Buzz 7.5: Fuck Off, He’s Mine

Source material: Worm, Buzz 7.5

Originally blogged: October 23, 2017


Howdy! It’s that time again… what? No, not “that time of the month”! Why would you even think… I don’t even have a… oh, you didn’t think that’s what I meant? Uh, never mind then.

*awkward silence*

uhh…

*crickets*

Howdy!

So, last time, we learned that Coil put out a major hit against the Empire – sending detailed personal information of most if not all of its members to local news outlets – at just about the worst possible time for the Undersiders. Now they’re likely to become prime targets for angry skinheads, including about 20 parahumans.

Welp.

I think this chapter will primarily deal with the Undersiders trying to agree on a way to deal with this. It’s only a matter of time before this causes trouble, so the Undersiders will need to prepare for that.

I don’t think it’ll be a particularly long time, either. This might kick off as soon as next chapter – or even this chapter, if I’m wrong about what we’re heading into now.

Without further ado or nonsense about menstruation, let’s go!


“It’s too dangerous to stay here,” Brian spoke.

“What?” Lisa and I asked him, almost simultaneously.

Are you suggesting evacuating entirely, out of the Loft? How would the Empire even know… right. Rachel. They could easily have had intelligence agents following her back there.

Or is Brian taking it a couple steps further and advocating evacuation from the city?

“They’ve got too many heavy hitters and they have absolutely no reason to hold back anymore. After the ABB thing and the issue with Bitch earlier today, with the number of powered individuals they’ve got at their disposal, they can probably figure out our general location and go on the offensive. We can’t afford to still be here if they decide to try and root us out or if they lay siege to the Docks.”

That’s also a good point – the Undersiders may or may not be fully aware of this, but we know the E88 do want to take over the Docks in general. That includes the Loft.

“So, what, we run?” Alec asked.

“Tactical retreat. Just to be safe,” Brian stated, his voice firm, “In case Empire Eighty Eight does decide to organize and come after us in force”

Tactical retreat is a good way to put it, so that it feels less like a cowardly move.

Speaking of which, I can’t help but wonder how Rachel’s going to take this. She’s agreed to tactically retreat from the doghouse, but this is bigger.


I spoke up, “Even if they don’t blame us for this email that’s outing them, secret identity-wise, I’m betting there’s going to be more than a few that just want to hurt someone and vent their anger… and we did just get in a fight with their people. It makes us an easy target. I’m with Brian. I think we should lay low, at least for now.”

Yeah.

One thing about the email, by the way – there is still technically the possibility of none of the news outlets spreading the information to the public, but a) that’s an outcome Coil can quite possibly prevent, b) Coil would have plenty of options for publishing the information anyway if the news outlets chose not to cooperate, and c) most importantly, it wouldn’t be satisfying. It would take quite the spin to take that narrative direction and not have the issue coming up in the first place feel pointless, especially since this is what’s setting into motion the rest of this Arc’s plot.

It’s kinda needless to say at this point that I have more faith in Wildbow as an author than that.

“Okay,” Lisa said, “I’m not sure I agree, but I don’t see any harm in it. You guys think you can convince Rachel?”

“Already did,” Brian said, “More or less. She’s packing up at her personal dog shelter, and she’ll be ready to go the moment transportation arrives.

I guess she does care more about that than the Loft anyway.


Lisa, first thing, I want you to get on the phone with Coil. Get that transportation – I’ll text you directions to the place – and get Coil to make a statement, have him make it damn clear to Empire Eighty Eight that he’s responsible for this email.”

Hm, well, she can try.

“I don’t think he’ll be willing, as far as ‘fessing up.”

“Tell him that I’m not going to sign any deal with him if he can’t own up to this and get the heat off us, when we weren’t informed and we didn’t agree to taking this kind of action.”

It’s something, at least. Coil doesn’t know that they were planning to decline anyway because of Rachel’s stance on the issue. Question is, though, how much does he actually care whether the Undersiders agree or not?

If his power is strong enough, he wins either way.

Speaking of which – at this point, my biggest question about Coil is exactly that. How strong is his power, anyway? How large can the outcomes he controls be? How far into the future? Does other people’s free will (to whatever degree free will is a thing) and/or the Manton effect weaken his power the more people are involved and the more the outcome goes against their wishes?


Lisa frowned, “Okay.”

“If he’s as clever as he acts like he is, he’ll find some angle to make it work.”

