fyi: still insane
Yeah I'll get to what's left tomorrow.
1. Eureka did not love Renton for a very long time. She thought he was cute, and she thought he was funny, but she also thought he was an idiot and excessively loud (and there was that voice in the back of her head that felt threatened when she realized he was learning so fast and she didn't want to feel obsolete).
To be honest, she could have easily hated him - hated him for poisoning Holland, hated him for being the child Talho pampered and teased that she never even thought of trying to be - but she just found him annoying, instead, which may have been what caused so many problems.
Because annoyance wasn't enough to stop her from noticing the care he took around her. It wasn't enough to give her a reason to look away when he won her children over through persistence and simple fact of being just childish enough to think the same way they did. It wasn't enough to help her ignore how much he loved working on Nirvash, how hard it hit him to be unwelcome and unloved by people he just wanted to please.
His actions made him someone she cared for in ways she'd never cared for other people - it wasn't the mutual thread of guilt that tied her and Holland and let her trust the soldier he didn't want to be. It wasn't the responsibility she felt for Maurice, Maeter, and Linck. It was a care born out of nothing more than appreciation. And she was scared of that.
Fear drove her hard, in those days - even after her breakdown, when she fell from her own alien grace into a whirlwind of messy emotions, it was fear that led her to say she loved Renton, well before either of them knew whether she meant it or not, and it nearly destroyed them both, and then he was gone and every word felt like ashes on her tongue.
But, remarkably, she wasn't scared when he left. She'd spent so long learning how to be what people needed her to be that it wasn't until Renton was gone that she realized how hard it was to simply be herself without him there to let her be anyone.
But she could be herself. She could be anyone she wanted to be. She could be her own hero. She could be Renton's hero. She could be Holland's.
But she could be a hero.
And heroes didn't let their friends - didn't let the ones they loved - run away without chasing them to the ends of the earth, through the gates of hell if they had to.
So that's what she did.
(Even in the moments when she didn't believe she was worth the description, it was never because she doubted what she wanted to be. She just held herself to too high a standard. But she always came back to herself eventually.)
2. Ray and Charles Beams have no graves. Their ashes lie scattered across the sky, where they'll fly forever.
But that didn't sit well with Renton, so one day he asked Holland to tell him where Ray and Charles got married, and when Holland came back to him with an answer, he went home and told Eureka that they needed to take a trip, and knelt down on one knee and put his hands around Maurice's shoulders, a smile on his face, and said "Do you think you can help me dig a few graves with your mama?"
Maurice swallowed hard and nodded, and a few days later their small family took Renton's grandfather's beat-up pickup and drove for three days till they reached the outskirts of a small city called Motown.
Renton and Eureka (and Maurice) dug two graves, and in one they laid a ring and in the other they laid a gun. Maeter held Linck like she'd seen Eureka hold Renton the last time they'd had to remember the Beams' and it seemed to work, because he didn't cry.
"If I'm half as good a father as Charles Beams, I think I'll be happy," Renton said, after they finished pouring the ground back in, and his hand tightened where it laid on Maurice's shoulder.
Eureka's hand came up to rest, gently, in the small of Renton's back, and stayed there until it started to get dark and they had to leave.
3. The first time Renton and Eureka try to have sex, they're living in the new addition to Renton's grandfather's rebuilt shack and nobody's put locks on any of the doors yet, which is why it takes them two hours to find a single moment that isn't immediately interrupted by small children screaming in horror at naked Papa (Maeter) or making fun of Renton's tiny penis (Maurice) or wondering why they're doing something that looks so stupid (Linck), and by the time they get a moment to themselves (the children have run out of energy and finally, finally, fallen asleep), they're so exhausted they can't do anything but collapse against each other, laughing, and promise to try again in the morning.
Renton falls asleep running his fingertips over the edge of her wings.
It takes them a month and a half before they remember they'd never kept that promise, and another month beyond that before they ever do.
(It just never ends up one of their priorities.)
