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Realistic or Modern Phantom Voices | ellarose & Syntra

Sub Genres
  1. LGTBQ
  2. Magical
  3. Mystery


Baba Yaga
You know how, in movies, they often did that slow motion shit to emphasize that the decision the protagonist had taken would have ConsequencesTM? That it wasn't the best idea, in other words? Well, Thea felt kinda like that, even if reality obviously didn't provide any special effects. It... didn't have to, to be honest. Like, it didn't take a fucking Einstein to figure out that a mouse attacking a wolf would have all the longevity of a leaf in a fireplace, okay? Despite what all the Disney movies told you, small animals couldn't routinely wrestle their bigger counterparts to death, thank you very much! ...still, it wasn't as if Thea had had an actual choice. The fish hadn't given her a cool werewolf form, so instead of cosplaying one of those Underworld fuckers, Thea had to make do with whatever she had. Not ideal, but hey, such was life! If I die here, the brunette told herself, it will at least be an epic death. Stuff of legends. Only amateurs died in their beds, after all-- people so clinically lacking in imagination that they wouldn't be able to recognize a good fucking plot line if it hit them in the head. Just, nope, nope, nope! Not a good enough fate for Thea Holloway, that was for certain. (That, and in a way, maybe dying wouldn't be that bad. If nothing else, it would... uhh, remove all the pesky aspects of life for her? No longer would she have to ask herself all those unpleasant questions, such as 'why am I such a goddamn failure,' 'how come nobody really likes me' or 'what the fuck am I going to do tomorrow.' Wouldn't it be oh so easy, to let it end here like that? A powerful epilogue to her story, uncomplicated in its simplicity. Zero chances for a sequel, too, which made it chef's kiss for real. Some better version of her would get to live forever in Clara's memories, which would definitely--)

'Oooh, grim,' the demon giggled. 'I kinda thought you were more resilient than that, crow. Or should I say mouse? Anyway, I do have to commend my men for picking such suitable sacrifices. Don't you want to make it easier for everyone involved and just... you know, kill yourself? My followers are spending a lot of resources to locate you, so that would really help.' Awesome, really. Trust a demon not to fuck shit up! Couldn't he, like, go one (1) second without providing this useless-ass commentary? No? No, apparently! ...sheesh, Thea didn't actually want to think about the implications of her own thought processes. Was that that hard to grasp, huh?

'When the fuck have I ever wanted to make things easier for your inbred bootlickers?' she snapped. Thanks for giving me a motivation to actually survive, asshole.' ...now, if only having a motivation actually did shit! Too bad that she wasn't some anime protagonist that derived power-ups from profound realizations, power of friendship, and shit like that-- as a mouse, Thea's only real """advantage""" was the fact that the wolf obviously wasn't used to pocket-sized prey. (But boy, oh boy, was she going to milk it! The predator howled in pain before trying to reach her, but she wasn't there anymore. Oh, no, no, no! With teeth sharper than razor, she attacked a different leg, tasting fresh blood this time. ...huh, bizarre. Would a mouse's digestive system know how to deal with that? Not that it mattered, of course, as she'd be fucking dead in seconds, but far be it from her to actually try to, you know, rein her thoughts in. Stream of consciousness it was, baby!) Can a wolf die from sheer annoyance? Please? Asking for a fucking friend!

Spoiler alert: it probably couldn't, but that didn't mean it couldn't die from different causes... such as whatever it was that Clara just did. (Wow, wow, wow! Was it just her, or was it getting hot here? There was nothing more attractive than a pretty girl dispatching a villain, if you asked Thea, and... Oh no, don't even fucking go there. Friends, remember? You're just friends, so let go of this incel-ish mindset. So what if the brunette had thought they had had a moment? Several moments, even? Her inner radar was fucking shit, apparently, and now she had to re-calibrate it, or live in eternal shame. What seemed like the more attractive option, huh? Again, you didn't need to be an Einstein to discern that!

