn't expected it to actually bother her horrible half-sister she'd hoped it would make her back off. She only seemed to double down.

That explains so much. You’re so brave. Trisha's lips pulled down into an even uglier scowl than before. It wasn't hard to tell what Tansy was implying… no she was openly saying that Casey was only with Trisha because she was the first woman he'd met since, and that he didn't know many others. That he'd leave her when he realised how awful she was in comparison. Tansy was probably right, and that was what made it so infuriating. The smug smile, and Casey being impressed, was just the nail in the coffin.

“I’m nothing like her. Just because we have the same shitty dad doesn't make us anything alike- don't even compare us." Trisha jumped up, standing in front of them both while glaring daggers at Tansy. It was very clear that she wouldn't be stone faced during any argument - her anger written across her face and slightly shaking arms. Her voice was still low, rather than exploding into a shout, but it was harsh and heated.
“Piss off, Tansy. Stop flirting with my boyfriend, before I ruin that perfect face of yours and you won't get anyone again- I mean it this time. Do you know how desperate it is to try and steal your sibling's partners? Your life is so sad you have to come here and ruin mine too. You're just a bitch that everyone in the family hates… And nobody gives a fuck about your body count- its so high we can all see it."

“She’s just kidding. This is how we show affection.”

Casey put his hand up, finger rising high.
”That was beautiful Babe. I’d like the record to clearly reflect that I was not flirting with this Botox Beast, I just… Think it’s impressive that she would fit right in with a barrack full of Infantrymen on a six month deep deployment. Mostly as entertainment.” he cleared his throat and grimaced thinking about the implication of that. However, the darker thoughts he had queued up were probably just going to send him back to a place he didn’t want to be.

”And don’t speak for women you don’t know, Hon. It’s also suuuuper not chique. Past tense, even. Most of the women I met in the service were proud slags, since active combat attracts a different breed, y’know? Harder than you. Thicker than you. Stronger than you. I could still get you enlisted, there’s plenty of border conflicts you can go fight in.” he stared, the grin vaguely fading from his face until he matched Tansy’s previous cold, dead and fish-eyed expression.

But Tansy had turned her attention to Trisha, hand up to block Casey from seeing her lips move as she mouthed: he’s talking about prostitutes. Her eyebrows raised ever so slightly, as if in concern for her younger sister, like she was some kind of protector instead of tormentor.

“Unfortunately society would collapse if I left, so I’m afraid the borders will just have to fight themselves. Speaking of entertainment,” said Tansy, smoothing her dress as she stood up and turned to Trisha, “I’m hosting a little charity gala next weekend and came to see if Sabrina could whip together some of her magic and help me find a dress. Do you know when she’ll be home? Oh, funnily enough, it’s for Veteran’s Day. You two should come! By then you’ll remember each other's name. She nudged Trisha with her elbow. “What do you say, babe?

”Oh, Babe, she’s so right. I can call General O’Keefe, I’m sure he’d be happy to show up and bring the Command Staff from Lewis-McChord! Just the kind of guy to give your event a bit of real star power, Tansy.”
He shot Trisha a knowing glance.
”I think you’ll really get to see what kind of soldier I am at that point. And amazingly, it has nothing to do with licking boots!”

“No way, I'd rather die the slowest, most painful death than suffer one of your galas," Trisha said tersely, expression only getting worse. Tansy knew just how to get under her skin - digging down into the insecurities she tried her best to hide. She knew Casey wasn't talking about prostitutes, and she knew they knew each other's names… but the implication under it all rattled her. “Fun as it would be to ruin it and see how you deal with real soldiers at an event you're hosting to pretend you actually care about anyone other than yourself. I don't think you'd enjoy it- and maybe then everyone would know what a fake bitch you are!"

Trisha jerked away from Tansy, sitting back down and immediately pressing into Casey's side. She looped her arms under one of his and hugged it tightly, still glaring at her sister.
“And no, I don't know when Sabrina will be home. You have a phone, don't you? Fuck off and come back another day. I won't be here anymore to ‘entertain’ you… hopefully you can finally leave me alone rather than acting like some obsessed stalker."
Hopefully it would be harder for Tansy to track down a temple owned apartment in the same city than it was Trisha's accommodation at university.

“Oh, boo, you’re no fun,” said Tansy, giving a playful pout, not even flinching at the insults thrown her way. Trisha lacked the eloquence needed to pierce through her armor. “Come on, even Casey sounds like he wants to go. Brooke and Izzy came to the last one, but do you know what they said when everyone asked why you weren’t there? They said you were throwing one of your patented pity parties. Pity Party Patty they called you the entire night. Honestly, it was awful. They wouldn’t let it go. Really, you should reconsider coming. People are starting to worry about you.

