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[Title] Puppeteers
[Fandom] X-Men / Homestuck
[Rating] PG; implications that Dave's brother might not have been the best person to raise a child
[Notes/Summary] Dave weighs up the pros and cons of home vs. Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters.

So Dave can’t tell if he’s missing home or not.

Like obviously he’s not. Like his room here is twice the size of their entire apartment, and there is like a ton of food. Seriously, dude, are they trying to fatten the kids up? There’s a ton of food and it’s where most people would expect to find it, like, the dining room, rather than part of a stockpile under your bed. Also, the dining hall’s like twenty foot long and covered with paintings of dead people and Dave is not someone who goes apeshit over anything sword-and-sorcery but it gives him a bunch of opportunities to dig into the more-money-more-problems side of the craft of rap. He is literally living in a fucking mansion now, and you can talk all you want about how there’s some things money can’t buy but he’s pretty sure Professor Charles Xavier could buy all of ‘em.


At the same time, it is kind of a pain in the ass to be surrounded by people who are ignorant not only of the finer points of irony but, in some cases, the whole concept, not to mention sarcasm, parody and general fuckery. Dave’ll say something and his bro would’ve known it was a joke only taken it as truth in order to take it up a level and Dave would know he knew and he would know Dave knew he knew and… okay, so it’s restful not having to do these mental acrobatics every conversation, but Dave’s spent a lifetime training to be in peak ironic condition and it’s difficult not to massively overshoot here. People like Jean and Scott will just give him a look like he’s being a dick, and Peter will act like he gets the joke without appreciating the layers that are going on, and Kurt and Jubilee won’t even think there’s a joke at all. Which, not that that’s a problem. It’s not like Dave isn’t used to being friends with people who are way more naïve and guileless. It’s just a whole different class of housemate, is all.

Moving on. Dave would like to go on the record as saying there’s nothing wrong with puppets. Puppets are the shit. He’s always been A-OK with his bro’s ironic use of puppets, smuppets, mannequins, and other adorably vacant-eyed freaks of nature. But he doesn’t actually miss being surrounded by ‘em, you know? Like… he doesn’t care either way. But it’s cool knowing he can go back to his own room and nothing’ll be watching him. Not that he ever thought it was, of course. But it’s good to know you’re never gonna draw back the curtains and find Kermit the Frog hanging from the window catch.

He didn’t even bother trying to explain the puppet thing to anyone here. Either they’d be all, aww, so cute, I love puppets! (see above complete deficiency in irony) or they’d be all that sounds hella creepy dude and there’s only so many times you can have the same conversation. Even if you make like it really was creepy and you’re all traumatised and shit, like ironically, it still gets kind of old.

And if he starts shooting his mouth off about that, he might end up spilling a lot of other stuff. He’s a wordsmith and sometimes he gets carried away in the heat of the moment with sick rhymes, you know? Like Bro’s powers. Bro said his flash-stepping skills were his business and he didn’t want the Professor taking an interest. Dave’s cool with that and actually he reckons most people here are. They talk a lot about keeping stuff secret, and whether mutants should come right out with it or not, or who they told or when. Dave shrugs and keeps his face blank behind his shades and doesn’t say anything like Bro always knew I could mess with time and it was just part of us, you know, along with the puppets and the sick rhymes. Actually Bro had kind of made him think, for a long time, that he was going crazy, but that was just to mess with him, and, like he’d said, Dave could’ve gone back in time and undone it all if he wanted, right? Dave chose not to point out that isn’t how his powers work. Bro probably knows exactly how they work, because Bro.

That’s not the stuff that he’s basically trying to forget is a thing.

So there are at least two telepaths in this place and so if you freak the fuck out about something or you have a weird-ass dream they’re going to notice. The night he arrived, he had one of those dreams where Lil Cal is alive and talking to him, which are unsettling at the best of times and not what you want when you’re sleeping somewhere new and have no idea where the exits and blind spots are. Still, no big deal. But Jean kept staring at him, and fessed up eventually she caught that dream with her mind powers and woke up in as cold a sweat as he did. He said, Yeah, but that must be par for the course with you and he was going to go into a routine about wet dreams but Jean said, It is, but… normally I know it’s other people’s dreams. It doesn’t usually feel like there’s something real in them that’s looking back at me.

And then there’s what the Professor says to him, one sunny afternoon: It was just you and your brother in that apartment, wasn’t it?