"Great job," she murmured automatically, without realizing that her vocal cords shouldn't have worked. Somehow, they did, though? Oh well, good for her. "Well, whaddya say, I can! That sure is a surprise, even for me. The fucking fish didn't exactly bother to talk about the functionality of my last wish, and... shit, she hasn't talked about it ever expiring, either. I guess I'll be your plucky animal companion from now on! ...yeah, it's me," she added after a while. "Thea. Do you think mice can eat tacos? I don't think that life is worth living without tacos." Thea, ignoring the real issues in favor of cheap distractions? No sireeee, that had never happened before.


"Thea." Clara echoed back, uncomprehending. The revelation didn't pack the punch it warranted until she peered into the mouse's familiar eyes. The warmest, deepest brown she'd ever laid eyes on. She blinked once. Twice. It was when the tip of her index finger brushed the mouse's tiny paw that the fist of that unmistakable truth finally landed, stealing all the air from her lungs. Thea-- Thea!? Breathless, she repeated her name once more, this time with immensely more feeling. "Thea." When she eventually looked beyond the shock of it all, it actually made a lot of sense. Who else but Thea would have possessed the audacity it took to ambush a wolf that way? Who else would risk their life for her in a world where literally everything and everyone else was out to get her? And to think she'd done it all as a mouse no less. Seriously. It was so stupid it almost made her angry. But also so brave. So Thea.

"Okay. Okay... so you're a mouse now. Great." Clara sighed, dangerously faint. Taking her friend's predicament upon her shoulders as one they now shared, she probably would have buckled under its weight if she hadn't already been sitting down. Panic rocked through her, to the point where she could hardly see straight. How could Thea be so calm about this!? To heck with the tacos, her entire lifespan just took a drastic nosedive! That also begged the question... "If you were so concerned about tacos, why did you wish to be a mouse?"

Clara reigned herself in with a breath. No matter what, she owed it to Thea to keep it together here. Mouse or not, she still risked her life for her.

"Surely there must've been more to it than that." Clara knew that her friend was impulsive, but she had to give her more credit than that. Thea wasn't so chaotic that she would wish to be a mouse just to be 'lol so random' and unpredictable. And while she could understand the innate curiosity, the idea of seeing what it might be like to live life in an animal's skin and all, it just didn't make sense. Especially not when their circumstances were so dire. Maybe the fish had given her the opposite of what she'd asked for, then? "Thea, what exactly did you wish for?" Wording in wishes could be tricky. This wish surely had to go deeper than her... just being a mouse.

Their list of problems didn't end there, either. Considering they were locked in and all. (Which, why? This was a kitchen, for goodness sake, not a prison cell!) Oh, no. And if the key was on the wolf, then... her gaze slowly panned over to the disgusting goop on the ground. Ah. Well, it would have been right there, if it was still intact. Clara never wanted to smack herself more than she did in that moment. Because she just sent the wolf, along with his key, into another plane of existence. She'd been so flustered, she didn't think it through and now... and now they were...

...They? No. She was trapped. Thea the mouse, though? Well, there were still a number of ways she could make it out.

"Never mind. We need to get out of here... and I just vaporized the key. I'm locked in." Clara pinched the bridge of her nose.

'Need I remind you that you vaporized a man, too? I warned you about this, dove. No... perhaps you've been a raven this whole time? An ill omen, just like your dear old father always said. So long as you live, you'll leave a trail of death wherever you go!' The demon interrupted. Clara stared at her hands. Unbeknownst to her, the gold ribbons indicative of her scent interlaced with something sinister as he spoke. 'Look at yourself. Covered in ancestral blood and you never shed a single tear. And don't think I didn't notice the way you stared into that man's eyes as he died. So cold and unfeeling. Are you even human?'

'Who are you to lecture me about any of this?'
Clara thought, trying to numb herself to the barrage.

'Oh no. Make no mistake... raven. Do you prefer that moniker? I'm taking a liking to it. Isn't it freeing, to be seen the way you were meant to be seen? And you're no stranger to change.' The demon was smiling, she knew though she couldn't see it. 'No, no. I'm impressed. I was there when they hurt you, you see. I understand your suffering in a way no one else can. If you take my hand, you'll find a way out of here. You'll be free to fly wherever you choose, free from the judgement of your kind.'

