i want to get a sternum tattoo as my first but apparently it hurts really bad >.<
i want to get a sternum tattoo as my first but apparently it hurts really bad >.<
Idk which version of this to post
im listening to cardiac arrest by bad suns, it’s almost 3 am, and im fucking writing little bullet point summary blurbs like i dont have to be in the car driving at 9 am. i have to get gas before we leave. jesus christ i don’t have any sense of priorities. starker friends i hope you enjoyed it
I am now fully vaccinated!!🍾🎉🎉
Lifes such a movie filmed independent us against the city
FUCK LOS ANGELES!
i’m on vacation right now and i should be so excited and so happy to be here but i’m not. i love my family and i love this trip and i am so grateful for it but i just can’t get the sinking feeling out my stomach and i can’t seem to stop the sadness that is overtaking my body. it’s like i can’t breathe and i’m waiting for someone to notice but no one does. it didn’t even hit me at first. when we first got here i was excited and ready for this super fun trip but in the car it all just came over me. my social battery shut off and all i wanted to to was go lay in my bed and not be around anyone.
the fucked up part is that i didn’t even see it coming. for the last two weeks i’ve been so upbeat and motivated and looking towards the future but recently it’s been hard to even look towards tomorrow. my mind is in a dark space and every time it goes into that dark space it seems like it just gets darker and darker. i’m wondering when or if the darkness will ever end or if it will win in the end. and sometimes i have to remind myself that it’s just a chemical imbalance in my brain and it’s just a wave and that it will pass. but when i’m in the dark space it doesn’t seem like it will ever end.
hey christians of togfandom (esp americans) how likely is it that nile’s crucifix was a gift for her confirmation (I THINK THATS WHAT ITS CALLED IN ENGLISH?) like is that a thing that ppl do
I finally finished an animatic and its a shitpost 😌 Anyways siblings :D
Also on youtube:
Tbh when it comes to quizzes I don’t mind picking between song lyrics. But for the love of everything, please make them good song lyrics. Please. I’m begging.
Dont try to call me im trapped in girlboss romcom fantasy hell until further notice
Crowley speaks in French sometimes to annoy aziraphale, as it's one of the only languages he's not fluent in.
Its fr always gotta bw something on the days I work the early shift doesnt it? Wtf agdjfjf
Chapter 5: I wish I knew if you were getting these.
(AO3) (First) (Previous) (Next)
Word Count: 8103
The Lady is aware of the loops. She's aware of the hopelessness that sticks to them like leeches, of the constant strike of deja vu, of how someone so strange shouldn't feel so familiar and warm to her, and of a yearning for something that claws at her from deep within.
He's precious to her, she knows this by now. Almost every puzzle piece is in place, every shard gathered to reflect her past and present and future- everything is almost complete, and for once, even as a child, she thinks she knows what to do.
Perhaps the last remaining mystery is why the Thin Man still chooses to kidnap and tear her into two. Is this also out of habit? Does he just continue the same events over and over again with the reassurance of knowing what will happen next? Her Shadow rarely says or reveals anything, merely a quiet bystander that watches and remembers everything until they are reunited as one.
(She looks at the pile of dust in her memories, ground to a fine powder as if to never be viewed or remembered again. Something... happened there. Something terrible. If only she could recall what, perhaps she could have the answer to all her questions.)
Whatever his intentions are, she'll have to uncover them another time as the Flesh Walls surround them once more. The pair of them race off as their path predictably falls apart beneath them. A whisper is harsh in her ear as her Shadow guides her through halls only it can remember.
Mono groans in pain behind her, but before she can hazard a glance over her shoulder, the ceiling very nearly comes down on top of them. A strained, "Oi!" from her is the only thing she can manage to coax him to move faster.
She moves with the help of habit and repetition, the familiarity leading the way with ease as she makes the jump towards the exit. But sometimes, sometimes things change.
Sometimes they change when she least expects it.
The ending is supposed to always be the same.
She jumps, and then Mono jumps, depending on her to catch him. Then she catches him, holds him tight in her grasp before letting him go. That's how it always goes. But this time. This time she won't let him go. Her Shadow whispers in her ear, "Make this the last time," and she finds her selfishness overrides her survival instinct as she turns to reach her arm out to him.
But something's wrong. Her eyes widen as the gap between them widens. He's slow. Too slow. He's holding onto his side and staggering forward - hurt, injured, handicapped. The Walls are encroaching closer, too close- she screams for him, stealth be damned as she frantically waves him over to her.
The last thing she sees is the fear in his eyes as he reaches desperately towards her (like when the Thin Man takes her over and over again, how she'd reach for him knowing he couldn't reach back to her) and the Flesh Walls with their bulging eyes crash down upon him leaving only his hand grasping desperately at the air. The rest of the platform breaks beneath him and she screams again as the Walls take him down with it.
