Over ten weeks have passed since you returned to the Ascendant. Life has settled into a pattern for you and your family. Topps left for Salt with Cheetos six weeks ago, broke Hump's heart. Even telling him that you're coming back to live in Salt wasn't quite enough.
Rinso is still working at the infirmary, he's needed there. Stitch personally asked him to stay, at least until you all leave for Salt. Instead of letting it wear on him, Rinso's been trying to learn enough to be able to set up a clinic in Salt. He knows he's no doctor, but as he sees it, some first aid and care is better than nothing. He jokes that being around you and Zero, he just need to know how to remove bullets. Of course, he doesn't laugh at the joke after he makes it. Because it's more true than not.
But you've been good lately, right? Running gigs more carefully, keeping yourself safe at home while making deals. Why don't you roll that Moonlighting for me?
VB has been working odd hours at Chefs, learning all the cooking tips and tricks she can from Barilla. She hasn't told her boss that she's going to be leaving very soon. She is worried that Barilla will expect competition, which Vee thinks is stupid since Salt is hundreds of klicks away.
Ollie has started playing for jingle again, working for Proper's shows and also playing for tips at Chefs sometimes. Your Ma has been antsy, training the North Candies and spending time with them in the clubhouse. Gob stuck around, while the rest of the OG Candies went south. Zagnut left with them.
Right now, you're being wheeled out of Stitch's infirmary. It's early, early morning. You were just discharged after a day of tests after some false labor. Who's pushing your chair, Kiddo?
Stitch is very worried about the pregnancy. She hasn't said so, other than to increase the frequency of your appointments, but you know her.
When was the last time you checked on the Big Rock refugees?
What do you do?
(Rolled: 2d6+3. Rolls: 4, 1. Total: 8)
So Star and me kinda had a bit of a fight a few days ago — it wasn't a "fight", like we screamed and yelled at each other, so much that she insisted I stop pushing myself so hard, and that I should be focusing on Leah. I kinda knew she was right, and Stitch is the one who told me to start taking it easy, but I've been going stir-crazy up in my apartment... I wanted to do something for a change, and it kinda blew up in my face. Star told me I could start working again when I didn't look like a gods damned wrecking ball. Ma' brought me back up to the room, trying to calm me down, but ... well ... stress apparently brings on false labor.
I had more wires, scans, blood-samples, and IV's hooked up to me than a normal person should in a day. Stitch was very hands off with the pregnancy until now — but Leah being hooked up to a heart monitor kinda let me know what's up. I'm spooked — like, really spooked. That Cherry hasn't shown her face yet just spooks me even more. Stitch keeps telling me not to worry, but how can I not frakking worry? This is my baby! She wants to know every single thing that Leah does from the occasional stretch down to every beat of her heart. Ma' never had this...
Speaking of Ma — she's the one pushing my chair right now... Vee's working, and I made Rinso promise he'd get some shut eye before his shift. She just sent Hump to fetch Dad from work to watch me. I'm down to checking on the Big Rock clan once a week, but today was the day I was supposed to check in on them... I doubt Ma's going to let me do that.
You think maybe she likes seeing you go through this.
The question is, what the frak do I do now? I've already organized the apartment 20 times over, cleaned it from top to bottom, locked up all the guns, washed all the linens, and fixed all the broken baby stuff... I nap more hours in the day than I'm awake, I eat more food than Rinnie and Vee combined, and move slower than molasses in the dead of Winter...
"Yeah," I nod back, "thanks for being here Ma'." I wobbily take her hand and push myself out of the chair. "You heading back to the room too?"
"Kiddo," you Ma asks, not looking at you. "You ready to leave this place? Being on Council has gotten you lots of perks. Almost like life on the Pods. You still want Salt?"
"Yeah, I do," I turn to her, my voice quiet, "this place has been good to me, and all that, but I didn't learn how to be this way 'cause I grew up in the Pods... Look at how much Omo struggles with her girls. Look at what she's had to do to keep them fed... I learned how to live out there in places like Salt. I want that for Leah." I look down to her belly and brush some dirt off her shirt, "and if any little brother of mine is giving my Ma' shit, then he's gunna have to answer to his big sister."