Clara blinked hard. She remembered the sword that came from her chest, the way its light died in an instant. What was wrong with her? What part was so broken and... lifeless? For a second (a single second that she regretted with her entire being) she was almost tempted to surrender... and she quickly pulled herself back from the precipice. Nope. Not today. Everything he was feeding her, as Thea would colorfully put it, was bullshit. He tried to convince her they were one and the same... and yet here he was, reaching for the heart he claimed didn't exist. Vulnerable and mushy and susceptible to manipulation, despite the efforts she might make to guard it. Why bother reaching for it at all if she was heartless?

'Oh. Are you trying to empathize with me or something? Aren't you supposed to be a demon?'

"Right, so..." Clara broke out of her trance, attempting to recalibrate. She tried to focus on Thea. Thea, who was still a mouse and therefore didn't do much to quell her unease. "Can you investigate outside? Maybe there's another key somewhere." She nodded towards the kitchen. "And I'll see what I can do from here. Between the two of us, I'm sure we'll figure something out."


Baba Yaga
"Well, you know," Thea smirked, as much as her new face allowed her to, "I was just overcome with this immense desire to dive into the nearest hole. Inexplicable, but true. My body was too fucking big to fit, though, and so I asked the fish to turn me into a mouse. Consequences be damned, right? I guess it also seemed like a good deal to me because rodents don't need to pay their taxes, except that then it turned out my mouse form was too similar to that Ratatouille rat. That spelled my doom. Hordes of rabid fangirls chased me through the city, and... yeah, no! Did you think I was going to say something like that?" Maybe she would have looked menacing, but she was a) Thea, b) stuck in a body that just wasn't inherently terrifying. Like, you try being scary while having the cutest little nose in the world! (Not that Thea's usual self wasn't super cute, of course-- in fact, she'd call herself mega cute, solely because anything else seemed too weak sauce. That being said, though? Her cuteness was more of a 'would kill a man and get away with it' type, rather than her current 'sniffle, sniffle, don't step on me, please.' The downgrade was obvious, and once the brunette got her hands on the stupid, lying-ass fish, she'd make her pay! ...how long had it been since she had had a fish soup, btw.? Too fucking long, that was the answer.)

"Like, I know I can be impulsive from time to time," mildly speaking, "but come the fuck on. Do you think I'm dumb?" Clara wouldn't be the first person to come to that exact conclusion, but... well, let's just say that Thea hoped that things might be different between them. (Yeah, different. Heh. Considering her track record with certain ehm, ehm things, maybe she should just abandon all attempts at rational thought and form her opinions based on, say, a picker wheel. Uh huh, a much better judge of character! ...fuck, she still felt so stupid. Why would anyone, let alone a girl like Clara, feel the need to waste her time with such a colossal failure?) "Look, I didn't know where you were and needed to find you. I got the bright idea to ask for a superpower. The fish - fuck it, by the way - agreed, but nooo, of course that it couldn't let me pick! That would have been too straightforward and thus boring, or something. I don't make the rules around here, so I can only fucking guess. It ended up being random, and because god clearly loves me, this is what I got stuck with." Time to move on, Thea guessed! Did mice have, like, their version of mafia? As a human, she had never managed to join such an organization, but maybe all she needed was a metaphorical smaller pond, with even smaller fish. AmbitionsTM had always scared her, but mouse ambitions? Those had to be scaled down to their size, and perhaps that wasn't so bad. Thea could start building her criminal empire via seizing a cheese factory, and--

--oh. Yeah, daydreaming was probably something that she shouldn't indulge in now, especially seeing as they still had to get out of this hellhole. Sigh. "Okay, okay," she flicked her... paw? Yup, paw. (Jesus Christ, what a fucking shitshow. While Thea could imagine that members of certain, uhh... questionable internet communities would have been overjoyed to spend the rest of their lives in a furry animal's skin, she had never quite sunk so low. Just, gross!!!) "I'll go look. You gotta promise me something, though-- don't sell me to one of those families that want a pet for their shitty brat. I know they would get bored of me in nanoseconds. Actually, don't sell me at all?" Clara could probably make a fortune considering that she could, you know, talk, but Thea believed that their (hahaha) friendship trumped her entrepreneurial spirit.

