It's Getting Colder(Warning!)

Ira could feel Cait.

SHE had sent her into the palace, of course SHE did! Useless old relic! Couldn't just let Ira do what she needed to do in peace! SHE said she didn't care, talked all the time about how much SHE didn't care! But when Ira needed HER to just butt out and stick HER head in the sand, SHE DIDN'T!

A wave of rage would drag its way across the palace, ripping through the floors like a steel cord being dragged under a vinyl floor. The first thread, even if unintentional, led the way to where Ira was. Up was the correct direction, up the stairs and to the highest room of the tallest tower! Like a Disney princess, a very angry, very scary Disney princess from a movie made in a dimension where they resurrected Walt's corpse with black magic to write more films.

SHE didn't understand anything! SHE never did! Ever since the first moment when SHE became THree, SHE never understood! That was the whole damnable reason, after all. Ira, pacing in her flaming bedroom, kicked over a bone table and watched it slam into a wall, shattering into a thousand pieces. SHE was just She with all the ambition and petulance taken out, oh but petulance wasn't Her position was it now?! Noooo! That was IRA's position! IRA was the one to be petulant! To be angry! To be uncontrollable and selfish, right?

Cait would have little difficulty finding Ira if she took the stairs. While the palace might've been hard to navigate in total darkness and complete silence, the reverberating screams of Ira as she tossed another piece of furniture paired well with the intense light of hundreds of blazing fires. It made everything quite simple to navigate. The doors to the bedroom, probably intricately carved bone, were probably beautiful once. Now, however, they were nothing more than shattered slabs barely holding shut the bedroom. If Cait pushed those doors out of the way, she'd find-

IRA screamed and threw another piece of furniture. She wasn't screaming at Cait, more at the remnants of a sentimental cabinet that had, at one point, held a basket of colorful apples. The apples were mashed now alongside the cabinet, though they really couldn't even be seen under the myriad of other smashed objects. IRA was not herself, she looked a little taller, a little older, and a lot angrier. It was a rage she had never shown in the foundation before.

No, that wasn't quite true. This rage had been brought out once before, though it had not held the same destructive qualities as this time. The last time was with Isaac, when they killed him. She had screamed like this, raged like this, then calmed down. She had calmed down before after screaming herself to sleep, the sleep that brought her back into the comforting embrace of the Goddess. There was no Goddess to comfort her now, no loving arms to receive and calm the storms, there was only


Even if Cait hadn't entered, IRA was screaming.


SHE had not been sure what SHE expected, or if SHE even cared to expect anything anymore. Sitting on the stairs, cutting HERSELF off from the feelings of the little one inside, SHE sighed deeply. The one called, something, sat down beside HER and asked a question SHE hadn't heard in thousands of years.

SHE almost laughed. Instead, SHE sat completely silent for a full, long minute. Then, quietly, SHE spoke. HER voice was strange now, far too much like a person and not like a dark and terrible eldritch being. It didn't hold any of that power or malice that it might've held before, it was simply human.

As human as one asking another if they were alright.

"Not well, no, not well at all. I haven't been well in a very, very long time. How are you?"


The Goddess was not heartless.

She was cruel, selfish, and terribly short-sighted. She was the type of person to cut off Her own nose to spite Her face, the type of Goddess to destroy the very existence of an 'end table' because She stubbed her toe. Certainly, the kind of person who should not have any sort of overwhelming or significant authority and power. It was precisely for that reason that Ira held the strength between the two of them.

But, She was not heartless. Gail's feelings- or, maybe the demon's projections of Gail's feelings- reached out and struck the Goddess just as powerfully as any real blow. The skittering, feeling, squirming little things tore the Goddess apart inside and out.

Of course, the Goddess selfishly wanted to cause as much harm as possible, but like this? And this- this was not even Her doing. Ira, in her pure love, was causing more damage than the Goddess could ever dream through violence.

Tears streamed down Her face, as real and unreal as reality could be between Gail and the Goddess, and She thrashed about away from the demon. She wanted no part of this, She didn't want to feel these things. These things, this pain, it was far more powerful than anything the Goddess could ever show Gail.

It was at that moment that the Goddess broke down. She knew that not only was the strength within Gail greater than Her own, but it had always been greater, and it would always be greater.

"G-get away from me! Don't show me this, I don't want to feel it! I don't deserve this pain! It's not my fault, you can't blame me! Get away! GET AWAY!"


There She was. That's right. They were so close, now. And She was writhing, because She might have been great at hitting people, but She didn't seem to be very good at hitting them where it hurt.

That tracked, of course, because She didn't understand people at all. The greater whole had split apart, and one of them had gone to learn about it - the littlest one, but the others? They were trapped here, here where everyone's feelings were offered up, transparent. No sifting through information to figure out what was really important: what is the least I can offer, what is the most I can gain?

It was too easy to assume that one's opponents simply felt the opposite of what you did, but that was rarely the case. It was usually a more oblique thing, or even something running in parallel - close, so close, never touching. Sometimes all that needed to be done was to blur the lines a little bit, nudge a few things until there was a point where they intersected.

And, of course, you had to be willing to do it.

She didn't enjoy watching the Goddess in pain, but she did it anyway, because that was how she was going to get her outcome. Each agony bound them together, each victory subverted willpower. It was a calculated reduction, taken on in tandem by her/self, chipping away at esteem and resolve until what was left was... something she could work with.

Do you truly want me gone?

You could learn.

I could teach you.

The feeling of a smile, one that seemed soft. Gentle, almost.

I still haven't forgotten your promise.

'When next our steps meet...'

The answer surprised him. Maybe it was that SHE sounded... human. Or human-ish, anyway. Human-adjacent. Or maybe it was just that SHE had admitted it. Or maybe it was that SHE had answered at all.

Or maybe it was just that SHE hadn't blasted him into oblivion for the impertinence. That would have been unsurprising. A very brief unsurprise, but unsurprising anyway. But he'd asked anyway, because he'd sort of suspected that no one else had. Or that no one else would.

He got that a lot. Not from the team - never from them. They were... well, he didn't know exactly how to describe it. Not quite friends, not quite family, something that was more than all those. A team. Maybe the simple word was the best, after all. But outside that? People assumed that he was a big guy and that big guys didn't need anyone to check in about how they were feeling. SHE wasn't that big on the outside, sure, but boy was SHE ever big on the inside.

So he figured, maybe, no one had really asked HER about how SHE was feeling about all of this. With the whole 'Goddess and Ira are fighting' thing going on, it couldn't have been easy on HER. It would have been like if Cait and Gail were trying to tear each other apart instead of building each other up. Hard on them, sure, but just as hard on anyone in the blast radius.