“I mean it. I’m worried about you too. I was only playing around earlier, Patricia,” said Tansy, her voice taking a serious and somber tone. It was well-practiced, bullshit gilded to glisten like genuine concern. “You’re my baby sister. I’ll never leave you alone. So when you say things like, I won’t be here anymore, I…I…I get really scared!” Her eyes watered on cue. She wiped one with her finger. “That’s not something funny to joke about!”

Casey clung tightly to Trisha, not wanting to cause her any more undue stress.
”As much as I'd love to ruin your event, Tansy, Trisha's really got enough on her plate after meeting my family. Business, a home, safety, peace of mind. Things that you and yours can't seem to provide her properly, she's poised to achieve on her own. And I'm there for her every step. So, with all confidence, fuck off and come back tomorrow after we've properly moved her out. Oh, and one more thing?-”

Trisha could feel him lean back slightly, and both women would be able to hear his guts rumbling before a louder, nastier burp erupted from his throat.

”You're not seeing any results because you're actually not putting enough fruit into the mixture. I suggest less Kambucha, more natural juice. Maybe it'll cleanse the dirty fucking soul you seem attached to. Now don't make the fucking Wizard angry and be a good Kalehole.” he finished, his free hand coming up to shoo her off like a giant bug.

“Thank you, Case,” Trisha said softly, smiling at him and leaning into him more.

A hint of color was able to fight its way through the layers of powder and concealer and appear on Tansy’s cheeks as her eyes widened. At first it seemed as if she finally appeared insulted, having her “concern” so easily deflected, the crocodile tears in her eyes holding steady. Then loud, wicked laughter burst out of her as she clutched her stomach and doubled over. Her poise shattered and her face wrinkled, making her look like a hag whose glamour was failing. She laughed so hard that her side felt like it was about to cramp and actual tears began to stream down her cheeks.

“After we’ve moved her out? As in, you’re moving in? Together? With Harry Potter?”

Tansy threw her head back in another fit of laughter at the idea of Trisha moving in with her boyfriend of one day. She was in full hysterics as she stumbled away from the stupidest couple she had ever met and fell onto the couch while rolling with laughter. She struggled to breathe. Anytime she looked up at the two she broke into fits again, slapping her forehead and kicking her legs. This was hands down the single greatest thing Tansy had ever heard. Only through sheer force of will was she able to finally calm herself down enough so that she could speak.

“Oh, I’m just…pfft...I’m just so happy for the two of you, hehehe. I fully endorse this union, r-r-really. Wow, this is great. This is just great,” said Tansy, descending from her full blown guffaw into a giggle fit. Her eyes almost exploded out of her head as she sat up. “I cannot wait to tell EVERYBODY!”

Trisha was completely speechless. She just stared at Tansy with wide eyes, shock momentarily overwhelming how pissed off she was. She’d never seen Tansy like this. For as long as she could remember, she’d never seen anything genuine about her apart from the times a younger Trisha had gotten a proper, angry reaction out of her. But laughing? Laughing so hard she was flailing about like she was having a dying fit (which sadly she wasn’t).
“I’ve never seen her like this… she doesn’t normally show real emotion,” she whispered to Casey, going back to a narrow eyed glare at Tansy as she seemed to collect herself. Honestly, it was a bit terrifying. More so than the faked care.

“I’m sure you’re totally happy for us,” Trisha rolled her eyes, returning to a scowl. Because she knew that Tansy was mocking them. Was moving in with Casey after a day fast? Yes. Did she want her worst sister to find it so hilarious she actually proved that she was a human because of it? Not really, no. “Tell whoever you want, it’s not like you can tell anyone I care about. And I won’t have to deal with it, anyway, because you won’t be able to barge into my life anymore! Oh, but if you tell Ezra, make sure he knows I’m not actually leaving the family yet, but that I won’t depend on him for much longer.”
She still needed that allowance for now… just in case.

“Oh, of course, I’ll be sure to tell him just that,” said Tansy, still chuckling. “I’m sure Maria will be excited to hear the news, too!”

Don't you dare tell her." Trisha's expression only worsened, tone lowering with a cold rage. She jerked forward, only stopped from jumping up and scratching her half-sisters eyes out by Casey's arm around her. But she still pushed against it in her anger. She couldn't have her mom finding out right now. That would only end in another judgemental phone call, hours of being picked apart and then thrown away again once she was deemed damaged enough. Or worse, there would be no call at all. Her mom simply wouldn't care, and that would be much harder to bear than disappointment.

