• Halloween 2021 IF,  Interactive Fiction

    Halloween I.F – “That Which Lingers” – Day 33

    [ Please read the kickoff post before commenting! ] 

    Webb exchanged a quick and somewhat uneasy glance with Faraday and Ariadne. “Listen, when I told Faraday to go to hell—” they protested.

    “Very funny,” Pax said, chipper. “Chop, chop. No time to argue. All aboard the demon train!”

    Pax.” Webb took a few steps closer, regardless. The portal didn’t seem unnaturally warm or anything, and made Webb only a little uneasy to look at. They reached out to try to touch it lightly and got a little smack on their wrist from Pax.

    “Where are you taking us?” Ariadne asked, wary but immediately coming to Webb’s side.

    Pax huffed, putting a hand on their hip. “Just outside. Unless you want me to take you on a field trip, in which case, I’m down for it, but I don’t know when I’d return you…”

    “Outside is fine,” Faraday said peaceably, though he also came up to stand on Webb’s other side. “We need to try to get Ariadne’s bike, anyway…”

    “We’ll see what the lay of the land is out there,” Pax pointed out. “But don’t worry. I’m not taking you anywhere too dramatic. Just a little shortcut.”

    Webb sighed, glancing back once last time at Lore before approaching the portal. “Fine,” they said. “This is really not the weirdest thing you’ve had me do.”

    It was a joke, obviously, and they saw Pax’s eyes narrow and brighten somewhat with mischief—but they also saw the look of slight relief and maybe even gratitude that crossed Pax’s face. There was still a lot going on, and Webb didn’t quite know what Pax’s full game plan was, but this was about as much of an I trust you as Webb was able to give.

    Drawing in a sharp breath, Webb stepped through.

    They thought the sensation would be stranger than it was. It lasted for a brief moment: heat, then a shock of something cold rushing and crawling along their skin, then a fierce tug that yanked them forward, stumbling. Disoriented, they jerked their head up, feeling a little like they left their stomach behind—and found themself outside, raindrops splattering heavily down onto their head and shoulders.

    Webb let out a sigh of relief that immediately turned to bone-deep terror as they realized they were alone. No Pax, no Ariadne, no Faraday—

    They whirled around, scattering wet leaves. They were standing on a slope overlooking the darkened riverbank, lit in patches by pools of light from flickering street lamps. Behind them was the edge of the woods; ahead, they could see the bright lights of the Drawing Dead, and dimly hear the sound of music from the balcony over the rushing water and pattering rain.

    “Pax—?” They pulled the drawstrings of Ariadne’s hoodie a little tighter, heart hammering at the inside of their ribcage. Had they been tricked? Had this been a ruse to get them alone? Or, worse, to separate them from the others, or—

    There was a faint flash of light, and Ariadne and Faraday popped into existence, nearly bumping directly into Webb. A moment later, Pax appeared as well, his wings fluttering as he hovered, holding an umbrella, just keeping the tips of his toes off the wet ground.

    “Oh!” Ariadne breathed out, startled. “Where are we? Oh, Webb, are—” she trailed off as she saw the look on Webb’s face, sunglasses be damned. “Are. Are you okay?”

    “I’m fine,” Webb said quickly, shoving their hands in their pockets and trying to will their panicky rabbit heart back into submission. Stop it, you’re embarrassing me. “It’s fine. We’re a hell of a ways away, though. Pax, we need to get closer.”

    Pax was giving Webb a keen look as well, drifting past them and peering out into the darkness. “I don’t know if that’s such a great idea,” he pointed out, tail coiling around his ankles. “Look.”

    Webb followed his gaze, and heard Faraday suck in a little breath. All around the Drawing Dead, they could see the shapes: ghostly, drifting. At least five of them from this side of the building alone, and no doubt each wielding an impossibly large and intimidating weapon.

    Fumbling around in their jacket, Webb ducked briefly under Pax’s umbrella and tugged out their notebook. In the same jagged handwriting as before, it read:

    Come out, come out, wherever you are.

