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» Avatar: Heaven and Earth
Infinity's Row 2: The Puppetmaster ☾ [ROLEPLAY THREAD] - Page 84 EmptyWed Sep 09, 2020 11:08 pm by Adrian

» Soulblade [Applications Thread]
Infinity's Row 2: The Puppetmaster ☾ [ROLEPLAY THREAD] - Page 84 EmptyMon Aug 17, 2020 2:41 pm by Comrade Squid

» Soulblade [Roleplay Thread]
Infinity's Row 2: The Puppetmaster ☾ [ROLEPLAY THREAD] - Page 84 EmptyThu Aug 13, 2020 9:10 pm by Lady Senbonzakura

» Avatar: Heaven and Earth
Infinity's Row 2: The Puppetmaster ☾ [ROLEPLAY THREAD] - Page 84 EmptySat Jun 20, 2020 9:06 pm by Kane

» Infinity's Row 2: The Puppetmaster ☾ [ROLEPLAY THREAD]
Infinity's Row 2: The Puppetmaster ☾ [ROLEPLAY THREAD] - Page 84 EmptyThu Jun 11, 2020 10:19 am by Michael DeathFlame

» Heir Eternal
Infinity's Row 2: The Puppetmaster ☾ [ROLEPLAY THREAD] - Page 84 EmptyWed Jun 10, 2020 11:18 pm by WritingBookworm

» The Witcher
Infinity's Row 2: The Puppetmaster ☾ [ROLEPLAY THREAD] - Page 84 EmptyMon Jun 01, 2020 1:54 pm by Sal

» Irongale ♕ [RP THREAD]
Infinity's Row 2: The Puppetmaster ☾ [ROLEPLAY THREAD] - Page 84 EmptyThu May 28, 2020 3:43 pm by WritingBookworm

» Evergreen: Academy for Spies: Incalescent [roleplay thread]
Infinity's Row 2: The Puppetmaster ☾ [ROLEPLAY THREAD] - Page 84 EmptyMon Mar 30, 2020 2:18 am by boyhoy

October 2021

Calendar Calendar

End of Year News (December 2017)

Thu Dec 28, 2017 3:57 am by Adrian

(It's been one year since I made a news thread, oops)

Merry Christmas/Festivus/whatever holiday you do or do not celebrate!

2017 was a pretty busy year IRL for most of us - according to forum statistics, our busiest month was in June with 1671 total posts, meaning our post rate has been a little …

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Forum Bug

Wed Dec 28, 2016 3:18 am by Adrian

Hi all,

We're aware of a peculiar forum glitch that's causing some subforums to be locked.

Due to the lateness at this time, it might be a while before the glitch can be remedied, because despite my best efforts and as far as I can tell, everything seems to be working fine admin-side. It may have …

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Comments: 1

Discord News/Update Test

Thu Dec 08, 2016 1:35 am by Adrian

Just a news, update test. Trying to get this thing to work.

Comments: 0

Infinity's Row 2: The Puppetmaster ☾ [ROLEPLAY THREAD]

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Post by Hime Thu Apr 02, 2020 11:12 pm

- Lucy -

I yank my hand out of her grasp, glaring daggers. "I don't know how to make this any clearer," I growl through clenched teeth. "Go away."

- Lucian -

To my surprise, the woman retreats back a step or two. I recognize the urge to resist in her expression. Her jaw is tight, hands rigid.

"I'm being careful," she states. "Trust is a luxury we can't afford anymore."

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Post by Michael DeathFlame Fri Apr 03, 2020 8:47 am

Ben: "Oh, I agree. I don't trust you one bit." I nod at Taylor's crossbow. "If you really want to be careful, I'd keep walking away."

Ebony: "Of course it's okay!" I tousle her hair a bit. "It's a lot nicer out here anyway."
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Post by Hime Tue Apr 07, 2020 10:03 pm

- TIMESKIP to later in the evening -

- Raiden -

The party is dying down, as the halls are quieter and beginning to empty. The Row is essentially the only group that remains. I'll have to get used to that.

"Had fun?" I ask Uncle Aidec as I approach him. Besides the incident in the garden, it's been a relatively quiet night. "I know how much you love fancy parties."

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Post by Kane Tue Apr 07, 2020 10:26 pm


I lounge on a satin chaise, my body draped over it like a blanket. All around me were empty champagne and wine glasses. I let out a burp before I giggle slightly and sit up straighter.
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Post by Shaybaysasuke Tue Apr 07, 2020 10:29 pm


"There you two are," Dad said as he and Uncle Dederick spotted us. As everyone started filing out for the night all of the basically all of us had converged, "Did you have a good time?"

"Oh yeah, it was great," I nudged my sister who was still looking around the room, "Iris was talking to a boy the whole night."

Dad's eyebrows shot up and Dederick laughed as Iris started to blush. She looked more nervous than I thought she would, though, "It wasn't' anything...Besides, Liatris was dancing the night away with Aure."

"Ok, ok," Dad said, laughing nervously as Dederick clapped his shoulder, "I'm just glad you had fun."

"Have you seen Circe?" Dederick asks and right on cue her green hair pops into view.

"Here! Sorry I was outside, it was nuts out there," she says as her dad pulls her into a hug.
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Post by Michael DeathFlame Fri Apr 10, 2020 9:48 pm

Ebony: The garden is quiet. Painfully quiet, even, after hours of music pouring out through the open windows. When I plop down besides the fountain, the flowing water is about the loudest thing out here. Happens to be the only thing moving, too. Absentmindedly, I rub some of the ache out of my calves, slowly unwinding the knots that strung together over the course of an hour and a half of dancing bare foot outside. If I could, I'd do the same thing to my head. Work out all the shit that built up there at the beginning of the night and toss it away. I could do with a little less baggage right now.