She screams and screams and screams because she was going to catch him, she was going to catch him and pull him up-
Survival instinct overrides her selfishness. She hugs herself and sobs, pushing herself up and heading towards the portal out. Six can't mourn Mono - she doesn't have the time to as she's spat out by the television and the Hunger begins to roil inside her. However, her Shadow whispers morosely for her, standing by the poster as it softly cries, "This was supposed to be the last time."
Things go as they always go. It happens in a blur, her Shadow silent and watching as it always does. As such, she finds herself approaching a familiar room while she curls over in pain, Hunger threatening to consume her and-
And a boy in blue stands there, turns around at her approach and sees her hunched figure. He looks down and picks up a stray sausage on the floor and holds it out to her with a smile. The Hunger wants flesh, and her eyes drift from the sausage to the boy whose smile is so kind, so eager to help-
(So much like Mono, and her heart cries for him because this wasn't supposed to happen, not like this-)
Her body is ready for the lunge when her Shadow stops her. Interferes in a way it never did before. "Don't," it whispers, and instead guides her body to the sausage, leaving the boy unharmed. A part of her howls in anger - it wants living flesh, a body that is still squirming with life - but her other half feels an oddly familiar wave of relief.
Sobs wrack her frame as she tears into the sausage. She could have eaten the boy. She wanted to eat the boy. But her Shadow stopped her, as if it had a reason for its actions. The boy kneels down to her level, hands hesitant before landing on her shoulders in comfort.
He reminds her of Mono, and her chest heaves with another heartbroken sob. Although he tries to comfort her, he's still wary of her, hesitant in ways Mono never would have been. The boy is like Mono, and also so completely not like him. It's different. A change.
(Welcomed? Or not? Her Shadow shuffles through the puzzle pieces as Six focuses on surviving. The Shadow raises its head and comes to a realization. It will share it with her soon enough.)
The boy follows her around, as if unsure if he should leave her alone. Nomes trail after them, more intent on following the boy than Six. Not that it matters. They reach the Lady's quarters and the boy immediately grows anxious. He takes her hand without warning (his hands are rough and calloused, but not as much as Mono's) and tries to lead her out. With a shake of her head, she pulls her hand free and continues on her path. Despite whatever anxieties plague him, he continues to follow her in, only to dash away and hide when he hears the hum of the Lady.
She loses sight of him and is glad for it. Less people in the way means less collateral damage. Her feet move her to a familiar rhythm, the accompaniment of another set of footsteps failing to throw her off. She still can't see him, but she knows he lingers as she unlocks a door and carries on.
Six kills the Lady, teeth bared and tearing into flesh as she eats from the warm body. The boy follows her in, terrified by what he just witnessed, but still choosing to follow her around as the little nomes gathered around him. A question arises in her mind, but the Guests surrounding them need to be dealt with first, so she lets him watch as she demonstrates her newly gained power.
She’s never had an audience before, one that lives and trembles but refuses to back down when she turns back to him, a newly created monster in front of him with blood painting her coat.
It's a change.
But not the one she wanted.
The boy stays by her side with a lack of something better to do and hugs a nome close to his chest. Not once does he try to stop her (these were adults she was killing after all, not children, never children), but he never shakes that look of concern and trepidation off his face. Still, he follows.
The boy is... odd. He's not like the other children she's come across in the Maw. The boy is a survivalist, just like Six, and it shows with how long he’s survived on the ship. He sticks by her side knowing she’s powerful enough to fight against adults, but stays a healthy distance away until he’s sure she won’t hurt him. And then he's too kind. Too caring. He stops to offer her help, trying to be there for her despite hardly knowing her. Her Hunger strikes, and he dashes off to find her food. When she rejects anything that isn’t meat, he huffs in frustration but continues to feed her.
The boy sticks to her side like glue from then on. It should be annoying, having a sudden companion she doesn’t need. But sharing space with someone again is… nice. They share names, talk softly to each other, confide in each other. When something is out of her reach, he hoists her up with ease. Keys are shuffled between them to keep the other from tiring out too soon. She finds out the best ways to annoy him endlessly. He discovers how to tease her without losing a finger.
Sometimes, they laugh together in the safety of each other’s company. More often than not, they hold each other’s hands, a comfort he’s learned is deeply ingrained in Six. When she can’t sleep at night, he turns his flashlight on and tells her stories he’s read from books he’s found. When he wakes from his nightmares, she takes her lighter out and hums a lullaby to the sway of the flame.
(He always flinches away from her when he wakes. Like he’s expecting her to hurt him. It hurts, just a little, when he does. Why? What did she do to him in his nightmares?
Despite her questioning, he never tells her what his nightmares are. Always tells her that it’ll only make her sad. Still. She wishes she knew the cause, if only to fight them away from his mind.)