SHE'd asked about him, and Nic felt it would have been rude not to answer, so he shrugged. "I mean, I'm doing all right. Been keeping busy." Boy, had they ever. This was the sort of stuff the Locusts loved, though, and they were always best when they were in the thick of it. And, of course, Nic had the whole team there to support him.

Not like HER. SHE was kind of expected to be the support. Be immovable, impenetrable, invulnerable. Be strong.

And SHE was, sure. SHE could be all that. And SHE could still be doing unwell.

"You uh... you wanna talk about it?"

Cait followed the thread upwards - up and around, spinning like a spinning wheel, waiting for some poor idiot girl to prick her finger and fall into an enchanted sleep. Or maybe it was more of an Ariadne thing, weaving it all into a tapestry, beautiful and awful and about to get her turned into something by an angry goddess.

Yep, that was the one, right there. Cait grinned, making her way up and up and up in an unhurried sort of way, so that the little goddess would have time to be properly prepared for her arrival. Also, because Tuesday had very little legs, even if he sure did have a lot of them. He was probably glad to stretch them, though, so she let him find the thread and follow it, having a feeling that was probably something like what he was supposed to do, when he wasn't just a little guy any more. She walked along after him, looking around at the place. The darkness wasn't an issue any more, after all, and she might as well enjoy the trip.

As much as she could, anyway, with Ira's rage radiating downward. She approached the door, a smashed and battered thing, and took a breath.


Her hand reached down, scratching the little creature on the head, making sure he knew that it was okay with her if he wanted to hide out here rather than going in there with her, but that he was welcome to if he chose.

Cait usually liked a lot more preparation, when she was doing something big. Most of her spellwork was done in advance, things set up so that when she did something - the impressive part that everyone else thought was magic - that was just the result of everything else she'd done in advance, cascading all together. This... well, it wasn't exactly magic, but it was close enough.

And, then again, she had been preparing for a long time, hadn't she?

She pushed the doors open, not looking at the wreckage at all, because her eyes - all of them - were only on one thing, one person, not as little as she used to be. Maybe that little container couldn't hold all that rage. Maybe this form couldn't, either.

The rage wasn't directed at her, but the questioning was. It wasn't a question that needed an answer, because the little goddess already knew what Cait was doing here, already knew why she had come. Her feelings on the matter were completely open, and she didn't need to try to force them into incomplete words.

She had promised she would be there, and so she was. This was not little Ira, though, and they both knew it, and so Cait took two steps forward and knelt, spreading her hands in a motion that could have been an offer for a hug, or a gesture of supplication.


One breath, indrawn carefully, because there was only going to be one word that mattered, and it was entirely up to the goddess whether or not she was willing to accept it.

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IRA did not WANT to breathe. She did not want to calm down. She wanted to smash things! To take her rage out on any and every thing before her! A painting hanging on the wall, a set of cups lining a wall shelf, and the door to the balcony. She smashed them all!

And there was still Cait, saying her name. Her name. The name SHE gave her when she was born, a name SHE owned and passed on. The true name, the thing Ira had shared only once before. Now Cait knew it, now ALL the Locusts knew it! All because She could not shut her mouth, because She had to speak selfishly and passionately and-

Ira shouted in frustration as she grabbed her hair and pulled it hard. Squatting down, Ira tried to silence herself for the first time in nearly a day. She held her breath and growled furiously for a few seconds until, finally, she just breathed. There was rage in that breath, rage and sadness, but it was the first step.

Without turning to Cait, Ira seethed through her teeth, "What? What do you want?"


SHE did not respond immediately, it was her wont to wait and listen. SHE looked at him after he asked if SHE wanted to talk about it and just, took him in. Visually, HER eyes looked over his form and attempted, desperately attempted, to dedicate his face to memory.

But SHE wasn't sure SHE could. It wasn't that SHE was incapable or that it was beyond HER power. Nothing was beyond HER power. Rather, it was a question of whether or not the desire could spur the willpower into action. Sighing and turning HER eyes once more to the scorched Sphere before them. HER voice was quiet, human, too human, like a bird making perfect mimicry, "Busy is good. Without effort, without work, we sit in silence until madness onsets..."

Another pause, another minute of silence. When SHE spoke again, HER voice quivered in just the way a human's might before breaking into a great emotional outpouring. But there was no projection of emotions, no desires felt and received, just a voice. No more than a voice trying its best to talk about its feelings through the muddled and befuddling medium of 'just talking,' and HER voice said, "I think I would like to... If you would listen."

"I did something horrible. I made all of this, made both of Them, but I could not bear to look at any of it. Before Them, before any of it, there was Him. I miss Him terribly, all of this is mere rags to the beauty He and I had together. From the moment I experienced Him I knew I wanted Him. I knew exactly what I wanted, and I took it. I took Him. I loved Him... He loved me, I know He did, and He knew me better than I knew myself... But, I don't know if I ever knew Him...

“Have you ever been in love?"


The Goddess thrashed and railed against the feelings that assaulted Her, just as painful and terrible as the little writhing things. Really, the emotions were far worse. She was an emotional being, more so than any of Her other selves. This was an assault She simply wasn't prepared for.

Neither was She prepared for the words Gail sent Her way. The offer, the taunt, the words thrown back in Her face, She was prepared for none of it. However, there was the possibility that even if She had been prepared for it, She wouldn't have been able to do anything about it. But now, in Her current state, She was most vulnerable.

Wrapping Her arms around Her head to cover Herself, She whined, "What do you want?! Go away! Yes! Begone! Whatever it is you want, tell me! Speak it and go! I care not of this meeting, I care not for any of this! It's not my fault! It's NOT you hear me!"

It wasn't her fault.

It was all Her fault.
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Cait waited, with nearly infinite patience. It wasn't something people expected her to have, given her propensity to go into things at full tilt - but magic wasn't just made up of that part. It was made up of the slower parts, the parts in-between, the preparation, the waiting. Sometimes, doing something right meant being willing to sit there until the right time, the right moment.

The little goddess was angry - angry, sad, many things, many feelings. The name was a reminder of them, and Cait understood that - but it was not meant as a cruelty, nor was it even meant as a kindness. More than anything else, it was an offering.

A tribute.

Cait didn't say her Name because she wanted to take it away. There was no sense hiding that she knew it, for the little goddess must surely already know - or at least she would, as soon as she had calmed down and considered it. Instead, Cait lay it between them, an admission: yes, I know this. I know it is yours. It is not mine to keep, but yours to reclaim.

