Snare 13.10: Ping-Pong Balls

Source material: Worm, Snare 13.10

Originally blogged: July 24-26, 2018


Greetings, everyone, my name is Krixwell Jace, and tonight I’m going to be your reporter for the news.

So, the first topic today issss… oooooooaaaahhhhhhhhi shall begin with one hundred percent

percent

a day: percent

there’s no day: percent

tomorrow: percent

saturday: percent

at least one day

this is- this is not the script! where is the script?!

a day… sunday there’s no day, ah, i, it’s canceled so get ready for the giggles and laughs okay

greetings everyone my name is krixwell jace. today i shall present

*giggles* get it? like, i am so funny

so, the first portrait is– (krixwelleh jace, your reporter f)

ah, here’s the script

*ahem* excuse me

i don’t know how to reeeeeeead

(#whoops)


[reblogging the above mess]

…this was supposed to be a chapter intro where I just pretended to be a news anchor, but it semi-accidentally turned into a slightly edited transcript of this ridiculous video instead:

(seriously, watch it, a transcript doesn’t do it full justice)


Snare 13.10

Let’s try to make an actual chapter intro post, shall we?

Howdy, everyone, Krixwell here! Contrary to what I said at the end of the, uh, first attempt, I do know how to read (or do I? plot twist???) and that’s what I intend to do tonight. I’m here with Snare 13.10, which I believe to be the wind-down chapter of the Arc proper, much like for example 4.11 or 12.8.

My expectations for this chapter haven’t really changed, so let’s let Pastwell do the talking [here], since he’s clearly more coherent than me:

Next chapter: The wind-down, I think. First they need to get out of here and fetch Regent and Bitch (Regent can let Genesis know she should dissolve via Shatterbird), though. We’ll likely learn more about Brian’s state, either from him or from Tattletale, and maybe hear Imp’s story from the horse’s mouth.

So yeah, let’s stop messing around (yeah right) and have a look at this chapter!


I slept, but it was less like parking a car and more like running one into a ditch.

That, right there, is a fantastic analogy.

I’d fallen asleep not by any choice on my part, but because I’d ceased to function. Over the past few days, I’d hit my limits of endurance, only to push past them over and over.

Yeah, at some point you’ve got to give in and get some actual rest.

We’d made our escape without incident.

I assumed as much, to such an extent that I didn’t explicitly mention it. I mentioned that they’d need to fetch Regent and Bitch (and tell Genesis to dissolve), but I didn’t think there’d be any problems with that. Last chapter was clearly the climax of the Arc. Sticking another bit of conflict in before the dénouement would be unusual and potentially bad writing.

When we’d gotten Brian settled, I’d planned on staying awake and keeping an eye on him, only to drop off to sleep within a minute of sitting down. I’d tried to push my limits once more and I’d discovered them.

Hey, at least it happened while you were safe. Or at least out of immediate danger.

When I woke up again, it was dusk. I was curled up in a chair with my head on the armrest. My eyes were sore and itchy, and I wasn’t sure why.

Hmm. Something to do with what little Bonesaw did to your head, perhaps? (Even if it’s just because of the blood that got in the eyes, that counts too.)

It could also just be the natural result of how little sleep you’ve been getting recently.

We’d settled at Brian’s headquarters, because it was close, and there had been the unspoken agreement that it would be better for him to be somewhere he’d be comfortable.

Makes sense.


I was still tired, and I kept my head on the chair’s arm, clutching the blanket that someone- I suspected Tattletale- had draped over me.

Sounds like something she’d do.

I could see her in the bed in the other corner of the room, lying beside Aisha. When I’d dozed off, it had been Brian and his sister sitting on the bed.

I wonder if they were in any condition to talk things over.

The blanket’s presence unsettled me, and I couldn’t put my finger on why.

Hmm. Is it not cold enough for Tattletale to have decided to put it on you, or something like that?

Also I wonder if the blanket on Taylor may have been at Brian’s request.

It was thoughtful, nice, and the fact that I didn’t know who’d done it or that I’d been unconscious and helpless when they’d done it, it shook me from the twilight of near-sleep.

Oh… oh boy. She’s not feeling safe when things are done to her without her permission, and now that’s tainting this nice gesture.

Which meant I was now wide awake when I desperately wanted to get back to sleep, to stop thinking for just a few minutes.

I’m still certain she’s going to wind up blaming herself for what happened to Brian over the last few chapters. Maybe we’re about to see some of that.

The second I started worrying about things, my shot at a good rest would be gone. Worrying about things like Dinah, and Cherish’s hints that Coil wasn’t on the up and up about our deal.

Worrying really runs in the family, doesn’t it.

Also, seriously, Taylor, why did you think he was? It’s been a sucker’s deal from day one.

…Tattletale. Tattletale’s the one who made Taylor talk to Coil about Dinah in the first place. She also helped try to defend Coil against Cherish’s claims, along with Trickster.