Without meaning to, they grow closer and fonder with each passing day. Footsteps follow her into her adulthood, and somehow, he's sharing the role the Janitor once solely held, but with a more human touch that the children can better appreciate.
The boy becomes a man. The Caretaker. His outfit is styled to look similar to Six's- no, the Lady's, with a looser fit for easier movement. He's an odd one, the Caretaker. Unlike the Janitor, he doesn't turn into a monster - no, he becomes an adult, but a completely human one. He's the least monstrous on the ship, save for the children, and willingly gets in her way when she attempts to continue the tradition of serving children to the Guests.
(She's thankful for his meddling. Her Shadow hums in her chest, now a part of her once more as the realization is shared.
The final puzzle piece lays in her hand and her Shadow entrusts her to finally complete it. To make it the last time.)
His outfit is a dark blue, a shade deeper than his original blue sweater with a light gray hakima for contrast. At first, he was hesitant to follow the theme of the Maw, with the Lady donning her signature dark brown kimono and mask. But after some insistence, he agreed to wear the outfit so long as the Lady made a few adjustments that kept her separate from the previous Lady, as if it mattered.
A fairly extravagant hairpin now decorates her bun, gifted to her by the Caretaker. The golden pin has small but simple flowers that dangle away from her hair when she pins up her bun.
"Primroses," he says softly, because he always speaks softly with that gentle tone so fitting of his role, "is what I think they are."
"They look similar to the flowers in the books, and the books called those flowers primroses."
The next thing he gifts her is a new obi - the fabric golden with a satin shine to it as he helps tie it around her waist, knotting it into a fanciful bow.
“Oh really now.” She ignores his laughter as he hands her the obijime to tie herself. “I’m not a child anymore - I didn’t need you to tie it into a bow or tie the obi for me.”
“I miss helping you with your obi. And besides, if I didn’t tie the obi, then you wouldn’t have let me tie it into a bow. It looks cuter like this!”
“I’m not going for cute, I’m going for prim and elegant.” Despite her protests, she doesn’t untie the obi to return it to its usual style.
“Sure you are.”
The last thing he gifts her is a shiny, bejeweled brooch. Like the hairpin, the main shape of it is also a flower. Golden leaves curl around the bud delicately as she holds it in her palm. Faint hints of lavender and pale green color the flower, colors blending into the golden build of the brooch.
“Did your books tell you anything about this flower?” she asks, holding it out to him.
“Iris, probably. It's hard to tell sometimes with these things.”
“Your knowledge is ever so on point, as usual.” She ignores his affronted whine and looks at the flower more closely. Something used to be in the center of the bud. She points it out to the Caretaker who merely shrugs.
“It was like that when I found it.”
“You found this?”
“Don’t worry about it.”
A suspicious squint has him shrugging again playfully. Shaking her head, she turns it this way and that before turning back to the man. “What am I supposed to do with this?”
“Uh, wear it?”
“Stupid- I know that. But where?” She gestures at her kimono. “This outfit isn’t made for brooches.”
“That’s what you think.” He points to the knot of her obijime and points back to the brooch. “Just attach it there.”
“For what purpose?”
“It looks pretty. I thought you like looking pretty? Even though you wear boring kimonos and use a mask to cover your face.” He coos at her, poking her mask’s cheek.
“I should hit you.”
“With what reach?” He ducks when she swings her brush at his head. “Missed!”
“I won’t next time,” she growls, fastening the brooch over the knot of her obijime. With her outfit newly completed, she turns to the space where a mirror should be. She gathers what visual information she can from the remaining shards in the shattered mirror’s frame.
It probably looks bad. The Caretaker hums and stands besides her. “I think you look nice.” Definitely bad.
“These all seem a bit much. And why gold?”
“Isn’t yellow your favorite color? Trust me, these weren’t easy finds.”
“Gold is quite the extravagant yellow- and where did you find these again?”
“Don’t worry about it.”
“You’ve been going through the Guests’ luggage again, haven’t you?” She turns to him with a tired glare. Doesn’t he have other things to do besides ransacking the Guests’ things once again? Granted, it’s not as though they will be needing their luggage once on the Maw, but still.
“I said don’t worry about it.” He combs through his own locks, bangs getting long once again as it drapes over his eyes. "It’s high time you had a wardrobe update. This way, you won't look exactly like the past Lady."
Like the last Lady. How would he react if he knew what she dragged him into? Of the loops she's lived in, loops where she never met him, where he must have escaped the Maw instead of remaining willfully trapped here? Since now, here he stands next to her, hands braced on her shoulders like a proud older brother. They never really figured out who was the older, but the Caretaker liked to suggest that maybe it was him, since he was taller than her even with her bun up.
He is a change. A welcomed one, she settles on. Maybe the change they need.
But it's a change she doesn't know how to handle. Nor how the Thin Man may know to handle. Regardless of this confusing situation, the Caretaker has grown close to her - a confidant, her right-hand man in this ever changing loop. He's something she's never quite experienced before.