    Pax peered over their shoulder. “Oh!” he said brightly. “Fun. They seem like a riot. Anyway, I thought you might not like to party with them, though, if you’ve changed your mind, I can always…”

    “No, no, it’s fine,” Ariadne protested, though she was hugging her elbows, moving from foot to foot restlessly. “… damn, my bike is there, though…”

    “They know it’s yours,” Webb pointed out, grimacing. “They saw us ride away before…”

    “They might leave it alone, if and when they take, ah, the bait, as it were,” Faraday pointed out in a low voice. “Do you think we should just stick around here for now, out of sight?”

    “What are our other options here?” Webb muttered. “I mean, we’re going up to the mountains. Either of you have a fucking car share account?”

    “We could—” Ariadne began, then abruptly stiffened, snapping the visor of her helmet up and tilting her head back, sniffing at the wind.

    “… what is it?” Webb asked, but Faraday quickly shook his head, making a shushing gesture. Both Faraday and Ariadne were alert, looking around; Pax noticed a moment later, his eyes glowing in the darkness.

    “I think we’re about to have an unwelcome visitor,” Pax said with a sudden toothy grin, all fangs. Before Webb could make more than a breathless noise in response, Pax wrapped an arm around Webb and hauled them close against his side, thrusting his umbrella upwards and bracing himself as something slammed into it with enough force to make it crack, sending rain splashing everywhere.


    That was Ariadne’s voice, followed by the pounding of footsteps, the sound of Faraday cursing, and the beating of heavy wings. Webb shoved the tangled mess of umbrella aside, looking up to see the wet and ragged shape of the harpy from the Drawing Dead, perched on one of the tree branches and leaning down over them with a leer that showed far too many teeth.

    “I thought I’d take to the skies,” she said in her raspy lilt, tapping a clawed finger against her cheek. “And look what I found! I thought I smelled a rat.”

    “I always thought they kept you around for vermin control, Vyo,” Pax said blithely, shaking out his shattered umbrella and looking very put upon, his blue-green hair plastered to his horns, his skin steaming a little in the rain. “So nice to finally have confirmation.”

    “Shut it,” Vyo snapped, though she immediately favored Webb with that unsettling smile again. “So you were willing to disobey the Inquisitors to protect this one, were you? That’s very interesting! I’m sure they’ll want to know all about it…”

    “Are you working with Grimm?” Ariadne demanded. She didn’t sound frightened—on the contrary, her feet were braced, her hands clenching and unclenching. Faraday stood motionlessly behind her, his dark hair heavy and wet around his shoulders, his expression composed but obscured, his eyes narrowed.

    The harpy blinked, then let out a sharp laugh, grating. “With the vampire? Oh, my sweet summer child. You really have no idea what’s going on, do you?”

    “I don’t suppose you’re going to enlighten us, are you?” Webb called back, swaying a little closer to Pax. “You know, dramatic villain speech and all that?”

    Vyo’s gaze focused on him again, and she rose up higher on the branch, spreading her wings wide and adjusting her neck, cracking it audibly to one side. She stretched out her arms, fingers cracking as well as they spasmed into elongated, knife-sharp claws.

    “No,” she said, before she swooped down out of the darkened sky, lunging for Webb’s throat.

    [Please suggest or +1 an action in the comments.

    As a reminder, it can be thoughts, words, deeds, or curiosities!]

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  • Halloween 2021 IF,  Interactive Fiction

    Halloween I.F – “That Which Lingers” – Day 29

    [ Please read the kickoff post before commenting! ] 

    This section contains moderately mature content.

    Before they fully realized what they were doing, Webb leaned in, tilting their head slightly to the side, lips parted. They saw Lore’s dark lashes flutter slightly with surprise, but they responded in kind, their own mouth opening on a soft oh.

    “I—” Webb stammered, inches from Lore’s mouth, so close that they could feel the smoke drifting off of Lore, caressing Webb’s lips. “Oh—fuck. You were so… you were asking me for permission so nicely, and I just—may I. Kiss you? I’d like to kiss you. I’d like… I want you to do whatever it is you need to do. I trust you. Can I—”

    Lore laughed softly, leaning in to close the slight distance between them.

    Kissing Lore was different from anything Webb had ever experienced, yet in some ways deeply familiar. Lore’s lips were soft and pliant, and when Webb immediately deepened the kiss with an impulsive, relieved eagerness, they found that Lore’s mouth was surprisingly hot and wet, their tongue meeting Webb’s with startled shyness but no less eagerness.