To her companion, the kitchen might as well have been a fucking prison, but to a mouse? Yeah, it was about as secure as your local Walmart. Within seconds, Thea found herself outside, and... hmm, what was that? Noises, coming from... uh, somewhere. (Shit, couldn't the fish have included a map? Or at least a GPS? It was disorienting af, having to watch the world from the perspective of a creature about million times smaller than her. Like!!!)

Anyway, having nothing better to do, Thea decided to InvestigateTM. What was the worst thing that could happen, right? ...running into motherfucking Ian, as it turned out. Ian, who was rummaging around in the fridge.

"Hey," Thea called out, "what are you doing here?"

"What!! Are you... are you shitting me?" The boy looked around, probably to confirm to himself that, yes, the mouse indeed was talking. "Man, I haven't drunk the beer yet, have I? This is trippy as fuck."

"No, you obviously haven't," the brunette rolled her eyes. "Not the fucking point, though. Do you know where I can find the key to the other kitchen? My friend is kinda locked in there, and--"

"You mean this one?" Ian reached under his shirt and pulled out a silver necklace-- a silver necklace upon which, funnily enough, a key way attached. "My universal key? Look, a talking mouse is a riot, but I dunno if I should help you guys. I mean, what's in it for me? This shit seems both shady and dangerous. Hey, prisoner girl!" he called out, his voice returning as an echo. (10/10 for stealth, really!) "Care to tell me why I should save you, exactly?"


"Well, of course the fish didn't let you choose." Clara brought her index finger to her chin, her gaze drifting thoughtfully to the ceiling. She winced when she noticed Thea's expression, recognizing how easily that could be construed as insensitive... especially considering her current plight. Her glare probably would have killed her right then and there if she wasn't glaring with that adorable little mouse face. Nice one. Way to sound pretentious, Clara. She brushed a strand of hair behind her ear and shuffled guiltily. "I'm just saying. You weren't specific when you made your wish. All you said was 'superpowers'." Still. Turning into a mouse wasn't necessarily the first thing she'd think of, when she considered heroes in cartoons and comic books. "...There could be more to it. What if you're actually a shapeshifter or something?"

Clara considered smoothing it over, perhaps by saying that everyone makes oversights like this in times of crisis. Kind of like how she just melted the key. Of course she didn't think that her friend was dumb! But Thea was already onto the next topic and the words might as well have pierced through her like knives.

'What did you expect? She's seen proof that your heart's a cold and empty place.' The demon interjected unhelpfully. Clara squeezed her eyes shut, wishing that she had her headphones to block him out. Some heavy metal at maxed volume might be enough to drive him out. 'If I were crow... snrk, mouse, I'd be concerned too.'

"I wouldn't sell you for anything, Thea." Clara promised. She was mildly nonplussed by the sound of her voice, chastised and brittle, as if minimal effort could break it right in half. But Thea was already darting away through a hole in the wall. She'd spoken too late. Her friend probably didn't hear her. "...Be safe, then."

Clara should have picked herself up and started looking for clues. The rational voice in her head kicked and screamed at her to get up. But she was no stranger to ignoring the voices in her head... and even the ground was looking more and more like a real comfortable place to rest. She curled up like a cat, surrendering the battle to her lazy vices without putting up much of a fight. She was sleepy, exhausted, hurt and she'd already looked around plenty. There was no way out and no amount of willpower would magically make one appear. Conserving her energy was really the wisest thing she could do right now. She closed her eyes and thought about what she could say to Thea, to salve whatever pain she might've caused. Words. Why were words always so complicated?

...Fantastic, then, that Ian expected her to use words to bargain for her freedom. The universe really was a sick joke.

“Because… because I can see the future. And you’re about to get in serious trouble, Ian. If you let me out, I can help you.” Clara pushed herself back up to her feet, shivering as her entire body ached in protest. Unfortunately, she wasn't even convincing herself. Her tone was devoid of any fire or hope.

