RP Who Are You, Really?

Pepper was sitting in her CU, a needle in one hand and a torn skirt in the other. She had seen her mother doing this at one point, and she knew that she should be able to do it off memory. It was hard, though, because all of the memories were very faded. The skirt was one of her favorites. She didn’t want to throw it away when it was just a little tear near the hem, but if Kallie saw it she might insist. Pepper flipped the skirt inside out, looking at the tear. It should be an easy repair.

She remembered that her mom would stitch things inside out. That was the reason the skirt was inside out. But she couldn’t remember what direction the needle actually went. She decided on sideways. She slipped the needle into the fabric, catching both sides and pushing it out the other. It slipped through like a knife through butter, the smooth fabric barely registering the needle. She pulled the thread until the knot hit the fabric and stopped it. Then, she moved a little ways away from the exit spot and pointed the needle back in. Carefully, so she didn’t stab herself, she pushed it back through, creating a small line that pinned the two pieces together.

Pepper smiled brightly at this and giggled a little. It was working! She was doing it! She was actually sewing the garment back together. She kicked her little feet from where she sat on the bed, her feet bouncing off the box spring. She kept going like this until the skirt had been completely stitched back together along the little seam she had created. It wasn’t perfect, in fact, it was far from it. The lines were small in some places and big in others, making the skirt look a little puckered in places. It wasn’t perfect, but Pepper was still very proud of herself. She hopped up from her bed and down her step stool. She rushed over to the little desk in the corner, where her stacks of books and VHS tapes nearly overflowed from the top shelves.

Even the shelf next to it was overflowing, with things stacked two deep. It was clear that Pepper loved to read and watch movies. There was also a boom box, with a haphazardly stacked pile of CDs next to it. Between the desk and the door was a table, with two adult-sized chairs. Pepper’s had a big dictionary sitting on it and a small step stool. She was still too small to get up on her own, something that frustrated her to no end. Some of the younger kids were starting to gain inches, and she was stuck at practically the same height as when she had first arrived. She had only grown about four inches, which wasn’t a lot.

Pepper placed the skirt on the desk and flipped open the case of sewing supplies she had been given. She replaced the needle and thread, making sure she stabbed the needle deep into the butterfly-shaped pin cushion. That was what her mother had always done with her needles. At least, before they had bought her a sewing machine. Then she started using that instead. Pepper happily hummed as she took the skirt and folded it back up. She walked it over to the dresser at the foot of her tall bed and tucked it into its proper drawer.

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It had taken a little bit of [EXPLETIVE]ing around to make this work. There were a handful of people in the children’s department that had little moral qualms about the methods that Dr. Note had developed over the last decade or so. Many of the same people had objected to his recent promotion following Dr. Klive’s retirement. He was sure at least some of them were just doing some ethical posturing to cover up the fact that he was working his way through the ranks despite, hell, even because of those same methods. But there were always some that had real, good intentions. One of them was 7823’s primary researcher, which meant he’d needed to make sure Kallie Reed was… distracted, for a little while, when he checked up on this one.

Something in the reports about her little dimension had caught his attention. While Dr. Hal F. Note had gotten his Class-C promotion for reports on his studies of anomalous psychology and its connection to volatile anomalous responses and subsequent ease of controlling recovery patterns and times, there would always be a place in his black, black heart for the occult and possibly Eldritch, or at least the extradimensional. And, well, while the reports weren’t all that clear on whether her ‘dark dimension’ (uninspired and bland, but that was the Foundation for you) was within or without reality as it was currently understood, either was definitely within his realm of interest.

Dr. Note was, in short, just a little curious. Plus, he was a year and a half overdue for a chat with this one. With Dr. Reed involved with a procedure for the foreseeable next half-hour, he might as well take advantage of the rare moment of free time he had for… personal research.

There was no objection from the security agents as the lanky giant stepped up to them, banjo across his back, hat low over his eyes. The door responded to his security badge exactly as it was meant to, and Dr. Hal F. Note stepped through into a familiarly busy anohuman containment unit, full of bits and bobs for entertainment and pleasure. 7823 wasn’t interacting with any of the bits or bobs, though. The mismatched eyes that swept the room found her by the dresser, putting clothes away.

