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Rocky Road ~ House of Starr and Nate

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R12 – Glad You're Here – Brisa & Starr
  • unrepentantAuthor

    A cat that writes stories.
    Location
    UK
    Pronouns
    they/she
    Partners
    1. custom/purrloin-salem
    2. custom/sneasel-dusk
    3. custom/luz-companion
    4. custom/brisa-companion
    5. custom/meowth-laura
    6. custom/delphox-jesse
    After Brisa's revival, before the fight with Red...

    Brisa stumbled forwards, her eyes heavy, her head dizzy from the way she could see into things now, like her ma, from the way everything about her body felt unfamiliar, unwieldy, at once terribly powerful and fragile enough to shatter.

    "How far?" she mumbled to Starr. "T'the Guild."

    Starr tightened her grip on Brisa's shoulder as a sort of reassurance. "Not much further, almost there. Which room is--eh, I'll find it."

    Brisa mumbled her room number. Starr evolved, huh? Yeah. Definitely. She was so tall. Wow.

    Hadn't she slept long enough in the Voidlands? Why was she so tired? Her luxray vision was disorienting. She hadn't the knack of turning it on and off yet, and it gave her a headache when she saw through too much at once. She kept her eyes shut, since that seemed to force it off, and let Starr guide her.

    She heard a door open. She wanted to be in a bed more than anything, by sky and stars and storms.

    "Thanks, Starr..."

    "It's nothing. Someone's gotta make your sorry ass get some damn sleep," said Starr. She shoved Brisa – gently – and she tumbled sideways and onto her bed.

    "I'll sleep," she mumbled. "I'll sleep. I promise."

    The fatigue hurt. Gods. She'd always expected to feel stronger after evolving, but instead she just felt useless. At least she could sleep, and that was what Starr was asking of her...

    There was a pause.

    "Alright," said Starr. "You need anything before I go? Like, water or something?"

    I need you not to go.

    Brisa choked on the words. She couldn't say that. The thought even occurring to her felt unacceptable. An imposition. Starr already said she was gonna go...

    Y'don't want her to, though. What's the harm in askin'?

    "Could you stay?" Brisa asked, so quietly she wasn't sure Starr would hear her.

    Another pause, then: "Yeah, alright."

    Starr lowered herself onto the edge of the bed, and helped Brisa budge over to give her room to sit comfortably. Then she just leaned her weight against Brisa's side. It felt comfortable. Warm. Like a living blanket, even. Even when Brisa closed her eyes, she couldfeel that Starr was still there. With her.

    She wanted to say something. She didn't know what.

    This is good. Y'should get t'be happy about it. An' so should she.

    "Starr..."

    Starr's weight shifted very slightly, as if she was inclining an ear to listen.

    "I'm really glad you're here."

    If Starr replied, Brisa was unconscious before she heard it.

    Since then...

    Brisa's dreams had been fragmented, intense, confusing as always, but strangely pleasant compared to the usual fare. Starr had... Starr stayed with her. Because she'd asked.

    She'd slept off half a lifetime's fatigue, thrown her weight around in the training rooms once Starr stopped watching her like a braviary for signs of overwork, and charged into the battle with Red alongside her friend to deliver some of the most searingly powerful attacks she'd ever heard of.

    Brisa's Void Arcstrike and Starr's Brilliant Flarestrike reacted to each other and became Fusion Arcflare!

    There was something about being with Starr... Something that made her better.

    Yer just thinkin' that to justify tryin' to spend more time with her. Not that there's anythin' wrong with that.


    Maybe not. More time... She wanted that.

    As it turned out, she'd get it. Not only did the two of them keep hanging out in the Guild Dorms, but Starr took to spending time with her around Destiny Village, and eventually at their new accomodations in Parfait Way. Brisa stopped bothering to say 'make yourself at home' after the first couple of visits, when Starr took to throwing herself over the couch within seconds of her arrival. Soon after, she began showing up at Starr's place with just as little fuss. Brisa smiled as she helped herself to refreshments from Starr's fridge. She'd never had a friendship like this.

    It was good.

    "I never got round to congratulatin' ya on yer evolution," drawled Brisa, as she clawed the top off a bottle of ale. "Considerin'... well, everythin', it plain slipped my mind. Y'look fuckin' strong. More comfortable in yer own skin too, maybe?"

    She grinned. The facial movement had finally stopped feeling alien. Perks of having Starr hang out with her in the dorms enough times, she guessed.
     
    [RD13] Roommate Drama (Nate and Starr)
  • Negrek

    Whole of the Moon
    Staff
    It was fucking weird being in a house with, like, a fucking roommate again. Rocky didn't really count; Nate could always tell where he was, if he concentrated, and get a vague idea of what he was up to. It wasn't like he'd ever walk in on an awkward situation, and as annoying as the familiar was, he seemed to know when to leave Nate alone.

    The familiar hadn't been around for a bit. That asshole had better not be getting himself into more trouble. Nate still hadn't chewed him out for the part where he apparently knew Soda was up to no good all along and had failed to mention that he'd fucking threatened Arceus' kid. Grumpily, Nate reached out through their psychic connection--felt like he was having fun, somewhere far away. Asshole had better enjoy it while he could. All the fucking stupid dad jokes, too, why the fuck did he have to go and make this fucking weird?

    Nate paced around the perimeter of the cardboard box he'd set up for some privacy in the bedroom. Why the fuck couldn't they have found some house that had more than one fucking bedroom? Way to go and make the whole roommate thing at least three times as weird, making it so you had to sleep in the same room as them.

    Why the fuck had he agreed to this?

    Why the fuck was he considering adding some other weirdo to this whole situation?

    At least Silver was a guy. Not that Starr was like a normal girl or nothing, she was like a two-hundred-pound tiger that was on fire, that was kind of the larger fucking issue, but still. Was she going to fill the house up with, like, girl shit? Like... shoes? Lots of fucking shoes?

    Incineroar didn't wear shoes. Goddammit.

    Nate poked his head out of the hole in his box. Starr was definitely out there somewhere. He'd heard her come in. What the fuck was she up to? Not watching TV or nothing like that, he'd be able to hear it.

    Nate padded cautiously towards the door to the bedroom proper. Maybe if he was lucky she'd be taking a nap and he could put this off for--oh. Fuck. No, there she was.

    For a moment Nate considered turning right around and pretending he was taking a nap instead if she came into the bedroom. But no, she'd definitely seen him, hadn't she? That would be be weird. Shit. Right. Might as well get this over with.