Dave nods and readies himself for a spiel about the puppets or unsuitable environment or the swords in the fridge, and he’s got some burns about how people who live in glass mansions shouldn’t throw stones or whatever, but Xavier only says to him, Was there someone else there the day I came?

Dave shakes his head, and he shouldn’t have, he should’ve gone with, Yeah, my mom, we keep her cryogenically frozen in the bathtub, pushing the frontiers of science behind the shower curtain or something but it caught him off guard because… there was no one else in the apartment, there never was, and Xavier’s a telepath, so why the hell would he think there was? Like unless there’s a hobo living in the walls, and to be honest Dave wouldn’t put it past his bro to install a hobo in the walls, but…

When Xavier said that he kind of felt like it was confirming something he already knew, only he doesn’t know what it was. Xavier says he just felt a presence. It seemed like it was… And, at last, like it would have been difficult to live with.

Dave shrugged and afterwards he wishes he could use his powers to go back and have said, Nah, that’s just the toilet backed up again, something that’d turn this into a joke. Like he said, he doesn’t do so well when people just state exactly what’s going on.

[Title] Let Yourself Be
[Fandom] LIFE / Saw
[Rating] R for mention of death traps and gore
[Notes/Summary] Miki Hatori never breaks. Until now, maybe. (Slight Ayumu/Hatori hints)

The world shifts and melts and roars around her and can't remember how she got here, wherever here is. She’s forgotten something, something really important. Horror sinks its teeth in her chest and it hurts so much she forgets what she’s forgotten. Her thoughts tangle around each other and she can't put names to them.

This time she opens her eyes. She has eyes to open, and she is in a room. Lying down. Can't feel her left leg –

it hurt more than she thought anything could, she hadn't realised she was capable of feeling something like this, and it wasn't over and she was going to have to keep hurting herself and she was screaming and the screams turned into vomit as the smell of the blood hit her, as if something that wasn't her was crawling out of her mouth –

Doesn't want to think about her left leg.

“It's okay. It's okay, Miki, you're safe, it's okay –”

She remembers, with a sick thud to the chest, that the thing she'd forgotten was Ayumu, and she tries to look round, tries to sit up, but all of her is heavy as if she is buried under sand. But Ayumu is there, next to her, holding her hand, “Don't try to sit up. It's okay. It's okay.”

Ayumu is grey-white and her eyes are swollen and –

Ayumu on a grainy video, twisting and trying to wrench herself free, Ayumu screaming as someone runs the flat of scissor blades across her face and it feels as though all the air in this filthy room has just vanished –

She swallows, and her throat is so dry, but she says, “All right,” and then, “Are you all right?”

“I'm –” Ayumu gulps, carries on, “I'm fine –” and this is an obvious lie but Miki lets it slide. "He didn't... do anything.” She takes a deep breath as if she's just come up for air. "He knew about... about what happened before. He was... taking photos, and talking about what... what would happen if.. But not... I mean, he didn't..."

She clenches her fists. "I'm all right." Their eyes meet, Ayumu's shining with that determination that always makes Miki glad to be alive to see it. She'd like to stay with them thinking about how Ayumu has survived, how furious they should be about what happened to Ayumu. She doesn't -

"How are you feeling?" Ayumu says, softly.

Miki tries to smile, but her mouth is heavy too. "Funny. Tired."

"They're giving you lots of medicine. They said you might be a little woozy." Ayumu should be leaping into are you all right but she isn't, she is watching Miki's face. Perhaps she can tell what expression it's wearing. Miki doesn't think she knows.

At last, Ayumu says, "The police found the... the place where he took you. They found the... tapes. And..." She swallows. "And the saw. So, I mean... they know what happened.”

It’s like she’s been hit. Tears sudden sharp in her eyes. She tries to set her face into impassivity but the tears are softening it. Never, never let them see that they hurt you.

Whoever put her here, whoever did that to Ayumu, wants her to be frightened, wants her to panic. She will not. She will not. Makes herself breathe out. Presses the play button on the tape recorder again. Makes herself listen carefully. Someone is likely watching her. They want to see her fear. She will make them wait for it.

There are tears, warm in her eyes, brimming over, tickling as they run down her face. Long lines, as if she’s in a film, crying prettily on cue. She stares at the ceiling and tries to pretend that it isn’t happening.

The video said she had – that Ayumu had – one hour. The clock shows she’s twenty minutes down already. She picks up the hacksaw, her hands clammy. Her fingers will smell of rust. She stretches out the leg with the chain round it. She finds her mouth curving into a smile. This is so horrific it is stupid. Well, that’s all right. She can cope with stupid, as well.