Riiight. I’m calling bullshit.” Ian snorted. “Why should I believe you?”

Clara resisted the urge to groan audibly, dragging her hands over her face. Technically, it wasn’t a lie. If the Ian they saw earlier was related to this Ian, that meant he was about to get busted for stealing booze. If they played their cards right now, maybe they could stop it from happening altogether. And by saving him, if the pattern from the first time continued, she and Thea would not only find the key to this kitchen-- but the key out of this weird amusement park. Still, it was easier said than done. How many times had she offered to help this guy, only to get spat at with blatant disrespect? Was it really so hard to unlock a door and help a girl out? Leave it to Ian to overcomplicate things with his moody teenage shtick! But in a way, it was because of his teenage shtick that she was inclined to help him. He never had the chance to grow or change. He was just a kid. And he didn't deserve whatever the fresh hell she and Thea witnessed in the woods.

“Think about it. You’re talking to a mouse right now.” Clara supplied matter-of-factly. “That's proof enough that my friend and I have superpowers."

“Man, I can't believe you said that without stuttering! Friends with mouse. Pffft, so stupid.” Ian snickered, bypassing her reasoning in favor of petty amusement. Judgement dripped from every word… and Clara immediately envisioned the dirty expression Thea must've cast his way in response. “Your stepmother lock you in there, Cinderella? Sounds a lot like you’re the one who needs help, not me.” He must've thought that was particularly clever, because he continued to laugh. "If you really know the future, why'd you go and get yourself locked up in the first place?"

Ian turned to poke at Thea, then, with the blunt curiosity of a toddler prodding at ants with a stick. "Besides, how's squeakers here gonna help anyone? Like, what kind of superpower is that?" He rolled his eyes. "...Even if you have powers, you have the lamest ones I've ever seen. Unless you can show me something cool?"


Baba Yaga
Okay, a note to self: In case you ever decide to have children, fucking don’t. And if you change your opinion? Refer back to this shit-ass memory. Children were annoying on their own, with their squeaky voices and needs and… and all those scary vulnerabilities, but the worst thing about them? The worst thing about them was that, inevitably, they turned into teenagers-- all of a sudden, the little shit whose ass you’d wiped was too cool for you, and used lingo specifically invented to make you feel old. Seriously, what was up with that? One would have thought that, if Mother Nature wanted them to procreate, she would have used the best marketing ever, and not whatever… whatever this was. A fucking PR catastrophe in the making, really. ‘Do you miss having to feed your precious little angel every five minutes? Well, now that you’ve beaten Parenthood, you can play it on new game plus on the teenager level of difficulty! New challenges include weekly mental breakdowns, being hated by your own spawn, and the increasing awareness of your own mortality.’ 0/10, truly, and seeing Ian act out only solidified Thea’s position. “Do you shut up? Like, ever? Just a pro tip, bro-- you will never get a girlfriend if you make it this obvious that you think you’re the best thing since sliced fucking bread. Or like, you could, but you’d actually have to be that good. Can you provide nutrients in such a quick, efficient manner?”

“…sliced bread isn’t actually good for you, you freak,” Ian snapped. “Besides, what makes you feel I’d want her as a girlfriend? She’s properly ancient. Like, I am not into soon-to-be corpses.”

“Ah-ha! So you don’t have one,” Thea smirked, satisfied that he had fallen for the trap. Hook, line, and sinker, bitch! “Can’t say I’m surprised. Someone as… hmm, as fucking charming as yourself is bound to have problems in this area.”

“What!” the boy shouted, probably just inches away from strangling her. You know what, though? It was worth it, worth it, worth it, and thousand times worth it! The brat deserved his comeuppance, and since karma just wasn’t a thing, Thea had had to take care of it herself. “Y-you don’t know what you’re talking about. Besides, who’d want to take advice from a literal mouse? I dunno, seems like you’ve made some pretty questionable decisions yourself. Who did you piss off, huh?” …fate, most likely, though the brunette certainly wasn’t going to admit to that.