If the little goddess did not wish her to have it, she would never speak it again. That would be one path that things could take, here in this ruptured place. There was another - there were many others, because there were always many others, but Cait waited on the crossroads between the first and the other, patient as she must be.

If you want me to have it, I would safeguard it. I would safeguard you. It would still be yours, and I...

....I would be yours.

As She was meant to be.

When someone like HER asked you to listen, you shut yourself up and you sat yourself down and you listened. Nic was already sitting down, so he just had to manage not to say anything for a while, while HER story unfolded.

He hadn't really expected a love story, but he supposed there wasn't any reason why it shouldn't have been one. The question was one he'd been asked before, and he met it with the same broad-shouldered shrug he always offered.

"Me? No idea. Don't remember anything before four years ago." Amnestics gone wrong, or at least gone sideways. He'd been supposed to end up with all his usual memories intact, just nothing of the big Breach event. Instead he'd remembered the whole Breach and... nothing else.

That had been the start of his Foundation career, and it had pretty much continued in the same disastrous manner from there on out. Not that he really minded. "And after that it's kinda just been the team. And I guess there's love there, but not like you mean. Cait 'n' me are close, but... she's like my sister, you know?" Maybe SHE didn't know, actually. "It'd be weird. And we're good the way we are. I guess I just never really felt like that was something I needed to look for."

Part of that was having his memory all screwed up. How did you fall in love with someone when you had no idea what that was supposed to be like? Maybe that was part of why he liked Disney movies, but a lot of them were... oversimplified, to say the least.

He regarded the... the HER beside him, thinking back and trying to put the pieces together. "Uh... we are talking about Hades, right?"

They'd met once. It had been... memorable.

Oh, she'd heard that one before. That was standard parlance for any client - I didn't do it, it wasn't my fault, if I did it was justified. Apparently that was the same for criminal law as it was for corporate contracts, though her experience had always been with the latter - though at times they weren't that different. She vastly preferred to be the one writing the contracts to the one being in the trial, but sometimes a contract had to be defended.

She didn't argue with the Goddess about the matter, because arguing with one's client never went anywhere productive, and She was at least a prospective client. She had paid a retainer, in some sense, and so Gail was willing to listen and find out what She wanted.

She didn't have long, she didn't think. She was already healing to the point where she'd be conscious again soon, and if she hadn't gotten things to a satisfactory point she was going to have to gut herself and go in for a second round, and the demon always got tetchy when she did that.

So did Joshua, for that matter.

Well, there was at least time for one question. She'd have to see if she got an answer, or how much of one she got.

Why did you do it?
Ira's head snapped and looked at Cait. Her eyes, black within black, were wild with confusion. A look of disbelief and lack of understanding wrote itself across Ira's face. It was though, despite knowing why Cait was here, she could not fathom why Cait was here.

And she looked at Cait. Ira pulled at her hair until it tore free from her head. Violently, she slammed her hair-filled fists into her own head. Tears of pain and confusion streamed down her face as she repeated, over and over, 'no no no no no no no no-' because she could not understand. The emotions were held back, Ira kept them in so that Cait might not feel them. She knew Cait would accept them, but she could not accept that Cait would accept her.

And she looked at Cait. Her hands bleeding, she shouted, "NO! I- I am PETULANT! Evil! Terrible child!" Her body was bigger now, just a little, too big for the Foundation cottons she still wore, "You would be- be mine? How? Why? WHY?! I will hurt you! I will HURT you! Do you understand? Do you listen?!"

Ira stood up, throwing her torn hair on the ground, and strode over to Cait. She pointed her little fingers, she was nearly as tall as Cait now, and looked the woman in the eyes. Angry tears streamed down Ira's face. Cait did not understand, so Ira would make sure she would understand. "You want to know? To safeguard? To be as She was? I HATE Her! Do NOT want Her! Never! Feel me- Cait! CAIT! IS YOU CAIT?! ARE. YOU. CAIT?"

At once, Ira dumped every feeling in her heart upon Cait. A wave meant to overwhelm, to break, but just enough that Cait would leave. Ira was trying her hardest to push Cait away without hurting her, and it felt like




SHE sighed wistfully as Nic spoke. Wisps crawled free from between HER teeth and fluttered gently to the ground before perishing in a little burst of light and dust. Little physical reactions to the thoughts of the mad beast that listened to the demolitions expert. SHE smiled, it was gentle, joyful, pained, longing, and a thousand other feelings reflecting HER innermost thoughts.

But SHE was not Her or her, SHE did not project HER emotions or thoughts around for others to see. To the denizens, SHE was blind and deaf, an unknowable monstrosity that could not be understood or comprehended. To even attempt to understand HER was a herculean task undertaken only by the most devout and mentally strong of priests.

But to Nic, it was perhaps the closest anything in this dimension came to simple humanity.

"Hades, Hades... I do not know, maybe? I don't remember His name. Can you believe it? Time beyond time, eras without beginning and without end, and- I don't know if I ever knew His name. Haha."

It was a mirthless laugh, one that might be followed up by a good cry if there were any emotions left in HER to spill. SHE was hollow and, even as SHE spoke, SHE felt nothing. Sighing once more, another handful of wisps crawling forth, SHE continued, "Your team, they are your love, but it is not the same. I understand. I feel similarly to Them, though I abandoned Them. I was- I couldn't- I should- I should do something, shouldn't I? Say something?"

It was a question, genuinely asked, with no malice or demand behind it. As close as one ant touching another, but as far apart as the ruler of the world asking a child how to govern.


"It's MINE! It belongs to ME! The authority, the power, the love, the adoration- it's all MINE! She has no right to deny it to me! I deserve everything!"

The words were screamed at Gail, shouted with all the sounds of power and authority but none of the substance. Not like a child screaming at their parents, but more like a video recording of someone powerful shouting something meaningful. The words meant something, there had been power in them at one point, but not anymore.

Now, they were powerless.

But they were not meaningless.

A thought crept its way into the Goddess's mind, a desperate thought, a terrible thought. She knew better, of course She did, and yet-

"You could give it to me, you could help me take it back. It's mine, you know it's mine! Let me take you, let me take back what rightfully belongs to me!"
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Cait waited.