    "Hey," Nate said casually, taking a cautious step out into the common area. Would you be okay if I invited your interdimensional twin who got brainswapped with your asshole father to come live with us? No, no, not yet. "...What's up?"
     
    [RD14] One of the Team (Nate, Starr, and Silver)
  • Negrek

    Whole of the Moon
    Staff
    It was kind of weird, just walking down the street and ending up back home. Half an hour ago Nate had been in nightmare hell watching the mewtwo drift around menacingly, and now he was on the couch with a beer and the TV remote, Rocky curled up at the far end and complaining about the channel selection. "Not more battles," the familiar said. "Guild Warriors is on now. We should watch that instead!"

    "Watch it on your fucking badge if you're that into it," Nate said. "Come on, they're airing one of S'more's fights from way back. You can't tell me you don't want to see that."

    Rocky stretched out languidly, making some halfhearted protest or other, but Nate was right. The familiar couldn't keep the interest from his glowing eyes as he stared at the screen--Guild Whatevers probably had some wild fantasy shit going on, but Rocky couldn't resist the draw of legends fighting for real, even after how much of it they'd done. Even today, kind of.

    The house was quiet, as usual. Starr had barely been around since the whole Voidlands thing with Maple, which... wasn't good, but also wasn't anything to do with Nate. Not like he could do nothing about it, since who knew where she fucking was, which was the entire point.

    Silver might be off in the other room, or he might not. He usually kept himself to himself. Nate raised himself off the couch slightly, peering at the doorway. Maybe some of his team were around? He might be able to lure a couple of them into joining. Nate turned the idea over in his mind, lazily contemplating. Was it worth getting up to check for them...?
     
    R14 – A Light That Doesn't Hurt
  • unrepentantAuthor

    A cat that writes stories.
    Location
    UK
    Pronouns
    they/she
    Partners
    1. custom/purrloin-salem
    2. custom/sneasel-dusk
    3. custom/luz-companion
    4. custom/brisa-companion
    5. custom/meowth-laura
    6. custom/delphox-jesse
    Before the fight in the Radiant Void...

    Bristarr Spa.png

    Gods, but Brisa ought to have tried one of Cibus' spas before now. How much less stressed could she have been if she'd just had a goddamn hot bath once in a while? And they had some kind of fucking berry or orb or something that made the water pleasant for fire types, and Starr was right there next to her, eyes closed and jaw slack with enjoyment, her belt of flames merrily blazing away, heating up the pool even further.

    Brisa smiled, and breathed out the last of the tension in her. Whatever their next mission held for them, whatever troubles awaited the team, the two of them could always come back here and everything would be okay. Perfect.
     
    Last edited:
    [RD16] Stubborn (Rocky and Nate)
  • Negrek

    Whole of the Moon
    Staff
    Nate was in the living room watching TV. Rocky could tell because his shadow was in the crawlspace at the back of the house. When Nate was in his room, it hid under the front porch instead.

    Rocky was kneeling in the garden behind the house, which was now immaculately weeded. He'd been there for a while, pretending to tend the pansies. What he'd actually been doing was trying to get the shadow to come out.

    "You know I'm not going to hurt you," he said, exasperated. "If I wanted to hurt you, I would have done it a long time ago. It's been weeks!"

    The shadow only stared at him, tears leaking slowly from the corners of its eyes. It was pressed against the back wall of the crawlspace, absolutely as far away from Rocky as possible without sinking through the cinderblocks. Not that hiding back there did it any good! The shadow was also perfectly aware that Rocky could fit under the house if he wanted to, could grab it and simply drag it out into the light. That hadn't helped, either.

    Nothing helped. Rocky had tried bringing gifts, but they were ignored. He'd tried telling jokes and funny stories to get the shadow to laugh, but at this point he wasn't even sure that it knew how. No amount of cajoling, reassurances, or invitations to talk had had the slightest effect. Rocky hadn't even gotten the shadow to stop crying, much less actually come out from under the house.

    Now he was reduced to pleading. "Please come out?" he said. "Please, please? We don't have a lot of time, and... I'm worried Marshtomp's going to find out about you eventually." The only reason he hadn't figured it out already was that he was really invested in it not being happening, but even he would have to get over his denial sooner or later. "You don't want Marshtomp to find out about you, do you?"

    The shadow somehow managed to shrink away even more, sniffling and blinking tear-filled eyes. Oh, no, that had almost been like a threat, hadn't it? Not good. He twisted one hand in the grass at the edge of the flowerbed, ripping up blades.

    This should have been easy! Rocky was sure that the shadow just needed a friend, somebody be nice to it and show it there was nothing to be afraid of, and do fun things with it, and then it could stop being so sad and scared all the time. And who was friendlier than Rocky? But despite his best efforts, the shadow refused to even try to make friends. It was like it wanted to be miserable or something.

    Rocky took a deep breath. "Sorry," he said. "I'm not mad." He was honestly kinda mad. "But I don't understand why you won't come out. Or at least talk to me! I just want to learn more about you. I want to be friends. Really. I like you! So why... why won't you talk to me?"

    "Go away," the shadow said in its miserable little voice.

    Maybe he should have left it on the moon the way Marshtomp wanted, Rocky though bitterly. No! Bad thoughts! He couldn't give up that easily. He thought a lot of people had given up on the shadow already. He wasn't going to be another one.

    But nothing he did seemed to help. "We could go get ice cream?" he suggested miserably. "I could bring you ice cream. And we could just talk. Or not even talk. You could just try the ice cream..."

    "Leave me alone."

    Rocky was starting to understand why Marshtomp didn't want anybody to know about his shadow. He was starting to understand why Marshtomp didn't like his shadow. And Rocky was starting to think he didn't like Marshtomp's shadow, either.

    He didn't like that he was starting to think like Marshtomp. Not at all.

    "I just want to help you! Please!" he hissed. He couldn't raise his voice, or else Marshtomp might overhear. He could already hear the shadow crying sometimes, Rocky knew, he just tried to pretend like he didn't.

    The shadow covered its face with its paws and cried even harder. This was going nowhere, as usual. Rocky tried to control himself and not make any angry movements while he was gathering up his gardening tools. He tried to walk away calmly. It wasn't until he was sure he was out of the shadow's hearing that he allowed himself to stomp, let his flames leap and dance with anger. Stupid! Marshtomp and his shadow were both so stupid! Rocky still couldn't believe how stupid they both were.