“Have you maybe considered that I like being a mouse?” she batted her eyelashes, spinning the excuse out of thin air. (Yep, it was yet another episode of Thea’s mouth working faster than her brain, why do you ask?) “You get plenty of benefits, and, um, the change of perspective is really fucking eye-opening. Too many people take their size for granted, for example. This is… uhh, sensitivity training? Yeah, something like that,” Thea nodded, because duh, phrases like that always made you sound that much more believable. Of course that Ian wasn’t able to appreciate her being this quick on her feet, though! No, he… he wanted to see circus tricks, the barbarian. Ugh. Was this the level she had sunk to? Fucking hell, Thea hadn’t thought that she’d ever be reduced to a teenage boy’s personal clown! Wait, the brunette realized, I don’t actually have to do that. More like that she couldn’t do that, mind you-- Ian’s ‘too cool for school’ attitude made the whole premise nonsensical in the first place, and besides, Thea had suffered enough humiliations today already. The last bits of self-respect that she was still desperately holding onto? Nope, not letting those go! Okay, time for plan B.

“Wanna see something impressive, huh?” Thea smirked. “Alright, then. I’ll show you the most special trick in my book. I’ve got it trademarked, so no copying. Anyway, can you maybe… lean closer? It’s hard to spot with your current height.”

“Yeah?” Ian tilted his head aside, before dropping on his knees. (He was trying to keep his tone uninterested, mostly because genuine interest in literally anything would have blown his cover, but he couldn’t fool Thea’s ears-- something about what she had said did appeal to him, quite clearly.) “What will it be? I’m dying with curiosi… aargh!” Aaargh, indeed. The brunette mostly considered him to be a drama queen, though right now? Right now, she conceded that maybe he had a valid reason or two for the spectacle. Being bitten in the neck couldn’t have been all that pleasant, after all! (Well, that, and she also may have scratched him a bit while snatching the damn key. Which, like, not her fault, okay? Had he surrendered it willingly, she wouldn’t have had to resort to such an underhanded means. As always, the world was to blame, and not Thea!)

“You rat! I swear that I’m going to…” Ian snapped, but at that point, it was too late. With the key between her teeth, she crawled through one of the holes, and ah-ha! Soon enough, she was dropping the key at Clara’s feet. “There you go. Who’s the best fucking mouse in the whole fucking world?”


"Thea Holloway. You bit him, didn't you." It wasn't a question so much as it was a statement. Listening to their exchange through the door, it didn't take a rocket scientist to piece that one together. Clara meant to glare at Thea sternly, as this was no laughing matter, but then... no, yeah, she totally laughed instead. It gushed out of her before she could stop it, a soft and floaty little sound. The bubbling sensation that accompanied it left her awestruck and she couldn't help covering her mouth with her hand, as if she'd been caught committing some crime. Huh. How long had it been since she laughed like that? Long enough for her to wonder with a furrowing brow... which meant it had to be way too long. Wow. Depressing. But, hey, moving on! She coughed awkwardly in the aftermath, fixing rouge strands of her hair and smoothing down the creases in her clothes as if to reposition herself where she belonged. A rebellious little thrill lingered in her, though, and her smirk remained intact a moment longer. "...You are. Nicely done." With a firm nod, she took the key from the ground. To heck with it. Why not admire her friend for working smarter, not harder? In her place, Clara probably would have been needlessly innovative about it, trying to concoct some outlandish trick. But had she wasted time entertaining Ian's childish game of charades, they'd likely have missed their narrow window of opportunity to save the kid. This was a classic distinction between book smarts and street smarts, she guessed. During a crisis, Thea possessed the skill to act on her feet... or rather on her cute little mouse paws? Well, that was besides the point. "You truly are a master escapist."

What? Not that Clara was melting or anything, but Thea deserved some praise after she went and saved her life. And as a mouse, no less. It didn't matter what form she took. She had guts. And, gosh, that was so very attracti--

No. Nope, nope, nope. Clara couldn't process or handle that thought right now. Her legs were clearly jellying because she was tired, not smitten! So again, moving on.