4. Renton and Eureka end up minor religious icons despite their best efforts to make people stop thinking of them that way, and one day Eureka finally has enough of it and screams at one of the penitent Vodarac pilgrims, "I AM NOT YOUR FUCKING SYMBOL TO WORSHIP!" and it's anyone's guess whether it's the swearing or the screaming that makes the worshippers stop showing up, but it works, and it only takes a few days before Eureka stops glaring at everyone who isn't her family (and even sometimes them, too) and finally breaks down sobbing.
Renton bakes a pie and feeds her a slice, forked piece after forked piece, rubbing her back and murmuring to her, and then just holds her.
"You could - cry - too," she says. "I know you want to."
"You did it for me," he says in reply. "And you'd hold me like this if I were."
5. Renton could call himself a few dozen different things when he introduces himself to people who've never met him before. "Savior of the universe," for example, "chief engineer of Bell Forest," for another. "Adroc's son," he could use too, now that he's come to terms with such a legacy. "The King of the World," he could get away with, too, since it's true (sort of). Some people even call him "the next Holland."
He never takes the credit; to everyone's bafflement (but to his grandfather's enduring pride), he just introduces himself as, simply, "I'm Renton Thurston, Eureka's husband."
Steph never lets him say "You shouldn't be out on the streets"; she doesn't care if he believes it, because she's not interested in hearing it.
And he doesn't stop her, every night she's out there in the skies and in the streets, a dark blur in the face of guns and knives and rapists and sick, mutated freaks. He doesn't say anything the time she comes home and tapes herself up after a punch from Killer Croc lands too hard and she can feel her chest crack through the protective layers of kevlar and ceramic. He doesn't say anything the next time, when it's the Scarecrow and she gets home pale and twitchy and jumping at every shadow.
Robin's only been dead a few months; she doesn't know the whole story, but she knows Gotham won't protect itself, not from idiots like her father or the actual dangerous criminals. And she can do this.
She can do this if she has to.
So it's a shock when, one night, she runs into the big shadow, the Batman, the only darkness in Gotham's streets that isn't lethal, and he settles in beside her like they've always fit this well together.
She stares at him through her face mask and he doesn't smile at her.
"Hh. Your left foot drags when you kick to the chest. That could be lethal someday."
"Then teach me," she says, with a bravado she doesn't know how to feel this close to that swallowing, bulky shadow.
"I wasn't correcting you to be nice," the Batman says, and turns as the Batmobile pulls up at the other end of the alley. "It wasn't a request."
And Steph can't - quite - hide the whoop of relief, but she manages to channel it into a leaping fistpump instead of anything embarrassing before she runs after him.
ii. how to be dead
Bruce put her costume where Jason's used to be. She's not sure how to take that.
Robin spins through the air with brazen ease, laughing, a gold and green and red comet carrying all the power and ferocity of Gotham's best impulses in her wake, and Batman follows; they strike in unison and thieves scatter like dominoes, falling face-up.
Robin flips backward, catching a tank-sized man under his chin and sending him crashing backwards, then darts back in to catch two across their cheeks with the thick soles of her boots. She lands with a flourish - and ducks as a knife slices through the air where she isn't anymore.
Laughter as her fist crashes into his stomach and the man crumples, and then they're down and done.
Batman fires a zipline into the sky. Later, they monitor police scanners while Robin perches on a gargoyle and eats an MRE for breakfast, making a face at the flavor.
Batman smiles - and then word comes in that the Ventriloquist has hijacked the opera, and they're off.
iv. grazed knees
Cass finds her first. "You're dead," she says, and Steph meets Cass' face and lets her see the wear and tear digging herself up out of a grave left behind. Cass just meets her gaze evenly, and - not without a flicker of sympathy, or Steph's a blind idiot.
"Nothing's permanent," Steph says, smiling hard.
"Are you - you?" Cass holds her head in a way where the meaning's impossible to miss - do i trust you - and seems to melt halfway back into the shadows.
Steph lowers her eyes. "I don't know," she says, and shrugs. "I died. I don't know what to do now."
Steph's not surprised Cass doesn't jump when the extra shadow comes out of nowhere. "There's a place for you in the cave, if you need it," Batman says, carefully, watching her through those empty lenses he always keeps down around people he doesn't trust.