    Then Webb inhaled, catching a breath after the first desperate press of lips, and felt themself breathe Lore in, swallow them, and they nearly lost their mind at the devastating intimacy of the sensation. Smoke and shadow rolled over their tongue, filling their nose and mouth until all they could taste and feel and smell was Lore, like old books and incongruously fragrant bubble bath and sweet cakes and none of those things at all—

    They were close and everywhere and everything all at once, and Webb, who had been keeping people at arm’s length for so long they no longer remember what it felt like to be properly embraced, fell into it like a person desperate to drown.

    Letting out a husky moan they hardly recognized as their own voice, Webb gathered Lore tightly into their arms and hauled them helplessly closer. They ran their fingers through Lore’s silky hair, feeling it effortlessly unravel like spun silk pouring over their palms. Lore’s body in their arms had weight and heat and pressure, but in a way that didn’t seem to stop at the gap between them. There was no gap between them anymore, no chill, and no emptiness—just the feeling of Lore enveloping Webb entirely.

    It was intoxicating—and terrifying. Webb drew in a sharp breath, almost a whimper, closing their eyes and tilting their head back. They still felt Lore in their mouth, shadow coiling out and pouring out of their mouth like smoke, oozing down their jaw as they gasped for breath and drew Lore further in.

    Are you alright? The voice reached Webb’s ears, but they were very sure they weren’t hearing it out loud. It reverberated up through them, gentle and so concerned, and fuck, what was Webb supposed to do with that?

    “I’m fine,” Webb croaked out, finding their voice rough and hoarse and breathless, probably because there was somebody in their throat, pouring down it like water. They didn’t know if they even needed to speak out loud or not, or if Lore could just feel the response, taste it, understand it. They wondered if Lore could sense the way that Webb’s heart was hammering, or feel the heat already building to an ache between their legs.

    Should I stop? Lore didn’t seem like they wanted to stop, but they did sound (feel?) relieved at Webb’s answer, stroking Webb’s hair reassuringly. At the same time, Webb felt hands running up their arms—then, more emboldened, over their chest, down their thighs. Hands might be a strong word for it, Webb thought wildly as they let out another honestly embarrassing noise—it was a thousand touches, tendrils and pressure, and oh, oh wow—

    “S-stop, stop stop, oh fuck we have to stop—” Webb burst out with a delirious laugh, steeling themself for the dizzying, sucking sensation of regret that came a moment later as Lore, of course, withdrew immediately. Webb kept their eyes closed until they no longer felt Lore clinging to their skin, though they still felt the ghost of it, an echo that wasn’t likely to soon fade.

    “… Webb,” Lore said, aloud again this time, in their soft and tentative tone, touching a hand—a hand again—to Webb’s cheek. “I’m so sorry, was that…”

    Webb opened their eyes and was startled to find them stinging slightly, their lashes damp. They cleared their throat, scrubbing their sleeve against their face, and shook their head stubbornly. “That was fine. That was… uh. That was… a lot. But I liked it,” they added hastily, trying to chase away that worried look on Lore’s face before it had a chance to settle in. “I liked it maybe a little too much and we have, like, zero time, exactly negative time to, you know, explore any of that! In any way whatsoever.”

    “Oh. That’s right,” Lore said, a little flustered. “I… forgot.”

    “You forgot the fact that we’re in Veracity Yun’s secret bedroom in a vampire den of villainy and there’s a pack of Inquisitors hunting me down and you were tasting my brain so you could go pretend to be me so we can escape?” Webb paused. “Yeah, actually me too, the kissing was really good.”

    Lore’s expression shifted through several different emotions before landing on helpless, fond laughter. They leaned in and gave Webb one more kiss, dry and lingering and gentle this time. “Let’s get going,” they said. “We can… continue this later.”

    There was a note of promise in that tone that sent Webb’s heart racing, and they let out an aborted little noise, turning quickly to fumble for the door. “I. Yes. Sure. Oh, wait, fuck, weren’t you going to—” they began, turning back around again, then froze.

    An eerie, perfect, and entirely unnerving identical copy of themself gazed back at them.