The door slides open and you hear sad guitar music strums. Acoustic. Mournful and lonely. It's Hump.
Your Ma frowns, then shakes her head and rolls her eyes. She waits for you to walk in ahead of her.
The door slides open and I'm kinda surprised to hear the guitar sounding so sad — but I spot Hump, and I purse my lips into a concerned frown. It ended between Hump and Topps so quickly — it just didn't make sense... I guess teenage shit doesn't normally make sense like that. I can kinda attest to that.
I waddle my way over to Hump and brush some hair behind his ear in a "motherly" kinda way. "Hey Hump," I whisper as I make my way over to the chair next to him, "still heartbroken I see?"
Inside, you catch your brother, who is lazily sitting and playing his tune. He stops when you ask if he's heartbroken. "Yeah." And that's it, the whole answer. He starts strumming again.
I watch Hump play his song... For better or worse, I've been the closest thing to a Mom he's had since Ma' and Dad got stuck up here. I know this is all B.S. teenage shit to Ma', but I don't like seeing Hump this way.
I wanna be there for that... I wanna be there for him. A crack shows in my armor. "Could you bring him up here first? I just wanna talk to him first... Remind him we're here for him."
... And that I love him.
Hump keeps playing, a mournful ballad for his lost love. His first love, his Topps.
Anything you do while waiting?
Once she's gone, I reach over and gently stroke Hump's arm, "sweetie... How are you gunna cope when we move down to Salt?"
(Rolled: 2d6+3. Rolls: 6, 5. Total: 14)
OOC: Holding 3, Spending 1: Why did this relationship really end?
"I'm so sorry, sweetie," I whisper, "that's really not fair. I don't know how to fix that either... It's clearly not your fault though. You know that, right? Nobody could help KellyTires getting sick... It's a risk you take travelling out there on the road. Hell, anyone could get sick at any minute." I lean over to try and kiss his temple, "do you want to fix that?"
I could go chat with Topps, but I'm not sure it would do much good right now... I think she's looking for excuses to get away from my brother. 'Course it won't frakking matter when we move down there, but they're both gunna have to grow up at some point — and if that means co-existing without co-habitation, then that's what they're gunna have to do. "C'mere," I whisper, holding my hands out asking for help getting up, "help me up. Tell your big sis what you need."
OOC: Hold 2: What does Hump need to hear to move forward — one way or the other.
He looks down at you when you stand and shakes his head, "Oh, I dunno, Kiddo. Just let me work through. Dad's already told me to just play, ya know? Been writin a song... it's better'n the last one."
What was his last song and why did it suck so bad?
Hump needs to know his pathos can be fueled into something, like your Dad does. If he can make a song that means something to him and others, he'd feel less useless and lost.
I pull him into a hug, probably an uncomfortable one given that Leah's in the way, and kiss his cheek, "it is better than the last one!" I whisper back, "You're so in tune with folks, Hump... You feel things so intensely. If you just write what you're feeling, I know you'll make something awesome from it. You just gotta make it sound how you feel, then say what you need to say." I smile, "that'll mean something to a lot of folks."
The door chimes and opens. Rinso comes in, wearing scrubs. "Hey Kiddo," He comes forward, concerned eyes, but tired. He was about to go back to work, looks like.
"I'm sorry baby, you look so tired..." I give him a hug and a kiss, then pull him over to the bed. "I promised Ma' I'd take a nap, so I won't keep you — but I just wanted to let you know that Gobstopper is going to take you down to see Cherry today. Apparently she snuck her way into the Ascendant a while back, and she's been biding her time... I want this bullshit over with, OK? I want you to stay safe, and remember that your family loves you no matter what. Just ... don't let Cherry get the better of you, OK? I wish more than anything I could be down there with you."