(A breath of fresh air.)
So it only makes sense why she hesitates before the screen. The Caretaker follows her into her quarters at her behest, lingering behind her awkwardly as she stands in front of the screen. He knows well enough when she wants his input and when it's better to be quiet, so he remains quiet as she internally struggles with herself.
What if this was a mistake? What if this loop was a pointless, meaningless venture that served nothing in furthering their goal?
...What even is their goal? A part of her suggests survival, to continue the loops because they continue to live, and live, and live with a guarantee of never completely dying. But another part of her suggests something else.
To truly live. To sit by the Thin Man and have him laugh with her. To feel his hand in hers once again, to smile and share her cooking with him. To introduce him to the Caretaker in hopes of him liking the other as well. She wants them to get along. She wants them to live and experience life with a breath of fresh air.
Survival or selfishness? Which side of her will win out?
Her palm touches the screen as it slowly bursts to life underneath it. The poor thing has been serving her so well in all these loops, it's amazing it still manages to turn on to this day. Static makes her hair stand on end as the screen tunes and tunes and tunes itself until-
There he is.
She can't help the soft smile hiding behind her mask as she sees him again. He's still alive! Of course the Tower wouldn't let him die that day. A low hum is made in her throat as opposed to the sob she wants to let out in relief.
He's sitting up straight. Tired, yes, but he's not hunched over in defeat. He tilts his head in his curious way, always so curious, as his words greet her.
"Six? Or shall I call you the Lady now?"
"Whichever you prefer." It no longer matters, the distinction between the two. The Caretaker shuffles closer, peering over her shoulder at the screen. He doesn't say anything as he watches the captions appear at the bottom for him to read.
"And who is this? I don't think I've ever met him before." A pause. "He's new. How strange."
How nice, goes without being said. She takes the Caretaker's hand and gently places it on the screen before returning hers next to his. His shoulders hunch up in surprise as the static dances on his skin.
"This is the Caretaker." This time it is she who pauses. "My dear friend."
"A pleasure," the Thin Man greets. "You may call me the Thin Man."
"The Thin Man," the Caretaker repeats. "It's, ah, nice to meet you too." His eyes meet hers under his bangs, looking between the screen to the Lady with a question in his eyes. She shrugs and turns her attention back to the screen, much to the annoyance of the Caretaker.
"Thin Man," though she really wants to call him by his real name, "what happened that day? The day you fell." Why was he so injured? How did they fail to break out of the loop when they were both ready to do so? What did the Tower do to him? What did the previous Thin Man do to him?
"It was something out of my control, as usual." She watches as he rests his hand on his chest, recalling the moments that led to his capture and fall. "Something had... There was something wrong with the Man chasing me that day. He was more brutal. More empty. More... like a doll."
She tries to recall how the previous Thin Man had captured her. He had looked at her with eyes not quite there, more closed than anything. His features weren't lax, nor were they tense. When she looked up at him, she could have sworn that he looked...
"Dead." She breathes the word out with a horrified realization. "Mono, something was wrong with him. What- what happened to you?"
"He chased after me, but it felt... off. Instead of simply chasing after me, he would grab things to pull towards himself, the objects colliding into me in the process. Never would he try to reach for me. It always seemed as if his goal was to hurt me. Our final fight... felt wrong." His head tilts down towards his hands as he stares down at them. "He bent in all the wrong ways but kept getting back up. It was like he was forced to keep going. I... When I finally ended him, it felt more of a mercy than a victory."
"Was it... different from what you expected?"
"Yes." The word rings with an unspoken acknowledgement as they both consider the difference this loop has taken. "Because of that, I was far more injured than I think any of my past iterations have ever been." He looks up towards her, and even though his hat hides his eyes with the shadows, she can still feel his gaze searching hers. "You... were planning on catching me, weren't you?"
She swallows. "Of course I was."
(A soundless voice echoes in her memories. "I promised that one day, we would share a meal together." Even though she struggled to recall it as a child, there was still a small part of her that remembered, a small part of her that clung to that promise. "Make this the last one," her shadow had said. Oh, how she wished they could make it the last.)
"I think the Tower knew." He leans his head back to stare up at the ceiling, gaze away from her. "I think that's why they took control of my prior iteration and turned him into more of a monster than he was ever meant to be. Or perhaps, what he was always supposed to be, but could never fully realize. And because of that, I was injured to the point where I was struggling to keep up."
"If I knew, I would have stopped to take your hand, or helped you along or-"
"I'm glad you didn't," he soothes. "If you had stayed behind to help me, we both would have fallen to the whims of the Tower."
"Still, there could have been a chance-" She could have saved him, she could have dragged him to safety, she wouldn't have had to leave him alone in that accursed Tower, she-
The Caretaker gently places his hand over hers and squeezes. His eyes search for hers, offering a wordless comfort. He doesn't know exactly the pains that consume her, but he knows her well enough to keep her from suffering on her own. She nods to him and turns back to the screen where the Thin Man's words wait patiently for her.