    “I’m ready,” Lore said in Webb’s voice, making every hair on the back of Webb’s neck stand up. They pulled out a pair of sunglasses, sliding them on, then reached out and unhooked Webb’s from their collar, sliding them gently back onto Webb’s nose while Webb stood there, shocked and numb.

    “Oh,” Webb said weakly. “That’s great.”

    They had a very strange sensation in their chest. On the one hand, shy, sweet Lore was far and beyond the closest thing to a real friend that Webb had, with a very palpable and enticing promise to be more. The kiss had been disorientingly, exceptionally good, and had instantly unlocked fantasies and fetishes that Webb didn’t even know they had, or could have any reasonable expectation of getting to actually experience.

    But Lore was also shadow and enigma, the monster’s monster, alien and powerful and uncanny and unknown, and the dissonance was strangely chilling.


    Lore’s brows were creasing, their expression of concern somewhat jarring on Webb’s face, so Webb hastily reached out to squeeze Lore’s hand. Webb’s hand. Hand in apparently loveable hand.

    “It’s fine,” they said hastily. “Let’s go back out before Pax starts a riot. I’m not altogether convinced that there won’t have been bloodshed. Ariadne might have eaten someone.”

    She hadn’t. The atmosphere in the room was awkward and expectant, and Ariadne and Faraday looked up with palpable relief—then mild alarm—as Webb and their double walked into the room.

    Oh wow—” Ariadne gasped.

    “Don’t get too excited,” Lore said immediately in an uncanny impression of Webb’s tone. “I don’t think Lore’s interested in fulfilling anyone’s lewd fantasies.”

    Webb’s jaw dropped a little. “Fuck, you’re a better me than I am.”

    Lore laughed. Ariadne was looking back and forth like it was a tennis match. Faraday looked like he had a headache.

    Pax also seemed to be strangely intrigued, his eyes sharp and bright, but his tail was still buzzing like an agitated snake’s. “Great,” he exclaimed. “Perfect, you nailed it. Now, are we ready to get you the hell out of here?” He glanced back to where Veracity had been exchanging words with two of her attendants, and was making her way back over to the group.

    “We’ll take it from here with the… fake,” Veracity said, her gaze moving between the two of them, seemingly nonplussed. “Pax, I’ll entrust the others to you, of course.”

    “Of course,” Pax said easily. “I’ll make sure it’s taken care of.”

    “What about the rest of it?” Webb asked, shifting a little closer to Lore, anxious again and already feeling Lore’s impending absence strongly. “What were you going to tell us?”

    “Oh, yes,” Veracity said with an air of casual nonchalance. “I’d almost forgotten. But I suppose it’s relevant.” Her gaze travelled to Ariadne. “My sources suggest that the original Grimm, this one’s sire, is no longer the Grimm that we’re currently dealing with. The one that’s in power right now, and has been for at least five or six years—ever since this political maneuvering started—is either some kind of usurper, or his successor.”

    Silence fell in the room. Webb saw the shock they felt reflected on everyone else’s face—even Pax’s. Ariadne looked the most shocked of all, uncomprehending and almost faint.

    “That—but. What? No… how can that…?” Ariadne stammered.

    Veracity shrugged. “I thought you’d be pleased,” she said. “Trying to go up against one’s own sire would be madness. You’d be his puppet again in seconds. Surely you knew that.”

    “I… was going to figure something out,” Ariadne said faintly, shaking her head to clear it. “But… what? How? Why?”

    That is what you’re going to need to find out,” Veracity told her with an edge of impatience. “I need to know who this upstart is, how he managed what he’s done, and where Grimm has gotten off to. If he still lives.”

    Veracity’s specific personal interest and request suddenly made much more sense to Webb. They were willing to believe and accept that she had been simply concerned about a rise in power and aggression from a nearby vampire lord. But knowing that he’d somehow pulled the reins of power away from an existing lord…

    That was a big and real and present threat.

    In some way, Webb felt strangely reassured. They now knew that there was something that Veracity actively feared—something that, if they played their cards right, they could use as actual valuable leverage to trade to her later.

    On the other hand, the level of bullshit they were having to deal with was starting to become sincerely unreal.

    “Well,” Webb declared, leaning an arm on Lore’s shoulder. “I suppose that might as well fucking happen. We good to go, Pax? Ariadne, you good?”

