RP Godlings' Day Out

Ira walked with Nimh to the end of the counter to wait for the food. It would not be a long wait, most of the pretzels were already made and sitting in some kind of warmer. The little people behind the counter needed only to brush on the butter, dust them with cinnamon and sugar, and hand them over. And, as Ira thought, so it happened, not by the power of a god, but by the mundane gears of time turning and turning.

As the pair walked over with their prize to a table, Ira caught a glimpse of a scraggy, disheveled man making his way through the food court in their direction. Taking a seat and digging into her food, she thought nothing of him as he came closer, and closer, and closer, until, finally, he stood over the pair's table. His breathing was quick and shallow, not the labored breath of a marathon runner or a workout enthusiast, but the painful fits of air from someone barely staving off a panic attack.

He gripped his chest as he knelt before their table. Ira did not look at him, though if she had, she might've noticed his burnt olive skin and dirt-curled, greying hair betray his hard life in the sun. His fingernails dug into the hardened vinyl layer of the table as he shouted and pleaded, "GREAT ONES, SPARE ME!! MY FORM IS WRONG! MY SHAPE IS WRONG! FIX MEEEE--" A security officer wordlessly tore the man away from the table, slamming him into the floor and kneeling on his neck to silence his cries.

Four more, a blonde mother from a table of three children with her husband, a dark-eyed man sitting alone, and a pair of teens with colorful hair all joined the security guard in helping to hold the crazed man down. Many people were looking now, some shouting, and some calling for more security. It was a strange and off-putting sight, to be certain, but not as strange as the utter silence of the five strangers all working in tandem to restrain the crazed man.

Ira seemed utterly unperturbed by all of it. Instead, she calmly smiled and enjoyed her special treats. Only Nimh deserved Ira's eyes, black within black, and their gaze. Ira would, through overly enthusiastic bites of her pretzel, speak to Nimh a few words, "Some, mmhm, see through us. Not uncommon, hhhmm, good pretzel. Not uncommon in humans! Rare all else, but humans? Some see. Weird, isn't it?"
Nimsy had heard the man when he came. She didn’t know how, maybe the same way she knew when Ira had touched the machinery or when Gail wasn’t entirely herself. The secret lay in the music. She wasn’t always listening to it – more often than not, she had her own Songs to contend with, borrowed from him, always playing in the back of her mind. They served as a good distraction at Nine from all the different noises and songs that permuted the rooms and people there. She didn’t know it as magic, because nobody there called it that, but she could guess that was what it was after the stories she’d read and been read, the movies she’d watched, and the sounds she heard.

And now that they were sitting, Nimsy was listening. Some saw the ties between things, or smelled them, if they had a good nose, or simply sensed them by instinct. There was a sense of urgency around Ira that could not be explained away as her own fear. When they were still together, seated, Nim started to feel the rhythm that flowed from her companion, heavy and hard.

Then the rhythm began to echo when the man came.

It still came from Ira, but somewhere nearby, Anima was suddenly aware of another source, like someone had turned their phone volume up. And then another, and another. Like birdcalls or wolves howling, they responded to the first impulse in time with the magic that connected them back to HER

No. She glanced back at Ira, and she was still herself.

She looked up at the cameras, which would have seen the stir, then around at the other people, then back at Ira once more. When she met the other girl’s gaze, Her eye that was his eye had returned to red.

She smiled at Ira, like she was being told something that was not at all new – because She was, anyone at Nine knew what She was before they even knew who She was – but also bore the quiet superiority of someone who knew better than her. She made no pretense of being older or more experienced, but humanity? Humanity, she Knew better than Ira, because her blood was his blood, her form his form if molded after someone else. She Knew mortal forms, had possessed one, traveled freely between his veins and arteries and through his black heart.

“Humans are smart, smarter even than some of Us.” She sighed, looking at the ailinig, addled man held down by strangers – five strangers in tandem, all carrying the same music over the cacophony of their inner workings. “Seeing us can break their minds, but it’s their bodies that are weakest.”

She pushed her chair out, pretzels forgotten, Ira not forgotten. In fact, she was listening to Ira, to that beat that She had heard, and knew that by his ear She could repeat the Song. She stood and stepped up to the cluster, and rested one hand on the arm of the security guard.

“Let him go.” Even Her voice sounded like hers, carrying as it did the same power from the Mockingbird throat. Then she glanced around again, red eye concealed behind the curtain of her hair.

Oh, well. They were already going to need amnestics for this, might as well do something fun with it. Except… this didn’t feel like fun. She wanted to do this, something deep in her heart called out between her and the man on the floor, broken as he was, as he had come to both of them. It was unfamiliar, and uncomfortable. It was something like sadness, but she didn’t have time to analyze it. Maybe she could ask Brian, or maybe Nic, about it later.

Right now, she had a problem to fix. She let go of the guard, whether or not he actually listened or heard the song she had borrowed, and focused her attention down.

“Be quiet,” she told the man on the floor, kneeling beside him, brushing one hand against his cheek, “be still. You scared her people for her, did you know that you would do that? Don’t scare them, and don’t be scared. Be still, so I can hear your Form.”

She used the heavy, distinct rhythm that was Ira and her people in the place of Her chosen song’s soft guitar, and hummed the lyrics of Her own song, a verbal focus, a chorus hummed in Duet as she had learned by observation.

