[FRAG] Keep A Secret
...and you'll keep the peace.
Sequel to Grieve in Blood. Spoilers for said story abound, of course.
Followed by House of Liars.
Morning Star quietly rearranged the plant on his desk. It was slightly droopier than he'd remembered, sad and sagging. Maybe he hadn't watered it in a while. He knew he should've set up an auto-watering spell, but he'd used to like taking a little bit of time every day to stop and do it with his own hands - it'd always made life feel a bit more tangible.
He missed that tangibility.
His fingers moved on to the haphazard stacks of papers, which were strewn about and unsorted. He'd never meant to be so disorganized... it had come as a side effect of needing to always be able to put aside his work to assist reports. No time to keep sorting and re-sorting every little paper on his desk when he had to write down integral information to Timeline management and corruption, of course. It had still upset him, but he'd swallowed the irritation long ago.
Slowly, to his computer. It stored dozens of files, most of them useless. Some Frags just didn't like mortal technology, and that was that. He'd liked it, though, liked how easy it was to record information with just a few taps on the keyboard. This desktop hosted all of his personal research and side projects, his life's hobby. Was it worth even keeping, now, though? Was it simply going to just distract him?
...Even if it did, he wanted to keep it. He wanted them close. Quietly, he booted up the computer, dragging and dropping all of his important files into a singular folder. This, he dumped into a flash drive, and then unplugged it from the computer. With a flash of magic, it was stored in his personal pocket dimension.
"Is that really all you're going to bring?" Magnotris asked, voice surprisingly quiet and devoid of sarcasm.
Morning Star stood, folding his hands in front of his lap and striding over to Magnotris. "Yes. I don't really need anything else."
Neither moved for a second. The silence, although pervasive, wasn't awkward. It was familiar, in a sense; nonverbal communication. Magnotris offered his hand. Morning Star accepted.
In a blink, they were at the border office of the Sanctum.
For once, Arco Iris wasn't manning the desk. Instead, it was Tangent, who had rearranged the usual mess into clean, orderly piles. He gave the two a smile, reaching up to press in the familiar key sequence. Morning Star didn't know him too well. They'd only interacted a small handful of times. Still, he seemed kindly.
It was all making his head spin, anyways. Maybe he'd see more of the other? He didn't know. Everything was still a bit raw.
Magnotris snaked an arm around his waist as the doors opened. He said something to Tangent, probably a thank you, before steering Morning Star into the Sanctum. Fresh air hit Morning Star's face, and he breathed deeply. It was comforting and unsettling at the same time. It was all so, so sore. He remembered, viscerally, marching in with Sterling.
How had he gotten to this point? To receive an invitation, coveted and fought over, by attempting murder? Did Tangent know what he'd done? Did Arco Iris? Who would judge him, change their opinions of him? Was he even ready to cope with that?
Morning Star blinked rapidly, turning his head to Magnotris. "Oh, yeah. Yeah I am."
"You sure? We don't have to do this if you don't want."
Morning Star inhaled slowly, letting his gaze fall. Grass swayed in the breeze, soft teal. "Where else would we go? They won't let us stay alone. And I refuse to stay with my siblings."
Shit. He needed to call Neb again. Dutifully, Morning Star added that to his internal to-do list.
"I dunno." Magnotris pulled him closer. "But we'd figure it out anyways, y'know. We'd figure out a solution."
"We would." the words felt foreign in his mouth, but they were comforting nonetheless.
"So is this what you wanna do?"
Morning Star looked up. In the distance, closer to the cathedral, was a new island. It was unmarked and barren, a floating piece of rock. Did he want to do this? After everything Magnotris had gone through to keep them out of the Sanctum?
"Alright." Magnotris stepped forwards, still keeping Morning Star close. "Let's not waste time, then."
The Sanctum was quiet, no any residents milling about. Morning Star glanced around himself carefully, staring at each island they passed as they made their way towards the cathedral. Granted, he hadn't seen too many on his last trip either, but this just seemed too quiet. Had it always been this empty? He didn't quite remember. Magnotris wasn't reacting, but....
He couldn't even really drink in the sights, appreciate the beauty. He hadn't had a chance last time, and this time he was too nauseous to care. He wanted to care. But it felt so far away.
Morning Star turned in the direction of the voice. Arco Iris stood in front of them - when had he gotten there? - expression nervous. He looked around before hurrying to their side, as Magnotris didn't budge. The other wringed his hands, eyes flicking around the island. Was there danger?
"Yes?" Magnotris raised an eyebrow, unfazed.
Arco Iris shot a glance over his shoulder, into the grassland beyond, before turning back to the other. "After this - after this, can you come talk to me? I'll be waiting by the entrance."
It took Magnotris a few blinks to register what the other had asked. "Alright," he muttered, guarded.