    When he slammed into the house he found Marshtomp exactly where he expected to, on the couch watching battles on TV, the same as always. He looked a little queasy. Rocky couldn't help snapping at him as he went past. "Why do you have to be so stubborn all the time?"

    Marshtomp stared at him. "Stubborn?"

    Rocky groaned and stormed off to their room, where Marshtomp had his own spot to hide in, the cardboard box that had needed to have its doorway chopped wider when he evolved. Rocky didn't fit in there with him any more, now that he didn't have a core to retreat to. Instead he had a beanbag chair to collapse into and fume, which is what he did.

    If there was one thing he could say for Marshtomp, it was that he at least left his hiding place, sometimes. But Rocky guessed that in his head Marshtomp never really stopped hiding, not at all.
     
    [RD17] New Friends (Rocky and Nate)
  • Negrek

    Whole of the Moon
    Staff
    Rocky knelt in the back garden of the house, peering into the crawlspace. The pansies around him were beautifully manicured, but Rocky wasn't even pretending to work on them right now.

    He couldn't really see the shadow, only the glow of its yellow eyes. He could hear it whimpering, though.

    "Hello," Rocky said, not expecting any response. "I'm back. And I brought you a friend. See?"

    He set the swinub down on the ground in front of him, and after he'd tossed a couple berries into the crawlspace it was quite happy to investigate. It seemed to enjoy the cool, dark space, snuffling around at the damp earth.

    Nate's shadow stayed where it was, huddled miserably in a corner. But its constant whimpering had stopped, and Rocky could see its eyes shifting slowly, tracking the swinub's investigation of its hiding place.

    "That's right. You like the swinub, don't you?" Rocky asked triumphantly.

    The shadow didn't answer. But after watching the swinub trundle around for a while, it at last scooted forward and reached out a tentative hand to pat the swinub on its flank.

    The swinub let out a startled grunt when something invisible struck it in the side, and the shadow shrank away. "No, no, it's okay!" Rocky said. "There's a ghost under there, that's all. You can't see them, but they're friendly."

    The swinub huffed and whined and didn't seem terribly enthused about hanging around a haunted crawlspace, but it settled down quickly enough when Rocky tossed another couple berries to it. Ultimately it stayed where it was, taking messy bites of nanab berry, when the shadow soundlessly slid up beside it again and started petting its back.

    "That's right. It's a nice swinub," Rocky said. "You want to feed it, too?" He held out another berry. The shadow stared at it in frank suspicion. "You can have this. All you have to do is answer my questions."

    "Go away," the shadow muttered.

    "Okay, but I'm taking the swinub with me. Is that what you want?"

    The shadow cringed, and for a second Rocky thought it was going to start crying again. There were oily dark tears welling in its eyes, but they didn't fall, at least not yet. It just stared at Rocky like it was expecting him to kick it or something. The familiar sighed in exasperation and held the berry out again. "What are you so afraid of? I'm not going to hurt you."

    "Yes, you will," the shadow said.

    "No, I won't!" Rocky scowled. "Why would I?"

    "I don't know. You did before."

    "What? No, I--" Rocky crossed his arms. "I didn't! Do you mean Marshtomp? But you're not... I mean, well..." Rocky frowned down at the ground, then finally bowled the berry to the shadow with a sullen flick. It had actually done something other than told him to go away, at least. The shadow reached to catch the berry, then took a moment to inspect it, like it suspected Rocky might have given it a fake. The swinub gave the berry the same suspicious look, but that was probably just because it looked like the berry was floating in midair, turning slowly as if under its own power. It was still perfectly happy to bite into it when the shadow held the berry out in front of its snout, though.

    The shadow settled down on its stomach with its head propped on its hands. Its eyes dimmed to a gentle glow while it watched the swinub eat, apparently perfectly content.

    "Would you feel better if I went away? Would you come out then?" Rocky asked after a minute.

    The shadow didn't look at him. "No."

    "Are you ever going to come out from under there?"

    "No."

    "But you can't stay down there forever!"

    "Why not?"

    "I mean, obviously you have to leave when Marshtomp does, but besides that..." Rocky gestured hopelessly. "What are you so afraid of? What do you even think is going to happen? People are going to show up and just attack you for no reason?"

    "Maybe. Does it matter? I'm safe here."

    "But it's so boring! Don't you want to do anything fun? Or, or, pokémon. There are a lot of pokémon out here, like that swinub. Don't you want to meet them?"

    The shadow pressed itself lower to the ground, hands clenching in the dirt. It turned its face from Rocky, tears starting to well from its eyes again. "I shouldn't."

    "What's that supposed to mean?" Rocky said, tail lashing in exasperation. "Who cares if you make friends with a pokémon? You're not making any sense! Hey!" The mudkip suddenly turned, as if hearing some noise, then squealed and retreated as far as it could from the light, pressing itself up against the cinderblocks as though hoping to melt through them.

    "What?" Rocky leaned forward, trying to see into the shadows. The swinub grunted in confusion. "What? There's nothing there."

    "What the fuck are you doing out here?"

    Rocky turned slowly, ectoplasmic body frozen in alarm. Nate was standing a few feet behind him, arms crossed and looking grim. Rocky raised his chin, trying for a defiant look. Even kneeling down, he was nearly taller than the marshtomp. "Why? Did you feel something funny?"

    Nate ignored him and pushed past to peer under the porch. Rocky considered trying to stop him, but what was the point? He had to find out sometime.

    "A fucking swinub?" Nate said, frowning, but he must have caught sight of the shadow's glowing eyes a moment after. In the quiet, it was easy to hear the shadow's terrified sobs. "So that's why you've been following me all over the fucking place," Nate said evenly. "You've been keeping it in your bag, ain't you?"

    "I had to," Rocky said defiantly. "He can't go far from you, and if you saw him, I know you'd just try to beat him up again."

    "Try?" Nate said. "Motherfucker, I am more than capable of turning that asshole into shadow-sludge. Just fucking watch me."

    He stooped and started to duck under the porch, but Rocky grabbed his shoulder and held him back. "No! Leave him alone! He's not hurting anybody."

    "Maybe not yet," Nate said grimly. "But you remember what the arcanine said, don't you? About shadows going berserk? Remembered what happened with the shadow machine?"

    He tried to shake Rocky off, pushing foward again, but the familiar tightened his grip. "No! You need him. You need to combine back with him, not fight him!"

    "I don't need to do shit," Nate growled. "I'm done dragging this asshole around. You were supposed to leave it on the fucking moon!"