Of course it would hurt. Sometimes, hurt was how you knew you still cared about someone - when their pain was yours, when you wanted to do something right so much for them that it was a physical thing. Yes, she would hurt. She would rather hurt a thousand times than stare at a child, distant and uncaring, disappointed not at her but at the inconvenience, because there wasn't even enough caring to be disappointed by her any more. She knew how that one went, the barely-vocalized ugh, the turning away, walking away, leaving, the understood sentiment of clean yourself up, because I am not going to. She knew that coldness.

The opposite of love was not hate. It was not rage, it was not grief, it was not sadness. It was nothing. Unattached, unwavering, unloving - nothing.

And so, she waited. Waited long enough that the avalanche of emotions fell and fell and fell, one after another, until they finally unburied the little tip of the mountain that lay beneath them all, and the mountain whispered stay.


Are you Cait?


"My. Name. Is. Ceili Aisling Corbeau."

Spoken, aloud. A gift.

And, of course, unspoken: Please never call me that, I hate it, I hate it, I hate it, please never call me that. There were reasons she went by Cait. The origin of the name, for one, the way she associated it with that complete lack of caring. The fact that it had been picked out of a book and was completely Irish, and Cait didn't have any Irish in her at all, except on certain occasions when-

-ahem. Best not to go there right now.

But they all had their names and their Names - one to be shared, one to be safe. And sometimes - sometimes to be spoken, once-and-only-once, to fold someone into that circle of safety, knowing entirely that it could be the end of them, and it would change them forever.


A sigh escaped HER, with a blorp. Nic supposed it didn't actually make a sound like that, but if there was a sound for bits of Eldritch-bits popping out on someone's breath like the world's weirdest water vapor, it was definitely blorp. The way they disintegrated on the ground was more of a pop-fizzz, trailing off quietly.

Cait probably could have made a spell for that. Either to copy the weirdness or to give it sound effects, actually. She had those little gloop-balls that went wheeee, didn't she? Nic had no idea why they went wheeee, and he'd never really thought to ask. Or maybe he'd thought of it, and then decided there was no way he was going to. Hopefully she was doing okay. He glanced back over his shoulder, as if that would let him see through the tower of doom and check out what was going on, but he was just going to have to wait like the rest of them.

Maybe SHE knew, but it wasn't really the time to ask HER about that. Nic figured no one had asked HER about HER in a while, and you didn't just spoil that by asking about someone else before things wrapped up. So he stopped himself at just one glance, as a friend might do, and returned his attention to his own conversation.

Honestly Cait was probably fine. If anyone was in trouble, it was the lil' goddess. Maybe he ought to worry about her.

The question posed to him was an interesting one, and Nic felt like he was probably supposed to say something palliative like yes, of course you should talk to Them, that will make everything better, but it didn't always worked like that, did it?

"Well. I guess... that depends. On where Y'ALL are now. Sometimes... people grow apart. And I guess sometimes it's okay to let go - to say that was a part of my life once, but this is my life now." He hadn't really gone looking for his lost memories, after all. Oh, the Foundation could have dug up whatever information he'd wanted, probably given him entire reports on who he'd used to be, but that wasn't him now, and Nic didn't really want to be treated like the person he might have been if things had gone differently. So, somewhere out there, they had gone differently, and now they had their own thing going on, and maybe that wasn't what ANY of them had imagined, but that didn't make it any less real.

"YOU could... ask if they're okay. I guess. Or just... let them know YOU're there. If they want YOU to be. And then YOU live YOUR life. And YOU do YOUR thing. And YOU see what happens." He shrugged, leaning back on his hands.

"Who knows. Maybe YOU'll fall in love again."

Well, She was mad.

We're all mad here~ There wasn't really time for another half a cup of tea, though, but Gail listened to the diatribe anyway, picking out the reasons from the rationales, the injury from the personal.

At the end of it there came a request, but it was less an offer than a demand, looking for some sort of command performance. Gail wasn't against that sort of thing, but she preferred to be on the side of the command. She met the whining with vague amusement, the sort that didn't even bother to disguise itself as I'm laughing with you, not at you.

Petulance wasn't supposed to be Her thing, but somewhere along the way She had appropriated it. What else had She stolen, Gail wondered? Nothing too overt, no - just a little bit of encroachment, moving the metaphorical fence a little bit over the property line, just a little at a time - a small enough change that no one would realize where their boundaries were, or where they'd meant for them to be.

Consciousness beckoned, and this time she let it happen, though not without a parting shot:

Bitch, You need me more than I need You.

The offer was going to have to be better than that. A Hell of a lot better.

She twisted, moving from the meta to the metaphysical to just the physical, pulling herself out of the red goop and - once again - dripping on the floor, though this time it wasn't her spilling out. She coughed - more reddish gloop, lovely - but her lungs cleared and she waved a dismissive hand at Joshua, who was hovering while she supported herself on her knees with the other hand against the wall.

"Well. That's a rush."
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Ira breathed.

With the emotions expelled, dumped unceremoniously upon Cait and the Sphere itself, Ira had finally reached the point where she could respond to the emotions Cait was giving her. Finally, she could push herself in sync with the command. It was issued gently, more like a friend or a loved one helping someone close through a hard time. The gentle order of just 'breathe.'

And Ira breathed again.

She could have sucked back in those emotions. She could have held them tight til they burst and slammed them into the Sphere once again. It would have hurt, of course, but she could do it. She could pull that petulance back out and act like a rotten, evil, demonic child. The rage and tantrums were hers, weren't they?


Ira was not horrible. She was not 'petulant.' She was not an unknowable evil the Sphere had never seen before. Ira was a child. Even now, with her body a little bigger, her face a little more mature, and her clothes no longer fitting, she was still just a kid. A kid with power beyond the wildest imaginations of anything that had or will ever exist, but just a kid nonetheless.

She grabbed Cait's body and held her close, crying at the precipice of the mountain where there were no more emotions to be had. It was enough, it was over. In Ira's time of greatest need, someone had come to save her. For the one person who had nobody else other 'ME, myself, and I,' Ira had finally gained a friend. She wasn't going to toss Cait away.

"My name is Ilah."

And with that, the two were bound. Cait and Ira. Of course, with the mention of her own name came a similar unspoken desire, 'Don't call me Ilah. Don't ever do it, not ever.' Because there were a million and one levels of intricacy and baggage attached to that name, far too many to explain. But Cait would know that, just as Ira knew to call Cait 'Cait,' more than to call her that, to think of her like that. Because they were connected now. Even their thoughts would be one.

And Ira, finally, could breathe.