“Alright. I’ll try. What else?”

The best approach for Coil might be to frame a mutual enemy of his and Kaiser’s. That way, the Empire doesn’t go after the Undersiders, but rather that mutual enemy, dealing damage to both E88 and the mutual enemy and letting Coil swoop in from the side if he wishes to.

Hm. Didn’t we hear about a couple more enemies of the Empire back in Interlude 2, alongside Coil? But I’m not sure those are also enemies of Coil.

“Take Alec and find a place to stay with Rachel and the dogs. I think Bitch has more than one shelter like the one I saw today. If none of those places work, ask Coil for a place.”

More doghouses? Fair enough.

Lisa nodded, “Okay. What are you doing?”

“Taylor and I will stay at my apartment. It’s out of the way, and so long as we don’t go out in costume, we shouldn’t run into trouble.”

……..

…I was not expecting this situation to come with so much potential for ship fuel. :3


I’d be staying at his apartment? I could remember the tension from the last time I’d been there alone with him, just how aware I’d been of his presence. The idea of going there to stay overnight forced me to focus very carefully on keeping my expression impassive and my hands from fidgeting. I was glad for the distraction of Alec’s response.

It’s not guaranteed that it’ll just be one night, either.

“The fuck?” Alec spoke, “You’re telling us to get out of here, stay in some random place with a bunch of stray dogs, while you go home and kick back?”

Ahahaha

Yes, I suppose that’s pretty much what he’s saying. Just, y’know, with an added “with your probably-crush” at the end.

“Do not get on my case right now, Alec,” Brian pointed a finger at Alec, “As a member of our group, you agreed to answer your fucking phone when it goes off.

Yeeah, might be a bad time, Alec.

I’m not much happier with Lisa, for not having a phone ready, but you’re the one I’m really pissed at. From what I heard, if things had gone a little differently, one or both of your teammates could be dead. Because you guys weren’t able to back them up when Taylor asked for it.”

Yeah, this was a pretty big fuck-up. Sorry, Alec, I kinda get it, but I have to side with Brian on this one.


Alec’s eyes narrowed, but he didn’t reply.

Brian’s voice was low, his tone controlled. “I’m angry enough that you should count it as a good thing that you’re not staying at my place and having to put up with me. That’s why you’re not coming with me.

Ahaha

I also need a level head with you and Rachel, and that means Lisa goes with you two. I’d leave Taylor instead, but I’d rather spread out the firepower between our two teams.”

“Whatever,” Alec looked back to the TV. “Forget I mentioned anything.”

I’m not sure to what extent I believe that this is the entirety of why Brian picked out Taylor to stay with him, but if it is (consciously or not) a ploy to spend more alone time with Taylor, at least he’s got his excuses in order.

People are very skilled at rationalizing their behavior in this story, after all.


Before Brian could get on Alec’s case again, I cut in to ask, “Shouldn’t we all maybe stay together?”

“No,” Lisa answered me, “Brian has the right idea. Together, as a group of five, we might draw attention from anyone keeping an eye out for our team. Especially if there’s dogs around. Having two teams means we can mount a rescue or provide a distraction if one group gets in a bad spot.”

Hm, yeah, that’s true. Might get in the way of communication and cause some delay between an attack and the team getting to full power, but that’s pretty much it as far as drawbacks I can think of go.

“Keep your phones on and answer them if anyone calls. We take turns checking in on each other, every half hour, using the same passwords as before.” Brian instructed.

“Got it,” Lisa replied.

“A.” “C, grass.”

This sounds like a good plan.

“If you really can’t find a place to stay, and the dogs are safely put away somewhere, you can stay at my place. You’d be crashing on the couch and the floor, though.”

Lisa nodded.

Yeah, the apartment is only really suited for two people.


The shelter group – Lisa, Alec and Rachel – is the most vulnerable. Rachel doesn’t have a secret identity, so she’ll have a hard time hiding, and her dog shelters are fairly noticable too. The E88 are likely to find them much easier than they do Brian and Taylor, at least if Rachel goes out.


“Hey,” I spoke up, hesitant, “Can I take five minutes to grab a shower and change while you guys hash out the rest of the details?”

Brian made a pained face, but he nodded, “Go.”

I don’t think Brian particularly likes the idea of Taylor missing out on some of the details, but at least he’ll be able to tell her personally later.