He kisses you softly, like you're a wonderfully fragile doll. His doll. "I will go see Cherry with your frakkin escort. Although, if it's Gob, then it's Zero's, isn't it?" He laughs, not worried. "I got this. I made my one frak-up, babe."
I purse my lips when he calls Gob Ma's escort, and laughs off Cherry... "She's dangerous, Rinnie... You're sure you're good? I can get Vee, or maybe one of Star's girls to go with you if you want..."
"I love you, Kiddo." Rinso says before he goes.
I don't know how well I'll sleep, though... That bitch had better not lay a finger on my man.
Not sure how much time passes, but you're woken when someone slips in behind you, thin fingers and a trim body smelling of food (that makes you a little hungry, in fact). "Hey Momma," VB murmurs into your neck as she snuggles up.
"Came by on lunch. Wanted to check on my sweetness."
Fat chance of that happening.
She rises from the bed, "I'll go find him, Momma. You just get some rest." She's trying to sound casual, failing. She's worried, like you.
Then, in some hope of distracting you, she leans down to plan a nice wet kiss on your lips, and well, tongue probing in your mouth, hand in your hair kind of thing. She draws back, "Don't come with me, ok?"
(Rolled: 2d6+3. Rolls: 5, 1. Total: 9)
She starts helping you up, "Only if we stop by and pick up Venger. She should be at the Clubhouse, and we might need backup."
Let's skip ahead to the Candy Bar Clubhouse.
The pair of you come out of the lift and head over to the section of the deck where the Candies reside. You find Chunky and Payday sitting on the couch in the front lounge, with Goodbar sitting at the table munching on some cereal. Chunky is sitting on Payday's lap and the two of them canoodling. Goodbar sees you enter before they do, and she pointedly rolls her eyes before asking, "Yo, bitches! What's up?"
She prances ahead of you, practically skipping into the main sleeping area, where a few Candies are passed out in cots. Then, she heads into a storage room where, sure enough, you see Svenja sitting at a work table. She's cleaning what looks like all the guns.
Svenja looks up, "Yo, Kiddo. Hey, VeeBee."
VB says with a grin, "Hey, Venger. We need an escort, should be easy peasey. I'll cook you a week's worth of meals if it is. If it gets violent, well, what's the going rate?"
Svenja looks to VB, then to you, "One time deal, a barter. What's the deal, Kiddo? Is this about Cherry and her kid?"
Anything to do before you meet up with where VB thinks Cherry is?
You come out of the lift at The Bay, which is busy, even in the chilly afternoon. There's some snow on the ramp down to the refugees' dwellings, must be bitter cold out there. A combination of Candies and a mix of Nezzy's other forces keep vigil on the market.
Of course, some people see you and wave. You're the heroine of The Bay, you saved people's lives during the massacre. A mother points you out to her two kids. A merchant comes up to hand you a sweet-stick, insisting you take it.
What do you do about all this?
I don't wanna draw attention to myself though... Especially considering I don't wanna be down here any longer than I have to. Rinso is the priority.
The three of you work your way into the guard quarters. Lots of these guys know Svenja, many of them recognize you, and of course they know VB. A few catcalls, some jokes and the like from men and women in their quarters killing time, working on stuff, working out, whatever.
Then, you reach the door where Svenja says, "Cherry's been shacked up in here. With Santi. Not romantic or anything. But they're old friends or some shit. S'what I heard."
What do you do?
Cherry and Santi are friends. Fantastic. All I needed was the bitch in charge of security, with a she-boner for the skeeziest frakker in the entire hold, to be friends with someone I may need to put a shotgun shell into. I nod to Svenja, and knock at the door.
Inside is, of course, Santiba. She's sitting on a push leather couch, smoking from a hooka, relaxed as all hell. Cherry is on the other side of the couch, elbows on knees, watching what's going on in front of her on the floor.
Rinna and Rinso are both on their bellies, playing with some small plastic toys. The girl's eyes are bright with wonder, and Rinso is laughing quietly while he makes some weird buzzing noise, pushing around a train of plastic blocks. He's so engrossed he hasn't noticed you're here.