I fish for the makeup wipes that I'd stashed in the pocket of my dress (yes, a dress with pockets; probably the highlight of tonight). The water of the fountain's moving a little too much to serve as a proper mirror; my reflection is wavy, distorted from the constant rippling from the center jet. But it's fine enough to pick apart the mask I'd spent the better part of a half hour piecing together. Thankfully it doesn't take nearly that long to be done with it. With that off, I can finally scoop a hand into the water, swiping a handful of it up and against my face. I do that once, twice, three times until my cheeks are raw and my eyes feel sharper. But the buzzing in my brain is still there.

Tonight was supposed to be a good one, right? Everything's been so fucking shitty. Joining the Row, I thought I was getting some control back in my life after Amanda came and upended it. Yeah right. Everything's spiraled since then. Failing my first mission, being forced into hiding with my tail between my legs, doing absolutely nothing as my little sister has to pick up my slack. Tonight, at least, was supposed to be good. Familiar territory, you know? A little fancy for me, maybe, but still a party. I might all the sudden be shit at fighting, leading, and basically fucking everything else, but surely I can still dance like an idiot and have a fun night. Right?

This time I smack at the water, sending a spray that splatters against the encircling shrubbery. I laugh, a quick, empty burst of a laugh just to hear something other than the fountain. But it's not loud enough to drown out Taylor's voice droning over and over again. "Not everyone's invincible at every second. Not even your dad."

At least when I start tearing up, I don't have any mascara left to smudge when I wipe furiously at my eyes. Sooner or later I need to go back inside, and I'm not going to look like the mess I've been this past week. I'm not going to have Taylor and Ben worrying about me like I'm this delicate thing. And sooner or later I'm going to need to walk past Dad without thinking about her-

"She didn't do it," I growl to myself, wiping again at my eyes. "He just fucked up. Slept with the wrong girl. She didn't do it." At the very least, I don't look like a wreck in the reflection of the water. Then again, it is a pretty crappy mirror. Who the hell knows what I actually look like? I definitely don't. What the hell do I even know?
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Post by WritingBookworm Sun Jun 07, 2020 6:38 pm

- Taylor -

“Oh yes,” I say, echoing Ben. “Trust is so hard to come by, isn’t it?” I start to smirk. “And I’ll imagine it’ll be even harder to come by once I tell the whole Row what you did, that you threatened Lucian and called him the Puppetmaster. I don’t think Raiden will like you very much after that.”

Infinity's Row 2: The Puppetmaster ☾ [ROLEPLAY THREAD] - Page 84 Tumblr_psuz0sQPWk1t2vv2no5_500

"I'll tell you where the real road lies: between your ears, behind your eyes. That is the path to paradise, and likewise the road to ruin."

Infinity's Row: Interlude l Anaphora: Pariah l Infinity's Row: Uncontrollable l Anaphora: Vengeance]

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Post by Michael DeathFlame Thu Jun 11, 2020 10:19 am

(Wall of text incoming~)

Yupik: In the moments before Genesis was shut down, it felt like it had already gone off. The world was ending. That’s what it felt like, at least. I was sprinting through the sparks, stumbling over the carnage that Sierra and Man-Eater left in their wake. It was like running through a nightmare that just kept going, hallway after hallway, Miranda’s voice growing more and more desperate over our radios, fighting to be heard over the blaring countdown growing louder and louder over the speakers, the shouts of men and women looking for unreachable safety, the smell of gunpowder growing stronger and stronger, and all the while Chaos laughing, telling Us that we were too late, that it was over, that We’d lose everyone all over again, that the world was ending.

The world was ending. But somehow, above it all, I heard Natasha scream.

No matter how many times I called for her on our radio, she didn’t respond. Even as Sierra smashed Man-Eater into Genesis, even as We fought against a new tide of Angelina’s men, I tried to reach her. Nothing. Only after Genesis was shut down, only after we were safe, did she respond. “Angelina is dead.” And then nothing after that.

It took us a while before I found her, up above on the bridge. She hadn’t moved since I heard her scream. Natasha was still on her knees, eyes frozen and unblinking on the ground, mouth open like she was still screaming. But she wasn’t. She must’ve stopped crying a while ago; the ghost of her tear tracks had nearly vanished from her cheeks. The only bit of her moving were here hands, circling and tracing through a pile of gunpowder, collecting it together carefully, gently, like she was swaddling a baby.

I didn’t move for a minute. My eyes jumped from Natasha, to the gunpowder, to Angelina, back to Natasha, back to the gunpowder, back to Natasha. “Mordecai…?” Back to the gunpowder.

…That’s not gunpowder.

“Spirits. Natasha, I…” I think Natasha finally noticed I was there. Her face creaked up to look at me, lips closing into a fine line as I stood frozen, watching her. Closer up I could see her shaking, every bit of her body trembling, vibrating, like a scream was trapped in there and was rattling her to her core. But that scream never made it out. She just sat there, quivering, staring at me for a while before looking back down at the ashes.

I’d never seen her like that. Up until that moment I thought I’d seen Natasha at her rock bottom. But Angelina had somehow dug a crater past that and Natasha was plummeting through it. I wish I had done something more in that moment. But all I could think of was, “I’ll find something to put him in.” And then I scurried away. She didn’t watch me go. She kept her eyes on the ashes and never looked back up.