(Also, showering and changing in five minutes? Taylor confirmed for having timebending powers.)

Grateful, I hurried to the bathroom, stopping by my room to grab my costume, a fresh outfit, and my towel.

The shower was being more uncooperative than usual, and I didn’t have the time to wait for it to decide to give me warm water, so I jumped in and endured the chilled water just long enough to rinse myself off, scrub the priority areas and get my hair wet.

Hm, fair enough. I wouldn’t quite call that “a shower”, but alright. Maybe she won’t need timebending after all.

Maybe.


I joke about this as someone who spends at least 15 minutes in the shower.


I cranked the shower off, squeegeed the water off myself with my index finger and thumb, then hopped out of the shower to towel dry and run a brush through my hair.

When I was dry enough, I pulled on a pair of stretch shorts and then started to pull my costume on.

At least this is actually presented as Taylor rushing through all of this, instead of just magically being able to take a full shower, relaxedly change her clothes and play a haunting violin refrain in five minutes.

Given that it was all one piece, barring the mask, belt and armor panels, I couldn’t quite wear it under clothing without having to wear gloves and long sleeves. That kind of clothing wasn’t an option as the weather got warmer.

Ah, right, that’s a bit of a drawback.

One option I did have, what I’d been ruminating on, after having my bugs crawl all over me to keep my identity concealed, was only putting it on partway. When the lower half of the costume was on, I folded the top half around at the waist, tying the arms together around me, like a belt.

Oh, yeah, that might work out. Could cause a bit of a bulge, but with loose enough clothing around, it might not be noticeable.

I put on jeans and a black and red spaghetti strap top that left some of my midriff exposed. To finish, I tied a sweatshirt around my waist, positioning it over where I’d tied the upper half of my costume.

So from the outside it’ll just look like she’s tied a big/thick sweatshirt around her waist because it got too warm to wear it. That’s especially fitting in the spring and autumn, since the temperature could go either way and it’s easy to overestimate or underestimate how much clothing you need, or for that value to change while you’re out.

I sized myself up in the mirror. The material was fairly thin and it stretched, so it didn’t make me look bulkier. I’d have to see how comfortable the soles I’d built into the foot portion of the costume were inside shoes, but that was something I could adjust.

Huh, that’s cool.

Having the main part of the body pulled around behind my back meant I could hide the bulkier portion under the sweatshirt. So long as I didn’t untie the sweatshirt where anyone could see, I was golden.

Nice work.


I hurried out of the bathroom, grabbed enough tops, underwear and socks to last me a few days. I rolled them up to make them compact, and stashed them in my backpack around the armor for my costume, my weapons, the rest of my utility compartment stuff, two books and six hundred bucks in cash. I slung the bag over one shoulder. Heavy, but manageable.

The moment she gets back into the living room, Alec stops a timer.

I left my room to rejoin Brian, tying my damp hair into a loose ponytail with an elastic while I walked. I paused for just a second to extend one leg, toe down to touch the ground, so a collection of beetles, roaches and spiders could crawl up my leg. They settled between my costume and my clothes.

Heh. Welcome aboard!

I could deal with bugs being on me, so long as they weren’t directly on my skin.

Yeah, that’s very understandable.


“Ready?” I asked Brian.

He nodded. He’d pulled off the leather jacket and had it in a gym bag with his helmet. He was wearing a guy’s tank top, beige, leaving his arms and shoulders exposed. His skin glittered with the tiniest droplets of sweat, from wearing a jacket in the warm weather.

Maybe it’s not the weather that’s hot after all, eh, Taylor? 😉

I pulled my eyes away before my attention could draw notice. I told Lisa, “We’ll see you guys later.”

“No, no, I need to stop looking before I start looking and people start looking at me.”

“Have fun,” she grinned.

Oh, Lisa sure knows what’s up here. ;3

Brian led the way outside, and again, I paused at the door’s threshold to collect some more bugs under my clothing and in my bag while I could still be discreet about it. It wasn’t a lot, but it was something.

Probably a good idea to make this a habit. Taylor has found herself with too few bugs a little too often recently.


He seemed to be deep in thought, and there was good cause for that, so I didn’t bother him as we walked to the bus stop.

“Am I being paranoid?” he asked me, as we arrived.

I don’t think so. The Empire coming after the Undersiders is a realistic threat at this point.

“I’m not the person to ask. As far as I’m concerned, when you’re talking about capes, you can’t take too many precautions. Especially with a group as influential as Empire Eighty Eight.”