“She probably won't even pick up, Mom's too busy to listen to people like you, she's not one of your vapid rich ‘friends’-" Trisha gritted her teeth, whole body tense. Pretend it doesn't bother you, don't make it obvious. A slight banana scent started wafting off her - Casey would recognise it as her pheromones, different from the ones he'd been hit by before, and not strong enough to do anything to him at all. But she couldn't handle it. The risk of it going to her mom, the risk of it not being a bluff - because why the fuck was Tansy in contact with her - and the risk of her mom not caring at all. Panic and anger clutched her equally.
“Tell her before I do and I'll- I'll make you regret it."

“Oh, of course, you would want to tell her yourself. I know how close the two of you…” Tansy’s nostril flared, her eyelids fluttered, and her words died in her mouth. Her breathing grew short and staccato as she leaned forward, fingers pinching the bridge of her nose, appearing as if she suddenly felt unwell, tugging at the collar of her dress to fan herself. “Mmph…sorry, I just…um…”

Casey immediately pointed at her, his unhinged nature growing as his emotional field was walloped by magical pheromones.
”Oooh! Not so tough now, you… Blind…”
Clearly he was looking for the words to use to insult her for lacking any sort of magic, but in his head none of it sounded intelligible. He knew she wasn’t magical from the moment she started cracking up under the pressure.

It barely tickled him.

But he knew this wasn’t going to be what he wanted to be remembered for.
”Don’t piss the Warlock off!” he barked, both arms wrapping tight around Trisha.
”Hey, easy… Don’t hurt her, you’ll regret it later. Trust me.” he quietly and calmly spoke into Trisha’s ear, hands rubbing up and down her biceps as he held her there.
”You win, you’re stronger, she’s not a threat.”

His voice was a quiet mantra that echoed in her ear as he attempted to calm her down and appease her as best he could. He was just reaching for whatever he thought would be comforting.

Trisha curled in towards Casey, legs pulling up to her chest so she was a tight ball in his arms. She took a deep, shaky breath and tried to push back the panic rising in her chest. Tansy wouldn’t actually tell her mom. If she did, then it would be fine. She was used to her mom berating her. And she would. She wouldn’t just ignore it. Deep breaths.

“I’m not doing it on purpose," Trisha mumbled, trying to pull the pheromones back in. It wasn’t anywhere near the full blast, but they started increasing the more she panicked. She shook her head, closing her eyes and trying to concentrate on everything else. Focusing in on the sound of Casey’s voice and the feeling of him holding her tightly. Slowly, but surely, the scent began to fade. The tension in her shoulders faded, and she uncurled slightly. Her arms snaked around Casey and she rubbed her face against him a few times.
“I’m alright. I shouldn’t let her get to me…" Trisha said softly. It made her look so fragile, but Tansy just knew what to say. There was so little she didn’t know. “She just pisses me off so much. She does this all the time, I should be used to it, but some things just get to me more. But I’m alright now, it’s fine."

Meanwhile, Tansy had bolted out of the room in a flash, babbling what might’ve been a panicked apology for the sudden departure, stumbling only momentarily as her leg banged into the coffee table and knocking her water bottle onto the carpet, the remnants of whatever kale nightmare concoction dribbling out and staining the white rug. The sound of heels clacking in an off-rhythm followed by the front door slamming open against the wall confirmed her exit from the house. The faint sound of a young man, her driver perhaps, calling out to her—”Miss!Ms. Vanburen!”—could barely be made out through the front door that Tansy had left open in her flight.

Casey did indulge in a smirking giggle as Tansy vacated the premises. He didn’t want that type of thing happening to Blinds, but sometimes they were just too uppity. They had to learn. But, that was also his upbringing seeping into his mentality; the inherent bigotry that families like his exuded toward those without magic was almost always palpable in a private setting.
Like any other hate, it propagated in privacy, small numbers of close people giving into their biases and insecurities. They made themselves feel insular, safe, and ultimately on a pedestal above those without their gifts.

The capacity within him filled his mind with shame, but that sense of pleasure still came with it. The snickering, greater-than judgement… He was disgusted and fascinated by himself simultaneously.
But he didn’t want to dwell. It wasn’t right… Even if she deserved it.
”It’s okay… We all let things get past our walls sometimes. She’s been doing it for years, right? Forever? When you meet Junior, he’s not gonna be like that. He’ll flirt, try to get you to think he’s charming and funny, and that he’s not a sociopath. When he hears you’re into computers and stuff, he’s-”
He stopped, clearing his throat. Why was he thinking about Max Junior?
”-I guess, the same person. Just a dude. And he does shit like that to me. So, I understand. Okay?” he offered the reassurance again.

