[FRAG] House of Liars
Who are you, to think you get to dictate anything about anyone else?
Contains major violence and detailed gore. Please be wary when reading.
Sequel to Keep a Secret and Grieve in Blood.
Milkshakes With My Friends
Sterling glanced up, his chin still cupped in his hand. Magnotris' eyes flicked to Morning Star, still with his teeth around his straw, although his milkshake was empty. He couldn't meet either of their gazes, the anxious feeling overwhelming him. He hadn't felt this nervous in... forever, really. Everything had happened so fast, everything that spun up out of control and out of his head.
Magnotris popped off the drink with a noise. "I mean, really, who isn't?" he offered, playfully elbowing his boyfriend.
"I feel like Jubilee isn't," Morning Star grumbled, closing his eyes. "I feel like Sundae isn't. I can't believe we actually... did that."
"You can say it," Sterling offered.
Morning Star clamped his mouth shut and shook his head. No, no he couldn't. The very thought of saying those words made him want to choke himself. He didn't... he couldn't have... killed someone. He just couldn't. No. No.
He was coping - barely - by trying not to think about it. Trying not to remember it. But he knew he had to, at least eventually - had to talk about and come to terms the the fact that he... helped kill someone. Someone he barely knew, understood. He didn't even get a chance to speak to Bereave before Jubilee killed him. He didn't get a chance to see if Bereave was beyond helping.
Did he trust Jubilee - both in his perception of Bereave and if he had done the right thing? Morning Star, truthfully, had no idea. He wanted to, desperately, trust Jubilee's words, his actions, everything he'd done. Jubilee was an Overseer, one of the leaders of his society. He'd seemed so reasonable and level-headed. He could explain himself so clearly, make so much sense.
But he'd been keeping a secret, such a fucking secret, from all of them. He was a Timeline. He was... fuck. That was so hard to think about. And then everything had just escalated from there, until they'd all... together... killed....
"Morning Star," came his boyfriend's voice as Magnotris put a hand on his shoulder. "Morning Star, are you okay?"
"I-" he started, then clamped his jaw shut. "I don't think so."
Sterling leaned forwards to put a hand on top of his. "I'm - sorry for bringing it up, Star."
"No, you're fine," he insisted. He opened his mouth again, to say something, anything, but his thoughts died in his spine, and he closed it once more. What could he even say? Was he supposed to try to comfort anyone here? He didn't want to. He just wanted to try to breathe for a while. "Keep talking without me."
Magnotris kept his hand on Morning Star's back, rubbing in small circles. He turned back to Sterling after another second. "Did Jubilee say anything else to you?" he directed, in a low voice.
Morning Star closed his eyes. Yes, this was okay. He could listen to his boyfriend and best friend chat, and listen to the ambient noise in the cafe. That sounded genuinely relaxing, in this corner of the world, alone and happy, bright and cheerful, so far away from all the stresses and politics and death and destruction he'd been enmeshed in. Was it irresponsible to want to stay here forever?
"He said someone would be by my TImeline in a few days to discuss... I guess me being an Overseer, I think?" Sterling gave a light shrug. He had a croissant sitting on the circular table in front of him, although only a few bites had been taken out of it. Morning Star hadn't known Sterling ate. "I told him fat chance I'd do shit like that, you worm, but he didn't seem to care. I'll say there's, uh, more than just a fat chance of me accepting...."
Magnotris smiled, leaning on a hand. "Haha, Overseer Sterling does have a good ring to it."
"I wonder what jobs they'd even give me," Sterling snorted in response. "No, for real. I don't think they'd let me do combat. Too, uh, violent I think? You know what I mean?"
"It'd look bad if the Overseers started using gold torture on their enemies, yeah." Magnotris nodded. "I dunno if we'll even fucking need an army after this. The Shards are disbanding - at least their violent operatives - the Haven's opened borders... I guess only the black market's left?"
"It's kind of exciting," Morning Star peeped up.
Both of the others turned to glance at him.
He ducked his head slightly, then blushed. No, these were his friends. He could be honest around them. With dignity, he raised his chin again. "I mean, this is unprecedented levels of peace, right?"
"I'm worried the Shards are gonna rebel against Rendgen, honestly," Magnotris muttered. "Who says Virant won't decide to take matters into his own hands? Keep up their plan? Then again... dunno how well they'll succeed with Bereave... y'know, dead and all."