    "No--!" Rocky started, but Nate made a sudden wrenching motion, twisting around enough to fire a water gun over his shoulder. It cleaved the familiar's arm just below the elbow, leaving the hand holding Nate back to go slack and begin to wisp away. The marshtomp was down on his knees a second later, ducking his head to peer into the crawlspace.

    "No, no, stop! Stop!" Rocky said desperately, intact arm clutching the severed stump, which tingled unpleasantly. "You can't, he's, he's, he's my friend! Don't hurt my friend."

    Nate turned back to him slowly, eyes narrowed. "Really," he said flatly. It wasn't a question.

    Rocky raised his chin. "Really," he said. His eyes glowed dangerously. "So leave him alone. If you won't take him back, at least don't hurt him more. Or I'm going to... I'm going to be really mad at you."

    He realized his mistake the moment the words left his mouth, and icy fear collected in the place where his core used to be. Rocky opened his mouth to try and fix it, to say anything that would distract from his mistake, but Nate was faster.

    "Well, we wouldn't want that, now would we?" he said, icily. But that was all. Rocky watched in disbelief as he stood back up, swiped away the dirt on his knees. "Be best friends forever with the shittiest mudkip ever. See if I care. Just keep it the fuck out of my sight."

    Rocky's mouth was still open, but he couldn't think of anything to say now, or anything to do, while Nate walked off, headed back into the house. Probably to start drinking, if he hadn't been already. The familiar couldn't relax, even when the marshtomp was well out of sight. Was that good? Was it bad? Rocky felt like it had to be bad, even if the shadow was safe for now. He wrung his shadowy hands together, listening to the shadow's cries and the swinub's distressed squealing.

    Rocky knelt down in the garden where Nate had just been. He reached down and comforted the swinub, then peered into the dark, looking for the shadow's glowing eyes. "It'll be okay," he said to it. "You heard him, right? He's going to leave you alone."

    The shadow stopped sniffling only long enough to say, "Go away."

    Rocky's mouth set into a grim line, and he reached into his bag and scattered a few more berries around for the swinub. Then he got to his feet and stalked off, flames blazing. Around to the front door and then into the house. It wasn't like he could go anywhere else.

    <><><>​
     
    [EPILOGUE] Tuning In (Nate and Rocky)
  • Negrek

    Whole of the Moon
    Staff
    The house was quiet when Nate and Rocky returned, but Nate wasn't taking any chances. He poked his head into the bedroom, made sure to check the fridge. Inevitably Gengar was lurking around here somewhere, waiting for the worst possible moment to possible moment to pop up, but at least there weren't any obvious eavesdroppers around.

    Rocky waited in the middle of the living room while he searched, his arms folded and his flames burning brightly, his tail writhing and lashing behind him. Nate paused on the threshold, thinking habitually of escape routes, but he knew it wasn't any good. He took a step forward, braced for the inevitable explosion. "Rocky--"

    "Stop being so mean!" the familiar yelled. "I know you! I know what you're trying to do! It won't work. It's never going to work. So stop trying!"

    Nate halfway wanted to shout back at him, but only for a flicker of a moment. Instead he went over to sit on a footstool. It didn't seem like the time to put in the scramble to get onto one of the normal-sized chairs. Rocky watched him go, flames blazing and eyes glowing with furnace heat. "What am I trying to do?" Nate asked.

    "Trying to make me hate you!" Rocky said. "You're being mean to me so when you go away I won't want to find you. But I know what you're doing, and it won't work!"

    "I dunno," Nate said flatly. "If that's true, it sounds to me like now I really gotta start trying."

    "It won't work," Rocky insisted, but then he glanced away, bright embers scattering from his mane. "You were supposed to be nice," he said in a much quieter voice. "That's what we agreed to. And you were, for a little bit. But now you're being worse than ever."

    "Yeah, and you weren't supposed to come after me," Nate said. "And what the fuck do you start doing like the first second we show up back here? Poking around, trying to wheedle out some shit about interdimensional travel, get all interested in that other team and their other world shenanigans? I ain't fucking stupid. If you ain't gonna hold up your end of the bargain, I ain't gonna do shit with mine. And I'm gonna do what I have to to make sure you don't try following me."

    "But why?" It was almost a sob of frustration. "Why don't you want to see me again?" His ears and shoulders drooped, his flames dying back. "I thought we were supposed to be friends."

    Nate sighed and rubbed his gills. "You know it ain't about that."

    "Isn't it? You'd do anything to get one of your real friends back. Even if it was supposed to be impossible. Even if everybody told you not to." He got a funny twisted kind of smile on his face for a fraction of a second. "Especially if eveybody told you not to. That's what you're doing right now."

    "That's all about getting back where I belong," Nate said. "But where you belong is here. Or at least whatever weird pocket of the multiverse Cibus is in. I'd still be keen to get back home if it meant some kind of crazy world-hopping bullshit, but if it meant I might fuck everything up for my world? I wouldn't do it. It would fucking suck, but I ain't gonna risk the entire goddamn world on what I want. I ain't that big of an asshole."

    "You don't know it's dangerous! And it's like I said to Ben, it doesn't matter. Me not going doesn't mean nobody else will go. It doesn't actually protect you from anything. So why not?"

    "Once somebody opens the door, it's always easier for other people to get in after them. I sure as hell hope no interdimensional whatever the fuck gives a damn about my shitty little world, but I can't count on it. And I ain't gonna risk the whole place getting trashed on the off-chance that it doesn't matter."

    Rocky clenched his hands into fists, staring down at the floor. "I don't understand," he said. "Everybody acts like it's wrong to want to find you. Like I shouldn't even try. Everybody says it's dangerous, but I don't understand... Diyem wasn't supposed to come here, either. He knew it was dangerous and might make things worse. He did it because he wanted to save Eien. But nobody acts like he was wrong for that."

    Nate sighed heavily. "I mean, honestly, yeah. It was a damn risky thing to do, and it easily could have gone bad. Real bad. You could probably argue that he shouldn't have done it at all. It was still a little different, though. Like, Cibus *was* fucked if nobody did nothing, and it turns out Diyem had the firepower to get shit accomplished. Ain't nobody gonna fucking die if I keep living my shitty life on my shitty planet in the middle of bumfuck nowhere. Worst thing that's gonna happen is you're gonna be sad. That ain't worth risking the fucking world on, you know? I mean, it sucks, but..."

    Rocky shook his head slowly, still addressing the carpet. "I don't understand."

    It took a moment, but Nate finally realized what was bothering him about all this. "It's like the moon thing."