Joshua had begun to show her some things anatomical, but she already knew most of it from long experience. She could hear him, hear his inner symphony, the movement of organs, the rub of muscle on bone, the beat of his heart, the flow of his blood, the rush of his mind – his mind, not his thoughts. She had never been privy to his thoughts, and now it felt invasive. She wasn’t planning to invade him, even as She reached between the two Songs and then with a hand on his cheek, into him, eyes doing their damnedest to hold his despite their positions. It would be easier if the uniformed man who sounded like Ira let him up, but that wasn't necessary, as long as the rest were quiet.
Their reactions were instantaneous, a near leaping from the downed man to stare at the speaker- to stare at Nimh. Then, simultaneously, they looked to Ira. The Goddess did not look back, rather, dismissing them with a quick wave. At once, the security officer began dismissing the few others still gawking and called for backup on his radio, speaking as normally as anyone else.

As if nothing strange had happened at all.

The teenagers disappeared into a local shop, the woman gathered up and children and husband to leave, and the strange loner faded away into the dispersing others as if he had never been there to begin with. While Nimh spoke to the addle-minded man, Ira frowned. She heard Nimh's imitation, and it was not her voice but Her voice. Perhaps Ira had not recognized Nimh earlier, perhaps she had and simply refused to acknowledge it, but she could no longer refuse.

There it was, staring Ira right in the face, the secret of Nimh. She was so much more than Ira first thought. More than another eldritch being, more than someone with incredible power, more than a mockingbird. Nimh was a half, a better half. Ira remembered her through the memories of her own better half. No one else knew what She sounded like. No one, except Ira. Nimh was the one who got away.

She had to be.


The man had stayed completely still and quiet as Nimh spoke to him. He dared not move, he dared not speak. She spoke to him, She touched him! He was terrified of somehow stirring Her ire or wrath. He didn't mean to startle the Other's people, he had not even seen them when he approached! The girls, Their songs were too loud, Their lights too bright, and Their strength... It was as if he stood in the presence of dire wolves, Their hunting gazes piercing through his body and soul.

And he knew he was somehow wrong. But They could help him! She already was! She looked at him, memorized him, She would help him. She would make him right. He just needed to stay still and quiet. He just needed to do what She said.


Whenever Nimh finished whatever she was doing, Ira would stand from the table and state clearly.

"I'm done. Let's go back."
"Well, that escalated quickly." Brian had been watching the kids' progress through the mall security cameras on his phone, which was enough for keeping an eye on things but also letting Nimsy go do her thing and have some independence. Shopping had been fine, pretzels had been fine, whatever that had been in the food court had been a bit past the line. "You on it?"

Cait was already unfolding herself from the bench and getting up, reaching down as Brian passed her the Hot Topic bag wordlessly. He'd stay where he was, playing the role of bored boyfriend plays on phone and ignores mall, which worked surprisingly well as a cover here. The playing on a phone made it even easier to do his job, which in this case was running the footage of the food court altercation through a series of programs to alter the subjects' motions into something that would scan as normal human whenever it was reviewed later. Just a guy having a little problem, scrub the words and make it look like a seizure, a bunch of people trying to keep him from hurting himself when he went down. No problems here, nothing to look at.

Cait would be taking the point role, because that was also easy to go incognito with. There were plenty of twenty-something goth chicks wandering the mall, and she'd attract way less attention interacting with people - especially the kids - than a twenty-something guy would. A lot of what the Locusts did was little more than playing into expectations, being perfectly mundane for as long as was needed - and then having the ability to back up and do the other thing when mundane was no longer needed any more.

She made her way to the guy on the floor easily enough, crouching down beside him. "Hey, man, you don't look so good. I've got some first aid training, yeah? Okay to take your pulse?" All of this was true, of course, and... well, the amnestics were easy enough to administer with skin contact. He didn't need to remember the kids. He definitely didn't need to remember what they'd said to him. Cait would have a couple minutes to chat with him in case there was something she needed to know, but he wouldn't remember her either.
His body protested, but that was not the root of his ailment. His breath caught, his heartbeat rose, she could feel his fear – but it was not the fear of a mockingbird before a Beast. His was the awe only mortals could have of their gods. And that awe was eating him, inside out, not in body but in mind.

Nimsy hadn’t experienced that before. It was new. Her home and its people were distinctively unimpressed with godhood. The frightful worship of the collapsed man struck a delightful and terrible chord deep inside her, a sound – a feeling – that made her skin crawl and made her want to curl up into a ball of feathers, but also had such a rightness in its wrongness that she could have sung alongside it, cried up to the heavens and down to the hells.

The momentary surprise left her frozen, until she felt something shift in the room. The unfamiliar was interrupted by someone coming closer, the known shattering the moment of Curiosity that had taken over Anima. She looked up, and saw Cait on the edge of the crowd. They’d been found.

The ten thousand whys and hows that came up with that statement all silenced themselves as she realized she had no idea how to help the prone man, who had grown still under the softness of Her Word. His fragility frightened her even more than his familiarity, or that of the girl behind her or that of the girl approaching.

Time. She wanted time, needed it to fix him. She didn’t even know if she could, but something – something strange, something subtle, something savage, said that he was hers. Maybe it was witnessing the Child’s cultists coming to Her call, or maybe it was Cait coming to – to what? It was Cait, so who knew?