She’s been trying to keep things together and keep people from turning on Coil. Why? Is she just working in what she believes are the group’s best interests, thinking everything would fall apart without Coil (which isn’t entirely untrue), or does she have personal reasons to keep everyone working with him?

Worries about what that could mean in the long run. The newest were my anxieties over Grue.

Naturally. That’s normal when a friend is in… whatever this state Grue is in is. De-energized?


No, I wouldn’t be getting to sleep any time soon. I turned my attention to checking my surroundings, rousing my swarm to check the surrounding streets and rooftops, count the nearby civilians, and get a sense of who was around.

It’s a thing to do so she can stop thinking so much.

Sundancer was out cold in the bunk beds in another room, and Bitch was sleeping in another bunk, in a heap with Sirius, Bastard and Bentley occupying the open spaces.

Aww. 🙂

Trickster and Ballistic were walking outside, maybe keeping an eye out for trouble. Genesis was off-site. She had to be awake for a while to recharge her power, so she’d told us she was going to report to Coil and check on Noelle.

Seems reasonable.

If my bugs were any indication, she wasn’t back yet.

Parian had gone her separate way.

Aw. See you later, Parian.

She’d had stuff to deal with; her family was dead or surgically altered, their faces changed to make them near identical to some of the most hated individuals in the western hemisphere. I felt bad about leaving her with the aftermath of that scene, but we’d been prioritizing Brian.

You had enough shit on your plate. Admittedly you did cause a bunch of destruction by bringing Purity and co. there, but yeah.

Seems Brian’s commentary to me on the morning we’d found out about Dinah, the morning Leviathan came, was ultimately on target.

Oh yes, that… thing he said about the, uhh.

I’m drawing a blank.

When the cards were down, we protected and helped the people we care about, and we ignored the greater suffering of the world beyond that.

Oh yeah, that bit! Yeah, he had a point back then.


I shifted restlessly.

My bugs ran into a wall of Brian’s darkness in the living room, on the couch.

Oh hey, this ought to answer one of my questions from last time: If Taylor’s outside and the bugs are inside, is her control still weakened?

I could feel it seep through them, tracing their internal organs. I didn’t move them further. I didn’t want to wake him if he was sleeping.

Fair enough.

He wasn’t. A hand settled over my bug and covered it.

Oh, hey!

I felt him scoop up the cockroach and lift it into the air, holding it on the flat of his palm. The darkness dissipated, and the cockroach heard the bass rumble of his voice.

Taylor seems to have been quietly phasing in accepting some visual and audio input from the bugs, though not enough that she’s been able to use it to much effect.

I made myself rise from the bed. My ribs didn’t hurt anymore, and my burns were gone, but my muscles had kinked up from my sleeping in the fetal position on a piece of furniture meant for sitting.

Or, I suppose she doesn’t really so much accept the input so much as sense that the bugs are sensing things. With hearing, especially, that’s not too surprising considering sound is air vibrations.

I stretched as I made my way to the living room. He was sitting on the couch with his feet firmly on the ground.

How you feeling, dude?


“You say something?” I asked.

“I said you can check on me in person, if you want.” The words were kind, but the look in his eyes wasn’t.

“Stop bugging me.”

His stare reminded me of Bitch.

Ouch.

So is this just a product of having just been through some shit, or is he going to be permanently like this?

Does he blame her for some reason? I mean I’ve expected her to blame herself, but him blaming her would be a whole other beast. And if he expresses it to her face, that’s gonna hit her like a ton of bricks that she frankly doesn’t have the carry capacity for right now.

“Okay,” I replied, feeling dumb. I’d come to do that anyways, hadn’t I?

And now I didn’t know what to do with myself. I hadn’t mentally prepared or planned for this conversation.

Oops.

I stood there, feeling an impending panic as I tried to think of what to say.

I couldn’t ask if he was alright. That might be the last reminder he wanted, in much the same way that I’d been trying to avoid dwelling on my own anxieties and worries.

…I suppose so.

Could I approach closer, or would that bother him? If I left, would I be abandoning him?

It sounds like you’re best off staying put.

“Keep me company?” he asked.

Oh, thank you, Brian.

Taylor and I both needed to hear that.


Gratefully, I approached the couch and sat. I could see him tense as I jostled the couch.

Too close?

“Are you hurt?” I asked, stupidly.

I mean he’s gotten the power of healing. If he was still hurt after the mass healing he did last chapter, he’d probably do something about it by now, unless it took a while to recharge.

That is a somewhat reasonable guess at why he tensed if you forget about that development, though.

He shook his head, but he didn’t offer another explanation.

“Can I ask about the new power, or-”

You’re kind of implicitly doing that already.

“Yeah,” he interrupted.

Sweet, let’s get some firsthand deets!


There was a pause. I saw him raise his hand and create a slithering mass of darkness around it.

“Feels different,” he said, “And I can tell where it is, more. Slower to create, spreads faster.”