"Okay, good! Thank you." Arco Iris gave a shaky smile. "It's not anything bad, okay, like, don't panic! Just - yeah!"
With that, he brushed past, not even acknowledging Morning Star. The latter stared after Arco Iris for a second, mouth slightly agape. Magnotris pulled him close.
"You okay, still?"
Morning Star blinked rapidly and turned back to Magnotris. "Yeah. What was that?"
"No idea," he muttered. "C'mon, let's hurry."
The looming cathedral drew closer as they stepped forwards, its towers and spirals hanging in the sky quietly. Morning Star didn't look up as they paused at the base of its stairs. His memories of this place... they had all been erased and replaced with yesterday's fight. Questions still buzzed in Morning Star's mind. Most of all, though, echoed a single thought:
Did I do the right thing?
The empty silence stretched on, Magnotris not moving an inch. What was with the holdup? Morning Star lifted his head.
Overseer Jubilee stood a few steps up, arms linked behind his back. He stared down with an unreadable expression, one that had been perfected over centuries. He didn't speak, eyes simply gliding over the duo.
"Good morning," Magnotris offered.
Jubilee politely nodded. "Thank you for taking my advice seriously. We already dealt with a minor threat, nothing serious but - the gravity of the situation should not be ignored."
"Who was it?" Magnotris pressed.
Morning Star was glad he didn't have to talk, yet. His voice felt caught in his throat, like it wasn't quite working, still. He wondered if the feeling would pass soon. He hoped it did. Quietly, he pressed closer to his partner's side, feeling the other's heartbeat. In the haze of everything else, he still had that comfort.
"Apologies, Magnotris, but I do not want to scare your partner."
Morning Star sheepishly flattened his ears against his head. His reputation preceded him, despite everything he'd done. No one spoke for a few seconds.
Magnotris' voice was gruff. "Did the news about the assault already leak?"
Jubilee cast a wary eye over the Sanctum. "Let's discuss inside."
Quietly, he turned towards the cathedral, motioning for the other two to follow. They shared a look, but obeyed. Morning Star's feet were warm against the cool marble of the stairs, a tactile tangibility. Polished and pretty, they reflected the sun's rays. It was morning, here.
Jubilee led them through the main hallway into the back room. The half-moon platform was surprisingly empty, no Overseers holding session. That didn't stop Jubilee from climbing up, setting himself on a cushion as if dumping a load of weights. Morning Star wondered what was on the other's mind, staring at the subtle ways exhaustion pulled the other's features, the way his shoulders sagged.
Still, Jubilee's expression remained resolute. "It did not leak so much as those who keep track of the balance of magic noticed and word spread from them. The attack earlier was an attempt to break into your original Timeline, Morning Star."
His eyes widened and his head shot up. "My siblings-"
"-Are fine. They were escorted to the Sanctum before the break-in, and are currently spending time in Frost's hotel. You may visit with them after your briefing here."
Morning Star blinked rapidly before slinking back to rest against Magnotris. "O-Okay."
"The perpetrator is arrested, they will be questioned shortly. We have things under control. In the meantime, until you make a decision either way, we have assigned a bodyguard to you." Jubilee motioned, and a Fragment stepped out of the shadows. Morning Star cowered slightly. How had he not noticed them before?
Magnotris stepped forwards, a hand balled in a fist, "Hang on, now, Morning Star doesn't need any extra defense while I'm around."
"Apologies, Magnotris, but you have work and a job to attend to, both of which require your presence outside of the Sanctum."
"That work isn't as important as keeping close to my partner after everything that just went down!"
"I am not in the mood to argue," Jubilee sneered, "so do not test my limits right now, Magnotris."
"What work could be so taxing that you can't assign Quota or Arco Iris or - anyone else to it!"
Jubilee was now full-on scowling, one hand resting on his knee, the other draped over his lap, "Perhaps you should have checked your work orders and you'd know!"
"I-" Magnotris froze.
Morning Star wrapped an arm around his boyfriend. Magnotris... he'd been so caught up in the experiments for a cure and settling the stuff with Opalescent that he had, in fact, been neglecting his work. He wasn't sure what the other even had to do. Or how long it'd been since he touched any work orders.
"Whatever project you have been working on is surely not so important to continue forcing your fellow assistants to pick up your slack!" Jubilee, apparently, was not done. "We overlooked it when we extended an invitation, as we thought it was a minor vacation. But it is getting out of hand, Magnotris. If Eclisse refuses to reprimand you, then I will."
Magnotris stepped back, biting his lower lip, hand shaking. Morning Star reached to rub his back in comforting circles, familiar with the sense of anger. Honestly, he felt somewhat guilty. Like he should've been looking out for Magnotris more, reminding him to do a few orders between cure research.