Papa would. He’d know what to do with the man on the ground, too, or at least he’d know what she could try, and offer his suggestions. But he wasn’t here. Cait was, but she wasn't ready for Cait, she didn't want to go back yet.

She swallowed the quick, hot feelings that came with that, but even as she did, some instinct drove her to lean forward.

What she whispered wordless into the man’s ear was a tuning Note. What that meant – well, She didn’t Know. But she would feel it, and he would feel it, long after this was over. Perhaps his mind would gather itself to rights around it, or maybe it would shatter from the center and leave the pieces scattered.

She didn’t have time to observe the results, which was a pity, but she’d learn later, so she could live with it. She looked up at Ira finally, then smiled.

“Not yet.” She wasn’t ready to go back yet. The grin that split Her face in two should have been more than enough warning before the floor opened –

And they came out in another bathroom, this time from the floor up, except where they should have fallen to the ceiling, gravity recentered itself again, and Nimsy took a moment to lay on the tile and gather Her Self back up into herself. She looked at Ira, still not quite thinking straight. Ira had a cult, and then she had the worship of everything everywhere with a few notable exceptions in the realm she ruled.

Clearly not completely focused, she queried, “Is that how you feel all the time? How do you deal with that?”
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Nimh was better than Ira at something.


This was something Ira could not understand.

It was not that Ira could not comprehend someone having an ability she did not have. It was not that Ira had no ability to visualize the concept of someone being better than her. No, that wasn't it at all. It was something beyond the confines of Ira's body and mind, yet also it was something exactly within the confines of Ira's body and mind.

Particularly, that Ira was small. Alone, Ira was very, very, very small. Even the cultists responding to her motions, to her connections, to Her connections, were not of Ira. They were of Her, the part of Ira that was greater than Ira, Ira's better half. Ira didn't understand humans, but together, Ira could do more than understand, she could control, mold, twist, and bend them until they

Like that man, the man Nimh was trying to fix. The man was broken and Ira knew why, but she couldn't feel why. Nimh could feel why. Nimh could hear the song of his breaking. Nimh might have even been able to fix it. Even without connection, even without her better half, even alone, Nimh could do anything she wanted.

And Ira could not.

The pair were whisked away with Nimh's Cheshire grin and Ira wasted no moments in standing and shouting. There were no words that came from the little girl, just incoherent noises and emotions. Perhaps, on another world, this would have conveyed a novel's worth of information and contemplation, but here, it was simply noise. Noise, rage, frustration, defeat, despair.

Then, sighing, Ira turned to Nimh. Ira was crying, she didn't mean to, but she was. Nimh had asked a question, an innocent question, but it struck an awful chord in Ira. A discordant, angry chord that reminded her of just how small she was. She wasn't able to withhold the anger in her voice when she answered, "NO! I feel not that! Not all the time! Only when I am whole! Only when together! Alone, I hear nothing! I feel nothing! Cut off! Severed! [EXPLATIVE]-ing useless! I deal EASILY when together! When I- with- mmmy, my- my ME! She is my Better Half! So much [EXPLATIVE]-ing better it hurts! How could -you- understand?!"

Then, without another word, Ira strode over to a stall, swung the door open, entered, slammed the door shut, and locked it.
Anima blinked slowly, like she didn’t really hear what Ira was yelling. She lifted her head from the floor at the first sounds, but as her consciousness came back her emotions remained completely blank as she struggled to process them, as she pulled the greater Self back into check to become Nimsy again.

By the time Ira turned on her with words, Nim was sitting up straight, eyes momentarily dark. Before Ira even spoke, Nim looked like a child who had already been chided, but still didn’t understand what for. Behind those eyes, if Ira had looked through her rage, she would have seen a primal, animal, unthinking fear that said be still, for it cannot hurt you if you do not run from it.

Except it did hurt. The tears hurt to see, except they shouldn’t, because Anima knew she hadn’t done anything wrong. She screamed and she swore and she unjustly took her emotions out on Anima, Hal’s Daughter, and worse than a Note it struck a chord that roiled through and out of her the same way the man’s madness did.

Nimsy was afraid. And in the sound of the slamming stall door, she was furious that she was afraid, because she had no reason to be scared of Ira, because Ira couldn’t even do what she could do, and they were both only half. Nimsy couldn’t quantify the rage that boiled through her and down her. It felt like too much.

For a moment, she thought she chose to become less because maybe the anger would be less. But, it turned out, the shift from Child to Creature was one that confined all the rage to the same amount of soul-space, and a smaller amount of body-space, and turned the fury into something feathered and bestial.

With a flutter of wings, there was a mockingbird on top of the stall door, and it glared down at Ira, one eye red, one eye black. It dropped down, and Nimsy’s boots touched the ground with a solid clack so she could stand over the other girl, so she could loom the way he loomed, if on a smaller and more visibly indignant scale, leaning in so she was much too close, fury burning behind the red of her left eye even if it was invisible in the black of her right, in the cool, sardonic smile she wore despite the growing heat of tears that hadn’t escaped yet.

It didn’t even occur to her that Ira wouldn’t know what she was, what she’d done to Nimsy. But Nimsy had almost forgotten she was supposed to be afraid of Ira, and in response to the tide of anger and her own sudden recollection, she felt the sweeping urge – her Papa’s kind of urge – to make Ira afraid of her before she could fully remember the old fear, before it could freeze her again and render her down to the less Ira seemed to think her to be.