"Gettin’ dressed for the day, Lizzy?" he said, by way of announcement. She was very obviously dressed, and each of the kids had a tight schedule, and her preferred name was Pepper, but none of that seemed to matter to the grinning man as the CU door closed her in with him.
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The little girl turned around fast, an innocent look on her face. She shook her head no before she registered what had actually been said to her. Then she rocked forward on her toes, her hands wrapped together behind her back. “No, sir! I was, uh, fixing something. I just put it away.”

Pepper stopped out from the corner by the dresser and toward her table. As she walked, her arms happily swung, and she seemed to almost skip a little. She stopped by the table and looked up at the man. Now that she could really see him, her mouth fell open a little at how tall the man was. He was almost twice her height, she thought. And he had funny eyes, funny because they were different colors. His face was… weird. The angles of it were weird. But people had weird faces all the time, surely. She didn’t flinch or bat an eye, but she did wrinkle her nose as she realized what he had called her.

She stepped onto her stepping stool and then climbed up into her seat, making soft noises like she was having trouble doing it. When she finally made it all the way up, she sighed and grinned. “My name isn’t Lizzy, sir, it’s Pepper. Pepper Krasniqi. I didn’t know I was having an appointment today. I thought it was free play time.”

She swung her little legs on the seat, and this time they hit nothing to impede her movement. The way she said her last name was rough, like she was still practicing getting the syllables right. It was like if you asked a small child to say “onomatopoeia” or “aluminum”. Sometimes their mouths just couldn’t do it. It was too complex a sound for them to make. That was the way Pepper said “Krasniqi”. She sat and waited, as though she expected him to take the seat across from her, as though she had done this dozens of times.

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She was a chipper one, and cute, too, with her blonde hair and green eyes and button nose. Hal actually liked to see chipperness in a kid like this, though he never told anyone. Sometimes kids like this, even this young, started to get sullen with time. Pepper had only been around for a year, but there was an energy to her that showed she wasn’t slowing down. That was a good sign. If she could maintain it, Hal had a good long while before he cracked her. More time for the breaking, less time for the cleaning up.

"Oh, we don’t have an appointment." He let his smile split his face, which he’d already caught her staring at. He tipped his hat back to let the fluorescents hit all the wrong angles. "I do got a couplea questions for ya, though."

Hal glanced at the chair across from the kid, then strode over like he was going to sit on it. Instead, he leaned back against the wall closest to it, flipping his banjo around so it didn’t get crushed between his frame and the Foundation gray paint job. He started to pick at the strings, feeling out what exactly he wanted as the backdrop for this little chat as he picked back up where he’d left off.

"Ya like it here, Lizzy? Kallie treatin’ ya alright?" He used the name she didn’t want again, although he didn’t say it like someone who hadn’t heard her. He didn’t want her getting the wrong idea, despite the benignity of the question.
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Pepper frowned at the continual use of the name “Lizzy”, but almost immediately brightened up at the mention of Kallie. She leaned forward onto the table, her arms spreading across it as though she were reaching for something. She splayed her hands off the table and smiled, a toothy little grin that brought even more light to her face.

“Dr. Kallie is great. I love her so much. She’s never poked me with big needles or gotten mad at me for not being able to open portals to other worlds and she’s never been strict about my schedule.” The word “schedule” came out more like “skedwul”, but Pepper was clearly trying to use her big words for this big man. She liked using bigger words for the adults who came to visit her. She laid her head on the table, looking up at the unnamed man with a sudden lopsided frown.

“You didn’t say what your name is. What’s your name? And what kind of questions are you gonna ask me? And why are you so tall?” Question after question came out of the small girl’s mouth, followed by another grin. The grin grew wider as Strings began to pluck away. Pepper loved music. She loved it as much as she loved movies, and she loved movies.

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Without lyrics, the song seemed harmless enough. Hal picked at it distractedly, having found it by accident, but sensing the rightness in its wrongness. It wouldn’t fit if he used the lyrics, but it fit while innocent little Pepper remained unaware.

Was she innocent? He looked into her big, green eyes, almost like he was looking for something worse there. She was the right age to still be innocent, to not completely understand when she did something wrong. To think that someone loved her – even if she was right, of course. He’d seen the way Kallie handled her. She really had to be innocent to see that at the Foundation.