    “I’ve been ready to go for so long, you have no idea, I’m dying, I hate you,” Pax said brightly, steepling his fingers together.

    “I’m… ready,” Ariadne agreed. She was clutching Faraday’s hand tightly, but her expression grew more serious after a moment, and she released him to haul on her helmet.

    Webb turned to Lore, unsure of what to say, or do, or how to say goodbye, but Lore just gave Webb’s hand a firm squeeze, their expression calm, stepping away to join Veracity.

    “Stay safe,” Lore instructed in a no-nonsense tone, so unlike their usual quiet lilt. “I’ll catch up with you before you even have a chance to miss me.”

    “I already miss you,” Webb shot back, instantly embarrassed by having said that, but feeling somewhat vindicated when Lore got flustered as well, hands fluttering.

    Webb turned to Pax to avoid having to confront that feeling any further. “Where are we going?”

    Pax raised his eyebrow, but turned, beckoning with one elegant hand, fingers curling. “This way, my contraband cupcakes. I hope you’re ready for a ride.” A look of concentration crossed his face as he sauntered over to the far wall, tracing a wide circle with the tip of one nail in one smooth, easy arc.

    For a moment, nothing happened. Then, with a rush of sound like a thousand whispers building up into a scream, the area inside the circle turned hazy, uneasy, licked with flame and shadow.

    Pax dropped into a deep bow, sweeping an arm out. “After you,” he said with a wide, wicked smile.

    [Please suggest or +1 an action in the comments.

    As a reminder, it can be thoughts, words, deeds, or curiosities!]

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  • Halloween 2021 IF,  Interactive Fiction

    Halloween I.F – “That Which Lingers” – Day 28

    [ Please read the kickoff post before commenting! ] 

    “Absolutely not,” Webb said immediately. “Under no circumstances. No.

    Lore’s brows creased; they flinched back, looking visibly hurt. “I—I won’t look like you for anything except this, I promise. I understand it’s—strange…”

    Shit. Webb reached out and seized Lore’s face in their hands, the presence of an intimidating vampire lord looming over them be damned. “No, you ridiculous creature, I’m not worried about that. I’m worried about something happening to you.”

    Lore’s expression still looked troubled, but softened somewhat. They lifted one hand and placed it over Webb’s, their touch cool and strangely yielding. “Oh,” they murmured. “No, that’s… I promise I wouldn’t suggest it if I wasn’t equally sure I could get away again.”

    “Shadowfolk do have… particularly unnatural abilities,” Veracity said, watching this exchange dispassionately. “Their suggestion does solve the problem quite efficiently.”

    “I don’t—” Webb choked on their outburst, clawing back their temper again, reminding themself that snapping at the giant tetchy vampire lady who they were trying to woo for information was probably not going to improve the situation any. They drew in a deep breath, then exhaled, focusing on Lore. “… maybe. Are you sure it’s safe, and you can get away with it? Like, 100%, we won’t have to pull off a stressful rescue mission later level of confident? What happens if we lose track of you? What if they just stab you immediately?

    They’d seized Lore’s shoulders by this point and were shaking them gently. Little bits of inky blackness drifted away from Lore’s hair, like bubbles.

    “Webb…” Faraday stepped in a little closer, but didn’t try to reach out, possibly sensing the real and present risk that Webb might chomp his hand off. “I could—go with them, if that would help—”

    “That doesn’t help! Then I’ll have two of you to chase after!”

    “We could track them—” Faraday protested helplessly.

    “It will be fine,” Lore said, low and breathless and steady, leaning in to bonk their forehead gently against Webb’s. “I can’t… tell you everything I’m capable of, but I can promise you. I wouldn’t do that to you. Make you worry. Leave you alone.”

    Webb squeezed their eyes shut tightly, trying to will themself to calm down. Why were they getting so worked up, anyway? They liked Lore, obviously, but surely they could trust them to manage themself. They’d seen Lore morph through walls and doors and vanish into shadows. If they said it was alright…

    “… fine,” they muttered reluctantly, glancing over at Veracity. “If—if her lordship here thinks that’ll suit her purposes, and if the rest of us can get out of here while there’s a distraction, and you’ll be fine, and we get something actually useful in terms of going after Grimm, which is what we came for—”

    “Oh, I have something I think you’ll find interesting,” Veracity said with one of her cool smiles, drawing everyone’s attention back to her. “At a price, of course. But one I’m sure you’ll find fair.”