Morning Star shuddered. The rubs on his back became just a little bit firmer.
"I can't believe Jubilee expects that to be kept mum," Sterling muttered, biting his croissant. "It's gotta get out sooner or later, right? Someone's gotta be in contact with Bereave or, like, notice he's dead?"
Magnotris shrugged. "I don't think anyone really knew Bereave that well. Genesis, I guess, I'd assume? But what's Genesis going to do? Nobody's seen them or anything, as far as I know."
"How the heck do you guys know they exist, then?"
"Uh, well, Bereave existed... I think that's pretty good reasoning that Genesis is fucking about. And, like, everything Bereave said... y'know. It just felt like it was the truth, and the creation myth seemed to add up to what he was saying...."
Sterling huffed, rubbing one of his ears. "Ugh, don't remind me. His ridiculous Magninium hurt my head so much. I didn't think I'd be able to hear him, but nope, it was loud and clear."
Morning Star slid down slightly further in his seat. This was straying uncomfortably close to territory he wasn't ready to engage with yet. Rather than listen, he let his eyes wander around the cafe, at the cute and chic decor. The entire place was cast in happy yellows and oranges, bright posters, big windows. It was really cute... he wondered, briefly, how Magnotris had even known it. It seemed rather out of his style.
"You okay?" came his partner's voice, again, breaking him from his thoughts.
Morning Star turned his head. Magnotris stared back, confused concern all over his face. Could Morning Star even blame him? Of course not... Magnotris still had that drive to protect him, underneath everything, even after all they'd been through. Of course he'd harbor worry for his emotional state after... yeah.
He coughed into a hand. "I'm going to go get a milkshake."
Magnotris' face lit up. "Wait, really? You drink?"
"Er, I didn't," he admitted. Food had always seemed a little strange. "But I want to try."
The chair squealed as Magnotris stood, "Oh, I know a few really good smoothies and stuff you can try - this place makes really good ice cream, too, and-"
"-You stay here," Morning Star spoke, with more confidence in his voice than he expected as he pointed at Magnotris' chair. "Talk to Sterling. I-I want to try one on my own."
Magnotris blinked rapidly before sitting slowly, still with wide eyes and a slightly-open mouth. After a second, a moment of hurt flickered on his expression as he turned back to the table. Oh, fuck, oh shit, that wasn't what he'd meant!
"Er - M-Magnotris I didn't mean to upset you," he said, rubbing the back of his neck, confidence leaked out like a balloon.
Magnotris breathed in slowly before offering Morning Star a small smile. "It's okay. I figured you didn't. I was just, er, surprised. Yeah."
"Okay. I'm... gonna go to the counter now." Morning Star smiled back, just as nervous.
Magnotris leaned forwards to peck a small smooch on the tip of Morning Star's snout. He blinked once before smiling broadly and leaning forwards to kiss Magnotris' lips, gingerly, just a tiny kiss. He stood, feeling the blush rise to his cheeks in time.
"Get a room," Sterling waved them off.
Morning Star shot his friend a smile as he trailed towards the counter aimlessly. There was an unmistakable spring in his step now, anxiety temporarily forgotten. Oh, he loved Magnotris. How could he ever pretend he didn't?
There was a Frag at the counter, sorting some pretty cups. They were tall and tinted blue, sparkling clean, stacked in a neat pyramid. Morning Star paused to admire their work. They were moving each cup by hand, a tangible, slow movement, not using magic. Did they enjoy not using magic for such a task? How difficult was it, to perfectly balance such fragile cups on top of one another, and hope they didn't break?
They smiled when he caught their eye.
"Hi," Morning Star began, drawing his hands together in his lap. "I'm - I'd like to try a milkshake, please."
They stood up straight, and gestured to the wall behind them. A plethora of words were written, in pink, on whiteboards. "Sure! I can mix up just about any of these flavors. Got any in mind?"
"Oh, well..." all of the words were familiar - he objectively knew what they were - but he'd never really eaten much before. A snack here or there, a small bite of food, but never really understanding what he was consuming and why. "Well, I've never had a milkshake before... what do you reccomend?"
"Welll, if you like salty things, caramel fudge's a good choice. Or, if you like sweet things, strawberry is always popular." they smiled.
Wow! He had no idea what either of those meant, but Morning Star smiled anyways. "Er... I think the caramel fudge's fine."
"Comin' right up - can I get your name?"