So why did he have that itch on the back of his neck? The one that came up when he was being watched by something that wouldn’t let him notice?

"I’m Dr. Hal. Kallie and me, we’re good friends. She wanted a second opinion about a couple’a things, that’s all." He didn’t feel any danger in giving his name, despite the warning signs. It wasn’t Giving, after all, just a lending. And of course a little lie, but something told him that those big, innocent eyes wouldn’t be able to see through him. He toned back the smile a little, too, for the curious little bug. "I do wanna know more about yer portals, but just the one. But I wanna run a real quick test first, okay, Lizzy?"

If Kallie had been here, she’d obviously be suspicious about the friendly tone. Ah, but she wasn’t, and Pepper was innocent. Such a shame for the lamb.

"Won’t hurt at all. D’ya have a marker ready? I need a dark color – red or black or purple, don’t matter. But we need it for the test."
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Pepper’s grin never faded as Dr. Hal spoke. She nodded her head enthusiastically at his question. “I have a marker! Do you need paper too?”

The girl jumped up from her chair, thumping down on her step stool, then scampered off to her desk. She didn’t wait for him to answer if he needed a sheet of paper, and very carefully ripped one out of the notebook that sat on the desk. She searched the desk drawer until she found her box of markers, then pulled out a deep, dark red one. She grinned even wider, if it was possible, and set the pack on top of the desk. Then she ran back over to the table. She reached up and slapped both items on top of the table, then proceeded to squirm her way back into her seat.

“What kind of test are we doing, Dr. Hal?” She swung her legs, her hands together in her lap. Any test that included a marker had to be fun, right? She couldn’t imagine one that wasn’t.

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He distinctively didn’t answer her when she asked about the paper. She got him a piece anyway, and he trailed off with the music to accept it and the red marker. The paper was set aside, however. He had a pen in his pockets, so that he could use it to record results when he was done.

The marker was set down, too, for a second, as he started to rummage for a piece of chalk. He drew lightly on the table as she settled back in, a circle with symbols inside that started to move if she stared at them for too long. Then he set the chalk aside, and smiled, the friendlier shadow of his usual expression.

"A magic test." He waved his hands and wiggled his fingers, and used the same breathy, dramatic inflection some people used to say Santa Claus to kids that still believed in him. He then picked the marker back up and uncapped it. "Which hand d’ya write with? I’ll need to see the other arm. Hold it out with yer elbow in the middle of that circle."

The test was simple, relatively, and would have a pretty light show for the benefit of the little girl if it went the way it was supposed to. If it didn’t, it would be much more interesting, and so Hal was hoping it didn’t go right. Whatever the case, the intent was simple. He’d put a design on her arm in the red marker, and the color would change if there was extradimensional magic in her or clinging to her. The color would tell him what kind, although each test always yielded a unique hue. The more intense the color, the more deeply the magic sat in her. It wouldn’t – shouldn’t – do anything beyond that, just tell him what’d touched her, if anything.

You could rarely pass through a space like that without a little dirt clinging to your shoes, after all. If Pepper went through all the time, it’d give important insight that he could work off of going forward.
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The young girl did as she was told and extended her nondominant hand over the circle. She tilted her head to the side as he drew on her, long lines with some kind of strange symbols between them. She couldn’t recognize them. They didn’t exactly look like letters or numbers. They were maybe closest to letters, she decided, but they were so small and so dense that she couldn’t make any out. Finally, he made the last mark on her skin, and she watched. For a moment, nothing happened. Pepper almost looked up to ask if it was supposed to do something when a bright, intense yellow light began to radiate from the lines. It was blindingly bright.

And then Pepper began to feel funny. She closed her eyes, a sudden piercing radiating out from the back of her head. Or maybe just her mind? It was a strange and unpleasant feeling that the child had never felt before. “Dr. Hal, I don’t… I feel bad. My head hurts.”

Then she closed her eyes, and when they opened again, the green of her eyes was flecked with gold. Her expression became neutral, and her movements slowed. She withdrew her arm as the glowing died, and with those eyes, still so full of innocence but now also full of cool regard, she looked up at Hal. Her whole demeanor seemed to change, going from a hyperactive seven-year-old to something much calmer and quieter. It was abrupt, and not at all subtle.