"Maybe not in this loop," they read out, "but perhaps in the next."
"I don't want there to be a next loop." Her shoulders sag as the memories of each loop blend and mix together in a terrible mash of mistakes and intentional actions. It's time she's admitted that even she grows tired of the monotony of the loops. "I'm tired of talking to you through a screen. I'm tired of having to find reasons to justify letting you go when I struggle to do so already. I'm tired, Mono."
"I know." Even though he says so, it's barely enough to provide her with the comfort she craves. "We'll find our ways out of this somehow. Already, I can see that we've made some headway." He nods towards the screen, acknowledging the Caretaker's presence before continuing. "I'm sure the Eyes have figured that out by now. I think they're getting worried, antsy even, going to such drastic measures to ensure we stay in our roles." She watches as he folds his hands neatly on his lap, his posture suddenly exuding the confidence she lacks. "They won't win this time. Things are changing, Six. They have been changing, and I refuse to let your hard work go to waste."
"My hard work...?"
"Your hard work." He sweeps his arms out to gesture to the room he sits in, the room she stands in. "All of this was done by you, Six. Not me. I hardly did anything besides sitting in this chair and talking to you. You were the one who made the changes, not me."
She blinks slowly, hardly believing a word he says. "I can hardly say it was hard work to begin with-"
"You're selling yourself short, dear friend." He pulls out a small hat, a hat that she never recalls giving him, but knows was a gift she once graced him with. Another memory that's fitted itself nicely into the picture she's forming. "Little changes can create large ripples of meaning." He fits the small sailor hat lovingly on one finger, and there's no doubt in her mind that he's smiling. "You gave me hope again, Six. Gave me something to cling to so that I could convince myself that there was a reason to continue these repeating cycles. Showed me that things can change for the better, slowly but surely."
"They're happening too slowly for my liking." She huffs, earning a soft chuckle from the Caretaker. Ah, yes, he's still here, watching their conversation and no doubt being confused by it all. Still. He takes it all in stride, a trait she admires him greatly for. One day, she'll find the time to explain it all to him, once he's ready to understand the weight the knowledge will force him to bear. At least he has nothing that will hold his memories for him.
Unlike the Lady and the Thin Man. A curse they have to bear, but one that is proving to become useful the more they exist in this endless cycle of rinse and repeat.
"I will use my patience for the both of us, then." He tilts his head, angling it more towards the Caretaker than the Lady. "But that's enough about the loops for now. Tell me - did you finally grow tired of having only me for company that you got yourself a new best friend? Perhaps replaced me with someone better?"
"Don't talk like that." Another childish huff escapes her, and she can see his shoulders shake with laughter from the other side. "I could never replace you. But I will never regret the Caretaker's friendship either."
"I'm glad," the words spell out, before he changes his primary focus to the Caretaker instead. "So what's your real name?"
"What?" The Caretaker speaks up in surprise, brow furrowed as he comes to grips with this newfound attention on him.
"Your real name." The Thin Man gestures to himself. "For instance, my real name is Mono, just as the Lady's real name is Six."
"I'm aware," the Caretaker says with a huff, mimicking the Lady's earlier childishness. "My name is... RK."
"RK?" The Thin Man tilts his head to the side. "Just letters?"
"The Lady's name is a number, and I'm fairly sure your name can count as a number too."
"Touche." Even with his face obscured, she is sure that the Thin Man is positively delighted with his new conversation partner. It's nice to see that he never lost his touch of friendliness and curiosity, despite being left to rot at the bottom of the Tower. "What is it that you do? Aid Six in her duties? Cook the food? Is your cooking better than Six's?"
"You've had Six's cooking before?"
"No. I almost had the chance once, but we couldn't get the food past the screen."
"Good," the Caretaker says in a heartbeat. "Her cooking is awful. I wouldn't want you to taste it."
"Hey!" The Lady slaps his shoulder as the Thin Man's shoulders shake merrily with laughter.
"I guess I narrowly dodged that tragedy."
"You did," the Caretaker nods solemnly, similar to how he nods for the children when they tell him something dramatic. "While her cooking can be better than the Cooks' dishes, I would rather cook my own food than eat hers."
"You're being obnoxious," the Lady finally says, pulling his hand off the screen. "Off with you, go care for the children and nomes if you're going to be like this."
"Okay okay!" He holds his hands up in a peaceful surrender, laughing as she bats him away. "I'll be off to do my duties then." He glances back at the screen and gives a little wave to the resident behind it. "It was a pleasure to meet you, Mono."
The Thin Man straightens at the use of his name, the happiness radiating off of him in waves. No doubt he already sees the Caretaker as a new friend. Typical of him. She can't help but smile fondly at his eagerness. "Likewise, RK."