“I’m glad you understand,” Trisha said softly. She was, in the way it made her worry less about him reacting badly to her reaction. To those who weren’t used to people like Tansy, everything she said seemed to be nice. She’d fooled most of Trisha’s university friends when she ‘visited’, aside from Reyna, thanks to her ability to read auras. It had been frustrating. It was the same for past partners of hers.
“She didn’t used to be like that- well, she was always fake. Since she’s the oldest girl, she was always trying to act like our mom. But I have a mom, so I always pushed back on it.” A bit of an understatement. “Eventually it turned to this. All the hidden jabs. She’s only like that to me.”

Trisha laughed without much joy to the sound, fingers digging into Casey’s back as she tried not to think about all the things Tansy had said over the years.
“You can see now why a bit of crying doesn’t affect me, right? She does it all the time. At least… we can both see through it. Silver linings and all that,” she smiled slightly. “I won’t get charmed by any partner stealing siblings of yours either.”

Casey nodded.
”Good, because I’d have to kill him at that point, and I’d hate for you to have to deal with that.”
He didn’t mention the familial ramifications. It was, of course, implied. Regardless, he cuddled Trisha a bit tighter and gave her a kiss on the cheek.
”At least hopefully she won’t be back tonight. She doesn’t live here, right?” he asked with a nervous tone.

“She doesn’t, thankfully, she’s just an unwelcome guest,” Trisha smiled, twisting around to look at her practically untouched sandwich. “... but let’s finish those in my bedroom, just in case.”
[@Punished GN] As promised, Caelea & Rien as NPCs...

One new wolfpack NPC and one new 317 NPC!

Some of Rien's current apparitions! (Also added to their sheet if you want to update Ghost)

Interactions: Sloane @Atrophy, Ken @AtomicEmperor, Lynn @NoriWasHere

”Luca,” Luca said quietly, grimacing at the raw pain in his throat when he tried to talk.

Luca was unable to look away as Sloane was healed. He forced himself to watch the gruesome process of all her flesh regrowing, the sick feeling in the pit off his stomach barely dampened by relief. Then she looked at him with pained eyes filled with condemnation. She shook her head at him. He understood. It was all his fault. He should've been more careful. He shouldn't have gotten so close to her. If he hadn’t gone near her then she wouldn’t be hurt like this.

”I'm sorry,” Luca whispered again, voice hoarse. ”I'm so sorry, Sloane.”

His heart sunk further, to depths he didn’t even know were possible, when Jasper approached Sloane first. Of course. Of course. It all made sense. Jasper’s ‘hatred’ was just a coverup… he was straight, after all, and Sloane liked him too. They would be good for each other. Sloane, under all that harsh exterior, was a nice person. She wasn’t dying, like he was. They could have a future together. Luca would take his leave like he should’ve long ago.

He shouldn’t have come back. This - hurting someone - was always going to be the result.

Luca painfully pushed himself to his feet, arms flapping to the side to balance himself. It was like there was a heavy weight pulling him down, a constant burning against his skin… But it was fine. The physical feelings were normal, just worse again. It was what had happened that hurt more… and the hope for something more, something that couldn’t be.

He’d just need an hour alone to recover, then he’d be fine again.

Luca looked around, lips twisting into a pained frown as he caught sight of Lila. She looked… bad. In so much pain. She needed help - but he couldn’t help her right now. He’d just hurt her more. Maybe later, they could talk. Hopefully someone like Britney could actually help her, and Sully would at least help with the pain.

He took a step backwards, head tilting and catching Jasper’s gaze as it moved towards him. His heart thudded painfully in his chest… He couldn’t talk to Jasper right now. Not after all of that. Luca shook his head slightly, turning around and fleeing as quickly as he could towards the edge of the trees. He ignored the pain in his legs and the burning in his lungs. He needed to go home… to get out of the way.

With that in mind, he changed direction slightly… Approaching Ken and Lynn, still away from the group. He paused far enough away from them both that there was no chance of his aura catching him. Lynn was… crying. She wasn’t in a good state either. Luca bit his lip, before forcing what he hoped was a comforting smile. As if he was fine.