She was no longer she. That much would be obvious from looking into her eyes. But the voice that came next definitely left no room for guesses as to what had changed.
“Who are you? What are you doing to her? You smell like me, but not me.”

The girl folded her hands in her lap, looking around the room, as though searching for something, before her now gold eyes with green flecks found his eyes again. Aside from her eyes, nothing else seemed to change. There was a curiosity in the way she looked around. Then she looked down at her own hand, and while listening for a response, began to flex her fingers, as though she had never done so before, and was fascinated by it.

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Yellow. What did yellow mean?

Dr. Note felt his pupils contract as the light blazed out of the little girl. That was a message in itself – nothing should have had that much intensity unless it was born elsewhere, or carrying something else inside it. Pastel colors, like the blazing yellow, because gold was much more orange – pastels tended to mean something either in the general realm of death and afterlife, because they were weak colors; deities, although richer light colors were more common; or the fey.

The pain in the little girl’s voice was ignored in favor of the itching question, because surely the Dark Dimension was not anywhere near the Faerie. He was absolutely certain of that, because Faerie was always recognizable by rules, and preferred to keep travelers and strangers than kill them. Hal had just opened his mouth to ask one of the many questions he had, probably the wrong question, when Pepper’s mouth opened as well, and she gave him the answer in her questions.

You smell like me, but not me.

Hal had never, ever touched the Fey, not for magic, anyway. There was no reason for him to carry any of their scent, physical or metaphysical. In fact, there was really only one thing he would carry the scent of, metaphysically.

And suddenly, Elizabeth Pepper Krasniqi had become infinitely more interesting.

Except, this wasn’t Pepper. The shift in body language, the change of eye color, were physical indications of full, if probably temporary, possession. Possession by something like the somethings that gave Hal power.

Possession by something Eldritch.

There wasn’t any doubt in his mind. Although Eldritch things usually manifested in brilliant almost-blacks of every hue, there was nothing else that would recognize what Hal was in relation to itself. Unless it was lying. Was it lying?

"Well ain’t that somethin’," Hal murmured, to the thing that wasn’t a child. Or was. The innocence was something that Pepper’s features hadn’t lost in the change. Either this was a good being, or a naive one. No – no, it wasn’t lying. He wondered if it even knew how to lie.

It asked who he was, and he actually laughed. Not quite the manic pitch; something softened, like he was worried about startling a very interesting bird. He was just glad he hadn’t been careless and accidentally given the name he’d lent to Pepper to this…something.

"You can call me Bridge, Lil’ One." His tone shifted, the accent sliding away. His voice became quieter, not quite with awe, but with a small degree of respect. Reflected by how he didn’t presume to ask the Something’s Name, because he hadn’t been prepared to hold onto it. It was also why he gave it Bridge instead of something more complex, like Strings. "I suppose, as it turns out, I was lookin’ for you, though I didn’t mean any trouble."

He watched as it tested out its hand – Pepper’s hand, that it was borrowing, like it had never used a hand before. If the Something had been a person, Hal likely would’ve started antagonizing it. For now, without his usual safeguards, he had to settle for questioning, and he settled in with his own hands resting on the table between them, gnarled and relaxed. His smile was constant, but he didn’t show the little thing his teeth, just in case it was closer to animal than person.

"Do you know where you are, Little One?"
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He misunderstood the question of who he was, but that was fine. Now he had two names by which to call the man.

She– he– looked up and thought for a minute about the question being asked of him. Did he know where he was? Yes, he did. He watched from behind her eyes as much as he could without damaging the girl’s mind. He had an innate knowledge of how his power worked, but everything else? He’d had to learn that from the group up. He learned their language by listening to Pepper’s voice. He learned about the cruelty of the people he now existed among. He had also learned that they could be good, which was the word Pepper used in her head. She had no word for the others but knew she did not like them, and therefore he did not like them. Pepper had no fear of the man in front of him, it seemed, although she had “passed out” for the time being. “Gone to sleep”? “Gone to sleep”.

The young being locked eyes with the doctor and nodded his– her– head. He took another moment before he replied.
“I am at a place known as The Foundation, and I am in the mind of Pepper Krasniqi. I… don’t know which dimension or plane of existence I am in. I just know I am no longer where I was. I do not want to go back.”