Maybe,” she hissed, but her voice was almost icy calm, “maybe I’d know how it feels if I’ve ever been whole, do you think that, Ira? Maybe I don’t know how much it hurts, but you don't think I know what it feels like to be severed, Ira? To be half, Ira? I’m not here for revenge, Ira, I promise you that. But you will not talk down to ME.”

And every time she punctuated a sentence with Ira, Nimsy leaned closer, so close they were sharing breath.

But now I’m leading, doesn’t that just scare you to death?

She put more power into the last words than she meant to, and by the end of it she really was crying, hot, angry tears over wobbling lips still spread out into a smile. She hadn’t cried before, not like this, not out of something as stupid and simple and sorry as fruitless frustration. She was a Note. She was supposed to be better than the things that wanted her upset, but she wasn’t. Ira felt like she was better, and maybe she was, maybe Nimsy had a right to be scared.

But being angry was better than being afraid. It felt better, in the moment, as the emotion bubbled where fear only froze. She didn’t so much as blink as she searched Ira, looked, begged without surrendering her pride, for just a hint of that same fear the other girl had inspired in Her.

Surely. Surely, making the younger girl scared would make her feel better. It had to, because if it didn’t, Anima didn’t know what would.
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Ira had seen the fear in Nimh's eyes as she screamed at her. It didn't give her power or make her feel good, but it didn't stop her either. Ira had not been trying to scare Nimh, she had not even been trying to teach her something, she was only trying to answer Nimh's question. In that answer, in her response, Ira had failed to contain herself. In failing, she raged, she took out all of her own frustrations and fits of anger on her new friend.

Damnable form.

Usually, if Ira had been speaking to Cody, or Pepper, or even Isaac, they would have approached her after her outburst and gently coaxed her down. They would have spoken kindly, calmly, and with proper reverence. It was how her friends talked to her, it was how everyone spoke to her. Because she was a being of incredible power, someone who could, at the drop of a hat, KILL EVERYONE AROUND HER.

But Nimh was different. Nimh was not an adult and Nimh was not a researcher, Nimh was not even Ira's peer. Nimh was something Ira truly believed she did not have. Here, on this world, Nimh was Ira's better, and Nimh was about to let Ira know it. Every word the 'older' girl spoke drove shards of pain through Ira's chest. Every time Nimh spoke Ira's name, a cold chill ran over her body. Ira tried to pull herself away, to bury her head in her arms, to hide from Nimh in any way that she could.

But Nimh kept getting closer. Her words kept getting sharper. Her anger was not like Ira's, it was cold, it was powerful, and it could follow through on any threat it made. With her final sentence, Ira recoiled as far back as she could, like a child bracing to be struck. She was still crying, but now her breath quickened, and her tears came down colder. Ira felt so small, and Nimh looked so big.

"P-please, don't, don't- call me, -that.- Don't- don't say my name. Not anymore. Please.."

Ira begged.
Ira begged.

It wasn’t what Anima had expected her to beg. She didn’t beg Her to back off, or to even stop yelling. And, as for the begging itself, she didn’t feel the rush of satisfaction that Papa used to feel when he did this, but there was no time for that Why just now. There wasn’t any of that worship in the fear, either. The man had been broken, and he had been afraid, but he had trusted Her to touch him and make him whole.

She realized with growing dread that – this one – had trusted her, too, wholly and completely, even in her unholy anger. And She had abused that, in Her anger.

Anima hadn’t realized what she’d been doing, but she knew now, suddenly, horribly. She understood, with a tight knot of dread that unthreaded itself into sticky strings of power that stretched between herself and – the other – and tied off untidily into binding bonds. She had invoked Ira’s Name. She hadn’t thought she could do that, any more than Ira could say, ‘Nimh,’ and make Anima respond, because that wasn’t Anima’s Name. But– this was Ira. In her halfness, the Name invoked was pure and deep and dark and true as the name of Cthulhu sung from R'lyeh.

Her breath caught, and Nim immediately leaned back, away. Ira looked cornered, afraid. She had done that. Anima Note had done that. She held out a hand, reached out to touch her, to pull her close and be sorry –

No. Ira – Ira didn’t need that. Stupid. Stupid! She’d finally made a friend, and she’d gone and done this to her? The same thing Ira’s other self, the part that wasn’t Ira, had done to the Curiosity when it had just been a budding question?

“Let me…” A pause, hesitance that imbibed the words themselves to interrupt any power. “Sorry. I’ll um– whenever you’re – I’ll just–”

There was no way to phrase Tell me when you’re ready, so we can fix this, that wasn’t a command. Even without the Name attached, the power would still be there, she was sure. So Anima stepped back from Ira, smile gone, tears still falling despite the arm that ran over her chin to try to clear her face and clear her head.

Then Anima folded in, and fluttered out, the beating sound of wings giving way to a smaller clomp of boots farther off, down the next row of stalls. The door closed more quietly, locked. A little distance, and some control over her voice, made the crying soft. Even so, the hummed accompaniment might carry, as Nimsy started to sift through the soul at the center of herself using the only thing She knew how, by Song. Maybe it was just the tune of Hey There, Delilah that would drift in, but the words might be heard, too.