After a few seconds, Jubilee's anger dropped from his expression, and his voice sounded more resigned. "Your presentation is still slated for tomorrow. If you can prove that what you've been spending your days on was a worthy cause, I am sure I and the other Overseers are willing to overlook your recent behavior."
"...Alright." despite the frustration in his voice, Morning Star could see Magnotris' shoulders slump in relief.
"You are dismissed, Magnotris. Pick up an order or two from Quota while you're exiting, get that work done, you'll be out of the red soon." Jubilee had taken on an almost comforting tone, gesturing gently. "Morning Star is in good hands. And, you are free to visit whenever, of course."
Panic shot into Morning Star's spine as Magnotris slipped away slightly. In a split second, he didn't want to be alone. And especially not in the Sanctum. Morning Star grabbed at his boyfriend's hand a little too desperately, squeezing and staring at the floor. His legs were shaking.
Magnotris' free hand rose up to cup Morning Star's cheek, tilting his head up gently. He stared into Magnotris' pretty, multicolored eyes, feeling something else rise in his chest. Before he realized it, tears streaked down Morning Star's cheeks.
"They'll take care of you," Magnotris murmured, thumb brushing over the drops and wiping them away. "Okay? I'll check up on you tonight. Lemme just get some stuff done first."
"Okay," Morning Star squeaked.
Magnotris leaned forward, pressing their mouths together. Morning Star accepted the kiss softly, closing his eyes. It didn't last nearly long enough, and before he could blink, Magnotris had slipped away, towards the front doors. The room felt colder.
Still, he meekly turned back to Jubilee. The other's expression was still worn, weary and overworked. The way he regarded Morning Star was almost unreadable. He'd said he wasn't upset about the attack, but had he been telling the truth? Or was he just trying to save face?
Jubilee gestured to the third Fragment in the room. "This is your guard, Roseline. They're from Research & Remove, and are adept at one-on-one defense. They will act as your escort until you have fully settled into your new magic. If there are any problems, you may come speak to me or another Overseer about it."
Morning Star glanced over, holding his hands together politely over his lap. Roseline nodded to Jubilee before turning to face Morning Star as well, their eyes meeting. He didn't quite feel intimidated, but it was darn close. Roseline didn't even look that scary - they had pastel colors and wore a flower crown, for the stars' sake. Did he really need a bodyguard? Was the threat level that high? Wouldn't he be safe in the Sanctum?
He wanted to ask, but his voice still felt so small and pathetic. "A-alright. Thank you."
"Do you have any questions, comments?"
"N-no, sir." Sir? Good job, Morning Star. Call the guy he'd tried to murder a 'sir'. He wanted to slam his head into a wall. How had he fallen so quickly back into his old habits? Why couldn't he strike a compromise between having a spine and being a pushover?
"You are dismissed, then. Roseline can show you to your temporary holdings."
The guard nodded again and gestured for Morning Star to follow. He obeyed, keeping his head down. Would he and Roseline even really talk to each other? Would Roseline just watch him awkwardly fumble around, like a hawk?
He wanted Magnotris back... that's all he wanted. The nice, warm comfort of his boyfriend, of his home. To curl up in their bed and have Magnotris massage out the stress from his back. Tonight... tonight Magnotris would check up on him. Would he call or visit? Hopefully visit. Morning Star desperately missed him already.
The sunlight danced off the marble as they exited the citadel. It was just beginning to peak into noontime, glowing soft violet in the hazy blue sky. The sight should have been soothing, but Morning Star was too riled to take notice of it.
Roseline stopped moving. Morning Star froze mid-step. Was there danger-?
The other spun on their heel, excitedly grinning as they faced Morning Star. He blinked rapidly and shuffled back a few steps, raising his hands defensively.
"I heard about what happened!" came spilling out of Roseline's mouth, "about you taking on the Overseers with just two other people and about your Blessing! That's so fucking cool!"
"What was it like? Were they really hard to defeat? Did you get the drop on them or did you walk in? When'd you get your Blessing? Can you show me some of the magic?"
Morning Star lowered his arms, although the rest of his body still felt frozen. It took another few seconds for his mind to catch up to the sudden interrogation. Finally, he spoke, slowly, "Um. It was scary."
"Oh, wow, I don't blame you!" Roseline continued, clasping their hands over their chest. "I couldn't imagine, I bet Archise would beat my ass! You were so cool, standing there with Magnotris, all defiant and stuff!"
Defiant. Was that how others were seeing him?
"And I heard you got an Overseer invitation, too! Wow! I guess showing up and beating them up was the right idea, right? Are you gonna take the invite?"
"Um, I don't know yet," he mumbled, rubbing his arm.
Roseline put a hand on their chin, "It sounds soooo neat! I definitely would, if I were you. Imagine how cool it'd be, you'd be like - a renegade Overseer!"