Gobstopper is hanging back, leaning against a wall, one foot planted on the wall. She catches your eye, gives you a nod of greeting.
Cherry looks up, and you caught a look of joy in her eyes before she sees it's you. Then, it evaporates, and she sits back, probably reaching for a gun in the couch cushions.
What do you do?
I quickly run my eyes around the room, taking in every corner... Santi and Cherry on the couch, Gob in the corner... Rinnie and Rinsa on the floor. My eyes linger there a second too long. Gods... I can't help but smile at the sight of that. I knew he would see himself in her. There's no denying that Rinnie is that girl's father — and he is an amazing Dad. The thought is bittersweet, though: I spot Cherry slipping her hand back into the couch, no doubt to find the gun she's hidden there as a contingency plan.
She really thinks I'd come down here, and kill her in front of her frakking child. She is frakking insane.
I swallow hard, and hold up the sugar stick I got on the walk over here — a gesture of peace. "I come bearing gifts," I say softly, doing my best not to seem confrontational. Clutch your frakking gun like a safety blanket, bitch — but if you draw it, I swear to frak I will end you first.
Let's see if the dice agree with you.
(Rolled: 2d6+3. Rolls: 4, 6. Total: 13)
• ally: guardian (impulse: to intercept danger)
Rinsa looks up with those dark eyes, wide with excitement at, well, let's be honest, at the sweet-stick. It's a spiral of confection on a stick, every kid's dream. Rinso rolls over, his smile worn into his face like his muscles might hurt from holding it as long as he has. He looks up at you, then back at her, his own daughter. He's in pure heaven, and you know you're part of his heaven, Kiddo.
I smile down at Rinsa and waddle my way over to her, slowly squatting down to her level, and holding the sugar stick out for her to take. "Here you go sweetie," I whisper calmly, my eyes only occasionally flickering over to Cherry in disbelief. I'm trying to focus on Rinsa though... She's the only reason I even let this happen.
I look over to Rinso, a nervous smile lifting the corner of my mouth, and I brush his hand, "hey you."
Rinso sits up on his knees, watches his daughter for a bit, like his eyes are drawn to her. When you say hey, he looks over at you. He swallows, like it's hard for him to talk. His voice breaks a tiny bit when he responds, "Hey baby. She's..." he looks back over at Rinsa, doesn't finish the thought. He doesn't have to, right?
Cherry musses Rinsa's hair as she eats the stick, then looks to you, "Hey. Were you afraid I'd steal him away or something?"
Was I afraid she'd steal him? No. I was afraid she'd shoot him — but this? This is more what I expected. "No... I know Rinnie. I knew the minute he saw her he'd be completely lost in his own little world with her — and that I'd have to come down here to remind him he's gotta get back to work eventually." It's sweet to see this side of him — kind of a relief, honestly — but now we're back to exactly what I was afraid of: Rinnie's got his daughter — sure I'm a part of "that heaven", I'm apparently "Auntie Kiddo" — but "Auntie Kiddo" is about to be a Mommy too. How does this all fit together?
Does it even fit together?
Rinso rolls like he's going to get up, but Cherry says, "I give my word I won't touch a hair on Kiddo's head. Rinso, I swear it on Ace's grave." Rinso swallows, like that's something serious and nods. He hops up to walk over to his daughter.
Cherry heads to the door, waits for you. You two walk slowly back through the halls, Cherry beside you. "We need to work this out, Kiddo. I'm not leaving the Ascendant as long as Rinso's here. I like it here, actually. It reminds me of the Pods."
I hate walking. My back, ankles, and feet are all sore — and in some parts, swollen — and I'm really not supposed to be on my feet. Maybe that's why I'm so eager to just get this done. "Well," I answer quietly, "the way I see it, that's either a problem, or a solution. It's a problem, because I was hoping to move down south to Salt with my family after my baby girl is born — but it could be a solution, because Rinsa gets to see her Daddy if you're willing to move around... I've already told Rinso that I'm not going to force him to chose between his daughters — but I really can't live here long term. Too much tragedy has happened here."