“Hey there, Cthulhu, down there in your sunken city, you’re a billion lightyears distant and the stars look very pretty…”

At least from a billion lightyears, She couldn’t hurt him with Her words.
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Little Ira had never been very good with time. She liked to act as if she knew a strict schedule and followed it to a T, but it was only that, an act. An act perpetrated to deceive the most important person in little Ira's life, herself. It made her feel in control, made her feel as though she had a tangible grasp on the world around her. She followed a schedule not because she had to, but because she wanted to, just to show the world who was really in charge.

It was unbelievably childish. But little Ira was a child. No greater reminder existed for little Ira than the past few minutes. Sitting quietly on the toilet seat, curled up as tightly as she could, little Ira sobbed until her damnable form ran out of tears. Then, reduced to dry heaves, her body kept trying to sob. A mixture of sadness, loneliness, and fear pent up over decades had decided that this catalytic event was the missing piece needed to fully burst forth. She had come close to such a breakdown with Cody, her dear friend Cody, but his kindness had staved it off.

Nimh's rage introduced the final lacking ingredient for her breakdown, fear. In all her existence on this sphere, little Ira had never truly felt fear. Not until now. She hadn't acknowledged Nimh's leaving, though she felt the slightest bit of relief when she moved to another stall. It wasn't enough to stave off the breakdown, it came no matter what little Ira wanted. But the breakdown, despite feeling like the worst, most horrible moment in her mortal life, did two good things.

One. It released her emotions. Those pent-up feelings of sadness, loneliness, and fear. One of which was an emotion she refused to acknowledge she had. Those terrible feelings, those mortal emotions that could not be simply erased with divine power, had been gathering ever since Isaac's death. Now, completely cried out, little Ira felt a relief she had not known existed. She knew instantly she needed to use this relief before it faded, mortal feelings always faded.

Two. It gave her time to think. She knew as well that if she just continued to think, she might lose the courage to say what she thought. So, as Nimh sang gently from the other end of the restroom, little Ira spoke. "I'm sorry." Her voice was quiet, but little Ira tried hard to force it to be louder. Those words, they hurt like a shard of ice, but she knew she needed to say it. Little Ira knew Nimh deserved it, despite the hurt little Ira still felt.

Because they were the same. Quietly, she continued, "I, I am. I am sorry. I know, I am mean. I yell. I shout. I fight. I am, 'petulant.' I am a child. I have always been. I will always be. That is why, separation, hurts. Know you too, separated. But, only thought of myself. Only thought of my hurt. That is- it, no, I was not fair. Not fair to you. I am sorry. For yelling, for shouting, for not thinking- for being, unfair. I am, sorry.

"She is better than me. Better almost every way. Not power, not authority, but feelings. She feels everything, just, deals. She can be kind, She can be fair, She is not- petulant. I want to be better. Be like Her. Because, I am not alone. Even two, even One, we are I. Together, I am better. 'Two halves are-better than one...' And, there is something-"
If little Ira had been whole, if there was her better half with her, alarms would be screaming in her head. But little Ira was alone, and little Ira wanted to tell Nimh. "There is something you, you deserve, to know."

"Your better half, not gone. You are not alone."
She stopped singing, when Ira said she was sorry. There was a time for noise, and there was a time for silence. Regardless of the state of the floor of her stall, she sat in a ball, her own tears silent as she rested her forehead against her knees. She listened to everything that Ira said. She remained quiet for a very long time.

She felt, for just a moment, a thrill of hope. Like that part of her she knew was gone, wasn’t. Despite what she’d said to Ira, her own severance…hadn’t hurt. She had been afraid of that severance, afraid of being followed, afraid until she felt enveloped again in Papa’s warmth. Even now, she ran a hand up her opposite arm, following the sweep of her blood flow – his blood, given to her so she could have substance and form.

She closed her eyes again. Maybe the part behind had lived, but without substance, it couldn’t still exist. Would Ira lie to her? No, that didn’t… feel right, under the circumstances. Ira was apologizing. She wouldn’t compound issues with lies, not through the fear. So maybe she just didn’t understand. Maybe Nimsy didn’t understand what Ira was saying.

At least it didn’t hurt too much when the hope blew itself out.

“I’m sorry,” Anima echoed, in tone rather than voice. “I’m sorry for doing all those things back to you. I made you feel small. I’ve felt that small since you did that to me.” Pause. She reconsidered that statement. “No, that’s not true. Since before–before Papa. I forgot about it with him. He never let me feel small. Neither do the others, now. But even before –you–, I’ve felt like the littlest in a universe of very, very big things. Like having big shoes to fill, except most of my family doesn’t even have feet.” A giggle that mixed with a loud sniffle, but her voice was serious. “Mother was just so much, so vast, that my being didn’t feel important until Papa. I made myself not think about it for a while, but it wasn’t fair to take it out on you. Nobody deserves to feel that way. Most of the time if Papa said something like I just did, it’d be to something that can’t feel small unless he makes it. He’s smart like that. I– I didn’t realize you already felt that way. I never woulda said those things if I knew. I promise I won’t do that again.”

The air was heavy, after that promise. A deep, shaky breath filled that weight, and on the exhale came an apparent non-sequitur.

“Did you – did you know some kinds of lizards, right? If a predator grabs their tails, they can drop it and run away. The tail still squirms even when separated from its body. Starfish – they can do it with their legs, too. But if you cut a starfish in half, both halves can grow back, if they have all the right parts.”

She sighed again, this time almost steadily, and continued with a degree of forced maturity not uncommon to her apparent age.