"C-can we go to the house now?"
The other blinked, as if suddenly realizing they were still standing outside of the cathedral. "Oh, right, yeah of course! Come on, let's go."
They turned back towards the stairs, pace quick and lively as they trotted down. Morning Star followed, having to speed walk just to keep up. He still felt so uncertain, in his stomach, like he'd puke. Maybe he needed to vomit once they reached the house?
True to his assumptions, Roseline led Morning Star to the small, barren island that was near the citadel. Both Fragments stood on its edge, looking over the small, but not cramped rock.
"Am I supposed to make a house?" he asked, after a second.
Roseline nodded. "But if you don't wanna, I totally can!"
"No," Morning Star muttered, stepping forwards. "It's alright, I can."
He lifted his hands. What did he want to make? He could do absolutely anything, make any sort of structure. Maybe he could make a beach house, with hammocks and a pond full of exotic fish, a nice relaxed getaway for him and Magnotris. Or he could do a cozy cabin tucked into the woods, with a roaring fireplace and fur carpets. Perhaps a spa, with bubbling hot tubs and soft oils?
His hands lit with magic as his mind wandered, crawling through various imagery of different places. A treehouse wasn't out of the question, hidden up in branches and serving as a quiet, albeit childish hideaway. Or, he could craft a small apartment, modelled after the things he and Magnotris loved. There were too many options, so many spinning around in his head.
Still, his hands worked, spinning the Magninium in the air and himself and channelling it like a loom. It was easy, to feel the stream of magic and warp it to do his bidding. It took concentration and skill, but he had both of those in droves. Before he knew it, the island was finished.
Morning Star opened his eyes as the magic faded from his hands. He tilted his head back, frowning slightly as he realized why the structure he'd made was so familiar.
He'd straight-up crafted a carbon copy of his and Magnotris' house, from the dark oak borders on the outside to the white clay walls on the inside. Oops.
"Wow, that's so cool!" Roseline perked up, obnoxiously impressed. "What a neat house!"
Morning Star sent a burst of magic to the front lawn, crafting a small garden and bench. "Th-thanks."
He entered quietly, Roseline quick on his heels. The floorboards creaked familiar as they entered, the lights on and dimly lit. At least there was a guest bedroom upstairs. But would Roseline even bother sleeping?
Morning Star led them up to it anyways, opening the door and gesturing to the bed. "You can have this room, if you want."
"Oh, really?" the other perked up instantly, "Thank you!"
They sounded so excited and happy. Was that what Morning Star had sounded like, once upon a time? Wordlessly, he wandered into his own room, leaving Roseline to personalize theirs. The bed was the same as the one in his actual house.
Well, sort of the same. It lacked Magnotris.
Morning Star sat on its edge, feeling the mattress sag, as if it were far older than a few minutes. He glanced around, taking in the entire room. It was a perfect copy, down to the imperfections of the dresser on the far side and the framed photograph on the nightstand. What did it say about him, that when he had been given the chance to create anything, he made his partner and his house?
In silence, he pulled his clothes off. He knew what it said. It said that he was lonely and codependent, but coming to terms with either of those things felt like a mountain at the moment. There was so much more to wrangle with, along the lines of the ramifications of his actions, of his Overseer invite, of the future and what it held. The last thing that felt important was his clingy desire to be around Magnotris.
Stripped of his clothing, Morning Star slid under the covers. The bed was cold, but not remarkably so. He tried to ignore the way it made him miss Magnotris even more.
There was a knock on the doorframe. He peered over his shoulder.
Roseline blinked at him curled in the sheets. "Uh, you know it's noontime, right?"
"I'm taking a nap," he mumbled, drawing his knees to his chest. Mostly, he just wanted to sleep off the time until Magnotris would come visit. Speaking of which.... "Can you wake me up when Magnotris gets here?"
"Oh, sure, yeah! I'll be sure to fetch you, if you aren't already awake."
Morning Star closed his eyes. Roseline didn't move, staring from the doorway. Morning Star pulled the covers up more. Roseline didn't budge.
WIth a huff, Morning Star glanced over his shoulder. "You... you don't have to stand there. You can wait downstairs or something...."
"Okay!" the other disappeared in a flash.
He sighed and laid back down. His mind drifted, curling around Arco Iris' desperate beg earlier. Was Magnotris checking up on him now? Was the incident urgent, did it require attention from the other assistants? Was it personal to Magnotris? Was it a warning?
The more Morning Star thought about it, the tighter his stomach curled. This was just making him nauseous again. At this rate, he wouldn't even be able to get any sleep in. Frustrated, he picked up a spare pillow and mashed it over his face. The temptation to scream into it was high, but when he opened his mouth, no noise came out.
"Why," was all he could whisper, into the soft warmth. "I just wanted to make things better."