I soften my expression, "The rumors of the school are because Vee and me have been lobbying hard with Nezzy against the council for a stronger community. I brought the doctor here, and the security, and the men who fixed the water after a cult blew it up." I pause, "The Ascendant was an opportunity that was being squandered before I showed up — but everything is an opportunity, and there'll be opportunities like it elsewhere, and I want my little girl to know how to find them, and make use of them. That won't happen in here, where life is comfortable — it's going to happen out there." I gesture vaguely in the direction of the outer hull, which really could be considered anywhere from here, "I'm going to do my damnedest to make sure my little girl gets everything she needs to thrive — schooling, a good doctor, a family that loves her — but I don't need to be here to give her that. Don't you want that for Rinsa too?"
When you switch up on her, start talking about what you want for your little girl, and out of nowhere, you see this crack, a fissure in her normal sour disposition. She swallows, and like someone flipped a switch, her eyes mist up. She nods, taking a deep breath to calm herself.
Cherry puts her right hand on her forehead, like she's suddenly rubbing it for some reason, but you realize she's trying to draw focus away from her sudden and definite emotional response. She doesn't speak for a bit. Then, when the silence grows too long, she answers, "Kiddo..." Her voice breaks a little, she sniffs, looks at, of all things, your belly, not your face. "I haven't done anything like you, Kiddo. All I've done is destroy and take lives for jingle."
She finally meets your eyes for a wavering moment, "I don't want anything for me, alright? It's... it's all for her. Whatever it takes. I want it all for her. I thought I could give it to her by myself. But I. I can't. I just want her to be happy. To grow up." A few tears spill out of her eyes. "If she didn't hate her momma, that'd be a bonus."
OOC: Reading Cherry, Roll+Sharp. +1XP.
(Rolled: 2d6+3. Rolls: 1, 4. Total: 8)
She wishes you'd hug her, hold her close like Ace did when she was little. But she'd never let you. Not here, in front of anyone. She's twisted up that she's showing this to someone who's probably an enemy.
She wishes you'd agree to let Rinso be part of her daughter's life, draw up some rules for how you can co-exist as two families. Here, and in Salt, too.
"Look," I whisper, "Rinsa deserves to know her Dad, and I think you can see as plainly as I do that he wants to be a part of her life. If you wanna try and make a go of life here, I can find you work — honest work that makes use of your talents without making you kill folks. Rinso can watch over Rinsa while you do, and I won't tell him when he can and can't see your daughter — but I expect some quid-pro-quo, yeah?"
I raise an eyebrow and try to catch her gaze, "I want Rinso to be a part of my daughter's life too — so we let him decide how much he wants to be involved in both of our children's lives, and to what extent in our own. Then when we move south to Salt, we can figure out something that'll make sharing him a little easier... If things are going well, then we can talk about how best to make sure Rinsa gets the most out of her daddy, without making him to be in two separate places at once."
I look to the room where Rinso is probably playing patty-cake with Rinsa, or something cute like that, then turn back to Cherry and whisper, "fair?"
After a few moments of watching Rinso as well, "I'm not out to frak Rinso. I mean, it's not like a I could steal him away. The boy loves you. A lot. Just, in case it's a concern for you, don't let it be." She meets your eyes, "I'll take the work. I could bust heads for Santi, but it'd be nice to try something... different."
I meet her gaze when she accepts the work and nod, "I've done my fair share of head busting — and I'm getting really tired of it. From one mother to another, I think you'll find the job I've got in mind for you comes quite naturally..." I look over to Rinso and smirk, "I've gotta get back up to the room... Please don't let him skip out on work for too long? They're really short-staffed at the infirmary, and Rinnie's doing really good work there..."
Then you head on, with VB, back up the lift, back to bed, back to sleep.
So I guess I grab Vee, and let Svenja get back to whatever she was doing... Then it's back to bed-rest, as ordered by our world-class doctor.