I’m fairly sure Taylor would say that about pretty much anything, really. And she still wonders why people say she’s cautious?

“I’ll rephrase the question then. Do you think the others will think I’m being paranoid?”

“Honestly? Probably.”

Quite possibly Alec, at least. Lisa… is a bit harder to tell, and Rachel…?? I actually kinda feel like Rachel would agree the threat is there, even if she didn’t agree with the measures taken against it.


“Damn it.”

Our conversation stalled when more people joined us at the bus stop.

“I just realized,” Brian spoke, “I never asked if you even wanted to stay over.”

Whoops!

To be fair, the last he heard was Taylor didn’t want to go home for a couple of days, and that was this morning. It may have caused him to think of it as “she doesn’t have anywhere else to go, just like the rest of the team”.

I looked up at him. I wasn’t sure how to answer without conveying my full feelings on the subject. Keep it simple. “I do. It’s totally fine.”

Yup. Definitely just “totally fine.” 😉

Although I guess her anxiety might be taking over and pushing the “full feelings on the subject” towards “shit shit shit shit what if”.

(If anyone asks, that’s absolutely the name of an emotion.)

(#fucknuts)


“After I was first introduced to the others, I did that a lot. The guys complained about it, and my sister’s mentioned it too. I take charge, make calls.”

Hm. This ties in with the conversation about how Brian might be able to handle Rachel better, in that it provides a reason for him to not want to take an official leadership role. It seems he’s naturally inclined to take charge (which is why he’s the de facto leader), but is trying to respect the others’ opinions and keep that down. As such, he might not want to take on official leadership because he’s worried it’ll enable him to become an overly controlling ass.

“Really, it’s cool. It makes sense, given…” I paused, keeping the civilians that were in earshot in mind. “…the situation, and I like your apartment, so I don’t mind staying there.”

Yeah, Taylor’s on board with this. Not particularly surprising, really.

“Yeah?”

“Definitely. Hell, I’d have you decorate my apartment when I got a place of my own.”

Hehe.

He chuckled, “I’ll do that for you if you make me that outfit we talked about before.”

The costume. I’d almost forgotten.

Sounds like a fair trade to me!

“Thanks for reminding me about that. It sort of slipped my mind.”

“Considering it?”

“Yeah. Maybe. It’s a big job, but I guess I have more free time now, and, uh, yeah. That’s pretty much it. I could maybe do it, sure.”

It would be pretty cool to have the team entirely outfitted with Taylor’s handiwork. Or, uh, spideriwork.

Obviously, I couldn’t and wouldn’t mention the fact that my decision to ally myself with the Undersiders for real was a factor.

Oh yeah, that. It seems like she’s deciding to keep that under wraps, at least for now.


“Yeah? I’d owe you.”

“Gives us something to talk about while I’m staying over, too.”

Good, something to fill the time with. 🙂

“I don’t think we’ll lack for conversation topics,” he smiled at me. That boyish smile that I’d noticed on day one.

😀

I think we’ve fairly solidly determined that Taylor likes when the boys – especially Brian – smile at her like this, haven’t we?

If I was being honest, I would even say it was tied with his voice for the thing I liked most about him, aesthetically. It was maybe unfair to think so, but I generally saw the vast majority of teenage boys as awkward people that combined the traits of a child and an adult in the most unfortunate ways possible.

That’s… a fair assessment, in a lot of cases.

Brian was the opposite, and it was his voice and his smile that really nailed the effect.

Ah, yes, I can see that being the case – he’s very mature both physically and mentally, but he’s still got that playful, boyish vibe.


I felt my ears warming up in the telltale sign of an incoming blush and looked away, distracting myself with an exhaustive investigation of a brown paper bag by the side of the road.

Smooth.

If I kept on that particular line of thinking about Brian’s better qualities, I was guaranteed to wind up saying or doing something to embarrass myself.

I can’t say I’d object to that, as long as it didn’t have negative long-term consequences. Unlike some friends of mine, I’m not bothered by second-hand embarrassment and can find that kind of scene rather funny and adorable if it’s done right. 🙂

I’m a sucker for humorous trainwrecks.

The bus arrived and we climbed on. I flashed my school ID, while Brian paid with tickets. I found an empty seat, and Brian stood next to me, holding the pole. He was close enough to me that his leg pressed against my arm. Even though I could have moved my arm away, I left it where it was.