Even when we boarded the hovercraft, even on the entire trip back to her parents’ cabin, she never looked back up. She held the flower pot with a haphazardly-made cover firmly against her chest, eyes occasionally going glossy only to freeze back up. I sat next to her the whole way, kept my hand on her knee, and waited for the right moment to say something. But, well, the right words never came. We all sat together but no one made a sound. Even Sierra made an effort to keep her flight-sickness quiet. When we finally did land, we all stayed where we were, glancing at each other, before one by one they all got up and went inside without a word. After a minute, it was just the three of us. Me, Natasha, and Mordecai.

I was trying to think of something to say, but for some reason my mind just kept wandering back to how nice of a day it was. It was warm, not a cloud in the sky, a soft breeze whispering through the woods around us, carrying with it the noises coming from neighboring cabins. Regular noise, normal life noises. Kids playing outside, someone splitting logs, two women talking about news from Ald Ruhn. Acting like nothing had changed, like Genesis just hadn’t nearly blown the continent to kingdom come. And how was that fair? Because as that’s going on there we were, two teenagers, bodies bruised and slashed to pieces, clothes heavy with dirt and gunpowder and dried blood, sitting alone in a hovercraft, one of them trying and failing to speak for two hours, the other holding the ashes of her only brother and the last of her family.

Well, last of her blood-family, at least. I was smart enough not to say that out loud. But I did squeeze her knee and whisper, “You’re not gonna be alone in this. I promise.” After a few seconds she nodded once, but didn’t say anything back or go to leave. I licked over the cracks in my lips and looked down at the old flower pot clutched up tightly against her. “We should get something nicer to put him in.” Another delay, another nod. “Why don’t you lie down, okay? I’ll got to the potter, find something else.”

This time she shook her head. “You’re not leaving by yourself.” When she stood she waivered at first and nearly fell back into her seat. But she righted herself quickly enough. “I just need to put him away.”

I opened my mouth to interject, but she was already walking out the hovercraft. I shook my head and jumped out of my seat to chase after her through the open door of the cabin and into the hallway towards Mordecai’s old room. “It’s been a lot. You should get some rest.”

“It’s been a lot for everyone,” she said, just as even and steady and fake as before. But when she reached his door, she stopped walking all at once, like she just hit a wall. She stared into the space, one of the few rooms that went mostly untouched the night he lost control. It must have looked almost exactly the way he left it. The rising sunlight made the welling tears in her eyes even shinier.

I tried to wrap my arm around her back. “Please just let me do this. I want you to-”

She snapped out of my hold. “This isn’t a discussion.” She marched into the room, planted the pot down on his bedside table, and then marched out, closing the door behind her. She didn’t say another word to me as she walked past, only stopping to grab her sais and sheathe them forcefully at her sides. She didn’t say anything else the rest of the day.

Or the next day. Or the day after that.

And then out of nowhere it changed. I woke up one day to the smell of eggs cooking. It was so out of the ordinary I swore I was dreaming. Natasha smiled at me when I came downstairs, asked me how I slept. Nonchalantly, like she hadn’t spent the past seventy-two hours in silence. You wouldn’t know it if you just walked in that morning. She had washed her hair, put on a clean change of clothes, and laughed once or twice at a half-hearted joke from Gentry when we all sat down. It was a welcome change for sure, and over the next few days we were all happy to see that it was there to stay. Slowly but surely the house started coming back to life. Even after Gentry and Elias left to regroup with the Row Natasha stayed on her feet. Bit by bit it felt like the world was coming back to life. Fe and Arker were long dead; Angelina and Genesis were down; Antivoleus was probably rotting at the bottom of the ocean. The world was healing. Natasha was healing.

“No she’s not,” They kept whispering.

No. No she’s not.

It was a quiet Tuesday morning. Sierra was out hunting, had been all night. Miranda was meditating out in the backyard (and, well, it’s possible she was doing that all night too). The house felt empty, but I knew Natasha was here somewhere. I didn’t doubt that for a second. Because she hasn’t left it without me since Mordecai died.

Sure enough, as I walked down the hallway I saw a sliver of light between the bottom of Mordecai’s door and the floor. It sounded like someone was going through stuff in there. I knocked on the door. “Can I come in?” I asked, and even though the door was closed I smiled, trying to make it slip into my question too.

The rustling stopped, and there was a few of seconds of stillness and quiet. After that Natasha cleared her throat and called out, “Yeah, come in.”

I opened the door and just stood there for a second to take it in. For the first few days, Natasha didn’t come into this room, let alone move anything in it. I was kind of nervous it’d stay that way forever, a locked time capsule that’d just be a dust magnet for the rest of our lives. Seemed like that changed, though, because Natasha was pulling the room apart. The top of the shelves were empty, most of the cabinets had been pulled out and gutted, and now Natasha was cleaning out the tiny closet in the corner of the room. She was kneeling over there, holding a red kid’s T-shirt that had a cartoon character’s face on it. She gave me a tight smile before throwing the shirt in one of three large cardboard boxes in the middle of the room, each one filled to different degrees of, well, random stuff.  “Really getting ahead on that spring cleaning, huh?” I rubbed the back of my neck. “So, uh, you want some help? Because, you know, I don’t really have much of anything to do.”

“Not really. I was just about to take a break anyway.” Natasha sat back on her butt and leaned against the wall, hands resting on her hips. And I don’t know why, but it just seemed… off. Awkward. Not just the way she sat, but everything about her, too, from the way she spoke down to the way she moved. There was just a slight pause in between everything she did, like she had to take a second to think about what she was going to do. Or maybe, take a second to think about how to look normal. Sierra and Miranda didn’t notice, even when I tried talking to them about it. They probably thought I was a bit crazy.

“You think you aren’t?”

Maybe a little. But not about that.