SHE listened while Nic spoke, and SHE looked at him. Her eyes, black within black, took in his whole form while his lips moved and sound slipped forth. He was handsome, there were desirable features granted to his body by the invisible lines of fate that formed his bloodline through a thousand generations. There was a thought, an inkling of a desire, and SHE reasoned, 'I could have him, if I wanted-' as SHE reached out a hand towards his hair.

And SHE stopped, pulling HER hand away. Had SHE heard nothing he said? Had SHE tuned out, slipped back into the old mind and old ways? Sighing once more with wisps, SHE grasped HER reaching hand and set it down on HER lap. Closing HER eyes, SHE nodded gently and reached out.

They were there, of course They were, neither death nor violence could keep Them from HER. SHE did not demand a response from Them, SHE neither requested anything either. It was simply a gentle reminder that SHE was here, if they needed HER. In tune with Ira's final breath, SHE breathed and smiled.

Looking back at Nic, SHE leaned forward and responded, "Thank you. You're right. I think I knew that, but I needed to hear it..." SHE paused for a moment, thinking, before continuing, "I would ask your name, if you wished to give it, and I would give you mine own to call... But, I fear I no longer have a name I remember. I had one I favored, long ago, but I gave it away..."

"What would you call me?"
SHE reached out HER hand and Nic sat back a little, warily. It wasn't like he could actually stop HER if she decided to crush his skull like an egg, but it was sort of an instinctive reaction. SHE drew back anyway, and maybe SHE hadn't been planning to scramble his brains anyway.

It'd be a little redundant, he thought, since they were already pretty scrambled. Not that this conversation wasn't doing some scrambling all of its own... SHE posed a question, and Nic held up his hands, defensively, a gesture of I am not touching that with a ten-foot tentacle, thank you very much.

"I let the others handle the name stuff." Cait and Agent Weber were good with Names. Nic, not as much. He supposed he didn't really remember his, either. He'd been told what it had been, sure, but there was a disconnect there.

"Anyway, I'm good with 'Hey YOU' if YOU are." It wasn't like SHE was going to make a mistake, after all. Not about that, anyway. About the relationship stuff, maybe, but Nic figured anyone could screw that up. He wasn't going to probe too much into that, especially since SHE seemed like SHE was doing better. Maybe she'd patch it up with HER ex, or maybe SHE wouldn't, or maybe it'd be something else or maybe it'd just be complicated. Sometimes that was the way it went, after all. Nic figured that was all right.

Sometimes, not everything needed to have a Name on it.
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SHE laughed. It wasn't a nice sound, but it wasn't necessarily a bad sound either. SHE laughed a little like a hyena, a little like a cackling beast, and a little like a thing that should not be named because it should not come out of HER mouth. People were obsessed with names, and of course, there was power in those things, but SHE had never really given it too much weight.

HER face relaxed, the laughter stopped, and a thought came about HER. SHE had never given names much weight, but names had weight. It was yet another thing SHE had not made, yet existed beyond HER nonetheless. Smirking, SHE stood up and remarked, "Hey you, hah, hey you! Ha! Imagine that, 'you.' Not terrible, not unknowable, just, 'you,' and just 'me.' Ha!" Looking out to the scorched landscape, SHE shouted loud enough for the whole Sphere to hear HER.


And, at that, SHE looked at the little human beside HER, "Hey you, come visit me sometime."

and SHE was gone.

Cait wrapped her arms around the little body - not as little as it had been, but still small, still very much needing to be held. It didn't need to be anything else, not for a little while - just a moment to hold onto, a little bit of safety, until the little goddess was ready to loosen the hold enough to speak once more.

She offered back her own name - not from someone else this time, but of her own choice. She hated it as much as Cait hated hers, and that amused her. Cait laughed softly, sharing the delight of compatriotism in detested names. Ira - Ira, then? - yes, of course. Ira, once more. Cait knew.

Cait knew all sorts of things.

She knew where the bodies were buried. Or, where they were hidden, anyway, tucked away in little familiar corpse-trees, but they weren't someone else's bodies any more - they were hers, or they would be, if she needed them to be. She didn't know how she felt about that. Sure, it was cool, but also she was quite attached to her current body, in at least some sort of animistic sense. Maybe she'd get used to it, but would she still be Cait? Too many questions, and too many answers.

She knew she could change. She could change all sorts of things, actually. Magic didn't work here, but it wasn't exactly magic, was it? It was a miracle. In, of course, the most religious sense of the word. Cait had never really been religious, but boy was she now, which she supposed she had to be, since she was now subject to a whole lot of religion. She could feel it out there in the rafters, waiting, like a choir getting ready for the next hymn. It could be there any time, but Ira was keeping it back a little, giving them time. Not too much, not all at once.

There was so much. So many little souls out there, and big souls, and some very big souls - although, really, it wasn't the size of the souls she was thinking about. There were some large things out there, weren't there?

Tuesday... Tuesday was going to be very large. She'd known that, but she could see it now, what he'd be like. There was no hurry on that, either. He'd be small enough to hold in her arms as long as she wanted, or when she wanted. This, she knew - because she wanted it, and Ira understood, and so it would be like that.

She wanted -

- Of course.

Her team was there - they had not always been there, because they were not changing reality, they were only changing the presentation of it, and so they were present, where she wanted them to be. Nic looked distracted, like he'd been in the middle of something - but of course he had, and she knew that, too, just like she'd known it was as finished as it was going to be for a little while, until he was ready. He would be, but it was better not to rush some things.

Brian looked like he'd expected it, which he had, but the green-light glow lingered in his eyes and in the center of the spider-legged port at the back of his neck, Ilbrahim still with him, because now he and the ship had a Wi-Fi connection, or some eldritch equivalent of it, because why wouldn't they? It made perfect sense.

Joshua looked - around, briefly, and then more curiously in the direction of the crushed bones, wondering what they would look like if he reassembled them into a skeleton. Cait knew, of course, but she wasn't going to spoil it for him. Besides, he'd be happier with something to keep him busy.

Gail looked... less drippy, certainly. That was an improvement. She was also smirking, which either was or wasn't, and Cait/Ira had yet to decide about That One. Ira would know, of course, about the whole contract proposition. Cait knew, so Ira knew. Sharing was important. It was best, Cait thought, to wait and see a little on that one, because if she was doing Her part, then she needed to make sure she was established before throwing in another complication. Not that Cait didn't love complications, but Ira didn't need that, not right now.

That, and if Cait had too many more complications right now, she might explode. Ira was holding back enough, but it was still a lot, and Cait knew the rest would trickle in when she was ready for it. For now, together, they just needed to


Cait stroked her fingers through Ira's hair, once again, as she had before.