Interesting. That’s more of a respec than an upgrade.

“But the other powers? I counted at least four.”

“One new ability.”

One?

I nodded. Didn’t want to argue, so I waited.

From the other end of the couch, he raised one hand and pointed it towards my head. I stayed utterly still as a tendril of darkness snaked through the air, taking its time as it approached.

So is it being a tendril relevant or can he do it with any of his darkness?

I stood up, abruptly, and he jumped to his feet in alarm. I could see his hands clenched, lines standing out in his neck.

…why’d you do that, Taylor? Did you chicken out re: having the tendril hit your head?

An awkward, tense silence reigned, as we stood facing each other.

I waited until he’d relaxed before I spoke. “Had a bad time with someone else trying to get into my head, not so long ago. Um.

Ah, right.

Can we- can we just skip the demonstration? Or make it more blunt?”

It kind of seems like Taylor has developed some kind of phobia after last chapter. A phobia of things getting into her head, of things done to her body without her permission.

Considering what happened, that reaction on Taylor’s brain’s part is entirely fair.


“Right.” It was like a shadow had passed over his face. He stared hard at the shuttered window at the end of the room.

Oops, you reminded him of what got him these abilities.

I sat down, pulling my knees up in front of me so I could wrap my arms around my legs, and I waited for him to rejoin me. He’d healed himself, but he hadn’t exactly bounced back. It wouldn’t be right to expect him to.

Physically or mentally. He’s been through a lot of shit on both sides.

Was this the kind of interaction Tattletale had wanted to avoid, when she’d urged Aisha to go to Brian, instead of me?

Maybe. Or maybe she thought it was more important for him to talk to Aisha right after he had a trigger event involving her.

“I’ve talked to Tattletale about this. My power’s always had some effect on capes like Shadow Stalker. Her powers didn’t work as effectively in my darkness.”

Oh yeah, that’s right. I just figured that was a result of how his darkness… wound up… inside her. Huh.

“Velocity struggled, too. He was slower, but I wasn’t sure if it was because of the increased air resistance or something else.”

That would make sense, but Velocity had his whole quantum-based thing. The power would end up sort of inside him too as he became less physical, wouldn’t it?

“Yeah. So we think I always had some effect in that department. That’s stronger now.

Stronger and more frequently applies because the darkness goes through people now.

Affects more powers, according to Tattletale. She’s making an educated guess that this aspect of my power is going to be more effective on capes with a physical power.”

I suppose that makes sense, given the darkness interacting with their bodies.


“Right.”

“And when it works, I feel… a circuit? It’s like the darkness comes alive, a cord or wire between me and the people in my darkness, and I can actually see it.

Huh. Some kind of connection? But circuit, cord and wire imply something similar to electricity…

If I focus on it, it gets bright and hot, and I have access to whatever my power’s sapping from them.

Oh fuck, that’s awesome! He can weaken powers and then use them himself! That’s such a good power.

So where did he get the healing from, if that was something he used this ability to copy? Was Panacea within darkness range or something?

A fraction of a power, one power at a time.”

Reasonable limitations. Still awesome.


I wonder if “circuit” implies that the access to the powers in the darkness is shared with the other people, with all the powers going through everybody in the circuit. I doubt it from what we’ve seen and the fact that that would be a huge double-edge, but it’s worth considering given Brian’s odd choice of words.


“So the healing?”

“Othala. I was so worried she’d escape my darkness before I finished giving you guys regeneration.

Ohhh.

Right, there’s more than one healer in this city.

I couldn’t just use her power on each of you, because it was only lasting a few seconds after I touched you.”

“a fraction of a power.”

“And the regeneration was… Crawler?”

That sounds like it would result in a much more monstrous Brian, unless Crawler’s super fast regeneration counts separately from the power that replaces his parts with stronger ones.

He nodded. I could see that dark look pass over his face.

Maybe something did change because of that, just not something visible, because the part of the regeneration that would make him monstrous was also just a fraction.

“And then the duplicate you created would have been Genesis.”

…damn, that was honestly the coolest thing he did, so it’d have been neat if it stuck around. Guess we won’t be seeing that again, at least not very often.


He shook his head. “No.”

Wait, what?

Was that somehow a fraction of Taylor’s power?

“No?”

“She wasn’t in my darkness, I’m almost positive. And my power’s weaker than whatever I’m stealing. It doesn’t make sense that I was able to form myself as fast as I did. It wasn’t like she’s described it, either.

Yeah, that’s a good point.

Remember, I worked with her when we were dismantling the ABB.”

I nodded.

“It was more like… a forcefield. Except not. A hole in reality, and it took something out of me to feed and shape itself.”

Maybe one of the civilians running around as decoys had a trigger event before the Undertravelers got there?

It’s not Night, is it? No, I think that would just result in Grue himself changing into something slightly monstrous.

I blinked a little in surprise. If Brian was stealing a share of other people’s powers, then-

I blinked again. My eyes were itchy.