“Or maybe you are. Maybe you just don’t know how to be around your bitch without the world blowing up around you. Because without all that excitement, what’s left to distract you from the truth?”

Shut up.

“That when the night ends and the sun rises, there’s nothing left to distract you from seeing the cracks in the both of you. That you’re both too broken to be loved by anyone, let alone by each other.”

That’s not going to happen.

“We’ll enjoy watching you both fall apart.”

You’ll wait forever then, because-

“-pik? Yupik?”

I squeezed my eyes shut and opened them again, a nervous smile snapping quick enough to my face. “Sorry. Spaced out there, for a second.” She was on her feet now, standing up, already out of that fake-relaxed pose she was in before. “Just Them, you know? Nothing out of the ordinary. Not, well, you know, anything else.” She watched me intently, carefully, for a moment. She nodded after a while, and then after that same pause from before she knelt back down, this time even slower. “So, uh, anyway. What’re you doing? Or, what were you doing. In here.”

She nodded at the three boxes between us. “Trying to figure out what I’m keeping and what I’m getting rid of. Also some things I might give away, though I don’t know who’d want any of this old stuff. Moths got to a bunch of the clothes, and most of the toys are outdated.” She gestured at the mostly-empty room. “It shouldn’t take me too much longer. I’ve been making good progress.”

I licked my lips and let my eyes wander over the boxes, looking at some of the stuff at the top of each one. “I mean, you know you don’t have to rush through this, right? You can take your time. Garbage guys come by every week and all.”

“I didn’t forget garbagemen exist,” she said, trying to sound joking or lighthearted. “I don’t know,” she shrugged. Her hand settled on a nearby action figure and fiddled with it, rotating it in slow, careful circles. “There’s important stuff and then there’s just, well, stuff. Stuff I wouldn’t know was his unless I found it here. Telling the two apart isn’t that hard.”

“I guess that makes sense.” I nodded at the toy she was fiddling with. Based on the green and black camo jacket, black aviators, and short black-hair, it looked like a normal army figure. “Which one is that guy?”

“Important,” she said without hesitating. “Most of the toys are garbage. But Sgt. Stache was his favorite.”

“Sgt. Stache?” I squinted down at the toy, trying to catch a peak at its face as Natasha continued fiddling with it. “But he doesn’t have a mustache…?”

“Yeah,” she said as a small, warm smile sparked to life. “He had a tragic backstory with the Ghost Queen. I think she burned his face and couldn’t grow anymore facial hair.”

“But the hair on his head was okay?”

When she laughed it sounded loose, relaxed, and for a second some of the lines that had settled on her face eased away. “We were kids. It was the best we could come up with. You know the house that I have in my room?”

“That big one in the back corner?” I’d seen it before. The wall of it facing me was missing, probably so you could look inside all of the rooms and play with it that way. It was pretty big, with two stories and an attic if you flipped one part of the roof over. I didn’t remember much else about it off the top of my head, though. Natasha’s room in general was kind of a weird place, what with the pink paint, the dolls, and the few pictures in there of little-Natasha with friends and family members. It was weird thinking that my girlfriend was once the kid who had unicorns on her wall.

“Yeah, that one. My dad made it for me when I was four. He was always good with his hands; he made me a few small things once in a while. The house was special, though. It must’ve taken him forever to make.” She stood Sgt. Stache up. Without anything left in her hands she just kept them in her lap as she stared down at the toy. “It was supposed to be a dollhouse, but Mordecai and I pretended it was a castle instead. It was like the HQ for the characters we came up with. He had this long title for the game we played, but I just called it Men.”

I sat down in front of her, the boxes still between us. I didn’t say anything for a second, because I didn’t want to mess anything up. Natasha hadn’t even said Mordecai’s name out loud since he died, let alone talk about him like this. I didn’t want to push the conversation too much and get her locked up again. But I didn’t want her to stop talking either. She needed this, I thought. “That was nice he played that game with you. He was, what, seven years older than you, right?”

“Around that, yeah. Gods,” she laughed, rolling her eyes as she did, “I probably drove him crazy sometimes. He had all of these serious characters with backstories and motivations and everything. And then there was me with a horse that fought by farting on people.”

I tried to imagine Natasha making a bunch of farting noises in front of a dead-panned Mordecai. I couldn’t, but I did snort trying to do it. “At least you guys had someone to play those kinds of games with, I guess. Sierra could never sit still long enough to do something like that.”

“Mordecai was the same way most of the time. Not as energetic as Sierra I’m sure, but he wasn’t the most patient kid. He was with me though. I don’t know if he actually liked playing Men or if he was humoring me, but whenever I wanted to play he never said no.”

She trailed off, and as the seconds ticked by the lines from before slowly started to spread across her face. “That’s great,” I said quickly. I licked my lips and looked down at the boxes. “Did he have any other characters in here? Maybe some with, you know, real facial hair.”

This time when Natasha smiled it didn’t quite reach her eyes, but just waivered on her face, unsure of itself, before receding again. “A few, I guess. But I don’t want to keep too many of them. Sgt. Stache was the main hero, so.” Natasha picked up Sgt. Stache again, holding the toy still in her hand. “I had good and evil characters. Tasha was my main good guy and the Ghost Queen was the main bad guy. But Mordecai only played good guys. Some of them were less important, but they were all good. The game usually ended with Sgt. Stache beating the Ghost Queen and saving Tasha.” Her eyes shifted to the ground before she dropped the toy in emptiest of the three boxes. “You know, I always used to say one day it’d be the other way around. Tasha would save Sgt. Stache and they’d be even.” Her eyes were shimmering. “I never did.”