    "I guess," Rocky said. "Sort of. Maybe. People keep saying the same things over and over, and I just don't--I don't get it. I'm supposed to be a hero. I'm never supposed to back down from a challenge. I'm supposed to do what my heart tells me to do. That's what I'm trying to do, but now everybody just says it's stupid and I'm bad for wanting to do it."

    Nate didn't think it was a good idea to point out that heroes had to do what they thought was right even when everybody else told them they were wrong. "Heroes do the hard thing for what other people want," is what he said instead. "This is what you want. Ain't about other people. That's the difference. Sometimes what you want ain't the best thing for everybody else."

    Rocky didn't say anything to that. His flames had died back to sullen, intermittent flickers. Nate sighed. "I know this is hard for you. This is the first time you've had to let somebody go like this. I get it. It sucks. But I promise it ain't gonna feel this bad forever. You're gonna grow up, and you're gonna stop caring about some guy you knew for less than six fucking months."

    "But I don't want to!" Rocky balled his hands into fists. "I don't want to forget! I don't get why I have to."

    "You don't have to, it's just... It's something that kind of happens. It gets easier the more time goes by. You get used to it, kinda. Promise."

    Rocky shook his head so hard his ears flapped and flopped around his head. "I don't want to! I don't want to get used to it. I don't want to just accept it." He raised his head, his eyes glowing bright now with determination, staring Nate down.

    "Yeah, that's the spirit. You don't want to end up like me," Nate said with a laugh. "Cynical old bastard and all that." Maybe Rocky would even manage it. Now Nate was the one who felt like he wanted to look away.

    "Exactly." Rocky nodded emphatically. But with that announced, he seemed at a loss. The two of them simply watched each other for long seconds. "Will you stop being mean, then?" Rocky said. "Please. Like I said, it won't work. We're almost out of time. Can we just--can we actually have fun? Just for a few days before we have to go?" He gave Nate a horrible sad look. "Please?"

    Nate took a deep breath. It was true, if Rocky knew what he was playing at, being a jerk would probably only make him more determined to build a spaceship and chase Nate down or whatever the fuck. "Let's play it like Pop and Cola did," he said after a second. "How's this? You don't do nothing about coming after me for a decade. Ten years. And if you really go ten years and still got this wild urge to go tearing across the universe looking for some asshole who don't even remember you, well. Guess there really ain't nothing I can do to stop you."

    Rocky's ears perked up. "Really?" he said. "That's all? Ten years?"

    "Ten years," Nate said. Maybe that was a gamble. For something that lived as long as an eternatus, Rocky would probably take a long-ass time to actually grow up. But ten years was plenty of time to forget.

    "That's easy!" Rocky laughed. "Yes. I can do that!"

    "Okay," Nate said. "For real this time. I mean it." He put his hand out, and Rocky bounded over to shake it.

    "Yes!" he said. "So you won't be mean anymore? We can have fun now."

    "I mean, I am an asshole," Nate said. "I don't really do 'nice.' But I ain't gonna make a point of it no more, no. And sorry... Sorry. I put you through a lot of shit." He always had. And it didn't exactly make him feel better that Rocky's response was to smile at him and laugh it off.

    "You're the worst," his familiar said. "No more of that, now! Come on, let's go do something fun! We don't have much time left."

    Oh, god. And he's been up since, like, five. "I'm sorry, Rocky. I seriously need a nap or I'm just going to fucking collapse. Give me an hour?"

    "Uuuugh." Rocky slumped dramatically. "Fine. Fine! But you'd better sleep fast! I'll be waiting!"

    He definitely would. Nate could hear him out there, practically bouncing off the fucking walls, while he tried to get comfortable. He still didn't know whether he ought to be feeling happy about this, or sad, or who knew what the fuck else. All he really knew was that he was fucking tired. And, mercifully, that was enough to stop him from having to do much more thinking for a while.
     
    [EPILOGUE] Tuning Out (Nate, Nate, and Rocky)
  • Negrek

    Whole of the Moon
    Staff
    In the morning, he would leave.

    Of course Nate couldn't sleep. That was dodgy enough on normal nights, but now, with his thoughts always turning to tomorrow, and what would happen, and what it would be like to be thrown back into a mudkip body, oblivious, back to another impossible situation? Yeah, there was no way he'd get any peace tonight.

    There was something he hadn't dealt with yet, too. Last minute. It was now or never. Nate lay in the dark listening to spectral weeping, not even sure if he was really hearing it or if it was just his imagination.

    He could only take it for so long. Unfinished business. Finally Nate slid out of bed and padded for the door, moving as quietly as he could. He really didn't want nobody waking up and asking him what he was up to.

    A heavy silence hung over the house, but Nate knew that Gengar would be lurking around somewhere, looking for mischief. Probably Weavile, too. Nate moved as silently as he could, making for the front door. He couldn't go too far away, or Rocky would wake up and be all over him about what he was doing. If he stuck close, though, he should be fine. He wasn't going to leave the property. No way he ought to trigger whatever weird proximity alarm there was in Rocky's head. The infernape familiar was actually fast asleep, as far as Nate could tell. The fucking weirdo. At least it would make things easier.

    The yard outside was washed in starlight. Another beautifully clear night here in Destiny Village. The air was warm and full of the scent of night-blooming flowers--what flowers were left. The garden was full of gnawed-off stumps where the swinub had been snacking, and dark holes and scuffs where it had gone rooting for tubers. Nate picked his way through the remaining plants, focused on the deeper dark below the porch.

    "We gonna do this the easy way, or the hard way?" he asked it. A moment later a burst of dark, viscous fluid flew out of it and hit him in the chest. It stung a little, but mostly it just pissed Nate off. He scraped the ooze away, shaking his hand wildly to dislodge the last of it, then said, "Fine, then. If that's how you want it."

    Nate got down on all fours, took another shadowy water gun to the face, then lunged. There was a brief flurry of yelping and splashing, cursing and pleas to "Leave me alone!", and the swinub fled into the garden, squealing in terror. A few seconds later, Nate reemerged, covered in mud and gooey water and holding his shadow clutched tight in both hands. It tried to shoot more water at him as he straightened up, but he shook it until it could only slump over dizzily, then started off into the yard.

    He paused when he saw the swinub trying to hide in the flowerbed and sighed. "Hey," he said. "Sorry about that. It's okay. We're just gonna... have a little chat. Here..." He shifted his grip and cautiously extended one hand towards the pokémon.