…alright, so the itchiness is important somehow.

Also, one thought that I forgot to write above because I dismissed it: What if he somehow borrowed the power of a Dandelion?


“Damn it,” I groaned.

He gave me a curious look. Or at least, that’s what I took it for; I was having a hard time reading his expressions.

“Forgot to take my contacts out.

Ohh.

Well, that’s another thing to add to my list of reasons I don’t want to try contacts. At least when I forget to take my glasses off before I fall asleep, my eyes are fine afterwards.

My eyes are going to be sore for a while, and I don’t have a spare pair of glasses to wear.”

He nodded.

Oh yeah, I suppose she couldn’t go back easily even if there wasn’t a risk of Shatterbird breaking out of Regent’s control. The Shattering would have broken her glasses whether she was wearing them or not.

“Sorry. So small a problem in the grand scheme of things.”

Ahh, that’s how it’s important. It leads into this observation, which might prompt further discussion between Taylor and Brian.

“You need to be able to see.”

I reached into my utility compartment and got a small case with the spaces for the individual contacts and contact lens solution, then pried my right eye open to pinch the thing out.

“pried my right eye open” is a phrase I would like to not read ever again, thank you.

A few seconds later, my other contact was out, and I was half blind. The way the shadows fell over Brian’s face, the shadows of his eye sockets made him look like he was wearing sunglasses.

Hah!

I couldn’t see the lines of tension, anger or anxiety. Whatever it was that’d had him awake, sitting up and staring into space at ten or eleven in the evening.

In my case, it’s Worm that has me sitting up and staring into a computer screen at half past ten in the evening.

(I’m going to end the session soon.)


Maybe I should have left them in. Risking an eye infection was small potatoes compared to fucking up this interaction.

you say that now but

Except I couldn’t put them back in without having to explain why.

Pfft, gotta follow through now!

Why was this so hard?

“You get any sleep?”

Imagine this conversation in a Telltale game.

– “You get any sleep?”
– (Put lens back in)

> (Put lens back in)

Brian will remember that.


He shook his head.

“None at all?”

“Didn’t need to. Didn’t want to. Felt better about keeping an eye out for trouble than about sleeping.”

Didn’t need to? Weird.

“Trickster and Ballistic are out there.”

“I know. I saw them step outside after Rachel came back.”

There’s no way they’d let him keep the lookout after what he’s been through.

I smiled a little. “Wasn’t so long ago that you were getting on my case for not sleeping enough, mandating that I get a certain number of hours before we moved on the Nine.”

Look, on one hand, in all fairness to Brian, you didn’t.

On the other hand I can absolutely relate to the satisfaction of turning the tables on the “Krix go to sleep” crowd.

He didn’t respond, and he didn’t move. I couldn’t read his expression. Had I said the wrong thing? Should I not have mentioned the Nine?

I guess he’s not in the mood for vaguely humoristic nostalgia.

Oh, or what Taylor just said. That works too.


“Yeah.” His reply was delayed, almost begrudging. It didn’t sound gentle, or kind, or anything like that. It was more like I’d expect someone to sound if they were giving up the password to a safe at gunpoint.

Turns out “Yeah” is, in fact, the password to Brian’s personal safe.

“Sorry,” I said. I wasn’t sure exactly what for, but the apology was genuine. The smile on my face was gone.

For a minute or two, neither of us said anything.

Awkward.

What had we ever talked about that wasn’t about our costumed life?

…fuck, good question.

…Aisha, but she’s since switched categories, was always relevant to Grue’s costumed exploits and is an especially sore subject right now…

…romance, but that would probably be the most awkward thing you could possibly bring up right now…

…itchy eyes…

At first, it had seemed like common sense. I was new to the cape scene, it was exciting, he was experienced, and he’d wanted to share his knowledge. We’d talked about our recent jobs, the implications, even jobs we were considering. I could count on one hand, maybe two, the times we’d done stuff that hadn’t been centered around powers and fighting and violence.

And even then – 3.1, 4.1 to 4.3, 6.3, 7.5-7.6 – you ended up talking about it.


Now that I couldn’t raise those subjects without reminding him of what had happened earlier, I was lost.

“You shouldn’t have come for me.”

Oh boy, here we go.

I’m guessing he means because it put them in trouble too?

“What?”

“Should have left me there. I was as good as dead. Throwing away your life and the rest of the team, to try to rescue me?”

It’s because they care about you.

It’s not about numbers.

“You’re not thinking straight. There’s no way I’d leave you behind.”

“Right. Because you’re supposedly in love with me, so you go rushing off to rescue me.”

Oh shit, now he’s bringing it up.

I was getting an inkling last chapter that this subplot was resurfacing, because Brian kept doing things that seemed like they could, with shipper goggles on, easily be interpreted as him having feelings for Taylor that rivalled the familial love for Aisha in strength, even if he wouldn’t admit it. I’m not sure that’s what’s going on in his head, but here we are – it’s being brought up, made relevant again.