"He had it coming. But we still need to save him from those freaks." Clara lifted the bloodied steak knife from the floor, catching a glimpse of her reflection in the process. Oh, the horror. What a wreck she was! If-- no, when-- when they got out of there, she needed to clean herself up stat. When she finally escaped her life in that old trailer park, she vowed never to give anyone a reason to look down on her like riffraff again. It wasn't because she was vain... or maybe it was, to a certain extent. But you know what? Screw it. There's a special type of trauma that comes with being known as the smelly girl in elementary school. Ever since, she'd been diligent in practicing her habits of self care. Self. Care. Therefore she did it primarily for herself and her own peace of mind, not for anyone else's benefit. In order to step foot outside of her apartment, it was a personal rule that she smell as pretty as a rose, wear a perfectly composed outfit and have her hair and make up done just right. Like that, she could fool any passerby or colleague into believing she had her life together. Even if it was the farthest thing from the truth.

A pulse of irrational fear cornered her for a moment. The concept that Thea might be making all sorts of insulting discernments about her... it tore her to pieces. Because the illusion had shattered already, hadn't it? Underneath all that meticulous upkeep, she was a total mess who came from an equally messy dumpster fire of a home. Thea saw everything. Well, maybe not everything. But she had seen enough to construe and cultivate judgement. The crappy trailer, the alcoholic father who believed she was some demon spawn...

Snap out of it, Clara. Ian needed their help and Thea was still a mouse, for goodness sake! Her friend hadn't said or done anything to indicate that she thought any less of her thus far. And she clearly had far more important things to worry about than making petty, snap judgements. Obviously she's not thinking about you. Don't be such a narcissist.

...Still. It would've been nice if Clara could give off at least the impression that she had everything under control now. The knife hadn't exactly been an effective means of defending herself against the wolf before. What good would it do her if she couldn't use it confidently? Even so, it seemed a better policy to approach their next ordeal armed rather than unarmed. Any of the weapons she possessed within the bullshit 'depths of her heart' were already proven to be broken and unreliable.

"You'll have to teach me how to use a knife one of these days." Clara considered as she studied the blade. "You know, when you have opposable thumbs again." When, not if. Hopefully those subtle hints of optimism would make her friend feel a little better about all of this. Because Thea would have opposable thumbs again, dang it. Clara refused to accept that she was a mouse forever now just because a magical fish said so. Then she kneeled down and opened her palm. It seemed way too intrusive to just pick her up, so she had to ask. "Will you let me carry you for now? Once we leave the kitchen, there's no telling what's going to happen. I don't want us to get separated again." Or, you know, for Thea to get squished under a cultist's boot. But she preferred not to speak that thought into existence.


Baba Yaga
Ian’s complaints still rang in her ears, like this distant echo, and Thea… well, Thea couldn’t help but chuckle. Just, haha, sucker! Served him well for trying to outsmart someone infinitely smart than he himself was-- the whole fucking situation was like a ladybug challenging an eagle to a duel, really. “I did,” she agreed easily, not even attempting to hide the truth from Clara. “I hope I gave him some disease, too. You think that my so-called superpowers come with rabies?” Not gonna lie, that would have been kind of cool. Sure, sure, it also would have carried some… hmm, unfortunate implications regarding her own health, but who cared? It still would have been an okay trade off for becoming a fucking biological weapon, thank you very much. Fuck, the whole world should tremble with fear! Finally, finally she could play out her supervillain fantasies irl, one bite at a time. “The stupid fish at least should have provided a fucking manual. Like, hellooo? I spent most of my life being human, so helping me adjust to the rat experience would have been super helpful.” Of course, that alone should have told her why the fish hadn’t done it—it wouldn’t have been cryptic enough, so obviously, that had been a no-go. Had she, like, signed a contract explicitly forbidding her from not being a giant pain in the ass? ‘Cause that was the only logical explanation out there! …okay, okay, semi-logical, considering that she didn’t have hands and shit. Even so, given their track record in the bullshitty realms of surrealism, it still made more sense than usual. (Silver linings, right? Right.)