They both wave before the Caretaker finally departs from her quarters, leaving the two of them with each other. Her hands press against the screen as she monopolizes all of the Thin Man's attention.
"My cooking really isn't that bad."
"I believe you, Six."
"He's just upset that I won't eat his meals."
"And why is that?"
She makes a disgusted face, forgetting for a moment about the mask that obscures her expressions. "He cooks with vegetables and expects me to eat them."
"...You don't like vegetables?"
"I find them revolting." Just the thought of biting down on a soggy, cooked through vegetable is enough to threaten her gag reflex. "My diet can survive without the need for vegetables."
"I never took you to be a picky eater." He pauses slightly, fingers drumming on his leg before he continues with his thoughts. "So what exactly does he do?"
"He cares for the little creatures on the Maw, mainly the children." The Caretaker knew the truth of the nomes far before she had the chance to discover what her powers could do to children. Even though the trust between them is strong, he still goes out of his way to keep them out of the kitchen and away from the plates of the Guests. She is, after all, the proprietor of the Maw - as much as he cares for her, he cannot guarantee that she will sneak off with a child as a luxury food item (though those days are behind her now. Even though the memories trickle down like rain dripping through a small leak in the ceiling, it is enough that she can figure out the horrible things her past selves have done).
"A guardian of children." She wonders what's going through his mind as he thinks out loud for her to read. "How fitting."
"He's kind, caring. Protective even." She doesn't say how he reminds her of the Thin Man when he was younger. "I think you would like him."
"I think I already do." He leans forward in his seat as if to whisper a secret into the Lady's ear. "In fact, I want to believe that he may be the key to finally breaking us out of these loops."
"How?" The Caretaker doesn’t have any powers. He’s powerless, normal, nothing more than a human adult.
She pauses in her thoughts.
Nothing more than a human adult. Someone not tainted by the nightmares that plague their worlds, one not cursed to inherit world-bending and soul-sucking powers, one not completely bound to a role with no way out.
He's nothing short of normal and bland for a human. But that's more than she can say for anyone else she's come across. He's untouched. Purely him. An oddity among a sea of monsters.
"He could be a safe haven. Or at least, the start of one." He pauses, almost hesitating before he speaks the next few words. "But not for our current selves."
"No," she agrees, knowing full well what kind of monsters they've turned into. "Not for us."
"But maybe for our child selves."
"A chance for them to grow up together."
"Without the Tower, without the Maw."
"...Without the Hunger?"
"Hopefully, without the kidnapping." He seems to curl into himself at the mention of that.
"...Why did you always kidnap me, Mono?" It's a question she's always wondered, given how he's always talked about breaking them out of the loop, and yet still perpetuated it with his own actions.
The Thin Man remains quiet as his shoulders hunch forward. It's not something he's proud of, but it's also something that's plagued her thoughts as she's gone through more and more of the loops with him.
At one point, it was a topic of contention between the two of them. She vaguely recalls vicious arguments with accusations thrown left and right before the television itself was thrown away to the depths of the Maw. And then the cycles continued with a different feel to them - one of perpetuating anger and vengeance over the happiness of companionship. But for whatever reason, an effort was made at reconciliation. Loops upon loops of the Thin Man managing to find and reach out to her, of her chasing little nomes after they tampered with her things and stumbling upon televisions, and somehow, they managed to make up in their own convoluted way.
Whatever the truth may be, she won't let it break their carefully mended relationship. She gently taps on the screen, humming a familiar tune that has the Thin Man perk up with guilt. Still so sorry for destroying her music box, as usual. She's long since forgiven him for doing so each loop just because she knows why he commits such acts of destruction.
She could forgive him too, for each kidnapping and tearing of herself in two, if he'd just tell her why. So she practices what he's mastered so well.
The Thin Man removes the hat from his head and clutches it tightly in his hands, fidgeting with it as he keeps his gaze away from hers.
His shoulders sag with a silent sigh as he places it on his lap. Another moment passes in collective silence before his words reappear on the screen. His gaze is still focused on his lap, however, and the Lady chooses not to press that issue.
"I have to." She remains quiet, not wanting to interrupt him as he finally gives her an answer. "I found out once, what happens when I don't kidnap you. Once, in a loop, I chose to leave you be. I didn't grab you. Nor did I give chase. I simply let the two of us go."
The screen flickers, and a memory plays out for the Lady to see. Two children, escaping hand in hand from a figure who merely stands in place and lets them be. They run away into a familiar room as the figure simply walks past them, only teleporting back to the television and stepping back in. A farce to make them believe he'd gone in a different direction. The two of them peek out of the room and run off, hand in hand.
They face off the Viewers together.
And they traverse the Pale City together.
The Signal Tower looms in the distance, but the girl in the yellow raincoat keeps the paper bag clad boy away from it. Dangerous. No matter how much he wishes to investigate, she will never allow him to go near it.