For an inexplicable reason, it was nice, to know that someone didn't know his name. He was still a stranger here, faceless, nameless. An entity of nothing, a blank slate to this stranger. "I'm Morning Star. He and him."
"I'm Carvodescent! He-him too." he offered a hand, and Morning Star politely shook. Their grip was firm.
He stepped back to pull several ingredients out of a small fridge. Holy shit, was he making the entire thing from scratch? That was pretty impressive, honestly... Morning Star had never found worth in that sort of thing about food - then again, he'd never been a huge fan. He watched with huge eyes as the other poured all of their handfuls into a weird little machine.
It made a horrible noise when Carvodescent turned it on, but Morning Star didn't even flinch. "Is this your regular job?" he asked, over the blending.
"Oh, nah! I'm usually in Research and Remove, mixin' potions, stuff like that. I do this on the side 'cause it's way more fun."
Morning Star smiled. There was an innocence in that he could appreciate. He really needed to pick up some sort of hobby, too. It'd help keep the stress down. Now, what suited him...? Drawing, painting? Knitting? The idea of knitting a sweater for Magnotris was really, really cute. Maybe he'd have to dabble in it.
The noise receded as Carvo turned off the machine. He poured the resulting mixture into one of the tall cups, plopped a straw in the mixture, and slid it across the counter to Morning Star. He caught it in a hand, staring down at it. It smelled... good.
"Lemme know whatcha think!"
He gave a nod to the other, then turned back to his milkshake. He'd always found food a little gross, a little too thick... his body converted anything he ingested into pure magic, but eating anything had always left him feeling bloated and uncomfortable for hours afterwards. It was a slow, arduous process. He'd rather crack a gemstone for more magic.
But maybe this cold refreshment would help him clear his head.
Gingerly, Morning Star leaned forwards, holding the bend of the straw steady as he closed his mouth over it. Here went nothing.
...He wasn't well-versed in enough in food or palettes to recognize exactly what flavor or taste this concoction was. But, whatever it was, whatever strange thing he had just drank... it was good. Cold, but tasty. It made him feel happy. Huh. Was this why other Frags ate?
"Well?" Carvo prompted.
"It's -" Morning Star paused, then smiled, "it's really good. Thank you."
Carvo beamed back, "Glad to hear it! Lemme know if you need anything else, alright?"
He resumed stacking various cups and napkins. Morning Star watched, still drinking down some of the milkshake. He could hear Sterling and Magnotris' voices, in the background, talking, but he tuned out the details. He needed a break from thinking about all that. Still, even then, he could feel those thoughts and feelings creeping back into his brain, into spaces he wasn't ready to share or inspect yet.
Maybe he needed to talk to Jubilee, to settle everything churning inside of himself. Talk to the man who had committed the crime, get his perspective, his thoughts. Share a little bit of peace with each other, explore the nuances of what they'd done together. Like it or not, Morning Star had contributed. He'd given Jubilee his magic. He could get answers.
What would he even ask? For more justification on why Bereave deserved... it? For Jubilee to admit he was too hasty? Would Jubilee even admit such a thing? He couldn't fathom spending his entire life, wishing, yearning, fantasizing for the death of someone. Had that quest so wholly consumed Jubilee that he couldn't even see the error of his ways?
Or was Morning Star wrong? Did Bereave truly deserve... it? Were his crimes too great, his personality immovable? He'd... he'd never know, would he? Could Bereave be brought back to life? They'd made a Magnitude Fragment from half of him... he hadn't even known that was possible. What were they going to do with Bereave's corpse? Would reality have any long-lasting effects on it? Would the Timelines themselves begin to break down? Would Genesis rise up in revenge and try to strike them all down?
He'd been privy to such things, things that the Morning Star of merely a year ago wouldn't have even dreamed of. Blessings, Overseers, gods, death, Mag Frags, births, the upheaval of reality itself. He'd been a part of that, an irreplaceable part, a cog that kept the whole story spinning and spinning. When would he finally get to catch his breath?
There were so many futures, sprawled out in front of him, waiting for him to seize it. They were his futures. He could bend and twist them as he pleased, take whichever he wanted. He was no passive rider of fate; he commanded it, he chose his path, forged his own struggles, bent but did not break. He'd survived so much, in such a small amount of time. He was stronger than he'd ever known, stronger than he'd ever given himself credit for.