Her hand is being held in both of Ayumu’s. She turns to look at their palms over and under each other. Ayumu’s wrist is bruised and red-lined and where the bracelet should be there is nothing. She is surprised at how angry she is at that. That was hers. She gave it to Ayumu and Ayumu has worn it for years and her hand has gone to it every time she has been frightened. How dare they think they can rip it off like it’s nothing?

If you’re going to be angry, you have to be its master. It should make you do what needs to be done, not what you’ll regret.

She is breathing in and out, slowly, and she’s taking off her belt. She is watching herself do this and she is watching herself slide it round her ankle. She is going to tighten it. And she can't move, because once she moves she’ll have to go through with this. Twenty-five minutes gone. She doesn’t remember the last time she was this scared, so she grits her teeth until she is furious instead.

“Yuki’s here,” Ayumu says. “He went to get us something to eat. Your dad said it was all right for us to stay with you.” She is trying to keep her voice still. Miki wants to sit up, wrap her arms around her, hold her and then tell her the right things, whatever they are. But she thinks of sitting up and it’s like her body is lost in a fog and – and there are no right things to say, or if there are, she has lost them.

“It’s all right,” Ayumu says. “It’s all right to cry, or be scared.”

It is her and not her who suddenly starts moving, tightens the belt until her toes go numb. It is her and not her who watches the skin whiten and who’s pulling off her cardigan and her blouse as she does. It is her and not her who picks up the chunk of brick and it is not her who smashes it down on her ankle again and again and again because she starts to scream, at that point, she starts to scream stop. Stop.

It’s her and not her who whispers, “If I do, then I don’t think I’ll stop.”

“Then don’t,” Ayumu says. “You can cry and cry for ever and I’ll still be here and still be your friend. And… I cried on you so many times. It’s like you’re giving me back all my tears. I’m owed them.”

She leans over, her hair brushing Miki’s face, the warmth of her skin close. “You can be scared and still be you,” she says.

It’s easier to cry when they’re not looking properly at each other. Miki knows that she shouldn’t. It feels like every tear is part of her self pouring out of her but now she cannot stop it. And Ayumu kisses her forehead and says, over and over, “You will still be you,” and because it’s her, Miki almost believes it.

[Title] Everyday Weird
[Fandom] Animorphs
[Rating] PG
[Notes/Summary] Post-series, Jake tries to process the new normal.

Jake figures that considering what his life was like from thirteen onwards, nothing should feel strange now, but life keeps unfolding around him and sometimes it’s too weird to even start to get your head round. This from someone who has turned into half the world’s species, done time in at least two parallel universes and a nightmare future, been possessed by a mind-controlling alien slug, and travelled into space regularly like other people fare-dodge on the bus. But those things became the new normal, and you adjusted your mental space to live around them.

Now, things like how the sun shines and sometimes it’s so bright you feel happy for no reason, or like how groups of kids his own age stand around chatting and laughing and sharing headphones as if nothing is terrible, or how he can find himself smiling at a bad joke, or how potato chips or ice cream still taste good. All these things are truths and yet so is the fact that Tom died and Rachel died and he was the one who made it happen, and that he killed thousands of beings in retaliation, in an instant. These two sets of items shouldn’t be able to co-exist. Except that of course they should, because dying is so easy. But it seems insane that you should be able to adjust to it. That you should be able to accept that your brother is dead like you accept that the bus is running late. That everything becomes part of the past. And yet when he can’t accept it, when the breath is knocked out of him with the pain, and he hunches down in his seat and tries only to keep existing heartbeat by heartbeat, then it seems incredible that was ever able to wrap his mind around it at all.

[Title] Meeting of Minds
[Fandom] Malory Towers / Battle Royale
[Rating] PG
[Notes/Summary] Shinji and Alicia elect to form an alliance, because why not? Shinji/Alicia references.

The thread-and-tin-can doesn’t rattle, so Shinji figures he’s entitled to twitch when someone flings a scatter of stones into the bushes a short distance away from him. He’s put his hand on his gun and he’s thinking, hey, so is this a shoot-out, am I really going to be fighting for my life here - but before he can actually start aiming it at anyone, a familiar voice calls, “You might as well show yourself, this really isn’t the time for hide and seek.”