He said the last part with a sharpness that didn’t fit the face of the girl speaking it. He wanted it to be very clear he was there by choice. He didn’t want to be removed from Pepper, not even if he could be. He could feel the roots of his soul in hers. Right now they were still shallow, but it would still hurt her terribly for him to be removed. He didn’t want any harm to come to the girl, who he had quickly become in awe of her kindness and happiness. He wasn't sure why it affected him as it did, but something about the girl made him hurt in a way words couldn’t describe. He had a flash of HER again, the beautiful but terrifying thing. Pepper was as far removed from that as possible. Maybe… maybe it was because he had just been so alone for so long, without knowing who or what he was.

He shifted his focus from internal to external. The man before him was, to use Pepper’s words, ugly but okay. His posture seemed softer than it had been before. Something about him over her had changed the way he was acting, though he wasn’t sure why. Maybe that would be something to think about some other time. Bridge, he had called himself. Bridge he was then.

“Do you want to kill me, or befriend me? Not wanting trouble doesn’t mean you won’t hurt me. They hurt her all the time. This is a lesson I have been taught.”

As it stood, his power was wild and uncontrolled. He wasn’t sure he could fight off another like him if they decided to hurt them. Though, this man, he wasn’t exactly like he was. Bridge appeared more like he had been touched, not like he was. That alone gave him a bit more confidence.

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It was cognisant of its surroundings, which meant it could perceive at least through Pepper’s thoughts, if not through her senses. That was neat. Neat in the sense of being interesting, sure, but also in the sense that it simplified some matters. Sometimes these things happened and they had no idea what the Foundation was, or even who their host was.

Hal tended to take some liberties in gaslighting those ones. Partly for security, that’s what the paperwork had and would always say, but mostly because it was funny to watch a demon try to figure out where Zazamarandabo was. He could, technically, still tell the godling that this was the Zazamarandabo dimension, but that didn’t have as much appeal as it normally did.

"I’d just like to look. Talk for a while." That wasn’t an answer, but it’d be interesting to see if the Little One had noticed that. To compensate either way, he added, "I give you my word that no harm shall come to you, by my hand, before I leave this room."

That was full of verbal loopholes, but he was going with simple. He imbued the promise with power that itched and smelled a bit like tar and sulfur to things with a very good nose, and to those like him with a good ear, the faintest whisper under his voice, not countering it but well in harmony. He didn’t give his word lightly, but he wanted its trust, at least for now. And, without the safety nets for himself, he didn’t want to risk harming it anyway. Neither permanent damage to the godling, nor to his own body, were very high on his priority list.

Still. It would give anything looking or smelling or listening a hint at the power that tended to rest latent behind the crevasse smile and glimmering eyes, usually unnoticed unless he wanted it to be. Without the full smile, though, his face maintained the oddness without the usual intent menace. Even if he still sounded pretty amused, even through his sincerity.

"Does that satisfy you, Little one?"

The little He listened. But the man, Bridge, Dr. Hal, whatever he wanted to be called, had only promised not tohurt him, and had mentioned nothing of his… host, He supposed. He felt much more attached to Pepper than if she were simply a host. He had a silent adoration for the girl. Silent, because it had to be. She was young, and He didn’t want to risk breaking her. That was why He had built the wall in the first place, allowing just the smallest of tendrils to anchor himself to her. He had simply flipped the wall in order to take over.

But that didn’t matter right then. What mattered was this man and his tricky words. He shook her head and said softly,
“That promises very little, Dr. Hal. I am young, not naive. I do not want you or anyone else to hurt or kill either myself or Pepper. Swear that. No half-answers when you talk to -me-, or I will not speak with -you-. Do you understand me? Promise to me these things, and I will stay here for as long as I can. For you, and no one else.”

Unlike Bridge-Dr. Hal’s whisper, His voice carried multiple layers of singing, voices echoing over each other in a rising cadence as He got more and more worked up. The voices sang what He spoke, His voice always the loudest. There was no mistaking the scent and whisper of Bridge-Dr. Hal’s magic, but the little godling’s was different. The demands were scented with copper and summer wind, and they tasted like honey and wine. Maybe, if listened to closely, underneath the singing were the soft strings of a maybe-violin.