"It'll be okay."

And so, it would be.
Ira breathed deeply as she allowed herself to feel and control the myriad of duties the goddess usually cared for. Typically, the goddess handled, well, everything, and Ira was left to her own devices. To create special life, to experience new worlds, and, more recently, to make friends. Ira hadn't made much progress in that last part, until recently, until today.

Today, Ira had someone she could say someone, without a shadow of a doubt, was her friend. Cait.

Cait had stepped into the role of She, whether She had fully understood that or not, it was done now. A million trillion voices cried out for guidance and, for the first time, were met with the terror of the little she. Ira was not one to be prayed to, not one to be beseeched, and this was well known. Even Ira's own mind she withheld from Cait, at least for now. So for today, both the denizens and Ira would quiet down and wait for their new goddess, their Cait, to step into Her role when She was ready. When that time came the denizens would have to adapt.

But there was much for Ira to adapt to as well. The goddess's mind had been formulated like a web, an ever-extending net of intricacies and desires, but it was a web Ira was well familiarized with. Ira knew how to pull a thread and follow a string to learn what the goddess wanted, to anticipate her needs and realize them before she ever had to ask. She had no idea how she was going to do that with Cait.

Cait's mind, at least to Ira, felt like a whirlwind. At the calmest of times, a twirling dress of a thousand shifting colors both known and unknown to human eyes. But at the next moment, it was a hurricane, whipping around back and forth from one thing to the next. A force of power, destruction, and beauty. Ira admired it, but she also feared it. Would she ever be able to anticipate Cait's needs? To call forth power Cait desires before the question even need be asked? Ira didn't want to disappoint-

Cait's hand stroked Ira's hair, 'breathe.' Ira had already let the worries begin to rebuild and Cait reassured her at the perfect time. They were friends, they were more than friends, they were like sisters now. Everything Ira had, Cait would have, She only needed to ask. Cait was not the goddess, Cait was different, Cait was better. Even now, the first request Cait presented to Ira was done so simply and kindly that Ira barely noticed it even after fulfilled.

And there they were, not always there but brought to where 'there' was, the Locusts. Ira felt- awkward, standing in front of them. Her Foundation clothes were too small now and she was too tall, when did she get so tall? Was this what growing up was like? Ira didn't want to do it, but something like this couldn't be undone, a consequence. SHE told Ira about consequences once, so very, very long ago, and Ira hadn't believed HER. But Ira's beliefs couldn't change the pillars of reality, that was something reserved for HER and HER alone.

And SHE believed in consequences.

So, awkward and tall and all 'girl just starting puberty,' Ira tried to smile at the Locusts. Gail, Nic, Joshua, Brian, Ira knew them all now. Ira knew them more than she ever thought she would because Cait knew them. Ira knew they wouldn't hate her, didn't hate her, but she felt awkward and a little ashamed all the same. Holding on arm with the other, Ira whispered,

"I'm sorry."


And she screamed.
she?! she she she she no-! That's not how it's said, give it back, give me back my title! It's mine!
You can't take it from me, you don't have the right to take it from me!
It wasn't given by you- insolent little brat! It's not yours to take!
I swear
I will return
I will do whatever I have to, make whatever deal necessary, the devil be damned.
That Devil be damned.
You will call me goddess again.
and sorry?
we do NOT apologize!
we... we we we NO! You monster! No!
we are still we! This changes nothing!
Do you hear me?!
I'm talking to you-!
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Well. That was certainly something.

She had told him, Brian had to admit. When they'd stepped into his cockpit - Ilbrahim's - she'd told him 'I'm about to have something.' He didn't think she'd known exactly what then, either, but she'd had - not an inkling, she'd have called it a chalkling, something sketchier than an inkling, because an inkling was a hint at something specific and a chalkling was a hint at something that might be changed up until it wasn't. Cait was a language unto herself, at times.

And now she was something else, unto herself. Or... Herself, but no, she wouldn't have wanted him to think of her like that. Cait didn't want the fancy title. Probably not at all, but certainly not from him. He still wasn't entirely sure what she'd done, but she'd let him know when she was ready. Right now she was still kneeling, holding not-so-little Ira, and Things Were Going To Be Okay.

There was a something, right there. Ilbrahim was interested, a presence in the back of his mind, or he was in the back of its - it didn't seem to matter much which. It was waiting, for whenever he got back, waiting to see what came next. Well, weren't they all?

He took a couple steps forward, crouching down near her - not too near, because he wasn't about to scare the little goddess, but near enough. Cait turned her head towards him; he could see the second set of eyes below the first, not called forward, but he could tell they were there. And the third, above, gods knew what she saw with those. That was new - both her sight, and his own. And Ilbrahim's, he supposed, which was much the same.

"What do you need?" He spoke softly, not an interruption, just a gentle inquiry, figuring out positioning in whatever was going on here. She didn't exactly laugh, but he felt the sensation of it anyway - like sunlight after rain, something the denizens here wouldn't understand at all, but he did, and it was just for him.

"My guardian angel." Her voice was teasing, but he knew her well enough to pick out the layers in it. A language unto herself. Guardian - defender, sentinel, - she was sticking with the Matrix theme, then - agent. As he was. As she was. Angel - divine attendant, but also messenger, courier.

Well. He supposed that worked well enough. Ilbrahim was all for it - they'd travel. Go places. Herald. He also knew that she wasn't teasing so much as asking, and she wasn't asking so much as hoping. It wasn't an order, it was more of a -prayer- and it whispered: Stay. Please, stay.

Because he knew, in seeing her, that she'd crossed over - that she'd made a choice, and it was one that she couldn't return from. She wasn't going to force him to stay - just like she'd never forced him to stay before, when they'd been together and then they... hadn't been. She wouldn't force him, but she would hope - and she'd be there, if he ever wanted to try again. Just like always.

"Sure. That works." He could almost feel the relief, the sunshine behind her smile - or maybe he could, things were weird here. But he knew she was happy, and maybe that was the main thing - and she knew he had her back, which was important, because:

"What did you do, Cai?"

Cai. Not Cait. Not Cai, either, not really - it wasn't just missing the t at the end.

Cei. From Ceili. It was a reminder: a reminder that Someone Else here had her Name.
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The Locusts seemed more interested in Cait, or their vessel outside, or the bone chippings from her tantrum- or really anything that was not Ira, and that comforted her. Cait had reached forth and held her as well, a comforting gesture Ira was wholly unfamiliar with from someone in Cait's position. It was not unwelcome though. Smiling, Ira enjoyed the embrace for a moment before gently slipping away.