“But my body isn’t in halves. It never was. I know. I cut off a piece of my soul so I’d live. Without a body it wouldn’t make it long. But I’m not alone! Papa’s people – Nic and everyone. They’ve made sure I… I belong, that I know I’m strong enough, that I’m good enough. Papa never let me feel that way, not like I was small , but I know that I scared him and he wanted to protect me. I think that scared me more. I know I – I don’t need another half to be whole, I know that and I shouldn’t have used my mixed feelings to hurt you. I misspoke because I was mad. I’m sorry.”
Nimh said a lot of things. Little Ira wasn't a good listener, but she tried very hard to listen to everything Nimh said. While Nimh spoke, little Ira stood up and slowly, quietly, exited her stall. Walking over to where Nimh had retreated, little Ira stood silently until Nimh was completely done speaking.

Nimh was- apologizing. It felt weird to be apologized to, especially after little Ira herself apologized. Usually, others apologized to her after she shouted or raged at them; others apologized for slighting or upsetting her. Perhaps, little Ira thought, that was not a good thing. Nimh told her a story about animals, lizards and starfish, whatever those were, but little Ira believed the real story wasn't about the animals. It was about family, separation, and pain.

Once Nimh finished, little Ira crawled under the stall like some kind of feral child. She crawled under the door as if it were entirely a normal thing to do. Then, standing before Nimh, little Ira gently reached out to embrace her. It was a quick sort of hug, the kind that was done when someone wasn't used to physical contact. But it was heartfelt, and little Ira was genuinely trying to comfort Nimh. Letting her go, little Ira would sit on the floor and speak.

"I know not family. Well, no, I know family. But not as you do. I know no mother. No father. No brother nor sister. I am alone, but not alone. I have me. There is me-and-Me-and-ME. Me and we- we are family. Existence without them? Without me? Unimaginable. But myself can be- uhm, how to say? Not poor company. But- lonely company. A room filled with myself- still a room within I am, alone... Envy you, a little, I do. To have father, to have mother. Sometimes, I wish...

"That is why I am here. Why I chose powerlessness. Why I chose to be- uhg, hate this word, 'Godbait.' I wanted more. Wanted new things. Wanted- friends... Friends like, Cody, and Pepper... I know littleness. I do. Especially here. But, perhaps, we little things, still be friends? Ira and Nimh?"

At that, little Ira gently reached out again. A small gesture, just trying to touch Nimh's hand.
Nimsy felt, rather than saw, Ira come in. Her forehead still sat on her knees as she sat down on the bathroom floor, but the sense of someone else entering the stall – however unconventionally – did not move her. The sound of bare skin on tile stopped across from her.

And then Ira embraced her.

There was no power behind the touch, not in the traditional senses. But there was warmth, and under, wonder. Nimsy didn’t start, exactly, nor did she jump, but she did at last look up, and almost blindly returned it with one arm before Ira pulled away.

She let her go, and then she listened, the learning kind of listen that only skimmed the surface of what was said enough to see what rested underneath. And under the confession was only truth, a loneliness that lingered behind each word. When she was done, Nimsy smiled again, tearstained though she was.

“I’m not going to be little forever, Ira.” She said the Name gently, and checked for a response. Without her rage, there would be no power to it. Only names borrowed, names used between friends. Anima was starting to feel a little guilty about not sharing Her Name now, but now wasn’t the time to make up for it.

But Ira needed to remember that Nimsy wasn’t completely as she was. Curiosity was change, and change was growth, growth into more experiences, space for more knowledge. She didn’t understand it, just knew, the way she had known that someday she would outgrow Papa, and be on her own.

She hadn’t been ready, wouldn’t for a while, but now she knew it wouldn’t do to blame Ira for the shift. It had been time, because if it hadn’t, she wouldn’t have learned the things She did. She had to trust Papa. Maybe ask, when she saw him again.

In the meantime, she took Ira’s hand hers – closer to her Papa’s, already longer than the other girl’s, but without the knotted knuckles that kept his hands from being pretty despite all the sounds they made – and smiled through the tearstains of her face as she squeezed it gently. “But of course we can be friends. I’d like that a lot.”

She wouldn’t be the first to release the grasp, but she wouldn’t bind Ira against her will, either. There’d been enough of that already today. And other days. No more bindings, no more ties between them except what they both wanted.

Satisfied with their current situation – tile floor and all – Nimsy sighed the contented sigh of someone who’d just had a satisfying cry. But Curiosity didn’t stay quiet long, and she filled the empty space with – of course – a Question.

“So…what was up with that guy?”
Little Ira let her hand be held for a little while, but soon the touch became too much and she let go. To her pleasant surprise, Nimh let her go without any fuss. It shouldn't have surprised her, but little Ira was far too used to things with power using their power constantly to get what they wanted. That's what she did, what She did, but perhaps that wasn't the best way?

She'd have to think about this later.

For now, the gift of new friendship was all she really concerned herself with. Nimh had said she wouldn't be little forever, but little Ira ignored that at this time. There was already quite a lot given to her to think about, she didn't feel up to adding any more information. Standing up, little Ira gently pet the top of Nimh's head, if Nimh allowed it, before leaning against the closed stall door. Nimh asked little Ira a question and, in her naive way of thinking, little Ira decided to answer truthfully.