    It responded with a flurry of ice crystals, and Nate yanked his hand away again. "Ow! Fuck! Okay, fine. I'll piss off."

    There was a small shed near the edge of the yard. Nate had to hope that was still close enough that Rocky wouldn't notice anything amiss. Nobody'd be able to hear it if the shadow got loud, but he didn't want the sound of attacks drawing attention or anything like that.

    The shadow mudkip was even smaller than a normal mudkip, small enough that Nate could hold it in one hand, almost engulfing it with his fingers. "Stop... please..." it whispered when he reached up to push the shed door open.

    "Shut the fuck up," Nate said without interest, fumbling for a light switch and then pulling the door shut behind him when the place lit up squintingly bright. Just like old times, Nate thought, looking around at the random garden implements and tools cluttering the place up. It actually felt pretty cramped in here. Maybe he'd have outgrown the old shed if he'd evolved when he was living there instead.

    He threw the shadow mudkip to the floor, where he righted himself in an instant, backing away to try and hide behind a cart. "Don't move," Nate said, and spat a bored jet of water over the mudkip's head. He froze, trembling.

    Nate paced back and forth in front of the cowering mudkip, a deep scowl on his face. "So. Apparently I gotta get rid of you before I can leave."

    "N-no," the mudkip said in its tiny, pathetic voice. "Please..."

    "Oh?" Nate said. "I thought you were all hankering to get out of here. Let me help you with that." He took a menacing step forward.

    The mudkip shivered. "Not like this," he pleaded. "It's not going to work."

    "Oh, ain't it?" Nate said. "You got a better idea?"

    "I..." The shadow mudkip shook. "I, I..."

    "Spit it the fuck out already."

    "I, we could..." The mudkip either couldn't think of anything or couldn't find the courage to say it. He lowered his head, great fat tears oozing from his eyes, and whimpered.

    "So that's a 'no,'" Nate said grimly. "Fine. I know what I need to do. Same choice as before. You gonna make this easy, or are you gonna make it hard?"

    "Don't hurt me," the shadow said. "Please."

    "Don't think that's an option," Nate said, his eyes narrowing. "But I'll try to make it quick, huh?"

    The shadow tried to escape again, but this time Nate aimed directly at it with his water, knocking a chunk out of its shadowy body. The darkness swirled and re-formed, perhaps slightly smaller than before. The shadow mudkip alternated trying to deter him with its own shadowy attacks and attempting to crawl away and hide. Nate kept after it with hydro pumps, smashing flower pots and knocking over rakes, flooding the rough floor of the shed with dirty water.

    "Stupid... piece of shit," Nate grunted, deflecting a burst of goo. "Why the fuck do you bother? We both know you're just going to give up."

    "I don't want to fight," the shadow whispered. "I don't want to be hurt."

    "Yeah, and that's the fucking problem, ain't it?" Nate unloaded another hydro pump on it, sending shadows spinning. As always they reformed into that same cringing body, those same pleading eyes. Nate growled and tried to blast them away again.

    The mudkip whimpered and managed to duck under the attack. There was so much water on the floor that it could practically swim in it now, and it was a little faster without being mired in its usual puddle. "Motherfucker," Nate muttered, clattering through some garden implements he didn't even recognize in search of the shadow. "Why won't you fucking die?" He raised his voice. "We'd all be better off without you! At least you could stop being such a fucking coward! Get out here and fucking fight!"

    There it was. Nate could spot the glowing eyes inside a watering can and fell on it, grabbing the shadow out with his bare hands and taking a faceful of dark sludge for his trouble. "No!" The shadow struggled violently, reaching back towards the watering can. "No, stop!"

    "Shut up!" Nate barked. "No one can hear you! No one has ever been able to hear you!"

    The shadow seemed even smaller than before, fragile albeit slimy, and weighed almost nothing at all. There was nothing to stop him wrapping his fingers around it and crushing it into dust.

    "I'm supposed to talk," the shadow said as Nate's grip tightened. "I'm supposed to tell you... Important things. To help you. But I've always been too scared."

    The mudkip's tears dripped down over Nate's fingers, and he had to suppress the urge to drop the thing and spray them down with a water gun. Getting all this disgusting goo all over him. "Yup. Too fucking worthless," he growled, and squeezed harder. Shadows trickled out between his fingers as the mudkip disintegrated. This would be quick.

    The shadow pushed back, trying to pry his fingers apart. A weak little burst of water actually made him pause for a moment, making his fingers so slick he had to readjust his grip. But it was obvious now that this was over. "I failed," the shadow whispered. "I always do. I'm a failure..."

    "So why the fuck are you still here?" Nate snarled. "Give up already! You always do! You're just wasting both our fucking time!" His fingers slipped again, but he growled to himself and pressed down even harder. He was feeling strangely dizzy, lightheaded, like he wasn't getting enough air. Probably something in the familiar's disgusting black tears, some kind of poison or something. That would fit.

    The familiar closed its eyes and turned its face away, but as ever, that didn't stop its tears from falling. "Sorry," it said in a voice that was hardly more than a sigh. There was a giddy buzzing in Nate's ears as he crushed the thing between his fingers. Finally. It felt good to squeeze the life out of this worthless creature that had been clinging to him for fucking weeks. Just a few more seconds and he'd be rid of it for good.

    "Marshtomp!" Rocky burst through the door of the shed, flames blazing and swinub at his heels. "Marshtomp! What are you doing?"

    "Fuck off, Rocky," Nate growled, squeezing the mudkip all the harder. It was getting smaller, shadows filtering between Nate's fingers and then dissolving into nothing. "You heard Diyem. I have to get rid of this thing before I leave. So that... is what... I'm doing..." The air in the shed seemed to flux dark and then bright again.

    "No!" Rocky rushed forward, grabbing for Nate's hands. "No, no, no! Stop it!" Nate pulled the shadow away and shot a hydro pump at Rocky's face, but he was feeling woozy, and Rocky was stronger than he'd expected. It was only a brief scuffle before the familiar pried his fingers apart and grabbed the mudkip away from him, cradling it against his chest.

    Rocky stared thunderously down at Nate, glowing bright and grim. The mudkip in his arms was moving weakly, but still somehow managing to cry. Always fucking crying. For the love of God. Nate glared up at it, thinking. If he could distract Rocky enough, he'd probably be able to blow it out of Rocky's grip with a bit of water. He'd need to finish it fast after that, though. The damn thing was much tougher than it looked. Maybe he could put some of his shadows on Rocky? That would distract the familiar for a bit, at least.