The next smile is less sharp but less full. "I guess - yeah, I think I'd like that."
And she's cold, and it's not like she can feel her heartbeat anymore, but breathing doesn't feel so hard to remember for once.
v. somewhere a clock is ticking
Stephanie Brown has a tombstone.
The Spoiler has a case.
Steph has a room, in Wayne Manor, that she shares with Tim, and she sees Cass every night, and sometimes she kicks the Red Hood in the face - er, helmet. Batman doesn't smile, but sometimes she gets Bruce to do it when he's not paying attention. Alfred bakes cookies on the weekends, and makes sure there's hot soup in the car for the really late nights.
Life is good.
And nobody dies (most of the time).
1. degausser It feels like fucking, only backwards, the first time the mask comes off; Shinji spits and wants to vomit, but his throat's too dry and there's nothing in his chest that wants to come up and scream. His eyes swim, and he finally focuses on the face of that smartass bastard Kisuke, who looks - sad, almost, but maddeningly proud. Shinji will punch him as soon as he can stand up, which he's guessing will be sometime in the next twenty yeas at the rate his body seems to want to move.
Kisuke moves on and Shinji's eyes involuntarily follow him. The world rushes back to his brain at the sight of the others, lined up against the wall, held by black bars of kido and hanging limp. Like trophies, and the grotesque masks they wore only added to the feeling. Suddenly Shinji wanted to be anywhere but here. He couldn't handle the way this room felt like a shrine to sacrifice,
But his whole body felt numb, and he could only watch as Kisuke knelt, held the Hogyoku to each masked shape's chest in some sort of perverse ritual - everything about this was fucked, and here was ceremony, like they were trying to make this mockery of nature holy - and he wanted to claw at his chest to tear away a hole where his soul didn't belong anymore, but at last he'd realized he couldn't move because of the kido holding him in place and it wasn't worth struggling against something like that when he felt this drained. He watched their bodies flicker and settle into the gigai Kisuke must have made for them all during the time they'd spent shapeless and empty, submerged beneath their swallowing masks. Masks that cracked and dissolved to dust and set them all to choking and wakefulness.
"So ... now what?" His voice felt raw. He couldn't look right at Kisuke.
"Now?" Kisuke looked startled, like he hadn't considered the question. "I suppose ... we all try not to die."
Shinji stared at him, and then began to laugh, hoarsely, and he kept laughing even when it felt like a wrecking ball to his lungs, and he only stopped when the kido faded enough that Hiyori could stagger across the room and uppercut him right in the jaw.
He choked on his own spit and stared at her, eyes crossing at the closeness of her fist, and she said, "Don't waste my ears with your stupidity. Of course we're going to live."
"I'm not beating up a granny for food."
"Yes, you are. Or else we're not eating tonight."
"She's got a walker! How the hell am I supposed to beat up a crippled grandma!"
"I don't have any problems hitting you!"
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
"I don't know, you're so not-stupid, why don't you figure it out?"
"I'm not beating up an old lady!"
"Yes you are!"
"No I'm not!"
"... uh, guys? She's gone."
"Fuuuuuck, that's one fast granny."
"AND NOW WE DON'T HAVE ANY FOOD TO EAT, YOU RETARD! I HOPE YOU STARVE TO DEATH!"
"MAYBE YOU SHOULD STOP PICKING TARGETS WORSE OFF THAN WE ARE!"
"(Maybe we should stop trying to ambush people leaving the supermarket at night, guys.)"
"YOU STAY OUT OF THIS."
It's ten years after they've lost everything they ever were before things start to feel like they've hit some sort of equilibrium between the hole left by what they used to have and the hole created by the space they have no choice but to live in. It takes them that long to find jobs, clothes, a home, and hope. Not necessarily in that order.
Her zanpakuto feels strange and heavy in her false hands. Hiyori flips it up and across her shoulders, rolling with the weight and grunting when the sheath slides into her waiting, outstretched palm.
Sweat is gross and makes her feel profane. She doesn't like the reminder of how far she's fallen that she can't help but perspire at the slightest exertion; it's always so fucking hot in Karakura Town, she doesn't know how real human beings stand it.