After all, they were friends, and nothing shared between friends would ever be used against her. So little Ira explained, "Oh, him. -She- visits dreams. Gives knowledge. Acquires humans for cult. Need them for shrines. Can't make them myself. Shrines are anchors, fixed points. Need humans to make them. But sometimes, they do not understand. The dreams, maybe too strange? Maybe their minds, not strong enough. Some humans bend, some break. Regrettable. Not know how to tell one, erhm, from other. Not until too late."

Then, because little Ira was in a sharing mood, "Needs humans for shrines, for anchors. If I ever am- threatened. Not my physical form. Real threat. Real danger. Then SHE will come. Anchors are for HER."
“I visit dreams.”

The statement was soft, and dry. Nimsy remained seated for as long as Ira’s hand remained on the back of her head, and for a little while after. It would be hard to tell what she was thinking, harder for her to tell Ira. Perhaps she was pondering the aspect of anchor, what threat it held, the SHE who might come should Ira not be.

No. No, because such was not unheard of to the little Her who sat within the stall. Hadn’t she been a late result of such an anchor, herself a touchstone for Desire and Knowledge at their threshold and intersect? No. Anchors did not frighten her, for Ira’s anchors were no more threat to the world than those of her own Kin.

It was instead the mortal madman, whom She had left to Cait. Could Cait make him forget? Or had something been planted so deeply that no amount of amnestic could completely alter his path?

“I… did something to him. To his faith. I gave it a support, I think. You know how people tie saplings to bamboo to keep them from falling over?” She doubted Ira knew that, but she would now. Giving and sharing knowledge. She frowned at her lap. “I…. I think he might’ve been broken before the dream. I –”

How could she explain it? She hadn’t recognized it. Her fascination with his horrified honor might’ve been the horror that lurked inside her Self. But there was something in the seed she’d found in him. The seed had not seemed like Ira’s fruits.

“I visit dreams,” she said again, like that would clarify anything. She started to stand, one hand on the wall of the stall. “I used to remember when I visited, before… you.”

But she couldn’t anymore. She’d tried, and she’d tried to direct her five true feet with more care in her sleep, to no avail. She woke up, and the memory slipped away like water down a drain.

Her fingers drummed the wall, starting to tap out a tune, a twitch that carried from father to daughter, but never daughter to father, wherever he was. She had questions, dozens that followed, unfinished and unfruitful.

“I have a sense of his worship, but I don’t know what it does,” she finally decided, as she looked to Ira with a frown, brows furrowed. “What does it do? We don’t need worship to grow. I don’t think Papa ever understood it, either. He thinks… that maybe, they need us more than we need them.”

That couldn’t be it, could it? People like Papa didn’t think like that, but he held his small ceremonies and rituals anyway, even if his magic was his own and not some outer god’s despite the stain it would always carry. Her red-and-black eyes conveyed the question better than her mouth could right now, with the thousand words at the tip of her tongue.
Little Ira walked behind Nimh as the other girl spoke, sitting on the closed toilet seat. Without a word, little Ira began to gently, carefully, slowly, run her fingers through the tips of Nimh's hair. Little Ira used her fingers like a comb, one hand lifting the strands, the other running through them.

Quietly, she listened to everything Nimh needed to say. Little Ira would not interrupt, she was beginning to learn the thought process of her friend by now. Little Ira was one who thought about things, she thought and thought and continued to think until the thoughts exploded forth into words. Nimh, on the other hand, thought and then spoke, then thought again, then spoke again. If Little Ira spoke up when Nimh was not finished, she risked interrupting her friend. She would not interrupt her friend.

Nimh finished speaking, and little Ira began thinking. Thinking and brushing, brushing and thinking. Then, quietly, she spoke, "Maybe, he always broken. Maybe, I broke him. But, hopefully, you fixed him? I think, most assuredly, you caused- you, mhm, did no harm. Hopefully helped! You tried, with good intention. Better than me. As for worship. Worship is, strange. Unnecessary but unavoidable? I am- a bad explainer. My better half, she knows. So eloquently she could- ahm, explain."

Then, little Ira was quiet again, thinking-and-thinking-and-thinking until, with a quick catching of breath, little Ira had a thought. It was a terrible idea, most certainly, an idea her greater self would've shot down immediately, surely, but it was her idea. So, as little Ira was wont to do, she said exactly what was on her mind.

"I could take you. To my waking world. If- if you wanted. Keep you safe, I would. Safety I can promise. Speak with Her, you could. With Us. Maybe, dream again?"
Nimsy had undone the door lock and had raised her hand to push it, pondering alongside Ira not the greatness of She but the potential in prayer.


And instantly she flinched; the fear sweeping out to make way for sudden worry as the door slammed against the next stall, bounced back to close theirs, and then bumped open once more to the bathroom beyond. Her voice carried only a shadow of power produced by the terror induced by the potential of returning to that why and when and where She had been broken –

The crash of the door a second time snapped her back to the here and now. Not so strong as the anger, the fear had still washed from her in a wave without direction, and she turned to face the other girl in a flash of startled panic. Her tanned skin turned a shade darker as she realized the unnecessary force that She had pushed into her denial, and pulled her Self together once more. She pulled a long, deep breath that ended on a tuning Note, then looked again to Ira, apology in Her eyes.