“She’s not wrong. Maybe if your bitch learned how to be a real hero, a few of your playmates would still be alive.”

I scooted around the boxes and squatted down next to her. I clasped her hand between both mine and gave it a good squeeze. “Hey, hey. You saved a country, you know? That’s gotta count for something. And you saved me, too.”

Her finger traced over the stump that used to be my pinkie. “Did I?” She closed her eyes tight, and if she started crying I was ready to pull her into a hug and hold her there. But instead she took in a deep breath, relaxed her shoulders, and opened her dry eyes. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that. Thank you.” Her voice was even, too even, just like the day he died. “I need to clear my head. I think I’ll go for a run.” She looked down at my hands still over hers before she slipped hers out. “Can you go? I need to change.”

My hands stayed clasped over empty air, and for a second I was about to say no, I’m not leaving. Because I knew she was lying. Because she hasn’t left me in the house alone since Mordecai died. And I know she wasn’t about to end that now. But when I open my mouth all I can manage is, “Okay.” Neither of us look at each other when I stand up and leave Mordecai’s room.

I close the door behind me, stop in the hallway, and wait. Maybe she will go out and run. Maybe that conversation was progress in the right direction. Maybe she’s getting better.

I waited for half an hour before I went back to my room.

A week trickled by, then another. Not much changed. And on top of that, me and Natasha were in a weird place. It felt like that to me, at least. After that conversation in Mordecai’s room she had walled herself out even more. We still talked, of course, and I still liked being around her. But anytime we got close to talking about Mordecai, or Amanda, or me leaving the house unattended, she shut down. Something’d always come up to end the conversation right then and there, and then she’d be off doing something else around the house.

Which is why, more than ever, I really wanted to get out of the house. And I wanted Natasha to, too. “It’d be like a little vacation,” I insisted as Natasha silently stood at the other side of the kitchen, coffee mug hovering a few inches below her lips. “It’s only like a twenty minute walk from here, right? I know it’s no Makota, but hey, there’s still water.”

“Lake Abbets is definitely no Makota.” She pursed her lips and set the mug down carefully on the table between us, but didn’t sit down. “I don’t know. We still aren’t fully settled in yet.”

“Sure, but I mean, are we ever gonna be? Not for a long time, I don’t think. And we’d only be at the lake for a day. I think it’d be good to, you know, relax and stuff. Besides,” I say, trying for a smile, “we haven’t, you know, gone on a date yet. I think that’d be nice, too.”

She smiled at the last bit, at least. “I agree, that would be nice.” She lowered her elbows onto the table and leaned over it, lips once again folding into that same thin line. “I went to the lake a lot as a kid, though. Maybe we should go someplace else.”

“We think she meant, ‘I’m a pussy who can’t see a single blade of grass my dead brother ever trotted upon.’”

Ignoring that. “Alright. Well, is there somewhere else around here you haven’t been before? I’m down for anything, really.”

A few silent seconds ticked by. Natasha didn’t move, just kept looking down at her hands, probably straining to think of anything untouched by Mordecai or the rest of the family. But eventually she just shook her head. “Actually, Abbets should be fun. Do you still have the bathing suit from the Duke’s?”

“Yeah, for sure,” I said, nodding eagerly. “I already got my stuff packed. I’m ready to go as soon as you are.”

It didn’t take Natasha too long to get ready. I already packed some food just in case we decided to stay for dinner, and I had all of our towels and other stuff prepped too. After a few minutes Natasha stepped out into the kitchen, a bag over her shoulder, dressed in a one-piece black bathing suit that covered the entirety of her stomach, torso, and back. Still, she looked, uh, nice. Really nice. Natasha smiled for a second and gingerly touched my cheek. “You’re blushing.”

“Thanks. I, uh, noticed.” That wasn’t the only thing I noticed, though. When she raised her hand her bag shifted a little, and a flash of silver peaked out for a moment. It was only there for a second, but I recognized her sais almost immediately. I tore my eyes away from them. Positive. Gotta stay positive. “So, uh, you remember how to get there, right?”

“Of course. There’s a main path that leads you right there. It’s tough to get lost.”  She wasn’t joking. The walk was an easy one; we walked straight down the flat path until we got there. And she wasn’t joking about the “Abbets not being Makota” comment either. It was a small lake, that was for sure; Sierra and me found a bunch bigger in Epon Kiin when we were on our own. Still, it was a nice spot. The surrounding halo of evergreen trees made the water look bluer, more serene, even. There was a surprising number of people camped out on the sliver of sand between the brush and the water, some just laying on beach towels while a few others had a game of volleyball going. A few swimmers were making their way through the lake, bending around a small peninsula of trees about two hundred feet away from us that blocked another, slimmer portion of the lake. The nicest part about it, though, is that it was pretty much untouched. Sure, there was more people here than I thought there’d be, but outside of the dirt paths leading here there wasn’t much else. No food stands, or cabins, or souvenir shops, or anything like that. Even with the people, it felt quiet, private. You don’t see that around here anymore.  

“I mean, it’s no Makota, sure. But this is really nice,” I said with a smile. “Did you come here often? What’d you used to do here?”

“A lot of different things. Once I knew how to swim a bunch of the other kids I knew around here came here to play games in the lake.” She quickly surveyed the lake, eyes flicking from left to right. “Some of them might still be around here, but I don’t see any of them.” She shrugged. “What do you want to do?”

I pointed at the group playing volleyball. “We could always join them. Maybe tap into our juns a little bit and give them a spook?”

Thankfully Natasha realized that I was kidding, because she giggled at that. “Oh sure. You’ll set the ball a few hundred feet into the air and I’ll make a crater when I spike it. We’d make a great duo.”