The girl doesn't suffer from the Hunger. Nor does she have a Shadow standing off in the distance, watching her every move. They don't end up at the Maw - there's no reason to go to the Maw. It's another place filled to the brim with adults. The flyers go ignored and-
The girl dies. She slips from a rooftop they traverse and dies from the fall. The boy screams, holding his head as he sobs.
And then the footage cuts to a memory of two children running away from a room. The figure is nowhere to be seen. They avoid the Tower. They avoid rooftops. They still do not go to the Maw - the offer of food still stands, but there's no need to go to the Maw when there's still scraps to be found here and there.
The girl dies. She takes a bite out of some food, only to find that it had long since been poisoned for rats when they were still considered a problem. The boy cradles her in his arms and sobs, brokenhearted and alone.
And then the footage cuts to a memory of two children running away from a room. The Tower is ignored. The rooftops left forgotten. The boy takes it upon himself to taste test every morsel before handing it to the girl. It doesn't matter. A Viewer finds them both and makes to grab them.
The girl dies. The boy follows her soon after, too defeated to fight back when the Viewer grabs him as well.
Two children running from a room. They don't go to the Maw because there's no need to. But they try to escape the city, again and again. Each time ends in her death, and a boy is left behind as he wallows in despair.
Two children. Running away. The boy takes them to the Signal Tower. She can't stop him. They enter and traverse it. He finds and fights the Thin Man. The girl survives. There's hope, for a brief moment, there's hope. They run as the Tower collapses around them. They almost reach the exit when-
The girl dies. Crushed under the debris of the Tower. The boy falls to his knees and lets the Tower take him.
The narrative changes after that. The Thin Man comes out and gives chase, but instead of taking the girl, he takes the boy. His being isn't torn in half like hers, so she's left with no Shadow to guide her through the city. She traverses it alone, making her way to the tower. But she has no powers to fight the tower with. She has no powers to fight the Thin Man with. But the Thin Man lets her in, lets her try and find the boy.
She finds him, twisted up and monstrous but still her dear friend. They escape and fight the Thin Man together. The Man is killed, and her friend is turned back to normal. They run towards the exit, thinking that this will be last until-
The boy trips. She turns back too late, and debris falls between them. The Tower laughs at her distress and shoves her out the exit. She's left alone, her efforts futile as the Tower claims him for its own. The girl screams and slams her fists against the television, but she doesn't go to the Maw. There's no need to, not when her friend still needs her. She tries and tries and tries but-
The girl dies. Dies in her attempts to free him. It’s the electricity this time, her tiny body unable to withstand the shocks as she steps into her own trap for a bumbling Viewer to stumble into.
The events repeat with little change. The boy gets kidnapped. She goes and finds him. They escape up until a certain point, in which the Tower claims him again. She gets cut loose and dies in her attempts in trying to get him back.
And then the loops return to normal with a twist. The Thin Man kidnaps her, tears her in half. She pauses as she dangles him over the abyss. Considers and reconsiders. She pulls him up after her slight pause, and the two of them take a moment to breathe when-
The ledge crumbles beneath him. She lunges forward but is too late. The girl screams, seconds too late, seconds wasted. They could have escaped, they could have escaped. Her failure crushes her, and she can't force herself to continue after letting down yet another friend.
The end begins, and she catches the boy once more. Instead of hesitating, she pulls him up immediately. It doesn’t matter. The Tower doesn’t let her win. The ledge crumbles before he makes it a foot forward, and he falls into the abyss. He lets go, and she’s left behind as she watches him fall.
Again and again, she’s foiled over and over as a reminder that she will never get her way. Sometimes the Tower injures her, debris crashing into her shoulder to force her to let go. Sometimes the Tower injures him and she screams as he slips from her grasp, unconscious after the debris collides with his head. And sometimes… sometimes…
The screen distorts, unable to play the memories.
The loops begin again. The girl in yellow plays by the script given to her. She drops the boy after he rescues her of her own "free" will and is spat out by the Tower. The Hunger plants itself into her being and forces her to find food. A poster is brought to her attention, and the scenes play out as scripted once again.
She has a reason to go to the Maw, where she grows up. Survives. Gains powers. Like how the Tower is vital to the boy's story, the Maw is vital to hers. The screen flickers as she stares blankly at it.
How could she not remember those memories? Was it because she died all those countless times? Was it because-
Her Shadow fidgets in her chest, and suddenly, she understands.
The pile of ground up shards. Memories that were not to be viewed ever again. Memories filled with failure, of being given every opportunity to break out of the loops only to end with her death or his capture, and of them never progressing any further than they were allowed. Bitter, painful memories of them being torn apart over and over again in the worst ways possible. Hopeless, despairing memories that would have convinced her to never continue ever again.
Futile efforts leading to the same results.