“I’m— sorry.” She reached out as though to touch Ira, then drew her hand back, and held it against herself like a hot weapon that was wont to fire wildly if not checked by its mate. She averted her gaze from the other girl in shame. “No – thank you, Ira. I can’t- I’m not–”

How could she tell Ira that she trusted her and still could not? There were no words to express the fear that had exploded out of her unbidden, almost forgotten in the forgiveness just a moment before? She was not afraid of Ira, and she was afraid of Ira. She had no reason to doubt Ira, and yet she did doubt Ira.

She did not realize when she began to tremble, so much was the anger at her Self for letting that fear show when it was not meant for Ira. The moment of weakness left her shaken. Exhaustion swept through like her power was spent, even as she could feel it pulse through her core at which there was a contract. A contract of safety, secure, a very gentle lure to pull her into the light where she could choose who she would be.

“I’m sorry. Some day. I’ll find another way. I’m just...not ready now.” And her tone more than the words begged forgiveness, a small humility against the storm of proud power that pooled in her depths.
Little Ira flinched at the reaction of Nimh, prepared for another outburst, but it did not come. She watched as Nimh too, flinched, at her own words and reaction. Even Little Ira could see the emotions playing across Nimh's face and in the reactions of her body.

Nimh reached out, then pulled away, and little Ira reached out in turn. She touched Nimh's face, gently, softly, in that manner that She would touch Enki. The caress of a mother to her child. Little Ira nodded gently as her hand felt Nimh shake and she pulled the back of her fingers away. "It is ok." She said quietly, "I understand. I am, well, I am sorry. Sorry for what I did. Maybe someday, yes. Someday, I can make it up."

Then, still standing, little Ira walked over to the stall door and opened it, striding out confidently. Turning to face her friend, little Ira put her hands on her hips and declared, "This day ends not! Not like this! Behold- new wonders await us! Endure and explore and enjoy we shall~! Come come!" And, at that, little Ira strode out of the bathroom. Where she was going, she had no idea, but she knew she was going to find the most colorful-looking store and take Nimh directly inside.

Then, she saw it, and it was GLORIOUS. There were children going in and out, parents ushering in small ones and joy spread across every face. In they came with hands empty, out they came with large boxes resembling houses. Inside appeared to be filled with stuffed animals and, most importantly, there was a statue of an enormous bear outside the glass window.

Ira [EXPLITIVE]ing loved bears.

"NIMH! WE DESCEND FORTH!" Little Ira shouted and pointed, much to the strange and temporary glances of those around them. WIthout hesitation, she headed for the entrance.


Brian tapped his phone and the numbers stopped counting down. The targets had exited the bathroom, which meant that the timer stopped and he didn't have to send Cait in after them. That was ideal, since she'd gone off to be obtrusively interested and strike up very strange conversations with all the people who'd been involved in that little altercation in the food court. He'd tagged them in the camera system so she could find them, but Cait was much better at talking to random people.

She had a gift. She'd just start talking cheerfully at people and she was so cute about it that they'd listen, and they'd think she was crazy but they'd give up way more information than they thought they were while trying to extricate themselves from the conversation, and the only impression she'd leave on them was some weird goth chick, not a hint of ACF security breach anywhere.

Brian thought if she hadn't ended up in the Foundation, she'd probably have started a cult. He'd pitched the idea to Cait once and she'd said 'two cults, and they'd have opposing beliefs because that would be funny'. And that was Cait.

Which left him doing the impression of stoic friend-or-relative waits outside bathroom with bored expression, possibly trying to decide what they could possibly be doing in there. It wasn't too far from accurate, though the bored expression was cultivated rather than natural. The worry about what they could be doing in there was quite real, although he imagined most of the other people in similar situations were less concerned with divine machinations and holes in reality.

Nonetheless, the timer was stopped for now, and if the targets had left any reality holes in the bathroom behind them, Brian figured they would pass inspection along with everything else that passed inspection in public restrooms. ACF-1003 instantly targeted the Build-A-Bear Workshop, which was unsurprising, given what he knew of her. He wondered what would happen if she filled one with the goop she'd dug out of the Annihilation pit, but kept the thought to himself. The fact that he was even having it probably meant he was spending too much time with Cait.

Cait would have encouraged it. Cait would have tried it. Cait was, thankfully, busy. Brian lowered his phone and gave Nimsy a smile, because there was no way she wasn't going to notice him there. "Y'all doing all right?"

Y'all was not a word that leant well to a slightly faded Irish accent, but it was a useful enough conjunction that he kept doing it anyway.
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Anima breathed as Ira touched her, a sigh that nearly seemed to be relief. Someday, things would be better between Them – the greater Them, the They that existed beyond the divine childhood; SHE and She and She.

But today they were participants in mortality, a moment of free youth without the burdens of eternity. They were she and she, and she and she were going shopping. Build-a-Bear was already one of the stores she’d been hoping to hit, and she was happy to find that Ira agreed.

She should’ve been paying more attention, because if it’d been anyone but the Locusts, their expedition would’ve ended early or evolved into more of a scene.

Instead, Brian stood there. She didn’t relax, not really, but she didn’t take Ira back into the depths with her, either. She did reach out and take the other girl’s hand, and then stood her ground, because he’d asked a question, and she needed to convince him, even if she didn’t lie to him, because she didn’t need anybody worried about her today.

We’re going to Build-a-Bear,” Nimsy declared by way of answer, although the addition of her father’s smile added a Note of challenge. She was hoping to distract from the fact that maybe she hadn’t been doing alright, but she was better now – they both were. And they were going to go build bears to prove it.