”Lynn…” he said softly, trailing off. He didn’t know what to say to her. He could only imagine what she’d seen in that hallucination. Right now, what was there he could say to help? ”If you need anything, you know where to find me.”

Luca then turned to Ken with an attempted brighter smile. It wasn’t quite possible to cover up the distress in his eyes or the rotting green flecks floating across them, and the festering wounds across his bare arms. ”Ken, when you have a moment, can you take me home? I need… some time to get things back under control. It’s too risky for me to stay.”

Hopefully Ken would be able to do just that without hurting himself - he was the best option, in Luca’s mind, since he had ways of separating them physically with magic. He couldn’t go back in Jasper’s car. He might hurt any of the other three, and he really needed that time to himself.

”I’ll just wait over here!”

"You certainly won't. You'll not be crying without my company, dear one."
There was a ripple, and an unkillable, unrottable wall of nothing but pure pressure that Luca would've nearly slammed into were it not for its elastic nature errupted around him. The gentle stretching sensation turned into a hammock of air, with a calm and consistent stream blowing upward into the air. After that, all the voices would be a little bit muffled, but Ken still spoke to him through the thin veil.
"You will stay with me where you won't be consumed. I'll only be a moment."

Interactions: Sloane @Atrophy, Drake @Shin Ghost Note
Kari Wilson’s House

”Sloane!” Anya was right behind Sully, hanging back so she didn’t get in the way when he shoved the Chalice into her friend's face. Normally she'd find his brutish way of going about it irritating, but in the case it didn't matter. Sloane needed the elixir one way or another. A soft sigh of relief escaped her slightly parted lips as the horrible rotting receded, muscle and skin reforming and her movements getting stronger. She was going to be alright, it seemed, as she got enough strength to push away Sully.

Good. It would be a shame to lose someone like her.

Anya waited until Sully stepped away to get closer, crouching beside Drake and Sloane with a furrowed brow and concerned expression. A genuinely concerned one, not hidden behind all the layers of false kindness she normally wore.

”Here, take this.” She took off her long, light grey wool jacket and draped it over Sloane. It was damp but not quite soaked through… It would do. She was glad she'd worn one that went down to her knees today, with the two of them being about the same height; anything shorter wouldn't do much for Sloane.

She then looked at Drake, almost smiling. ”This certainly is one way to apologise to Sloane.”

While Anya wasn’t particularly friendly with Jade, and thus didn’t have the (formerly) good opinions of Drake that Sloane did. But he had rushed over as soon as she was hurt… And helped Sully made sure she got healed.

”Anya,” she eventually replied to Auri’s request, tilting her head towards her, feeling it was a little ridiculous. Couldn't she manually count? Or ask Greyson to check that everyone was there?

Ah, he’d made a beeline right for Britney… of course. Anya’s lip curled up in disdain for just a moment as she watched him. Love really did make you weak.

Is that not what’s happening to you with Sloane? The more you care about her the weaker you get… Ah, but that’s not it. I didn’t care enough to sever.

She forced her gaze off Greyson, and her thoughts off that, skimming over other nearby coven members. Linqian, near naked, Aryin, near naked, Jasper… near naked. Sloane was right, what the fuck happened to everyone’s clothes?

”Maybe the winds blew them off,” Anya said drily, a delayed response to Sloane’s question. She bit her lip, continuing in a surprisingly soft tone. ”How did you get here, Sloane? I brought my care, so I can take you home? Maybe… you can come with us, Drake?”

Interactions: Britney @Shin Ghost Note, Greyson @AtomicEmperor
Linqian’s Home -> A Place Where Her Home No Longer Exists

Linqian was in the kitchen. She didn’t remember how she’d moved there - no, she did. The hallucination had shifted, changed. She was younger. Huanyi played on the floor a few steps away from her, pushing his toy cars around with dramatic sound effects. He looked to be only eleven… which would make her nineteen.

She remembered the tiredness of those years. Two full time jobs, with barely any time to sleep in between. But she couldn’t feel the tiredness. This wasn’t real.

In a way, things had been easier then. She didn’t have to think as much, and-

”I said I’d make dinner, Qian-er,” Jinhai’s voice came from right beside her, as he leaned against the counter with a smile.

Jinhai was still there.

”And let you burn the house down? I don’t think so.” Linqian rolled her eyes, bumping her hip against him to try and shove him away so she could cut the vegetables in front of her. He laughed, stepping slightly to the side but still leaning over her. Fucking… he really used those extra four inches of height he had to be a pain. ”I will shove this knife in your eye, Jinhai.”