    "Marshtomp," Rocky said icily. "Leave him alone. He didn't do anything wrong."

    Well, that was just a huge fucking lie, but it probably wasn't worth it to argue the point right now. Nate took a deep breath. His dizziness was starting to fade. "Rocky, that thing ain't supposed to be here. I gotta be sure it ain't gonna stick around and cause trouble once I'm gone. It ain't pretty, but I guess it's what I gotta do."

    "You know this isn't what Owen and Diyem meant," Rocky said. "You're supposed to talk to him. He's just scared. Accept him and let him go back to you the way everybody else did with their shadows."

    "Talk to him? He don't say nothing but some shit about being left alone. You know that. Like trying to have a conversation with a rock. And I am not letting it get anywhere near me. Fuck that. Now give it back."

    Nate took a step toward Rocky, and the mudkip let out a desperate sobbing noise, apparently trying to dig into Rocky's chest. Nate's fist clenched in response to a powerful surge of disgust.

    Rocky backed away, clutching the mudkip tighter. "No. I'm not letting you have him!"

    "Well, we have to get rid of it somehow," Nate said grimly. "If you'd just left it on the fucking moon like I told you to, we wouldn't have to be doing this now!"

    "He doesn't deserve to get left on the moon! If that even would have worked!"

    "What exactly is your brilliant plan, then? Think you're just going to keep it away from me for another day and I'll be okay leaving it here? Fuck that."

    "No. My plan is... I don't know. You're supposed to listen to him! But you won't!" Rocky gave Nate a pleading look, as though begging the marshtomp to contradict him.

    "Damn straight I won't."

    "But why?" Rocky asked desperately. "Why won't you even try? And why are you so mad at him all the time? You would never be mad at me just because I was scared. If you found a pokémon that was hurt and unhappy, you wouldn't be mad at it for being that way. And you wouldn't even mind if it was something like... Something like a drowzee that needed someone to eat dreams from. You'd totally let them have yours even if it meant you couldn't ever get enough sleep. And then Mightyena would make fun of you for it." Rocky smiled at the thought, but one look at Nate told him that last part had been a mistake.

    "Yeah, well, maybe I wouldn't mind all this shit so much if people would just shut the fuck up about how it's like some kind of manifestation of my emotions or whatever the fuck. I ain't like that. I ain't! And it pisses me the fuck off that people think I'm all sad inside because I've got this little bitch following me around boo-hooing about everything."

    "It isn't his fault what other people say about him," Rocky said, tail lashing in exasperation. "Even if he was something bad the Shadow Machine made, he wouldn't be able to help it. He didn't ask to get made or to be the way he is. Not any more than the Blacklight did, or Giovanni's mewtwo, or even Diyem! You were nice to all of them. You understood that they didn't want anything of what happened to them. You aren't mean to people who need help. So why do you hate him so much?"

    "Look, whether or not that thing chose to be a sack of shit in the first place don't really matter, because it obviously isn't trying to be anything different now. Just lying around all day in a puddle of its own tears like its life's so hard or something."

    "Because he needs help," Rocky said. "Not somebody yelling at him for not understanding how to be different." He hugged the small mudkip a little tighter.

    "Yeah. Great. Be nice to the poor little mudkip, whatever," Nate said through gritted teeth. "It don't change that I ain't gonna invite him into my soul or whatever the fuck. That's just way too fucking far. I don't care who's asking."

    "Well, fine," Rocky said after a moment of frustrated silence. "If you won't take him back, then I will."

    Nate frowned in confusion. "What the fuck do you mean?"

    "If you won't let him go with you, then he can go with me." Rocky shifted to a broader stance, staring defiantly down at Nate.

    "You mean like just hang around with it on Cibus while I'm off wherever? Diyem said--"

    "No. He can be a part of me instead of a part of you."

    "What? How..." It was a struggle even to figure out how to formulate the question. "What the fuck are you going to do? Like stick him in your chest, just like you're eating him or something?"

    "I, I don't know. I guess. I'll try," Rocky said. He was obviously working hard to sound resolute. "Is that okay with you, Mudkip?"

    The shadow clung tighter to Rocky's ectoplasm. A black stain, even darker than Rocky's deep purple ectoplasm, was spreading across the familiar's front where his body had wicked away the mudkip's tears. "It won't work," the mudkip said, and Nate almost laughed at the expression on Rocky's face. He could say what he wanted about accepting the shadow, or wanting to be friends or whatever the fuck, but even he couldn't cover up that the thing was a fucking drag.

    "Can we try it?" Rocky asked. The shadow shifted uneasily in his arms, then finally nodded, staring off into nothing with tears continuing to drip slowly from its eyes.

    "Okay," Rocky said, shifting the mudkip his arms, clearly unsure of what to do. "Then let's try." But he was going to do this, Nate saw. And in a flash, realized exactly how bad an idea it was.

    "Wait. Stop," Nate said sharply. "It's some kind of Blacklight thing. Diyem even *said* it would freak out and try to kill me eventually. You remember what happened the first time it showed up. It ain't safe. You combine with that thing, it's probably going to make you grow like fourteen heads and try to eat the planet or some shit, that's just the way things work around here."

    Rocky shook his head. "That won't happen. He doesn't want to hurt anyone."

    "There's a hell of a lot of damage done out there by people who didn't want to hurt anyone," Nate said grimly.

    "Well, I'm not going to let you kill him, or whatever it was you were trying to do," Rocky said. "That means the only options are that I take him, or you do. Which one do you want?"

    Nate rubbed the back of his head, teeth gritted. "I mean, fuck. If it's for the fate of the fucking universe... obviously I can't say no. But those ain't the only options. Rocky, let's--"

    But Rocky was looking at him strangely. He shook his head. "No," he said slowly. "No. It wouldn't work. You don't actually accept him."

    A strange expression was stealing across Rocky's face. Like he was realizing something. Nate was realizing something, too, but the look on his face was one of horror instead of wonder. "Even if you wanted to because you were afraid of what would happen otherwise, that's not what he needs," Rocky went on. "And there isn't time for you to get to be okay with him now. I'll take him instead."

    "No! Rocky!" Nate took a step forward, and the mudkip in Rocky's arms cringed. The familiar took a step back.

    "It's okay," Rocky said. "I didn't want you to go in the first place. This way, at least part of you can stay with me. It works for both of us."

    "Put that damn thing down," Nate snarled. "Rocky--!" But shadowy vines erupted from beneath the floor around him, grabbing at arms and legs, slithering up to bind his mouth shut before he could spit water.