"You needed a reason to continue on. A reason to go to the Maw. A reason to move on without me." The words reappear on the screen as she curls her fingers over the screen. "But you wouldn't go without an incentive. Your glitching remains were that incentive. Your Hunger was your incentive. That... need to feel whole again was the only reason you'd ever venture to the Maw out of sheer need. If I didn't tear you in half, then you'd always feel whole. There would be no need for the Maw, because you would try and survive in the City, or in another place without considering it as an option. And we both saw how well that turned out."
She remains quiet, letting the newly found memories percolate in her mind. So that was his reasoning for kidnapping her all those many times. Kidnapping her when he really didn't want to.
(Much like how she kept dropping him, even when she didn't want to. How she needed a reason to drop him. How he always pressed for a reason. Because she can't continue performing the same acts without a reason, right? Was that why he kept asking? And now she's finally run out of reasons to give him.)
How are they supposed to escape the loops when death awaits them if they fail to submit to their roles?
"I suddenly think that having the Caretaker around won't be the solution we think he may be."
"I oppose that notion." The Thin Man straightens up, hat returning to his head as if he had not just been reliving the worst moments of his looping life. "The difference between now and then is that back then we only had each other. But now, there's someone else. Someone who can help."
"Like I said- a safe haven. He's the Caretaker. He doesn't belong to any place or domain. He's simply who he is. Even if it means that he just sets up something elsewhere, away from the City or the Maw, somewhere out of reach of the Eyes, we'd all have a fighting chance at surviving outside of these nightmares."
"But how would he even accomplish that?" Doubt buries itself in her mind after having seen all those forgotten memories. "Am I to just dump him somewhere and hope for the best?"
"No." She waits, knowing him better than that. "...Yes?"
"How, Mono." The more they discuss this, the more hopeless the idea seems. "I don't want to abandon him and leave him to fend off some- some monster by himself!"
"He won't be alone. Let him take a television with him. I'll be there for him."
She highly doubts that will work.
"I... don't know."
"It's all we have left to work with. Trust him."
"But how will he know where to go? Who would-" A memory strikes her. A monster, a strange monster, who had taken her to the Maw. A monster who the other children she'd once met would tell her about.
A monster who wasn't quite a monster. He seemed to care for the children, strangely protecting them from the other forces in this nightmarish world and dropping them off in places he believed would suit them best, if the stories those children once told her were to be believed. The Ferryman was the one who would drop her and every other child off each time at the Maw. Perhaps... perhaps he could help.
"There... may be one other who could help." Her words come out tentatively. She's only ever seen him once per loop, but how else are children getting onto the Maw? He must still be around somewhere, perhaps even existing outside of the loops. And maybe... maybe the Caretaker has met him once or twice. Or maybe has heard of him from the children.
Maybe it's not so terrible a plan after all.
"Mono," she begins, "have you heard of the Ferryman?"
They spend the rest of the conversation deep in thought, carefully figuring out each detail of their hastily made plan and counting for the fact that it may need to build over a few more loops. One of the many details they need to figure is how the Caretaker fits into all of this. There's no telling how the Caretaker may be affected by the loops - will he persist when they die? Or is his fate to be smothered by the loops like they often are? She hopes they can figure it out before it’s too late.
Unluckily enough, the nightmare they live in forces an answer into her hands. Nothing seems to take to their resistance kindly, since after they explain and divulge and include the Caretaker into their plan, after he agrees to it with just as much eagerness and hope as she'd hoped he would, the Maw makes its own move.
One day, as she was making her usual rounds, the ship careens itself into a sea stack - the rock formation itself doesn't last against the hull, but the collision jolts and shakes the Maw enough that the Lady has herself clinging to the railing to keep herself upright.
And that's when she hears it.
A sharp scream that passes by her ears as a blue blur falls past where she stands.
Her feet rush her down to the bottom floor, gracefulness be damned as she searches for her dear, precious friend. When she finds him, he lies broken in a puddle of his own blood, eyes wide and unseeing as blood dribbles from the corner of his mouth. She looks up to where railings lower to better match the hunched over forms of the Guests by the rooms, and it doesn't take much for her to put two-and-two together.
She takes his body and tears it apart in tears, forcing it all into a makeshift wooden box and burning it in the ship's engine room. What remains of his body is grounded into a fine, ashy powder that she stores away in a decorative vase, hidden away in a secret room for her to mourn in peace. But even then, fate doesn't give her a chance to mourn.
The loop ends in a bitter struggle and hopeless tears, forgotten blood left to stain wooden floors.
5:30am, time to have insomnia and wonder why i have SUCH a hard time over feeling Left Out
me, when i lie about fandom: good, fun, lots of joy great topica, my headcanons are just canon
u guys, when u lie about fandom: no. bad. stop it.
bro why the hell is hajime such a fantastic protagonist?? shine on king