A brief flash, Jinhai’s eyes lost all life. Blood stained his white shirt. A knife was in his chest. She shook her head, the image disappeared. It wasn’t real in here.

”You’d miss me too much,” Jinhai teased, but he still stepped properly back with his hands up. Linqian wanted to wipe the smug grin off his face, but she also wanted to take a photo so she could remember it forever. She wanted to remember his smile. Not… not the end. ”And who would make sure Yi-er does all his homework?”

”I can do that,” Linqian rolled her eyes, not looking away as she started cutting the vegetables. She did it perfectly - because this was a perfect world. What she wanted. ”Just cause I can’t help him doesn’t mean I don’t make him do it.”

”You never did your homework,” he grinned. "I remember you came up with the worst excuses, then stopped bothering altogether.”

”I'm not Yi-er, he's smart. I'd never let him-”

A smouldering smell overwhelmed the freshly chopped vegetables. Shouting… No. She shouldn’t be able to hear the outside.

No, no, no, ”no, no, no, please let me-”

Once again, Jinhai disappeared in front of her eyes.

”- stay.”

But it was gone. He was gone.

Linqian didn’t even bother looking around. She didn’t care. She couldn’t give less of a fuck about whether everyone was alright. Jinhai wasn’t. Jinhai was dead. And she might as well be, with the fucking life she was living- she wanted to be. Why couldn’t she be? Why must she suffer- She wanted to go back. She’d give anything to go back.

There was a chill in the air that prickled against her skin, but she barely felt it. All she felt was numbness. Nothing.

She was still crying.

Linqian turned to look at Britney as she grabbed her shoulders, then at Greyson when he appeared out of nowhere. Had he been here the whole time? No, probably not. He was worried? Probably not about her… Ah, it didn’t matter. The tears didn’t stop, and she didn’t bother trying to stop them.

You couldn’t close to the floodgates when they were open, not without a bit of force.

She removed Britney’s hands from her shoulders to take Greyson’s jacket, pulling it on and closed to properly cover herself up. No snide comment, no eyerolls, none of the normal shit she'd give him.

”Am I okay?” Linqian echoed them both. Of course she wasn’t. It was obvious that she wasn’t. Who would be fucking okay after that?! After losing the only person she could depend on… one of the two people she had left. Then having to see him again, as if he hadn’t gone. She wanted to stay in that hallucination forever. Fuck, she wanted to see him again. ”Yeah, I’m fucking great.”

Linqian suddenly turned around and punched the vine wall beside her. She punched it again and again until her knuckles were scraped raw, blood sluggishly trickling down them. She then pulled her hands back, shaking them as the blood splattered onto muddy ground.

The pain gave her some clarity - and with it came the rest. An explosion of pain across her face where Vashti’s skull had smashed into it. A hazy dizziness still at the back of her skull. A dull ache in her whole body from falling to the ground, wrestling with Vashti in the mud. But it didn’t get rid of the pain that bothered her the most. The agony deep inside of her where it felt her soul had been ripped out. It would never come back. But it was enough to stop the tears, the weak things she hated shedding so much.

She turned back to Britney and Greyson as if nothing had happened. As if she hadn’t just been crying, and as if she hadn’t punched something until her hands bled. She raised a bloody hand to wipe away the tears, lips pulling up into a smile. It didn't reach her eyes.

It was an incredibly jarring shift.

”Well, that was a fucking bust,” Linqian grimaced, acting if everything was okay. She actively avoided looking over at anyone else, even as she finally replied to Auri’s stupid shout. ”Linqian.”

She then tilted her head up to properly look at Britney and Greyson. She should just go, make sure Huanyi was alright… but he’d said he’d be out again tonight, probably not back until midnight. The house would be empty. She couldn’t handle that emptiness. Not where there should be four other people- not where he should be. Not in that house filled with memories that was no longer a home. She couldn't. ”Either of you have plans for after this? I need to-”

What did she need? A drink, but she couldn’t have that, she had a ten hour shift tomorrow. It was a bad idea, anyway. Some fun? Sure, but that wasn’t really it. That would just be a want. No, this was a need, she-

”I need to not be alone.”

The words came out as a hoarse whisper that only Britney and Greyson would be able to hear. She bit down on her lip, eyes dropping to the floor. Fuck. She hadn’t meant to say that… or had she?

No, she hadn’t.

"Father Wolf is still around, y’know, and we don't all have a live-in ex boyfriend for protection." At least she assumed that was why Greyson was staying with Britney.