And who knows. Maybe he’s not entirely wrong in attributing this to Taylor’s attraction to him (if that’s even still a thing). However I don’t think that’s the full story, and I would be surprised to see her act any differently if it were Lisa, Alec or even Rachel who had ended up in Brian’s situation.


That stung, more than it should have, and it would’ve hit me hard anyways. I couldn’t read his expression, so I went by his tone of voice, by the anger, the bite in his tone. The fact that he’d brought it up so casually.

Oof.

So what, does he not believe her? Does he think that was a ruse in Taylor’s grand plan of betrayal?

I think he suggested that before. Maybe he never quite let go of his doubts.

Emma jumped to mind. She’d been my best friend once, as I was friends with Grue. She’d also flipped on me, turned hostile, and used private thoughts and feelings I’d shared with her to attack me.

Oh sheesh, we’ve gotten to the point where Brian’s being compared to Emma. This is bad.

I took a deep breath. “That wasn’t why we came to help you. And it wasn’t just me making the call.”

“Really? Because I remember you were the one who stopped Ballistic from putting me out of my misery.”

Yeeah. Maybe they should’ve tried to communicate with Brian about that first. Though it did turn out relatively well that they didn’t.


I clenched my fists. Any resolve I’d had to remain calm was gone. “I would have done the same thing for Bitch! Or Lisa, or Alec, even! Are you seriously telling me you wish I’d let you die? You’re alive now! It worked out!”

Is it just me or is it getting warm in here?

“Because we got lucky! Christ, you always do this!”

Elaborate, please.

Put others at risk with plans that rely on luck?

Using my power, I checked on the others. One of the dogs had perked its head up at the shouting, but nobody else had roused. I didn’t take my eyes off Brian, though. The look in his eyes was scary. Angrier than I’d seen him. I’d unconsciously defaulted to the same defenses I’d used against Bitch: Eye contact, pushing back when pushed.

Whoops.

I deliberately lowered my voice. “Always do what?”

“You’re smarter than average, so you count on your ability to think up solutions on the fly, you throw yourself into these reckless situations, push and vote for the risky plans because you know that’s a situation where you thrive, where you offer the most to the group. Every step of the way, you do it. Pushing the all-out assault on the Wards at the bank, charging in to fight Lung after taking on Oni Lee, the fundraiser, confronting Purity, attacking Leviathan with zero backup, the attack on the Wards’ HQ-”

…he’s not wrong.


“Stop,” I said. I was getting flashbacks to my conversations with Armsmaster, now.

Well yes, Armsmaster was right about a lot of what he said about you too, in the early days.

“You say you’re not manipulative, that your undercover operation was pure in motive, but you are. You throw yourself into those situations solo, or you join in on whatever fucked up plan the others come up with, and you do it because it makes you useful, because you know we’d struggle without you, you’re making us dependent on you.”

I don’t think she’s doing that on purpose.

I swallowed past the lump in my throat. “That’s not- not what I’m doing. Every step of the way, I had other reasons. Strategies, or there were people I needed to help-”

“Maybe Bitch was right about you all along.”

Bitch’s precise assessment of Taylor seems to have varied a bit over time, care to elaborate on that?

I suppose it mostly boils down to “do not want”.

“That’s not fair.” This isn’t him. He’s still reeling from what Bonesaw did to him.

Yeah, let’s fuckin’ hope this is temporary.

That excuse did little to shake my worries that this was what he really thought. Was this the stuff he was holding back, every day he was with me.

It might be. We might be having brutal honesty hour over here. The alternative is mean lies for the purpose of hurting.

I’d actually prefer brutal honesty hour, I think.


“What’s not fair is that I’m the one who’s tried to keep things sensible, to keep this group sane, and when push comes to shove, when I go with the majority because things won’t go smoothly if I don’t, I’m the one who gets captured and tortured. Your plan!”

And there it is. He just blamed her for him getting captured.

*pinches brow* Damn it, Brian.

“Don’t.”

“Are you going to tell me I’m wrong?”

“It- it wasn’t fair. You’re right. But I don’t deserve all of the blame here. I volunteered to be the person Trickster swapped out.”

Taylor is actually taking this better than I was expecting.

But somehow I don’t think “I was going to be the one recklessly thrown into the lion’s den” is going to appease Brian.

“Knowing there was no way you could, with your injury. So you let me.”

No, Brian. She’s not that manipulative.

He stared at me with an intensity that I couldn’t meet. I broke eye contact, looking down at my gloved hands, which were clutched together in my lap, fingers tangled. “Tell me, Taylor. If you don’t deserve blame, who does?”

Fuck off.


Here’s who deserves the blame, Brian: The Slaughterhouse Nine.


The Nine. Bonesaw. But I could hardly say that. Not after seeing his reaction when I’d casually brought up the Nine before. However intent he seemed to be on hurting me, I wasn’t going to retaliate in kind.

Taylor’s a good kid.