At least in the Seireitei she could choose.
"Shit," she mutters, and repeats the motion, this time drawing the sword from its scabbard as she flicked it from shoulder to shoulder. She had to draw without disturbing the motion of the scabbard; it wasn't something her clumsy, real body knew how to do, and every wasted second was another needle in the forefront of her brain.
Years and years, Urahara had said; years and years of this, before the disconnect between flesh and fucked-up soul would finally go away.
Patience wasn't a skill Hiyori was in any hurry to develop.
Breath hisses between her teeth and she tastes saltwater on her tongue. She hates sweat. She hates life. She hates everything. Again, till the movements are as instinctive to her muscles as they are already deep down in her soul.
All the muscles of her face draw tight and hard and she swallows the scream of frustration till it becomes a yowl instead, and the direction of her slice goes wild, leaving a scar in the concrete beneath her feet.
Shinji's fingers touch her shoulder and she nearly takes his arms off at the elbow, whirling and barely seeing him through the wavering haze and he backs off, hands up and out and waving, harmless, useless, and she growls words at him she can't even remember after saying them.
And he just reaches out and grabs her wrists and holds.
Says, "We will be strong enough to fight everyone we have to."
Says, "It's not over yet."
Says, "I can't wait to see Tousen's face when we cut him in half, can you?"
And he looks so fucking stupid, right then, that she has to grin back and say, "What makes you think I'll let you embarrass everyone like that, huh? I bet you're so bad you'll miss."
He laughs, his eyes squinty little lines blurring as the sweat rolls down over her vision. "I bet you can't even hit me, much less Tousen, loudmouthed little monkey that you are."
She snarls, high and excited. "I'll stab that ugly hat off your fucking head without even trying, jackass."
He lets her go with a shove and falls to readiness. "Prove it."
After that there's nothing to say their swords can't say for the both of them.
Shinji wakes up tied to his bed.
"We need to talk," Hiyori says. Shinji immediately senses this conversation isn't going anywhere good.
"Why am I tied to my bed?" Best to get the obvious question out of the way first, he figures.
"So you can't run away," Hiyori says, flatly, in a voice that makes Shinji wish he hadn't already gone to the bathroom a few hours ago so he could piss his pants properly now. "We need to get a few things straight, while we got the chance."
"I can think of a few things that this isn't going to get anything close to straight," retorts Shinji, looking at the peeling paint on the walls and tugging against the restraints keeping him tight against the bed.
Hiyori growls, low in the back of her throat, and Shinji realizes, somewhat chillingly, that she's tied him to the bed with kido. "Maybe you didn't hear me the first time," she says, clambering onto the bed and straddling his leg, eyes narrow and dangerous. "We're. Not. Shinigami anymore. Horaki Shinji-san."
"I don't know what you're talking abo-" Shinji starts, and then can't finish, because oh fuck, she's kissing him, isn't she. "What," he says, stunned deadpan, when he can breathe again.
Hiyori doesn't have the decency or shame to look embarrassed, just that same angry stare she's had as long as he's known her. "We're not bound by rules or etiquette or fucking - moral standards - and we know that already, so stop acting like you don't know, it ain't fucking funny."
Shinji stares at her like she's grown an extra head (she hasn't, right? that's just his eyes crossing, right?) and then collapses against the bed with a long-ass sigh. "This ain't gonna change anything," he says, slowly. "And you ain't exactly the poster girl for girlfriend material."
Which gets him a kick in the balls, so, kind of a net loss there, which was not what he was going for. "I don't fucking want to be your girlfriend," she sneers, leaning over him. "I'm just tired of you pretending you and me and everyone else don't know what's already mine."
"What, my dignity ain't enough, you want my ass too?" Shinji rolls his eyes.
"Yes," Hiyori says, halfway to a growl, and bends down over him.
5.you won't know
"Don't die," she says to him, just before they break through the barrier between them and the fake Karakura Town Soul Society's built for their little pow-wow, "or I'll sodomize your corpse with a chainsaw."
"You always know just what to say," he says, and waggles his eyebrow.