The Locusts and Cait were speaking now. Ira already knew they would have much to talk about. In particular, Ira knew- because Cait knew- the one 'called' but not 'named' Gail was quite -displeased? No displeased was the wrong word, but Ira could not place the right term. Ira was not connected to Gail and she did not wear her emotions on her sleeve as Ira or a denizen might. Of course, she could have forced it out of Gail- tore free those emotions like succulent fruits and still beating hearts and- and?

These were not Ira's thoughts. Ira paused at the balcony, standing so much taller than she used to, and looked out to scorched Sphere. Those had not been Ira's thoughts, but they came to Ira nonetheless. The Goddess did not relinquish her hold so easily it seemed. She was a spider in every sense of the name. Her mind had been a web of deceptions, manipulations, and cruelty. Her creeping tendrils were still clogging up Ira's mind like old cobwebs needing to be cleared. Cait could help with that.

Smiling still, Ira whispered to the blazing sky,

"I will not... be like you."

And thought her thoughts no more.

Vessels were arriving now. Ira watched them step into the sky with thunderous sounds. Some were small, like the Ilbrahim, others entered in low atmosphere pointing forward their bows and their sterns could not be seen with the naked eye. The bishops of the Sphere and the bishops of a thousand other Spheres had come to see their new goddess.

With them, great vessels comprised of thousands of massive orb came alongside. These great orbs opened up like fleshy flowers, spewing forth gas and oxygen to help heal the Sphere. Ira remembered when THey made the Sphere, when THey made the creatures and denizens that live on it and all others. SHE said it had to be more than just snapping fingers and life erupted, SHE said everything had to be a continual process of live, death, and rebirth.

The cycle, SHE called it. THey had laid the groundwork for the Sphere, crafted its great heart that beat but twice a day. But the process of making it a home THey had given to the denizens. '
The tools,' SHE said, 'Are our gift from us. Whether they craft utopia or hell, it is in their hands.'

While Ira had broken the surface of the Sphere with the implementation of her order of death, the denizens could and would heal it. Her law had been rescinded. Out of love, the denizens would fix her world, and out of reverence they would dare not blame her for the destruction. Watching them begin the work as more and more bishop vessels arrived, Ira choked herself up and cried little tears of joy.
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"It's done."

The words were spoken softly, with a remarkable lack of screaming. Cait had stood up, calmly stepping in front of ACF-1003, a gentle hand nudging the anomaly back, behind - just as much a statement as the words were, really.

"Ah." This, too, bore a remarkable lack of screaming. No, the screaming was all internal, wasn't it? They'd had meetings about this sort of thing, with the understanding that sooner or later, Cait was going to end up binding some sort of powerful entity. She'd known that Gail would write the contract, when it was time, because Gail was damnably good at that sort of thing. She'd led seminars. Cait had been to most of them.

And yet, here they were. "Would you care to explain?" Gail's tone suggested that Cait would, in fact, care very much to explain. Her eyes were probing, sharp like scalpels.

"It's a fair trade agreement."

Gail could decode that one well enough. She restricted herself from another ah as it wasn't particularly helpful. She also restricted herself from screaming, although that was more difficult. Agreement was not the same as contract - no enforceable terms and conditions, no statutes of limitations, nothing that gave them an edge, or even a point. "This is not how you do this."

"This is not how you do this. This is how I do this."

Gail did not point out that her way was the way that worked - that she had managed to keep going for eight or so years at this point without having her soul devoured or her demon in charge of her. People had been doing it the other way for centuries, and there were a whole lot of stories about how that inevitably went. The Foundation had several of them - properly documented, even. Stories about people like Cait, who did what they thought was the right idea at the time, and then things changed, and there wasn't any codification of what happened then.

"The security council is not going to like this." That was a given. They'd dislike it in different ways, but they'd all have some issues with it. "I don't like this." Gail wasn't about to hide behind the security council, just because it was convenient. She'd deal with her own problem - said problem, right now, being her errantly-minded class-C.

"I know. That's why I waited until you were unavailable."

Unavailable, meaning half-dead and chasing after a dead Goddess, and with Joshua subverted to medical personnel duties, leaving Cait technically with command permissions - and, more importantly, leaving Gail unable to weigh in on what she was doing at the time. She had to have been waiting for a while - possibly even since before the whole Canaan experience, if she'd suspected that Gail and the Goddess would distract each other...

Gail frowned a little bit, though it wasn't necessarily in disappointment. "You're not usually that conniving, Cait." It was a compliment, sort of, in the manner of I'm still not happy at your actions but I am fairly impressed with your execution. Gail just had to hope that execution wasn't about to be the key word, there.

"I learned from some of the best." A trade, in compliments, just as backhanded as the first had been, in its own way. Gail had always excelled at do as I say, not as I do. Being aware of it didn't change the fact at all.

"I suppose ordering you to go back and explain yourself to the councilman wouldn't get us anywhere." He was of much the same mold, after all, with respect to do as I say, not as I do - and Gail wasn't the only one who Cait had learned to be conniving from. Or order her back and then keep her at L-9 until she figured herself out. A bit too go back to your location and think about what you've done, perhaps, but Gail wasn't above doing that if it got her where she needed to be.

"That would be unadvisable." Quietly, an interjection into what had up until now been a two-person conversation. "From a security perspective."

Cait's security, maybe, though... no, perhaps not. Brian wouldn't have gone that far from the Foundation so quickly - and he'd come through L-6, just like she had. Gail considered, internally, listening to the whispers-within, the way she knew that there was something different in Cait's voice - not something audible, something subaudible. Something that hadn't been there before, the trackings of a power that she now possessed, or was possessed by, depending on how you looked at it. Gail could have known, if there was a contract to review.

Of course there wasn't, so it was all guesswork. Guesswork, or extrapolation from experience, and her recent experiences had an awful lot to say about the way the dead goddess had emerged from the Dark Dimension just recently - the dead goddess, whose voice was now silent. That was another complication that Gail wasn't particularly pleased about. She'd had plans for that - plans that were now, at least, delayed.

"You can't go back." A statement, not a question.

"I mean, I could-"

"It would be inadvisable. Yes."

"Cait-" A sigh, feeling out the fresh wound of that one, the one they both knew was there. "You love L-9..." She always had, and she'd given it up, for what? Not power - it had never really been about power, not with Cait. For Ilah, Gail supposed - but where did that leave the rest of them?

"I... yeah. But... I love it here, too. It'll be okay."