“That’s what I thought,” he said, to my silence.

I looked up at the ceiling, blinking to get the tears out of my eyes. “Okay.”

Honestly, Taylor blaming the Nine is a big development for her. She’s had an unhealthy habit of blaming herself for failing to completely prevent atrocities instead of blaming the people committing them, and this seems to be a step in the right direction.

“What?”

“I’ll own up to it. My fault. The blame is at least partially mine. Maybe mostly mine. I’ve been reckless, and others have suffered for it. Dinah, my dad, Bitch, the people in my territory. You. Maybe I am toxic. Maybe me and my motivations, my issues, are causing everyone misery. I can leave the team if you want. Give me the word, and I’ll leave.”

Way to put him on the spot, make him either follow through and take the consequences of hurting you like this, or admit he still wants you around.

And given that this is almost certainly the last chapter of the Arc before we go into Interlude territory, it could actually go either way, depending on Grue’s actual mindset here.

There was a long pause.

“Christ,” he said. “I’m not telling you to leave. I’m just-”

Phew.

Maybe he didn’t realize just how hurtful he’s being?

“You’re making it clear I should. And you’re probably right.“

“I’m frustrated, and I went too far. That’s not what I’m trying to say.”

I think putting him on the spot like that was a really good move here, helping him to realize how far he was going.

I’m waiting for an apology, though, Brian. You went waaay too far.

“Sure sounds like it.”

I stood up and turned away. I didn’t want to see that look in his eyes.

Which one, the angry look or the sad puppy who just realized he fucked up?

I tugged my armor into position and made sure I had everything I needed. It wouldn’t do to get ambushed and killed as I left.

Welp, I guess we’re doing this then.

My modified costume was heavier than my old one had been, and between that and the blanket, and this place’s lack of air conditioning, I was sweating. My hair was stuck to the back of my neck.

He wasn’t saying anything.

Come on, Brian. It begins with “I’m” and ends with “sorry”.

“I’m going to go. Half my territory burned to the ground, my people need some attention. If you decide everyone’s better off with me gone, just pass on the word. I won’t make a fuss, I won’t say you wanted me gone. I’ll just make an excuse and leave.”

“It’s up to you. Think about it.”


I drew some bugs around my lower face and eyes as a makeshift mask. My real mask was still in tatters. I noted that the modifications I’d made were no longer necessary. I wondered if I would go back to skintight leggings.

I think the leggings fit the aesthetic better.

It’d be good to get back to my people. To check on them, and ensure they were okay. Maybe they’d be better off without me. If Tattletale or Regent took over the-

I really don’t think they would be better off without you. Aside from acting as a bullseye drawn on the city map, you’ve done nothing but good for the territory.

“Stop,” he said, cutting off my train of thought.

That’s not the S word I was hoping to hear, but I’m listening.

Didn’t need to hear more of his accusations, his condemnations. I ignored him and headed for the front door.

Though Taylor isn’t.

“Please.”

Getting closer.

His tone had changed. I stopped walking.

“I’ve never really said anything like this to anyone,” he said. “But I’m scared. I’m more powerful now, but I feel more insecure than ever.”

A scared little boy pretending to be a leader.

Who said it had to apply only to Trickster?


The rest of what Brian has to say for himself will have to wait… I’ll be back tomorrow for the next part. See you then!

[End of session]


I ended up thinking about Brian a bit while working, more specifically about whether his extra harsh behavior (which seems to oscillate a bit?) could be directly caused by his new power. It doesn’t have to be, but it’s to possible to not consider. It wouldn’t be the first time a power fucked with its wielder’s personality.

I don’t think this following idea is particularly likely, but here’s a thing that did occur to me: What if he doesn’t just borrow bits of powers, but also personalities? What if a bit of Crawler and Othala got stuck in him when he healed himself and the rest?

Again, fairly unlikely based on what we’ve seen, but theoretically something that could happen with a power like this.


[Session 2]


How was I supposed to respond to that? A part of me wanted to sympathize, to hug him and tell him it was okay. Another part of me was angry, wanted to slap him, scream at him, because he was still focused on himself, himself, himself, after he’d just attacked me.

Still waiting on that apology, Brian.

I do get the sense that he said that last part in order to explain his behavior, which is all well and good, but it had better lead into a proper apology.

I understood why he’d done it, but that didn’t make his barbs hurt any less.

And this is why. Sure, I’m interested in why he did it, but the fact of the matter is that he deliberately, viciously hurt Taylor and needs to acknowledge that it was wrong of him to do that.

Even if he did believe some of what he was saying.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

Thank you.

“I’m on edge. I’m spooked. I can’t calm down. I shouldn’t have said what I did.”

You really shouldn’t, and I’m pleased to hear you acknowledge that.


“And you can’t stop thinking? I feel like that, all the time, and I have for a while.”

This might be good. Give him someone to relate to, even if it’s just a bit. Just make sure it doesn’t come across as “suck it up, I have it just as bad” and you’re good.