He clasped his hands together on the table in front of Him, looking for all intents and purposes like a little businesswoman. He might not have been old enough to take Bridge-Dr. Hal in a fight, but it was innate for Him to barter. Her legs swung in harmony underneath the table, a soft swaying that indicated His comfort in the situation. The magic hung in the air, waiting to snap into place should Bridge-Dr. Hal comply to His demands.

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Hal found his smile widening – not sharpening, just becoming bigger. It was a clever little bug, this Thing that lived in Pepper, and it gave her face that cute offended cast only seen on very small children who felt affronted. And with his magic there was a chorus, a thousand voices that were one voice, and the softest hum of Strings. Bridge closed his eyes to listen, then inclined his head, changing his tone to be in tune with the lad.

When his eyes opened, they held intent, and consent. The smile had not budged or altered, but Hal tipped his hat when he spoke next.

"I give you my word that I and mine will neither knowingly render harm to you or yours, so long as you and yours do the same, so long as this meetin’ shall last."

His magic was no longer tart, but sickly-sweet and slow like molasses as it flowed, with a bitter iron undertone like blood. His voice nearly lost the accent, but not completely. Underneath was the soft buzz of insect life, or perhaps the droning hum of ten thousand voices in united chant, or one voice through ten thousand mouths in perfect tandem.

"Such are the guestin’ laws, such are bindin’, to such we may be bound as Host and Guest."

Which was which, he did not say, because to dictate that was to dictate responsibility. But Guesting laws included much more than what was bound here – some degree of secrecy, some degree of honesty, such things that caused no harm and would allow none. Of course, some kinds and degrees were dependent on which code of law, but some things were included in all such codes, including the requests made by the golden godling.

The Words being said, he glimpsed up at the camera, and smiled at it. Then, in a quick and practiced motion, he bit the inside of his right hand, tearing open a faded scar through nerves long since immune to the pain by long overuse.

As the red wells produced life, Hal extended the hand with a cooler smile than before. The weight of sincerity was a rare sight in him, but his curiosity outweighed his need for control.

"I bind myself by Life and Name to my Word, if you do the same."

It wasn’t everything He had hoped to get out of it. The man seemed to know better than to give the little He everything He had asked for. Still, He accepted the much more time-constrained agreement and thought for a short moment. He looked down at Her hand, His gold eyes squinting. Then, in a very hesitant motion, the little god raised Her right hand to Her mouth and bit down on the fleshy area beside the thumb. He winced as pain spiked through Her. It wasn’t a big tear, but it was a tear nonetheless, and blood began to pour forth, a strange shade of red like that of the sphere that He had once traveled. He looked up and extended Her hand.

“I accept and bind myself by Life and Blood to my Word in return.”
Their hands met, and the magic snapped into place. He could feel the connection draw tight. The damp and slick feeling of bloody hands touching was muted beneath the binding.

The little god withdrew Her hand as soon as it was complete and stood up, hopping down off the chair and onto the step stool. He walked over to the desk, and from within one of its lower shelves, He pulled out a small first aid kit. While He worked on bandaging the small tear on Her hand, He looked back over His shoulder at the man at the table.

“You have until someone comes and interrupts us. I won’t risk being found out by someone else, not this early. I need… more time?”
He said it like it was a question and not a statement. As if He didn’t know how He knew it, but knew it to be true nonetheless. He looked down at Her hands as He finished securing the gauze with medical tape. A strange look passed over Her face before it melted back into that neutral smile.

Having finished, He packed the kit up and trotted back over to the table, climbing back into the chair. He listened the whole time for whatever the tall Bridge-Dr. Hal decided to start their conversation with.
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Hal was fascinated by the fact that a godling so willingly shared its blood. Of course, this wasn’t important to the matters at hand, given that Hal couldn’t use the blood right away, but he had his ways. When the magic settled in that refreshing douse that sat in the air like Alabaman humidity, Hal sat back and examined his hand. The godling wearing Pepper toddled off to patch himself up.

He resolved the issue of the mixed blood by muttering a word, expending his own and casting a simple preservation on the godling’s blood. It wouldn’t do the kid any harm, although maybe it’d teach him to be more careful about where he left the blood. Aside from bindings like this, he made sure his blood was burned or cleaned up by whatever he was casting. Usually just consumed. Though, technically by the paperwork, his blood belonged to ACF while still being his to do with what he would, so nothing else could actually do anything with it except maybe call him if needed.