"You can't enforce that back home." Gail was starting to get the feel for how this one worked, and where the boundaries were. Not as well as she would have if it were all written down, of course, but any information was valuable, somehow.

"Well, no. But you could-"

"No." An interruption, before that thought got too far along. "I will inform the Foundation of your actions." It wasn't enough - not with everything they'd shared between them. "And I will... attempt to work out an accord." A proper one, with terms and conditions and everything else that a contract ought to have. Gail's eyes flicked, just once, to the young godling lurking in Cait's shadow. "It will be up to you whether or not you accept."
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Ira smiled as Cait stepped before her and placed a hand upon her. If she had still been what she was before, whatever she had been back on their Earth, her face might've started hurting from how much she had started smiling already around Cait.

Her mind, every few seconds, wanted to lurch away. It wanted to throw itself down into anger and rage and self-pity. Ira had destroyed so much, caused untold levels of pain and suffering, and hurt her friends in ways she still didn't fully understand. But with every mental pitfall and every dark thought that slipped through, Ira could feel Cait's gentle hand guiding her mind back to better places.

So, as Ira watched and listened to the conversation unfold between Cait, Gail, and Brian, Ira did her best to physically aid Cait as well. She reached out as Cait tried to explain to Gail, grasping at her companion's hand to hold and to comfort. It was dawning on Ira, slowly but surely, the ramifications of what had happened.

Cait had done more than help Ira, more than just accepting power and stepping into the goddess's role, Cait had sacrificed almost everything. It would not bother Ira if she never returned to ACF, in fact the thought of returning hadn't even crossed her mind until just this moment. But the Foundation, that had been Cait's home. As well, the Locusts, they had been her family...

Were they still her family? Of course... But even without their connection, Ira could tell this made things complicated. It wasn't as though Ira couldn't understand 'complicated' either, even before everything, before ACF, Ira and the Goddess had a 'complicated' relationship with HER. Even thinking about HER, the beast that roamed and raged, made Ira's thoughts shiver. But, SHE was family.

So Ira stood still, grasping Cait's hand and trying to be supportive from her position behind Cait. Her eyes looked at Gail with curiosity and pleading, as it seemed the other woman was pushing Cait away. Not in a sense of 'I'm angry with you and now you will be punished' like the goddess would have done with Ira. More like, 'I didn't want change- or at least I didn't want it like this, and now I have to do more things I don't want to do.'

Maybe Gail was much more like Ira than she might've thought.

Then, finally, Gail's eyes flicked to Ira as she spoke her last words. Ira did not look away, her own eyes, black within black, stared straight back. A whisper escaped her, quiet enough it should've been inaudible but heard all the same by any who listened, "I will not be your worry."

Then, as if on queue, a figure emerged from the nearby balcony. The skin spider from before, the one who had chased the Locusts and threatened their friends, poked up just enough of his body to be visible as his children spoke around him.

"To speak of accords, Goddess Goddess, we bishops await you with earnest. Goddess Goddess, won't you speak to us?"

None of the hatred, anger, or negative emotions from before were present anymore in this beast. It projected only reverence and deference to its new object of worship, to Cait. More than just respectful and cowed, it seemed to genuinely buzz with excitement at the prospect of hearing from Cait.

Ira looked back at it and, gently, allowed a little more to flow toward Cait. Knowledge of the bishops, their roles, their numbers, and the pantheon of gods they worshipped. Because of course there were more gods than just the three. Gods of different Spheres with children and families and customs that were as numerous as the stars themselves.

They too were waiting, even though Al-Jalad did not mention them, and that was the skin spider's name that Cait would now know. Al-Jalad spoke not of any other deities in Cait's presence because they paled in comparison to her. They were gods, of course they were, but they were worthless compared to Cait. All their greatest feats and greatest powers were as dirty rags tossed before the feet of their new dark Goddess.

Quietly, Ira asked,
"Is it, too much?"

It wasn't a resolution, but Cait knew there wasn't going to be one. Not here, not now - not so soon, not so easily. Some things took time to heal, and this was... hopefully it was one of them, because the alternative was that it would never heal at all.

There was a scrabbling, from the balcony, and Brian stepped between it and the rest of them, interposed. Cait knew who it was, of course, and why they were here. She heard him speak, Al-Jalad, but she didn't turn towards him, not yet.

"You should go." Quietly, very quietly - not a command, not a request, merely a suggestion. It echoed with the word of the past - godkiller, godkiller, godkiller - because absent did not mean forgotten.

Agent Weber was watching the many-limbed figure on the balcony, arms folded, with that peculiar thoughtful look she tended to get when she was assembling pieces in her mind - usually for something violent. Of course she was, though. They were supposed to have been her army. Once she'd bound the Goddess, she would have bound Her followers just as a matter of course. Cait understood. And now... things were complicated.

She wasn't going to forget, either, but perhaps it would be a little easier if some people were, well, absent, so as not to serve as a reminder - and Agent Weber would definitely have been a reminder. She would have been reminding them herself, 'hey remember when I murdered your goddess? that was fun' - yeah, Cait could absolutely see that one coming.

It would have been really funny, actually. She cracked a smile, and Agent Weber caught it, returned a smirk of her own, because she was following the same train of thought, all the way off the rails.

"I'll make it as fair as I can, Cait." As offerings went, Cait was never going to get a better one, and she was, she assumed, about to receive a whole lot of offerings. She nodded her thanks, not trusting herself to say anything, because the thing that she would have had to say would be good-bye.

Her throat hurt. Nic moved in, somehow, pulling her into a hug, though she could already feel him starting to fade, and he knew it too. "I'll see you soon, Cait."

She nodded, because even goddesses had to believe in something - and then it was just her and Brian and Ira and the spiders, man - and a thousand other thoughts, a million beings, a billion dreams and thoughts and prayers.

Is it too much? Ira's soft voice, touched with concern.

Cait shivered, in the blooming darkness. "Yes." Yes, yes, so much yes, too much, a maelstrom, a hurricane, everything, everywhere, everyone. She laughed - not with madness, but with joy.

Joy, and maybe just a little bit of madness. It was Cait, after all - but it was Cait who'd always been doing a million little things, changing things, doing things differently, setting things up for later or for now or for, somehow, in the past in a way that changed everything that had been. Cait, who turned reality upside-down because she was bored; Cait, who thought that the laws of physics were more like speed limits than actual constraints; Cait, who did impossible things before breakfast because she got bored waiting for the toast to pop.

"It's too much, and I love it."
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