“They had Aisha. So much of what I’ve done, I’ve done because I wanted to support her. Make up for the fact that I wasn’t there when she needed it, before. Only we’re putting her in more danger, and she doesn’t respect me enough to let me keep her out of danger.”

I feel like the bit about not being there when she needed it is even stronger given the information that Brian’s trigger story was somewhat embellished. I do think it goes beyond that one moment, though, into all the bad days Brian didn’t know Aisha had before it came to that head.

I turned around.

“And as long as I’m being honest and upfront,” he said, “I was thinking about you when I had my trigger event.”

And the shippers go wild. 😛

(I was a little confused for a moment, until I realized he was talking about his second trigger event.)


I swallowed.

“I won’t lie and say I’ve suddenly realized I’m in love with you. I don’t really know what I feel, so I can only comment on what I think.

This is relatable, honestly. It can be a gradual thing, and it’s not always easy to tell if that’s actually what it is.

I can say I respect you on a lot of levels, even if I can’t figure you out.”

Was any of the stuff you said before a reflection of your real thoughts on Taylor? Because that question is very relevant right now.

“Sure as hell didn’t sound like you respected me thirty seconds ago.”

Exactly.

“I worry about you. You throw yourself into these situations like you don’t care if you die, like you’ve got nothing to stick around for except for those people you insist on protecting.

Ahhh. And that kind of worry can turn into anger towards the person you worry about very easily. “Why can’t you see that you need to be careful?! That I care about you?!

And it’s worth noting that Brian is right here. Taylor has been acting, thinking, like that, and it’s been worrying me too from time to time.

Dinah, the people from your territory. People you barely know, if at all. And then you actually make it out okay, so you do it again, only more so. Riskier stuff.”

Her heroic side is dangerously strong.


I folded my arms. This was uncomfortably close to what he’d been saying before.

Yes, he’s saying it again, but in a much more respectful and caring way. He did mean the core of what he was saying, to some extent, but not for it to come out the angry, hurtful way it did.

“I start thinking about how I’m supposed to protect you, get you to stop, get you to focus on a goal that’s actually attainable, because you’re so capable that you could be amazing if you stopped acting suicidal.

So…

I was so certain Taylor would blame herself for what happened to Brian, and you’re telling me it’s the other way around entirely?

He’s blaming himself for what happened to Taylor, for not being able to stop her from getting herself and the rest of the party captured by Bonesaw (among other risky plans), to such an extent that he may have had his trigger event more over that than over Aisha being in similar danger?

Dammit, the one prediction I thought I had on lockdown and Wildbow flips it completely. 😛

Then I get pissed at myself and I get pissed at you, because I can’t figure you out, and you move forward so fast that I can’t keep up.

Oh yeah, she’s quite fast-paced compared to slow-and-safe Brian over here. She skitters ahead.

I let my guard drop for one evening to focus on other things, and then I find out you’d gotten in a fight with Mannequin.”

Whoops.


“It’s not your job to look after me. If you want to get on my case because I’m putting you and the others at risk, that’s fine. It’s your right to yell at me for that. But don’t make me feel bad because you can’t be the macho guy, protecting me.”

I don’t think that’s the point, Taylor, but I see where you’re coming from.

(Also, isn’t it part of his job, as leader of the team, to look after his teammates? Maybe not to this extent, but I’m just nitpicking Taylor’s claim.)

“That’s not-” he stopped. “No. I’m trying to say I think about you more than I should.”

Aw 🙂

I’m not entirely back on the ship yet, but it’s entirely possible that we’re heading into territory that removes the main reason I left it, namely that it was explicitly not mutual. I leapt overboard when the canon sunk it at the harbor, and now the ship is being raised from the depths using ping-pong balls.

I doubt I’ll be going back on board, mainly because since the sinking, Taylor and especially Brian have started displaying contrasting traits that make me less keen on the two of them together. If canon supports it from Taylor’s side again, I might change my mind, but for now I don’t think I’ll ever be as into it as I originally was.

Brian is a sweet guy, though, when he’s open enough to show it.

I looked away. I might have asked whether he thought about me more than he should because he cared, or because I was a fuck up.

Have you been listening?

I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear the answer, either way.

Fair enough.


“Stay? When I asked you to keep me company, I was being genuine. Rather not be alone with my thoughts.”

Well, neither does Taylor, I suppose.

I sighed. “I could do with some tea. I could make you some coffee if you wanted.”

Sounds nice.

He shook his head. “Jumpy enough already.”

Heh, good call. 😛

“I’ll be right back.”

I headed into the kitchen, put a kettle on and began digging around for teabags. It wasn’t easy, when I was half-blind.

Hey, at least it doesn’t come with being half-ghost as well. o_0

Once I had the teabags and a mug set, I got my cell phone out.

Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters?

Don’t have them bust the ghost half of your body, that’ll make you fully blind.