Anyway, he pulled a tissue out of something in his pocket and wiped up what was left of the godling’s blood, then wrapped that in a second tissue.

"Time’s a construct compiled of collective active perceptions," he said as he did all that, not necessarily as a distraction – the kid was distracted enough – but also as leading answer.

He added a grin to it when whatever was using turned back around, and started picking at the banjo again. "You really been in there the whole time, kiddo? And nobody’s noticed you until now?"

The godling tilted Her head to the side. Then He nodded it in a solemn answer to the man’s question.
“I have been in Her since before She arrived here. It wasn’t long after She took me with Her that We came to be here at the Foundation.”
He made sure the wrappings on Her hand were tight and secure before turning His full attention to Bridge-Dr. Hal. He examined the man in a not-at-all-subtle way.

He started at the man’s face. He was a far cry from what these people considered attractive, but the Goidling actually felt more comfortable with Him because of this. He was used to monstrous beings– He was? That thought made Him pause for a moment in His examination. He would have to think on that thought after the conversation had ended. His eyes flicked down to the clothes the man had on. Underneath the white lab coat that all of the researchers here wore, the man had on a flashy and busy button-up shirt and a pair of, what were they called? Cargo pants? He thought that was the right word.

All in all, he looked, what was the word? They had just learned it earlier this week. Eccentric? That was the word! Bridge-Dr. Hal was eccentric. He had the air of someone who had probably seen lots of things like Him, whatever He was. The fact that He didn’t know what He was bothered Him. It had since the beginning, so He looked up at the man and in a soft voice, He asked,
“Bridge… Can you tell me what I am? I don’t know. I only know that I am something more, that We are something more. I want to know what I am.”
Bridge nodded as the Godling replied to his first question, the slow nod that translated to that’s what I expected. He wondered if Kallie knew about this – but Kallie cared too much about the kid to leave him out of it, in case the passenger wasn’t as benign as it wanted him to think it was. He didn’t make assumptions like that.

Its question tugged a smile free, though. Pulled it from someplace deep, someplace that cast a small shadow over his expression; not dark, just shaded. The kind of question whose answer allowed a shift in the Notes of his voice, as if that, too, was being pulled from Elsewhere.

Eldritch is the word we use. The unknown and unknowable. The truest anomaly.” Bridge took a deep breath and leaned back in the seat, his fingers brushing the strings to tease out a little hymn. “But that ain’t an answer, is it? No. The Eldritch is to knowledge what absolute dark is to human sight, hiding things that only the desperate or the mad want to know. They are to sanity what a black hole is to matter, eatin’ it up and spittin’ it back out wrong. They are to tiny, insignificant people what tiny, insignificant ants are to the rest of us.”

Not like himself. He’d never quite been right, and he’d always had a safeguard. He was fairly sure he wasn’t mad, so was Kallie, and he trusted her opinion over his own. An [EXPLETIVE]hole, sure. Not crazy. Just sane or sober enough to give a detailed explanation of the inexplicable.

“More important than what y’all do to us – most of us, anywho – is what y’all are, and can do otherwise. A good comparison I heard once is that y’all’re like the sun, or any star. Sometimes y’all’re scorching and merciless, leavin’ deserts in your wake. Up close you’re unsurvivable. Sometimes y’all pull away, visible only in what’s left behind, the way the sun’s seen in the moon. You blow a gasket? All reality around you blows with ya.”

He held up his hand and made an explosion gesture, with a low sound, puffed out cheeks and all. Then he relaxed again, and closed his eyes with a smile more real and gentler than anything he’d said.

“But the sun’s also what keeps grass green, makes flowers bloom, keeps our little orb spinnin’ round and round. The sun on a spring day, or on a lazy fall afternoon, is a source of comfort. Cuts out the chill of the winter, gives everythin’ this golden glow. Sweet’n heavy, soft as a harp.”

The eyes opened, with the spark of Curiosity lingering behind the half-lidded gaze.

“Some people stamp out ants, some children burn ‘em for sport. But there’s some that’ll feed and care for ‘em, in the right circumstances, for the right ants. You just shouldn’t forget how fragile ants can be.”