Taylor does seem to be getting more comfortable with the contact, even if it does get her more flustered – whenever she thinks about it too much – than it would before Tangle 6.2.


I wasn’t the sort of girl Brian would be attracted to. I knew that.

I don’t think you know shit about that, Taylor. This just looks like your lack of self-confidence speaking, which has been known to repeatedly make you unfavorably compare yourself to every other girl and ignore the idea that maybe, just maybe, guys look for more than just appearance.

I could settle for just his presence and friendship. I could enjoy it if there happened to be casual body contact between us, even if it was a bit pervy.

Heh.

Our brief conversation had let me relax and start to enjoy the possibility of an evening in Brian’s company, but what I saw next was a bucket of cold water in the face.

Hopefully not literally.

Actually, what am I saying. Whatever this is is probably worse than a literal bucket of cold water.

…hm. Besides options like Empire mooks causing havoc in the streets, there’s also the possibility that they just arrived outside the apartment and Aisha is there. That would be very fitting for the cold water analogy, what with the associations between cold water and something ruining the sexual mood.

Granted, Empire mooks causing havoc in the streets would probably do that too.


On that artificial cliffhanger, I think I’m going to leave off this session for the night and go grab something to eat. We’ll find out what Taylor just saw next time.

[End of session 1]


It might have been a retcon, but Rowling has said afterwards multiple times (oldest I could find was a 2004 interview, and most recently a Pottermore article on the subject) that a witch or wizard’s Animagus is based on which animal would most suit the caster’s personality or appearance. In fact, she has gone on to say that the full body Patronus and Animagus form are linked, hence McGonagall’s Patronus being a cat and James’s being a stag.

+

The Pottermore article on animagi says you can’t choose your animal form. I don’t think the books said one way or the other.

Fair enough, then!


Someone probably already posted this but the prologue to worm 2 starts next week. You won’t reach eat before a long time, but i think that you should know it.

+

edust-assassin:

Fun fact: the first chapter of the prologue to the as-yet unnamed sequel to Worm just came out! (Although obviously the whole thing is just one massive spoiler right now.)

Nice! I’m guessing the fandom is rather excited, huh?


“‘The power to win’ would be very cheating, and also very abstract…” -Krixwell, April 17th, 2017.

With a whole 180 days to sit on this statement so far, has your opinion changed on ‘The power to win’?

Ahaha, that is pretty much what Coil has, isn’t it!

It still has the potential to feel rather cheaty, depending on the scale of the power (which you may recall is currently my biggest question about Coil, trumping even things like “can we trust him?”).

I think a medium scope would be the best – powerful enough to make smaller parts of the plan, like the gallery heist, go his way, but not enough to just say “I’ll successfully take over the city” and wait for that to come true with minimal effort.

I’d also like it if there are weaknesses to his power, such as the number of people involved limiting the power’s potency.


Could you do a character rundown of the Undersiders? What do you like about them, dislike…

I’ve written up a long post going into each character a bit in response to this question, but it might be a little odd to put that in the middle of a chapter, so I’ll post it at the end of tonight’s session.


Now where were we… Ah, right, I left us off on a cliffhanger as to what sight felt like a bucket of cold water for Taylor.

[Discord]

The Fish Formerly Known As Shark:
oh hey krix
fun fact
i hate you

stronglight97:
Is this about the cliffhanger?

The Fish Formerly Known As Shark:
yes

Krixsterical Shrieks:
Haha

Let’s see what horrors await her, shall we?


The bus had stopped to pick up passengers, and Sophia Hess was among them.

Ohhh boy.

Welcome to Taylor’s civilian life, Brian. You are now about to become ammunition – there is no way Sophia won’t tell the rest of the trio if she spots Taylor with a boy. Exactly what the Harpies will do with that information if Taylor returns to school someday, I don’t know, but it can’t be good.

And that’s after whatever might happen right here on this bus.

Her sleeveless polo top was long, extending down to her waist, and clung tight to a slender body with curves and a chest I’d never have. The tennis skirt she was wearing was only barely long enough to be decent. More than one set of eyes turned her way as she boarded the bus, Brian’s among them.

It’s natural for people’s eyes to be drawn towards anyone boarding the bus simply because they’re moving and new to the scene, but this feels… stronger than that, if that makes sense. And Brian’s eyes specifically being among them is bad, not because he might be attracted to Sophia, but because it’ll be a hard blow to an already self-conscious Taylor if she thinks he might be.