(#i’m sorry to the non-homestucks for the last few parts of this post not making much sense

#trust me #while there is logic to it #it’s weird in context too)


“Cranston here,” the woman on the end of the line replied. “What can I do for you, Skitter?”

Oh yeah, that’s her contact at Coil’s base, right?

Cranston was the woman Coil had assigned to me, as he’d assigned employees to the others, so he wasn’t personally dealing with each of us when he had other things to focus on.

Yes.

“Need glasses. Coil has the prescription on file from when he got me my contacts.”

While I absolutely understand the desire to get away from the hell-bowls as soon as possible, there is a stated risk of Shatterbird getting out of Regent’s control.

Also, you’re going to need another pair of lenses, for your mask. The old corrective ones would’ve been caught in the Shattering, just like your glasses.

“I’ll have them for you by morning. Anything else?”

“No- wait. Yeah. Can you pass on a message to the PHQ?”

Ooh, I’m looking forward to seeing what choice words she has for them!

“Coil has contact information. Hookwolf’s contingent exchanged contact details with the other teams, including the PHQ.”

Nice.

“No. I mean, without going through Coil’s channels. I need to give them a message from me.”

Hmm. Might have to seek them out on your own.

“That can be arranged. I have a pen and paper, if you’d like me to take dictation.”

Alright, nice. Going into how she got this message to them outside of this phone call would probably be narratively pointless anyway.

“Tell them Burnscar’s dead and Bonesaw’s missing a pair of hands for at least a little while. Four and a half members left. If they were being honest about waiting for the right moment to strike, this is probably a good one.”

Oh yeah, that’s a good point! Let’s get them in on this at last.


“Mm hmm.”

“We can give them the location of the Nine if they’re interested.”

Can you? They just relocated, you gotta find them again first.

“Should I give them your contact information?”

Oh man, if she does this, it might only be a matter of time before she gets a call from Dragon.

“They have enough tinkers that I’d be worried about them tracking me down. No.

Fair enough.

If they want to get in touch, I’ll leave it to them to figure it out. Not going out of my way.”

“Alright.”

“And one last thing. Tell them ‘thanks for the help’.”

Ahaha, there we go, there’s the sass I was waiting for!

(Although the Protectorate did very indirectly help, by way of being at one end of the conversation that inspired Trickster to come up with the plan to save Grue.)


“I’ll get the message to them promptly.”

I hung up.

Thank you, Cranston.

I returned to Brian with a mug of tea for myself and a glass of water for him. The television was on, and he sat in the middle of the couch. He patted at one cushion.

Somehow this reminds me of Interlude 11h.

With the way he was positioned, there was no way for me to sit a distance from him.

At the same time, when I did sit, he didn’t reach out to touch me, to put a hand on my shoulder, or any of that. We watched terrible late night TV with the volume so low we could barely hear it, not talking, not making body contact, barely even looking at each other.

Well, at least they’re there? With each other? Just supporting each other by being present?

…y’know what I don’t understand? How going to a movie at the cinema is supposed to be a social experience. You’re not supposed to talk or even look at people, just sit there and watch the movie. What’s social about that besides occasionally sharing your snacks with the person next to you?

He’d confessed feelings for me, after a fashion; I had a special place in his thoughts, even if he didn’t know what that meant, exactly.

It’s something, yes…

Now how do you feel about that at this point?

We were sharing personal parts of ourselves we’d never let others see. We even cared about each other.

Man, the serial readers who went down with the ship in Arc 7 and clung onto the shipwreck until Arc 13 must’ve felt so vindicated when these last two chapters came out. The shipping scene around the time of this chapter must’ve been wild.

Although exactly how wild depends a lot on what Taylor is about to say about her own feelings on this whole thing.


I just hadn’t wanted it like this.

Ah, yeah, the whole debacle with the Nine kind of sours it, doesn’t it.


End of Snare 13.10

S.S. Taylor x Brian is back from the depths!

This was a good dénouement. We got to learn what the hell just happened with Brian’s new power, singular, and while it did lead to some hurt feelings along the way, we got some excellent relationship development between Taylor and Brian. I’m not just talking about their romantic relationship, here – I mean their relationship as a whole. In the process we also learned how Brian’s holding up after all he’s just been through: Not great.

I also appreciate that Brian called out some of Taylor’s self-destructive behavior. Honestly, out of everything at this point, that’s the thing that’s pulling me back towards the ship the most. Taylor needs someone to remind her to live for herself, not just others.

Maybe this would work better as a moirallegiance.

So yeah, now the two of them will have to figure out what the hell they are to each other. Let’s not rush them, though.

Next chapter, I’m pretty sure we’re going into an Interlude. Who did I speculate on us reading the perspective of, again? Oh yeah, one of the Travelers. There’s been so many signs that we’re about to find out about their past that I suspect we’re going to find out before Taylor does, in the upcoming Interlude.

Which I’m going to get started on shortly, so stay tuned! See you there!

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