    Webb wasn’t as sure as Veracity sounded, but they took a step back away from Lore, looking over at her warily. “What do you have in mind?”

    Veracity inclined her head. “I want access to Grimm’s spy within the Drawing Dead, first of all. Which it seems like your little drama here may help provide. Aside from that… I want more information about Grimm, and what he’s planning. And I’m not just talking about sniffing around in Hallow Point—I’ve already uncovered those stones, I can assure you. Someone needs to go up north. Right to his doorstep. You were already planning on it. I won’t provide you with additional support right now, not with so little to go off, but… if you return with something interesting…”

    Ariadne made a little noise in the back of her throat. “So what you’re saying is, we should be going out there without the expectation that we’re going to be doing anything other than, what? Spying? Observing?”

    “I can see the logic in that,” Webb said slowly. They didn’t really know what they were getting into, and Veracity was cautious—unlikely to make a big move without feeling very sure of her strategy. “We scope things out, and then work together to make a move when we have all the pieces.”

    Veracity tsked softly. “I’m not promising further action,” she murmured. “I’m simply saying that I will be willing to consider more… material assistance, if and when you have something that compels me to do so.”

    Ariadne looked unhappy about the idea, impatient and frustrated and scared, but Faraday was nodding slowly, and Pax was staring at Webb with a fixed intensity, as though willing them to understand this is about as good as it gets.

    “Fine,” Webb said, gritting his teeth. Then, at Veracity’s raised eyebrows, they added more politely: “Yes. That sound reasonable. You help us get out of here safely, we help give you a decoy and keep your public face on while helping you sniff out some vermin in your backyard. You’ll tell us what you know right now about Grimm, and we’ll head up north and…” And what? Pretend to be selling Ghoul Guide cookies? Mug and mesmer a couple of après ski vampires? “… and see what else we can uncover. If and when we have more to go off, we’ll get in touch, and negotiate further from there.”

    “Just so.” Veracity smiled, fangs dimpling her full lower lip. She extended a hand to Webb.

    Webb glanced back at the others. Ariadne’s lips were pressed tightly together, but at Webb’s look, she let out a sigh and nodded reluctantly.

    “… it’s reasonable,” Faraday agreed. Lore nodded as well, hugging their own elbows.

    Webb had brokered plenty of deals with powerful creatures in the past, but this one felt particularly heart-pounding as they reached out and shook Veracity’s hand. There was so much in the air; so much they were unsure of. So much to lose.

    They’d never intended to find themselves in this position again—rushing headlong into danger with so much potentially at stake. Not after last time. And yet, here they were.

    Veracity’s grip was cool and firm and final.

    Pax clapped his hands together, making Webb startle slightly at the abrupt sound as they drew their hand back hastily. “I’m so glad we got that worked out!” he said brightly, a little on the edge of manic. “And may I remind my good companions here that I am not sure how long until the Inquisitors start making even more of a ruckus trying to get in?”

    Webb turned to Lore. “What exactly do you need in order to… do your thing?”

    Lore looked slightly furtive, their lashes dipping as they glanced over at Veracity and Pax. “I…” they trailed off, then stepped a little closer to Webb. “Nothing special. Just—a moment with you. Alone. Before I go. Please?”

    Veracity’s expression seemed heavily disinclined to agree to that, but shifted to an annoyed sort of thoughtfulness after a moment, pensive. “Very well,” she said, gesturing to the far back of the room where there was a door into an adjacent room. “But do be quick about it.”

    “Like, very quick, extremely quick,” Pax added, tapping his foot and glancing out the window. “If you’re not back in five minutes I’m going to start screaming.”

    Webb grabbed Lore’s wrist and tugged, spitefully walking across the room at a leisurely pace. They could hear Pax behind them making a noise a little like a sotto voce shrieking teakettle.

    The room beyond the door was a dimly-lit private chamber with plush furnishings, heavy carpet, and a fully luxurious bed. Webb stopped just inside the door, closing it behind them. The click of the latch seemed exceedingly loud in the silence.