“Yeah, I mean, who needs to be tall when you can just levitate?”

“Or dive when you can just teleport?” It felt so nice to smile and laugh with her again. Natasha picked up her bag. “Why don’t we just walk around the lake first? There are some prettier spots than this one.”

So that’s what we did. The lake wasn’t that big, but it still took longer than I would’ve thought to make it all the way around. After a while we set up camp on smooth stone hanging a few feet over the lake. We sat next to each other eating the sandwiches we packed, feet hanging off the rock, toes just barely above the water. I leaned back a little and closed my eyes, really feeling the 3:00 sun baking into my shoulders. “Spirits that’s nice,” I breathed.

“I hope you brought sunscreen. That red skin of yours is going to get a lot redder soon.”

“I mean, I walked around half of Epon Kiin without it and ended up fine. I’ll be fine today too.” I opened my eyes and slowly looked over the lake again, watching as the swimmers from before made their way back to shore. Immediately after all the fighting, it was weird seeing people living such a normal life. You know, we just went through hell and back a few times over, and the people here didn’t seem to have noticed. But as the weeks passed, that normalcy felt… well, normal. “You think about what you’re gonna do once we’re all settled in? You know, finding a job and such.”

Natasha’s shrug was enough of an answer, but she spoke anyway. “I haven’t yet. Between the money from the Row and Sierra’s hunting we should be set for a while. I haven’t thought too much about what comes after.” She glanced over at me. “What about you?”

“I mean… I don’t know, nothing definite or anything.” I rubbed over the growing fuzz of hair on my head. “But I was thinking, maybe sometime down the line, going into medicine. Not becoming a doctor or anything. I don’t think I could do that much school. And either way, I think I’d rather be a nurse.”

She raised an eyebrow at that. “Really? Why’s that?”

“I don’t know,” I said, trailing off for a second to find the right words. “It’s just, you know, when people think Chaos jun they, well, think about explosions. Or fire. Or other stuff like that. And for a while I just really wanted to be anything BUT that, you know? Then, well, the Row happened,” I said, forcing a chuckle as I did. “And now, I mean, obviously I still don’t want to blow things up. But I want to do more than just not blow stuff up. The Row goes about it the wrong way, but I think helping people, that’s a good cause to go behind. I just want to do it with healing instead of swords and guns.”

As I spoke Natasha sat silently, only moving to nod once or twice as I went on. After a pause of silence, she tried for a tight smile. “Well, I think you’d be great at that. You’re good at helping people. That’s something most people don’t have.”

I know she meant it as a compliment. But the way she said it sounded almost… I don’t know, bitter? It sounded weird. I licked my lips. “Well, I mean, I don’t think that’s true. Anyone can be good if they try. It’s not, like, a skill, or a gene, or anything like that.”

Natasha looked away from me and stared off across the lake at a group of kids our age hanging out on the sand. “I don’t know. Some people struggle with it more than others. I think it just comes easier for you than… well, other people.”

Chaos doesn’t have to inform me what “other people” means. They do anyway, of course, but I ignore Them. “Well, if that’s the case, you got that too. And I think most of the Row did, even if they were misguided about it. You were in it for all the right reasons, you know.”

“I was in the Row because I had nowhere else to go. It was a good fit, though. Probably the only thing I could’ve done. Fighting’s the only thing I’m actually good at. Which doesn’t do people too much good.” She withdrew her feet from the edge of the water and tucked them against her chest, resting her chin between her knees.

She kept her eyes set across the lake, though. The kids had jumped in now. Their laughter bounced across the water and just barely reached us. “If I ran into one of the kids I used to hang out with here, I don’t think we’d recognize each other. They spent the last decade in school. Maybe they did kick line or sports or got really good at chess or something. They got to figure out what they liked and now they’re probably getting ready to do that.” Her laugh was dangerously hollow. “And I spent it in a basement to become a punching bag, in a lab to become a killer, and with the Row to blow up cities. I got the chance to be good at one thing, and I can’t even do that without hurting people. So I really don’t know what the hell I’m supposed to do.”

“Wait, Natasha, what?” It all came out of her so quickly it took me a second to process. I shook my head. “You’ve done a lot of good, you know? For all of us here. We wouldn’t have a house without you. You’ve just, you’ve done so much for me in the last month, you have no idea.”

“Oh no, I do. I remember. Like when I didn’t talk to you for ten days because I was scared of looking fragile. Or when I almost left the Row even though I knew it’d hurt you. Or when you were gone for eight days and I couldn’t-” She bit her lip so hard it looked painful. “That’s not happening again. I promise I-” Her voice snapped out and she winced, head shooting deeper into her knees, covering her eyes. But when she hissed, “Stop it,” I knew it wasn’t aimed at me. I didn’t need to see the purple to know who she was talking to.

“Hey,” I whispered, tentatively wrapping my arm around her. “I’m okay, okay? I promise. You don’t need to beat yourself up over that, you-”

As I rubbed my hand against her shoulder my fingers dipped a little too far and caressed a bit down her back. Even with the swimsuit I could still feel one of the ridges that lines her back, a jagged, violent valley that upon touching immediately snapped Natasha away from me. “I know I’ve looked stupid, okay?” she barked. “I know you’ve noticed. And you know what, I don’t care. If I have to bring my sais everywhere or follow you everywhere to keep you safe, I’m gonna do it. Because I can’t fuck up again-” Half a second before it sounded like her voice was about to shatter she stopped, snapped her eyes shut, and pushed out a huff of air. Dead quiet sat between the two of us for a long ten seconds, each one ticking by slower than the last. By the end of it she didn’t open her eyes, but she did stand up. “I shouldn’t have yelled. I’m sorry.” The artificial evenness of her voice was back. She opened her eyes but didn’t look at me. She turned away, back towards the trees. “I should clear my head. I’ll go for a walk.”