Also, props to Wildbow for the reminder of Taylor’s self-image issues showing up right before this development. It makes for a pretty good transition.


She was oblivious to the attention and to my existence, preoccupied with a conversation over the phone. She looked annoyed, bored, and distracted, as the person on the other end did most of the talking. Probably a parent.

Okay, good, this might give you some time to make yourself less recognizable at a glance.

The bus continued on its route, more people filed in, and the people near the front moved further back. I stared at her, waiting for the moment she would see me and make eye contact. I wasn’t sure what she’d do, or what I’d do, but that moment held every iota of my focus.

There’s also the chance that Sophia is only doing the horrible things due to peer pressure and just plain won’t care. That’d imply she’s decent at acting, I suppose.

She was Emma’s best friend. The person who had shoved me into the locker, back on the day I’d gotten my powers. On countless occasions, she had pushed and tripped me, often several times a day.

Yeah, no, I don’t think she’s acting.

She’d knocked me down the stairs, when I was near the bottom of the flight, even got others to do similar things. Given that she’d been suspended after my last meeting with her, I somehow didn’t think she’d walk away without confrontation if she saw me.

Probably not.


My leg bounced restlessly. Without thinking about it, I’d readied myself to leap out of my seat, to defend myself, get out of the way, or respond to whatever happened. My thoughts looped through possible things she might do, things I might say or do in response.

Taylor already has a habit of thinking through her options in detail. Combine that with potentially anxiety-inducing factors like the Harpies and it’ll go haywire.

Sophia put the phone away, and gazed out the window for a moment. When she’d seen everything there was to see of transition point between the Docks and Downtown, she glanced over the bus’ interior. Her eyes paused on advertisements running along the top of the bus, then settled on Brian.

Uh oh.

I swear, if she fails to notice Taylor at first and goes hitting on Brian…

The appraising look she gave him was unmistakeable. It lingered long enough that it probably would have been uncomfortable for him, if he’d been aware of it.

(I was going to go with this other image, but it’s far more spoilery for Homestuck.)


Or maybe not. Maybe he would’ve liked the attention from a girl that looked like her.

Bleh.

It’s getting to her.

She still hadn’t seen me. I could see why – I was sitting, and she and Brian were standing, and there were others between us, obscuring her line of sight to me.

Ah, right, I forgot about that arrangement.

An arrangement that is perfect for Sophia to only see Taylor once she actually approaches Brian.

Heh, I can’t help but imagine Sophia coming over to hit on the hot guy she saw on the bus… and then she sees Taylor sitting next to him, doing a little wave with a smug expression to rival Lisa, and saying, “Oh hi, Sophia. How are you? This is Brian, he’s with me.”

It’s not at all likely to happen, especially given Taylor’s lack of confidence that Brian would pick her over Sophia, but it’s a fun mental image.


I startled when something moved to my left. It was just the person sitting next to me standing to get off at the next stop, but it made me aware of just how tense I was. I reached up and touched Brian’s elbow. When he glanced down, I moved over into the empty seat and pointed to the vacated spot.

This sounds like it would make Taylor more visible to Sophia.

He smiled and sat down beside me.

My pulse was pounding in my throat, and I couldn’t tell him why, not here.

Afraid of eavesdroppers? Although I suppose Sophia hearing it is a risk.

I waited and tried to organize my thoughts, as people from the front of the bus moved toward the back. It took some doing, but I avoided looking at Sophia.

I reached up and put a hand on his shoulder, used it to rise high enough to murmur in his ear, “Do me a megahuge favor? I’ll explain after.”

Ten hours later, in Siberia: “It might be time for that explanation, Taylor.”


“Of course,” his voice was barely audible over the noise of the bus. He turned his head just enough to look me in the eye, and my heart skipped a beat.

:3

“Just play along.” I put two fingers on the side of his chin, turning his head, and rose out of my seat just enough to touch my lips to his.

oh FUCK 😀

She really is pulling the “he’s mine, bitch” card, isn’t she! Although she probably has more in mind, considering she did just say she’d explain it to Brian afterwards and I don’t think she’d be willing to tell him “this girl who torments me was checking you out and I wanted to stake my claim”.

I suppose she’s flipping the coin – instead of the Harpies weaponizing the idea that she has a boyfriend or crush, she can assert herself against the Harpies by showing them that she can get a good-looking guy too.