    “Well?” they prompted, leaning against the door and turning to look at Lore uneasily, finding that they were having trouble meeting their eyes. “Is this—are you wanting to say a dramatic farewell? Do you wear me like a skinsuit? What?”

    As soon as the words were out of their mouth, Webb flinched. They were frightened and anxious, but there was no need to take it out on Lore, who looked so nakedly miserable at the comments that they visibly started to come apart at the seams, bits of shadow drifting every which way

    “No, I—” Lore stammered. “I just need—I’m sorry, Webb, I didn’t want…”

    Webb swallowed heavily, then reached out with both arms to try to haul Lore close, dragging them into a tight hug. Or trying to. They managed to pull most of them in, but some bits seemed more corporal than others. It was like trying to hug something that was half Jell-O, half wood smoke, with an edge of squirming cat.

    “Oh, for the love of all that’s horny, pull yourself together!” Webb exhaled in a rush, torn between laughing and crying. “I’m sorry, alright? I’m just—scared. I feel like I’ve just—” Fuck, hell, damn. “Feel like I’ve just found something, someone I want to keep around, and now I might be losing you already? I mean, it’s fucking typical, but it’s not fair…

    Lore stopped chaotically disintegrating all over Ariadne’s sweater, coagulating again into an fretful person shape with their lovely, anxious face looking so sad and so near. “Things are going to be alright,” they promised, earnest and soft. “I’ll catch up with you again before you know it. I’ll be able to find you. Don’t worry.”

    “You’d better,” Webb said. They tried to make it sound threatening, but it ended up sounding a little desperate instead.

    Lore’s lips curved into a faint smile, their brow creasing. “And think of It this way,” they murmured. “Maybe I’ll be able to learn something more from the Inquisitors before I get away. I’m sure that could be useful…”

    Webb gently took Lore by the shoulders and shook them again. “Only if it doesn’t put you in more danger,” they insisted. “Don’t—don’t you dare risk anything trying to be useful.”

    “I won’t, I won’t, I won’t!” Lore gasped, wobbly. “I won’t, alright?”

    Webb fell still, just looking at them, touching a hand lightly to Lore’s strangely silky hair. “Good,” they said, low-voiced. “… now. What is that you need to do to do your—thing? I assume you didn’t just drag me in here for, uh, whatever this has been.”

    Lore shook their head, looking uncertain. “No… mm. Webb, you have to understand, the Shadowfolk are very private. Very protective over our abilities and secrets. What I’ve already shared is almost too much, especially in front of someone like Veracity, and Pax, but…” They shook their head as if to clear it. “But I wanted to. I needed to. I’m alright with that. But… the real thing is…” They reached up to gently pull Webb’s glasses off, hanging them from the collar of Webb’s sweater. “I need your permission for the next part.”

    Webb licked their lips nervously, forcing themself not to look away, gaze darting around Lore’s face. “Okay,” they said. “I mean… I won’t tell anybody. What do you need to do?”

    Lore met Webb’s gaze. “I can… become anybody that I’ve experienced,” they said slowly. “If I choose to, I can… feel some of the things that you feel. Taste your memories. Not all of them,” they added hastily, as Webb blanched. “And I don’t have to! I don’t need to go that deep at all. Really, I just need to be close. To… understand you in a way that’s unique to me.”

    “Oh, sweetheart, I am so afraid of the mortifying ordeal of being known,” Webb stammered. “That’s like sixth base. We are playing nine-dimensional baseball, here—”

    Some part of Webb just seized up at the very thought, shaky and afraid and hollering no, no, no directly into the tantrum hole. That was the part that made their hands feel clammy, their heart pound, their thoughts spin in dizzy circles. They didn’t have to give this to Lore. They didn’t have to let Lore go ahead with this. They didn’t have any better ideas, but there was always the option to run.

    Some other, much more alien and alarming part of them took control. They reached up and slid their shaking hands lightly into Lore’s long hair, feeling it cascade and flow like water through their fingers.

    “I’m so sick of running,” they said.

    Lore’s brow creased in confusion before it smoothed out into a small smile. They touched one hand to Webb’s cheek.

    “You don’t have to run,” Lore said quietly. “You can choose. What… what do you want to do?”

    [Please suggest or +1 an action in the comments.

    As a reminder, it can be thoughts, words, deeds, or curiosities!]

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