No longer was he Morning Star, firstborn Fragment of AAA-100, desperately trying to leave his backwater home behind to chase something new. He was Overseer Morning Star, Pya-Blessed changer of fates, killer of god, ambassador of the Coalition of Reality on Jubilee's behalf, friend of Sundae and the Haven.
Fuck, he'd ended up thinking about it anyways. Morning Star breathed in slowly.
And despite everything, he was still Morning Star.
The straw noisily scraped against the bottom of the glass. Morning Star blinked, then let go of it, glancing at his cup. Oh, he'd drank it all. Maybe he liked milkshakes more than he'd given himself credit for. Hopefully he wasn't going to feel sickly later as a result... he'd hate to have to lay there and mope, Magnotris putting a hot pad on his stomach and an ice pack on his forehead. Then again, Magnotris being precious and loving was always cute!
Carvo accepted the cup as Morning Star slid it right back over. The bartender gave a pleased nod, and Morning Star stood. That had been... nice. Nicer than he'd expected. Maybe he needed more milkshakes in his life. Maybe he'd take Magnotris with him, since Magnotris seemed to like this place. They'd go out on dates, with delicious milkshakes, and with Magnotris wearing the adorable sweater he'd knit for him.
"Hey," Magnotris offered with a smile as Morning Star returned to the table.
He beamed at his boyfriend and perched in Magnotris' lap. Arms were slid around his waist immediately, a loving, warm pose. He nuzzled Magnotris, feeling the other's body heat, his heartbeat, the softness of his fur. His chin was tilted up so Magnotris could affectionately rub their muzzles together.
"Glad to see you're better, Morning Star," Sterling half-laughed. "You two going to head home?"
"Do you want to?" Magnotris asked. Morning Star just nodded into his neck.
Home was safe. Home was good. They could rest.
Sterling lifted two fingers to his forehead and saluted them before teleporting. Magnotris drew Morning Star closer around himself before letting teleportation envelop them as well. When Morning Star opened his eyes again, they were standing in their front lawn.
He clung to Magnotris, snuggling into the others' side as they paced inwards. This wasn't the fake house he'd made in the Sanctum. It felt so, so good to be home, especially after everything that had happened, and everything still yet to come. There were still so many answers to seek, so many things to explore, problems to solve. And they'd face them all together.
He breathed in slowly.
"I don't understand how you're taking this all so well," Morning Star began, his voice a mumble.
Magnotris glanced down at him. He drew his arm tighter around the other, letting Morning Star nestle up against his side harder. He was warm and comforting, his clothes a familiar fabric, his grip firmly warm. It was sort of making him sleepy.
"I mean, I can't process it," Morning Star lamented a second later, after the silence had continued too long, "it feels like I can replay all of a few days ago up until... Bereave. And I feel like I should feel... I don't know, more changed? More horrified? But I still just feel like me, but that feels so wrong. It feels like I should be more... freaked out than I am. And I am freaked out! But my mind's just focusing on... what happened to Bereave, and not everything else."
"I dunno," Magnotris muttered, rubbing his chin. "I guess I'm just... moving on. What else can I do?"
Morning Star stared at the floor before offering, "Talk to me about it?"
"Er - yeah, I suppose so. But what's the point in talking about it?"
"Isn't that what you were doing with Sterling earlier? What did you two talk about?"
Magnotris hummed thoughtfully, then fell silent. He opened the door and ushered them inside before continuing, "The future. His plans. My plans. I want to keep researching the cure I found, I want to help see if we can replicate it, if your Blessing's affected it... that sort of thing. I'm excited. And I guess I'm trying not to think about everything that happened, either. It's a lot to process. I'm just going to keep trucking through life, working through it best I can til then."
"That... that makes sense. Why are you always so smart?" Morning Star playfully nudged his ribs.
Magnotris grinned back. "Cause you've rubbed off on me, duh."
"Oh, too late, time for sleep. C'mon, Morning Star."
He buried his face in Magnotris' chest as he was deposited on their bed. Magnotris tumbled with him, giggling slightly as they fell together. Morning Star peeked up at him, feeling blush rise to his own cheeks. Despite everything, they were still okay. They were still together. They stuck beside one another, through thick and thin, through everything and anything, and they always would - that beautiful, unique stability they'd always share.
"I love you," he peeped out, and he could feel it in every fiber of his being.
Magnotris kissed his nose. "I love you, too. Now let's get some rest."