Shinji feels himself smiling like he’s actually glad of her company. He doesn’t stand up, though. He’s not an idiot. “Seems to me it’s exactly the time for hide and seek. I mean, that’s kind of what this game is.”

Alicia laughs. “Mimura. I might have guessed you’d be the one setting tripwires.” Her voice is moving a little closer and he catches a glimpse of her keeping back behind the tree.

“I might’ve guessed you’d be the one dodging them. What’s with the stone-throwing? Beating the bushes for game?”

“I’m enjoying a pleasant afternoon walk,” Alicia says, “and I wanted to advertise to any idiots around that I don’t wish to be disturbed.”

“Nice to know you don’t consider me an idiot,” he says, and she snorts: “Oh, Mimura, it’s nice to know that even a fight to the death doesn’t change you.”

“Of course. Take more than that to faze me. What about you?” He really doesn’t want to have a shootout, not this early on. Save the bullets. Besides, it’d suck to be gunned down by someone who’s still got your banned copy of 1984 and has been your make-out buddy on… more occasions than you’d expect considering Alicia constantly calls him overrated and self-important.

“I don’t feel particularly changed,” Alicia says. “But then, I haven’t met anyone I particularly feel like having a fight to the death with.”

“Yeah? You packing a decent weapon? Other than that charming sarcastic streak of yours?”

“I’m doing all right,” she says. “And you? Gun, knife, cricket bat, or just your enormous ego?”

“Reckon I’m doing all right too.” His hand still on the gun. His palm is almost dry. He doesn’t know about her, but for him the usual chat is like pretending that the death game part of the situation isn’t happening. Like this is just a nature and woodcraft trip or something. And that’s dangerous. You start wishing yourself out, you stop dealing with the situation as it actually is.

“You know,” he says, “I’m not looking to start anything. You want to walk on by, I won’t hold it against you. I mean, I know you’re craving one last sight of me before we both die, but maybe this isn’t the time or the place.”

“Trust me,” Alicia says, “I don’t intend to be killed because I was too busy kissing Shinji Mimura to notice someone creeping up on me.” Rustle of leaves. He sees her duck behind another tree. “The only thing is…”

Shinji shifts into a crouch, ready to scramble to his feet. “Your body is telling you to hell with the game, you need me?”

She steps into the clearing. She’s holding a gun in one hand, but it’s against her side, and she looks – well, okay, she looks as pleased with herself as always, but there’s an edge of tiredness, maybe even a touch of nerves, under the skin. Shinji ought to know. He can feel it creeping up on him, too.

He stands up, holds his own hands out in front of him, fingers loosely curled around the gun. She looks him up and down and for a moment her shoulders sag with relief. Probably checking for bloodstains, gunshot sounds, obvious signs of madness, just as he was. Sunlight falls diagonally across the clearing. Birds chirp in the distance.

“The only thing is,” Alicia says, “I don’t intend to play this game, and you’re one of the few people who isn’t going to fall to pieces on me.”

Shinji smiles at her. “So you’re proposing a team-up.”

“I’m proposing that if you intend to do anything about this, you might want someone else around. We can watch each other’s backs, and I can point out when your self-confidence is blinding you to reality.”

“Hey, no point in being modest if I can come up with the goods.”

If,” Alicia says. “I imagine they’re expecting us to attempt an escape.”

“Hell with that. When did expectations ever stop either of us?”

Neither of them lay down their guns, but she steps closer to him, and, both watching each other, they sit back down on the forest floor.

[Title] Nothing to Miss
[Fandom] Buffy the Vampire Slayer
[Rating] PG (very brief mention of slight self-harm, kind of)
[Notes/Summary] Set between S5 and S6. Dawn tries to process what's happened.

It's like everything's turned itself inside out, and Dawn wants to grab hold of someone and scream at them who said you could do that? Who said you could let all this happen to me? God knows who the someone would be, of course. Because everyone is making things happen and it seems like the only one who isn't is Dawn herself. Mom is dead. Buffy is dead. Mom is dead and Buffy is dead and just like that, most of the inside of her life is ripped away. Like, without Mom calling her goofy nicknames and getting on her case about homework, without Buffy yelling at her and acting like she's too cool to have a little sister, then what's left? Just... just furniture and clothes and walls and photos and it's all... it should have all melted away when they died.

Or she should have melted away, because the – the most inside-out-horrible thing is knowing that all of that hollowed-out life is made up. Mom and Buffy were real and they really lived here and really did all those things, but Dawn was never here until a few months ago and every memory of before that is a trick.