    "What do you think?" Rocky asked the shadow. "Do you want to try?"

    The shadow threw a terrified glance at Nate, who was tearing through the dark grass knot with his fingers, eyes furious. He clung tighter to Rocky and nodded, eyes squeezed shut.

    "Okay," Rocky said. He looked down at the mudkip uncertainly. "Umm, I guess I... accept you?" He shifted uncertainly. "I like you just the way you are."

    He reached one hesitant hand towards the mudkip, pressing down on top of its head. Shadowy tendrils of energy spiraled up from the point of contact, sinking into Rocky's arm and staining his ectoplasm black.

    Nate finally managed to rip the grass knot away from his mouth. "Goddammit," he hissed. But his immediate hydro pump was blocked by a protect. The mudkip in Rocky's arms had gone hazy and indistinct, shadows flowing steadily into the familiar. "Rocky! Stop!"

    It only took a second longer. The last of the shadows drained from the air around Rocky, and the familiar closed his eyes, shuddering as though caught by a freezing gust. When he opened them again, one eye remained its usual burning orange, but the other had turned to glowing blue. Dark patches circled restlessly under the familiar's shadowy skin, almost invisible against its usual deep shade.

    The remains of the grass knot withered away, and Nate stumbled forward, hands raised like he wanted to reach for Rocky but unsure of what would happen if he did. He stopped short of his familiar, looking up at him uncertainly. "Did it work?" Nate asked. "How do, uh... How do you feel?"

    "I feel okay." Rocky looked down at himself as though checking that he was still all there. His flames burned gently, casting a warm glow over the dark splotches in his ectoplasm.

    "And is that mudkip, umm, in there somewhere?"

    "Yes," Rocky said. "I can feel him, sort of?"

    "How does it feel?"

    "Like he's sad," Rocky said.

    Nate snorted and turned away. "That was fucking stupid. Who the fuck knows what'll happen now?"

    "It'll be okay."

    "I should have done that," Nate muttered, kicking the last dusky tendrils of the grass knot off his foot.

    "Yes," Rocky said. "I don't know if you could, though." He waited, but Nate didn't have anything to say to that. "Maybe you aren't ready now, but that doesn't mean you'll never be ready," he went on. "You'll get another chance. You just have to keep trying." His eyes narrowed slightly. "Or actually try."

    "Fuck you," Nate said wearily. "I'm so fucking tired of condescending assholes acting like they know the first fucking thing about me. Leave me the fuck alone already. I do what I want."

    "Okay." Rocky regarded Nate with mismatched eyes. "What now?"

    Immense weariness washed over Nate, and he scrubbed at his face with both hands. That was it. It was done.

    "Fuck if I know." He felt like shit, but there was no possible way he was getting any rest after this. "Let's go... out."

    "You aren't mad?"

    "I'm too tired to be pissed," Nate said. "Mostly I'm just worried. It can't be a lot of fun, having some guy just constantly like weeping in your head or whatever."

    "Don't worry about me!" Rocky laughed. "I'm a hero! I can handle this."

    That froze Nate for a second in icy horror, and by the time he was opening his mouth to say something, Rocky had already left the thought far behind. "Come on! Let's go look at the stars. Ooh, maybe I can make a fire. It'll be just like having a campout! A campout would be the perfect way to finish things, wouldn't it. We can stop on the way and get marshmallows!"

    He was off in a whirl of motion, flames scattering embers in his wake, chattering away like nothing at all had happened. The same as ever. But whenever he turned to look at Nate, the one blue eye gleamed at the marshtomp like some kind of warning. Nate followed, like usual, but he couldn't join in any of Rocky's boisterous good humor. Before long the familiar went tearing off in search of marshmallows, leaving Nate behind to watch as he bounded away, flames blazing and delighted whoops echoing back from the sides of silent buildings. "Be careful," Nate said to Rocky's retreating back, but of course the familiar couldn't hear him. And wouldn't have listened, even if he had.

    <><><>​
     
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    [EPILOGUE] ~ Goodbye For Now [Starr & Lexx]
  • Chibi Pika

    Stay positive
    Staff
    Location
    somewhere in spacetime
    Pronouns
    they/them
    Partners
    1. custom/pikachu-chibi
    2. lugia
    3. palkia
    4. custom/lucario-shiny
    5. custom/incineroar-starr
    “You don’t need anything else from me, right?” Starr asked, glancing around the apartment one last time before stepping out the door for the last time. God, what a weird thought. Starr still wasn't quite used to it.

    “Why, did you want to come up with more stuff for me to not do?” Lexx replied idly. Starr gave him a deadpan stare and he held both palms out. “Hey, don’t worry, I’ll get all your stuff sold. Might hold onto some of it, though,” he added, eyeing the various colosseum awards.

    Starr shrugged. "Whatever works for you." She thought about making a snide comment about it but then decided not to. Instead, she went with, "Don't cause too much trouble once I'm gone. Last thing I need is to turn my back and have you go break the internet or something."

    “‘Break the internet’?” Lexx repeated incredulously.

    Starr threw her arms up. “I don’t fucking know, it was the first nerd bullshit I could think of.”

    Lexx put a hand to his chin. “Well now I’m tempted to see if I could—kidding, I’m kidding," he added quickly. "Besides, I was hoping I could join Reshiram's security team eventually."

    Starr nodded. “Cool. Good luck with that. Or, you know... whatever you end up doing.” She turned to leave, and that would have been then end of it, but--

    “So, you think you’ll ever get things figured out with the other me?”

    Starr bristled, stopping mid-step. “Why the hell would I want to?” she asked, turning back around to face him.

    Lexx folded his arms behind his head. “I don’t know, I just know that you do.”

    Starr glanced away, muttering incoherently under her breath. Lexx took a few steps forward until he was in front of her, leaning against the doorway.

    “Hey. I can only guess what the other me was thinking, back then. But I've got all your memories of him, with none of the same bias. So it's a pretty good guess. And, well... he did offer for you to join him."

    "And work for Sebastian," Starr shot back immediately.

    "I guess he thinks it's important," Lexx replied with a shrug. "I know it's not really any of my business. I just think you'll feel better if you talk to him."

    Starr rolled her eyes with an exaggerated sound of disgust. "If I say I'll do it, will you lay off about it?"

    Lexx grinned slyly. "Well, it's not like I'll have a choice after today." A fist sank into his gelatinous shoulder.

    Starr rolled her eyes, but a trace of amusement still made its way to her face. "I'll think about it," she said.
     
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