She went to walk away, but I caught her hand before she took two steps. “Wait, please,” I stammered quickly, holding her gaze when she twisted her head to stare back at me. “Please talk to me. I know you’re hurting. But I don’t know what to do if I can’t talk to you.”

She didn’t walk off, but she didn’t sit down either. She stood her ground, her hand slack in my grip, face aggressively expressionless even as her eyes shimmered in the sunlight. “I’m not good at that,” she muttered after a while, “not without getting upset. I really don’t want to go back there.”

“I know. I know it sucks.” I squeezed her hand and pleaded, “But you gotta just say it. As much as it scares you, you gotta. Please just let me in.”

Being in a relationship is hard. Sometimes it pushes one person to its breaking point; sometimes it pushes the other to theirs. And then there are the rare moments when you’re both at the final impasse, staring at each other from across a growing abyss. Looking back at it, that was our first moment. It wouldn’t be the last, but it was the first. That moment where Natasha’s hand was still slack in mine, legs frozen to the ground, unsure of whether she’d sit down or wrench herself away. And me, looking up at her, pleading with her not to be walled out of her life. Who knows what would’ve happened if she walked away then. Maybe we would’ve bridged that gap later. But in that moment, I was desperate and scared. Because I felt like I’d been losing her, and that this was my last chance to grab on. And because I felt like she wasn’t even sure if she wanted to me to.

Her hand shook a little in mine before she let out the breath she’d been holding. “Alright,” she whispered as she sat back down next to me. “I’ll try.”

I let out a huff of relief, but it didn’t quite get the tension fully out with it. The moment had passed, but I hadn’t realized that yet. “Alright. Okay.” I squeezed her hand just a little tighter to keep her and me anchored there. “I know about the letter, the one…
she sent to you. I didn’t read it, but I, you know, got the idea. But you didn’t start following me around until later. Is that the only reason, or…?”

Her mouth opened, then closed, then opened again, and then stayed there, hanging quietly. I could feel her heart beating quicker and quicker against my fingers. She shot out a huff of air, and that seemed to get the block out of her throat, because she finally said, “Mostly, I guess.” Her voice was gruff, and a little choked up. But it was one of the realest things I’ve heard out of her in weeks. “It was scary to think about. But it got scarier after-” She swallowed hard and aggressively wiped at her eyes. But none of that stopped her from croaking, “After Mordecai.”

After going weeks without barely mentioning his name, that was enough to get a few weeks’ worth of tears burning in her eyes. “Angelina was on the ground before she stabbed him. She couldn’t have defended herself. And I still had one sai left.” Natasha was gripping my hand back as hard as she could, but it couldn’t stop the shaking that had taken her over. She was quiet for a second, the deep lines of her face from the past weeks entrenching themselves once again. “I just needed to stab her one more time. He’d still be alive if I did.” One tear dropped, and then another, and finally the lines melted with them. “I could’ve saved him, he wanted me to remember him but I don’t want that, I just want him, I just-”

The more she talked the more her tears dropped down her face and into her voice. By the end of it they just burst out and choked her, and all she could do was cry out a gasping, guttural noise. I threw my arms around her and let her sink into my shoulder. I held her tightly even as she shook and rested my chin against her head as she sobbed.

“Is this how you two are going to spend your lives? Catering to the others’ bi-weekly meltdown? For your sake, We hope she offs herself before the year is done. It’d save you a lifetime of headaches.”

Natasha’s worth a hell of a lot more than that. Though They have a point. Kind of. I feel like we’ve been here before. It’s just that the roles have been reversed this time. I remember it took her a while to say anything that night. It takes me just as long, if not longer, to come up with the right thing to say. “You don’t have to worry about me,” I whispered. I ran a hand through her hair and tried to slow down my own breathing, like that’d somehow pass on over to her. “Not like you have been. Because you’re not doing this alone. We’re in it together. That’s all we need.”

“I want to believe that.” Natasha had calmed down enough to speak clearly, but her voice sounded strained, almost tired. “I can’t trust myself to loosen up. If I did and something happened, I… I couldn’t. I don’t know. I couldn’t.”

“I get that.” And I really do. I had been there that past month. Somedays I still am. “I don’t believe in myself most days too. I believe in us, though. Unconditionally.” I wasn’t sure if I was just imagining it, but I swore I felt Natasha’s lips twitch a little against my shoulder. It almost felt like a smile.

Neither of us said much after that for a while. She had calmed down by then, but I felt empty. I had a feeling she did too. Not in a bad way, per se. Just exhausted, I guess. And not just from this. Mostly this, sure. But it’d just been one hell of a month, hadn’t it? The worst was hopefully behind us. But it took a lot to get over that mountain. Even if we were finally over that peak, the idea of going all the way back down towards normalcy felt impossible.

But an idea hit me that I couldn’t shake. “I’ll be right back, okay? I just need to make a quick call.” Though she didn’t protest, Natasha gave me an odd look as I stumbled off into the woods, yanking my communicator out of my pocket as I did. After a minute I was back, walking briskly over as I rubbed the sweat on my palms off on my bathing suit. “Alright, grab your things, okay? I want to show you something.”

Eyebrows knitted, Natasha did just that, holding my gaze the whole time. “What’re you talking about?”