It was a pathetic excuse, playing it off as a joke, when she’d gladly welcome his knife. At least then, she’d know peace - either in the nothingness that came after, or joining Jinhai in the afterlife. Was there any point in delaying the inevitable sweet release? Why couldn't Vashti have given her that today?

Her smile dropped again, only making what she'd meant clearer.

There was a part of her that for once didn’t care if they saw just how broken she was. Vulnerability made her weak - but it was fine. Let them take advantage of it if they wanted to. Use her, kill her, she didn’t care. How could it get any worse?

The worst had already happened. Twice.

They probably had plans anyway. Britney would check on Lila, she assumed, and Greyson... Well he'd want to spend time with just Britney. There was always Aryin- Linqian caught sight of Aryin leaving out of the corner of her eye.


”Don’t worry about it, you probably have plans.”

A lack of the usual confidence. She didn’t have the energy to keep it up. Not here, not now.

It was fine if she went back to the empty house.

Either she’d die quickly when Father Wolf finally came for her, or she’d suffer hours alone until her next shift, when she had to be fine again.

Just like always.

Interactions: Sully @Atrophy
A Minor Moral Dilemma

It was so nice to be at the top of the world. Everyone bowed at her feet as they should. They followed her rule without questions and allowed her to do anything she wanted. Every powerful man- now, person, that had ever been in her life. All beneath her feet, with Sloane the only one by her side.

Ah. Did she really care enough about Sloane to keep her around like this?

The thought jolted her out of what she’d realised was a hallucination, the prostrate body of Ezra Vanburen sadly disappearing and being replaced by a disappointingly boring fallen tree trunk. Anya frowned, one hand raising to the bridge of her nose and pinching it.

At least no one had been around to see that… And she hadn’t said anything to give away what she’d seen.

Some parts of it had surprised her. The power, not so much… but how it had manifested? Unusual. She hadn’t expected to enjoy something like that so much.

And Sloane’s involvement in something so tempting for her? Something so irresistible?

That was what she found strangest of all. When had she stopped thinking of her future as solely her own, without the need for anyone else? When had she decided, somewhere deep down, that Sloane would always be there? That she, perhaps, needed her only friend to remain.

She wasn’t sure, and that made her uncomfortable.

Anya turned around towards what had been a battlefield, and turned to a chaotic mess of hallucinating Sycamore members and jiving zombies. It wasn’t dangerous anymore. The largest undead creature had been taken care of… or at least, lay fallen on the ground. With a slight sigh of relief, Anya put her Channeller back in her pocket and made her way out of the tree she’d been sheltering behind.

Her head snapped around as she tried to account for everyone useful in the group. Greyson, finally there but trapped in a hallucination of his own. Jack… where was Jack? She couldn’t see him anywhere. Likely hiding in the shadows. Stormy’s glowing shield gave him away. Britney, safe beside people Anya had no interest in going near.

Sloane, where was Sloane-

Anya stopped, breath catching in her throat. It was the closest she’d felt to panic since fighting the Stygian Snake. Sloane’s body- what was left of it- held limp in the strange child’s arms. It was rotting away, and Anya couldn’t tell if she was still breathing. Was she gone? No, she had to still be alive.

They only had one healer.

Anya spun on her heel, storming up to Sully. He was caught in the illusion, doing god knows what. She didn’t care. She snatched the Chalice from his hands, fingers curling around it as she made to go towards Sloane and Clancy.

She wouldn’t be able to use it. To use it, she’d have to sever herself from her lux. Her lux, that was everything to her. As important as her own life. More important than Sloane’s? She may be too far gone to save. Without her lux, Anya had no future. No job, no money, no security team from Ezra. It would be a fate worse than death.

Anya should, and could. It would possibly save Sloane’s life. A sacrifice many would make, she was sure.

But not Anya. Sloane was important to her, but not more important than herself or her magic.

”Sully- Sullivan! Anya snapped explosively. She shifted the Chalice so she could clap her hands together right in front of his face, hoping to drag him out of it with sound alone. ”Sullivan McPherson, snap out of it. Do something useful with your useless life!”

It wasn’t working. Her magic was useless in this situation. She didn’t have the pink lux spells to breach a waking mind. She’d tried to develop them, tried to learn from Greyson, but it had never succeeded.

Anya gritted her teeth, closing her eyes for a moment. This wasn’t something she wanted to do. It would look bad. But it was for Sloane. To get the one person that could save her - the absolute imbecile that couldn’t even do his own job - back from his likely unachievable fantasies.