Next up is showing herself that, but let’s take this one step at a time.

I expected electricity, fireworks, all that stuff you hear about. I thought my heartbeat might race, or that my thoughts might dissolve into that chaotic mess that I’d experienced a few times in the recent pass. [sic]

What I didn’t expect was the calm. The tension melted out of me, and all the worries, anxieties and conflicting thoughts faded into the background. It was like the sense of peace I got from waking up at the loft, times ten. All I thought about was the contact, how nice it was, the feeling of his lips on mine.

Full disclosure: I haven’t had my first kiss. But this… still sounds like an accurate description somehow? Even though I theoretically should have no way of verifying that?

I guess it might be because this is what it looks like people are feeling during well-executed kissing scenes in movies, or something.


So, uh, did Sophia see that, or…?

I broke the kiss and looked him in the eyes as I settled back in my seat. Even before he opened his mouth to say something, I was giving him the smallest shake of my head. He closed his mouth.

Heh. Yeah, I don’t blame you for wanting to say something in reaction to that, Brian.

Y’know, maybe Rachel was partially right. If the idea of Taylor as a potential romantic interest hadn’t occurred to Brian before, it presumably will now.

When I looked away, I felt his arm settle around my shoulders.

Playin’ the part.

I looked and didn’t see Sophia at the front of the bus. When I checked over my shoulder, I found her near the back. She was staring at me.

“Oh hi, Sophia! How are you? This is Brian, he’s with me.”


I imagined it wasn’t so different from that primal sense of satisfaction Bitch had felt when she’d set the dogs on me.

Heh, I suppose the comparison isn’t entirely off the wall.

Except where Bitch had lorded it over me with a smug smile, I didn’t change my expression from the light smile that was already on my face.

Honestly, that might just be even better. It makes it look like you’re treating this as something completely normal.

And hey, it should be.

I gave Sophia a moment’s eye contact and nothing more, before turning to face the front of the bus once more. She wasn’t worth it, wasn’t worth spoiling this.

:3

VICTORY.

But seriously, I’m looking forward to seeing how she’ll explain this to Brian… I don’t know if she thought that far ahead before doing this.


I avoided looking back to see what she was doing or checking if she was still there. When Brian asked me if I minded stopping to go shopping before we went to his apartment, I nodded.

Honestly, he could just want an excuse to get off the bus earlier so he can hear Taylor’s explanation. Although on the other hand, that would mean a shorter romantic arm-wrapping time, which he might find nice, if perhaps confusing.

Of course, there’s also the possibility that he just genuinely needs some groceries. :p

I had taken Lisa’s advice, trying to improvise, be more impulsive.

It’s worked, so far… might get trickier when you’re forced to explain it.

Anyway, yeah, one of Taylor’s greatest strengths is how much thought she puts into everything, but in some cases that can be a weakness too. She can benefit from learning to balance it better.

And it’s not like Taylor doesn’t also have talents that lend themselves well to improvisation, either – she’s quick-witted and very resourceful, which are pretty much the key ingredients for a good impulsive ploy.

I had also done as Bitch had suggested. I’d let Brian know I was interested, kind of. Not to the extent she’d suggested, but it was something. Definitely something.

Oh yeah, absolutely.


Except I’d just forced matters with Brian, and now I not only had to explain, but I had to deal with a night of awkwardness in his company, on top of the threat of action from Empire Eighty Eight.

Ahahahaha the upcoming explanation is being turned into a cliffhanger I love it


End of Buzz 7.5

Just admit it, you guys have been looking forward to this for a while, haven’t you? 😛

That was the best Taylor-Harpy showdown yet, and they didn’t even say anything to each other. With words, anyway. Plenty was said through actions, though! Such as “fuck you, he’s mine” and “hey look, I can get a guy like this”. And it was great.

And now Taylor has to explain herself and then spend at least one night at Brian’s apartment with him (provided he still lets her, but I’m fairly sure he will). I’m very much looking forward to both of those things… This is going to be so good.

The E88 is of course still a threat. It’s possible the adorableness and possible awkwardness in the next chapter will be interrupted at the end by news that E88ers found the other group (because I really don’t think they’d find Taylor and Brian first) and they need backup. I guess we’ll just have to deal with that if it happens, probably starting in 7.7.

And with that, it’s time to close up this chapter. See you next time!

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