Which means it's stupid to hurt this much. When she finds herself crying, which she does way too much, often as soon as no one can see her, she grits her teeth and hits herself on the arm or the leg and tries to beat it into her stupid fake mind. There's no reason to hurt. She isn't missing anything real.

[Title] Trying to Keep Order
[Fandom] The Demon Headmaster / Battle Royale
[Rating] PG
[Notes/Summary] Lloyd's determined to protect Harvey in this game. With his other friends, it's not so clear.

It's getting dark. Lloyd isn't sure whether that's better or worse. On the one hand, when everyone else around you is trying to kill you then it's probably good to have darkness to hide in. On the other hand, he preferred it when he could see people sneaking up on him. Not that they've seen anyone so far. He ran out of the school building and saw Harvey, dead-white, shifting from foot to foot, waiting for him, and he was so relieved it almost sent him flying before he grabbed his brother's arm, yanked him forward, and hissed, “Run, you idiot –” And they ran and they didn't stop running until he could see the sea ahead of them and Harvey collapsed onto the sand, coughing and gasping for breath. And then they walked on down the beach and found a clump of trees on the shore and that's where they've stayed. Like they're camping. Like this is fun.

Harvey's staring at the sunset, looking like he's thinking exactly the same thing about how people can creep up on you in the dark. Lloyd shoves him. “Stop it.”

Harvey looks fearfully at him. “Stop what?”

“Stop thinking about it.”

“It's difficult not to,” Harvey says, but he looks away from the sunset and starts picking at the sandy earth instead.

“Well, it won't help. You should try and get some sleep in a bit, I'll keep watch.”

Harvey glances at him, then at the sunset again. Then he says, “So we're... staying here, then?”

“Purple pumpkins!” Lloyd snaps. “Of course we're staying here! I'm not going to start running around this island just so I can trip over someone who wants to –” He can't say kill me, it doesn't sound real, it makes him feel sick – “- have a shootout. We stay here unless they make it a danger zone.”

“I know, but... what about the others?”

Lloyd knows.

This time last night he'd been all set to try and find the rest of SPLAT. Maybe even Dinah, who was weird but didn't come across as the type to start attacking people and could probably actually do something useful like, like break into the computer system and disable all the collars.

That had been before people started dying.

The thing is. The thing is that if it's just him and Harvey all the way through, and if they don't meet anyone else and it ends up just them, then – Lloyd can see what to do, easily. He'll – he'll jump off a cliff or something and let Harvey be the winner. What else is he going to do? It's Harvey.

But if it's all of SPLAT...

And he's supposed to be the leader, he's the one who comes up with plans and keeps everyone safe and... and maybe there isn't a plan for this.

And maybe he doesn't want his last memory of all of them to be him letting them down.

Or them deciding they're going to try and win.

Which he doesn't want to think about. He doesn’t want to think about it, and he doesn’t believe that they’re going to have set out to, but they’re just other kids, they could panic, he has seen them panic before, or horse around when it isn’t the time, or throw tantrums, and if they do that here, if they do that while holding a gun, then – then what’s he supposed to do?

Which means he is basically going to let someone else deal with it if – if any of them do start doing anything stupid. Which is horrible, but he’s got Harvey to look after, and that’s a better excuse than I won’t know what to do and I’ll mess it all up and it’ll be worse because it’s them and it’s me and we’re supposed to be SPLAT forever.

“We aren’t going to help the others by getting ourselves killed,” he says.

Harvey snorts. “Yeah, but does it really matter? I bet the Headmaster wouldn’t want one of us to end up the winner. We might as well try and find the others and escape because I don’t…” He swallows. “I don’t reckon we’ve got much chance, otherwise.”

Lloyd hadn’t thought of that. His stomach rolls and he digs his nails into his palms. But surely – the Program is something the whole country does, the Headmaster couldn’t rig it, there were soldiers back at the school, at the start. If – if it ends up being just him and Harvey, and he dies, then the Headmaster can’t do anything. And besides, the winner always changes school. Harvey would be taken off the Headmaster’s hands. It would be fine…

“If he’s done anything,” he says, “then it’s that he’s brainwashed everyone else to try and kill us if they see us. Which is all the more reason to stay hiding.”

Harvey goes dead-white and Lloyd shakes him by the shoulder. “I said, don’t think about it.” The sun is almost gone. “You should try and sleep.”


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