She raised the Chalice, and tried to smash it over Sully’s head. At the same time, an elbow went for his gut. If he snapped out of it in time to avoid it… fine. If not, hopefully it would drag him out.

Interactions: Clancy @Zombiedude101, Sloane @Atrophy
Luca's Nightmares Becoming Reality

Sloane didn’t let go. The pain didn’t pull her out of the hallucination. It only pushed her forward as Luca desperately tried to get away, heavy sickness clawing at his throat as Sloane stroked his cheek. The smell of rotting flesh filled his senses, the sights that normally filled his nightmares becoming a reality. Skin peeling off and dissolving, muscle melting away to reveal the bone. A horrible, dark rot setting across a still living body. A familiar sight on his own, a horrifying one on another.

Dark blood splattered across his dirty face. It oxidised and rusted immediately, brown specks flaking off his face and scattering to the ground as Sloane slumped towards it. He went to catch her, then stopped. It would be worse. Touching her more would be worse. Falling to the ground was less deadly. He was the real danger.

He was killing her. He was- he was doing the one thing he’d never wanted to do. It didn’t matter that it was the exact same process happening to him, that it was a cruel burden for him to bear- it was his to bear alone, to die alone, to suffer through the pain while protecting everyone else but… he’d failed at that. And now Sloane was dying. Her blood was on his hands.

He was a killer, a glorious bringer of rot and decay.

Luca didn’t resist as the kid- not a child- pulled Sloane off him and pushed Luca away. The constant rotting across his skin ate away at Clancy’s flesh, revealing the dark shadows within. The Rot inside Luca physically recoiled with a distasteful tut. It wasn’t appealing, or something he could easily destroy - even as the touch would subtly weaken Clancy’s abstraction.

Clancy’s look, the feral glare that seemed filled with loathing towards him, had Luca backing away. He stumbled, slumping down onto the ground. He kicked his legs out to continue to push himself back while sitting. Far enough away there was no risk of even his aura touching Sloane. So he couldn’t hurt her again. Far enough away from everyone else, so he couldn’t hurt them either. He’d been too complacent.

”I didn’t mean to,” he choked out. To who, he didn’t know. Clancy, Sloane, himself? ”I can’t help… I’ll only make it worse…”

The flesh of fallen zombies sizzled around him, Sloane’s blood staining his worn, green pants a darker brown. Festering wounds spread across his arms, skin darkening as sickly purple spread through his veins. It matched the decay of Sloane’s body. The rot that was slowly eating away at him was devouring her. It was horrible- it was beautiful.

They needed to get her to a healer. Miranda- Miranda could heal her, if he phoned her… no, he’d destroy his phone, and it would kill her instead. Shit. A teleporter- Jack, where was Jack?! But where would he take her? Shit, what about the 317 healer- what was their name? It didn’t matter! Just someone, anyone, to help her. He couldn’t. He couldn’t do anything. He only hurt everyone.

Why was he even here? Why was he holding on, when it brought nothing but pain?

Just give in. I want to give up.

Luca backed away further, putrid green flickering across the edges of his eyes and creeping inwards towards his pupil. It was difficult to breathe. Why? Why could it not just kill him, why did he have to suffer this slow decay as everything he touched turned to dust?

Why, why, why-

”I’m so sorry. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to,” Luca gasped, hands digging into the corpse covered ground beside him. He stared at Sloane’s limp body, tears leaking from the corners of his eyes. Dirty water turned to a horrible yellow pus that wept from wounds forming around his lashes. Everything hurt, but it didn’t matter. He didn’t care. The pain was what he deserved. ”She needs- she needs a healer… someone… I can’t… I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”

Panic filled his chest, static filled his mind, but Luca was still in control. The Rot was content within him, fueled by the flesh it had eaten and the chaos it was sowing. It was all Luca.

If Sloane died, he would be the one that killed her.
<Snipped quote by FernStone>

Very true. Dean won't make it easy for him. She hopes Linqian doesn't mind out. She's not trying to get her killed.

Yeahhhhh... Someone will really have to hold Linqian back if that happens before she goes gets herself shot
(Thankfully she's not the one of the two with the mind reading...)
@FernStone Honestly, if he does that, all is forgiven and she'll love him forever. We can totally make that happen.

He's probably the one coven member with the best shot at it thanks to his mafia connections...
(Tbh Linqian finds out about Dean and she'll go try beat his ass anyway, edict can take the credit)
ALSO I complete rewrote Linqian's relationships!

Anddd Luca & Anya got updates, with new characters / some old ones they've had changes of relationships with!

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