I grabbed both of her hands and held her tight. This time I was the one trying not to shake. “I, well, I wanted to make today special for us, cause it’s been rough. But also, I… I really want you to know, with the two of us together, there’s nowhere we can’t go or nothing we can’t do. You know I’m not all that confident. But I am with you. And I… I want to show you that. And keep today special.” I tried for a smile. “You, uh, might want to close your eyes.”

That was by far the single stupidest thing I’ve ever done. It could’ve backfired in a million different ways. I only did it once before then, and I nearly lost control because of it. But in that moment I was so sure that couldn’t happen. Because I was holding her hands and looking at her face and we were finally talking again. In that moment nothing could beat me. Not even Chaos.

I didn’t close my eyes when I dipped into Them. I stared right at Natasha as the both of us zipped away and snapped through space and time in an instant. Chaos pushed at me, roared against me, but never came close. Her face swam in my vision and protected me. A moment later there was a crack, a buzz ran down my body, and then stillness.

Natasha winced at the sudden noise and stepped back. But instead of stepping back into the rock, her foot sank into warm sand. “What-” Her eyes flashed open and swiveled to look at me, immediately zeroing in on my eyes. I held her gaze, not a hint of purple in my own. But she had a fire in hers. “What,” she started slowly, quietly, words coming quicker and louder as she said, “the
hell are you thinking?!”

Her eyes were boring straight into me.
“We told you she wouldn’t appreciate your little stunt. You’ll lose her after you just got her back.”

I raised my hands up as she whipped hers out of my grasp. “I know I know. But I had control, I knew I could do it, and you were upset-”

“I don’t care what I was doing!” she snapped. “You could’ve got yourself killed! It’s not worth the…” She trailed off, eyes finally breaking from me to wander at the sand beneath us. We both turned towards a gentle, rhythmic roaring, a noise unlike anything I’ve ever heard before. Behind us was a body of water so vast it looked like it might just go on forever, stretching all the way out to the horizon and beyond. Waves rolled forwards and backwards, lapping at the smooth sand beneath our feet, a gentle, consistent roar. I’d never seen it before, but I knew that it must be the ocean.

I tried for a timid smile. “I, uh, gave Gentry a ring. She said her family had a house in Makota they weren’t using now. Said we could stay the night.” Natasha turned back towards me. Her face had grown softer, but the fire hadn’t quite left her eyes. It looked like she was deciding which of the two to go with. I licked my lips and added quickly, “I know it was a little dumb, but I wanted to be sure no one could track us, and I just-”

Without a word Natasha sprung forward and tugged me into her arms. “Woah!” I stammered, stumbling towards her too quickly and too suddenly. I lost my footing and the two of us crumpled into the sand, Natasha landing on top of me.

And for the first time in a long, long time, she was laughing hysterically. “You can teleport across the country but you can’t stand up?” she teased.

I didn’t say anything, just looked up at her. Her black hair was hanging down and settled around my face like a canopy, shielding her own face from the light of the setting sun over the water. A few rays of orange managed to slip through her hair, though, dancing in the wetness of her eyes. But it was her face I focused on. She was crying a little I think, but her face was alive, and smiling, and warm. And her lips were just as warm when she leaned down and kissed me.

“Thank you,” she whispered as she pulled away. “But that was more than ‘a little dumb.’ You’re never doing that again,” she insisted firmly. But that fire from before was gone now.

“I won’t,” I breathe before pulling her back in.

The rest of the day was perfect. After diving into the water we spent a lot of time just walking along the beach, picking up a few seashells as we went along. Natasha insisted she just thought they were pretty, though I got them back on our first Gaius Festival as a necklace. There was a shack nearby that we got dinner at, and Gentry’s beach house wasn’t too far away.

After a day on a lake and a beach – and, you know, all the extra emotional bits – I was ready to pass out. “So I’m pretty sure this is Gentry’s room,” I said while motioning at the room in front of us. “And that one down there is her parents’. Where do you want to sleep?”

“I don’t know. I feel kind of weird sleeping in her parents’ bed.”

“Yeah. I kinda do too.”

We were close enough to the beach that the sound of rolling waves still drifted through the open windows. It was the only sound in the house for a few seconds as heat slowly spread from my face and flowed down the rest of my body. “You know,” Natasha began slowly, red prickling across her own cheeks, “there is, um… a solution to that problem.” Her hand slipped into mine so easily. “We don’t need to do anything else if you’re not ready. We can just, you know, um...”

I was blushing just as much as her, if not more. But I could still manage a dopey smile and squeaked, “Yeah. Yeah I’d like that.”

We didn’t, um, “save the world” that night. Natasha was right; I wasn’t ready. That was still a long way away. But that night was the first step, I think. As I sank into the bed Natasha stayed kneeling above me, hands raised up behind her back but unmoving. She held my gaze for a few seconds, and then slowly, shakingly peeled off her bathing suit. I wasn’t sure if I should look down or not so I just kept my eyes glued to her face, watching her intently as she threw the one-piece away. Wordlessly she slipped under the covers and slowly leaned into the bed, laying right next to me. When I pulled her in and wrapped my arms around her back, she didn’t flinch. She nuzzled into my own scars, and even as panic and memories and Amanda tried to resurface I just held her gaze and squeezed her harder and whispered, “I love you.”

I fell asleep listening to her heartbeat that night. And even after everything that had happened and everything that was still to come, all I could think about was that it felt so

My eyes creak open, and the rest of my body creaks too when I faintly stir under the sheets. Natasha is asleep, I think. It’s tough to tell with her back facing me. I smile to myself and slowly wrap myself around her, gently nestling back into her body. Even after all these years, we still fit together so perfectly.
Michael DeathFlame
Michael DeathFlame
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Join date : 2013-05-28
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