“Ha! Told ya so,” Thea grinned, ignoring the voice in the back of her head that kept screaming ‘friends, friends, friends, you guys are just friends.’ Which, not her fucking fault, okay? A pretty girl had just praised her, and everyone knew that that was exactly Thea Holloway’s kryptonite. Could she be blamed, with Clara’s million dollar smile and that stare that she gave her? Despite her awesomeness, the brunette was still just a… well, currently more a mouse than a human, though the same point still applied. ‘How tragic,’ the demon sneered. ‘Ah, if only you knew what she really thinks of you! I’m sure that would open your eyes pretty fast, crow. Come on, why don’t you ask me?’ “Harry Houdini has nothing on me. I mean, the dude can’t even escape from his own goddamn coffin,” she continued stubbornly, pushing the demon deeper into the unused parts of her mind. (Hmm, hmm. To believe your friend, or a literal creature from hell trying to hijack your body? Tough choice, indeed! …well, that, and perhaps she also didn’t want to hear what he had to say. Not that she believed him or anything like that, of course not, though strictly speaking, the chances of him being right weren’t zero percent, now were they? And since denial was Thea’s main survival strategy, she did what she did best.) “Honestly, that just strikes me as a low-effort performance. 0/10.”

The idea of Clara carried her was, umm, an interesting one, in that it caused her entire thought process to glitch the fuck out. Like!!! To have her hands all over her had been the subject of her daydreams for a while, and while she did not expect it to play out in this way… well, Thea would take it. Who was she to deny fate, right? Just, look at the Greeks and how it had worked out for them, the suckers! Nope, nope, nope, not risking any nasty-ass self-fulfilling prophecy here. “Sure,” she nodded, oh so casually. (Was it casual enough? Please, please, please, don't let her excitement blow her cover! ...also, how pathetic was that, getting all riled up over being carried by her not-crush? In her mouse form, to top it off? Yeah, great job, Thea! That wasn't desperate at all, nuh-uh.) "I will teach you the best knife tricks under the fucking sun," she promised, partially to chase away those strange, forbidden thoughts. "You seen those samurai movies where they can cut a silky shawl mid-air? It will be exactly like that, if you suspend disbelief a bit. That's the key to happy life, I've learned."

Something about what Clara had said was bothering her, though, and only now was she able to put her finger on it. "Wait, wait, wait. Save him? I mean, for that, it's kind of late." Sure, just like it was kind of late to assassinate baby Hitler, really. "It has happened already. Plus, this is some weird-ass simulation, not the real deal, so I doubt that saving him is what we're meant to do. We didn't even save Lizzie, remember?" Nope, giving them a fake happy ending would have been like... like giving them fake ice-cream, and nobody would enjoy that.

"...hellooo, I'm still here," Ian rolled his eyes, apparently not wounded enough to give up his cool persona. Well, good to know! He'd live... for a while. "What has happened already, you freaks?"


“I don’t mean…” Clara paused, taking a second to set her thoughts in proper order before speaking them aloud. “Remember how it went down yesterday? We revisited our memories and caught Lizzie before she hit the ground. Sure it didn’t change reality, but that’s how we brought her to rest. So I think we should try it… if only to see if there’s a pattern.” Yes, there was an indisputable nonsense when it came to the way this place functioned. But surely there must have been some kind of common thread at the center of it all. Clara was determined to find it. There had to be a solution that would act as their key out. Repeating their proven method from before certainly seemed like the best bet to her, especially while they had the perfect opportunity to warn him right here in front of them.

“Ian, you’re going to die if you stay here.” Clara informed him with an air of practicality, following the structure of her plan in a rather cut-and-dried fashion. Ian’s face scrunched up confusedly before falling slack with realization when he pinpointed the bloody knife at her side. Connecting the dots between her words, the knife, and the blood… let’s just say he didn’t have to say anything for Clara to confront her mistake. Oops.

“Uh… what?”

“Oh. I’m not going to kill you, um…” Clara backtracked, panicking. Quickly, she latched onto the first word she could think of that might make her sound friendly and harmless. “…bro.” Bro? Was that really the best she could do? Good grief. Unenthused one-liners suited her personality better than these frantic attempts to make nice with moody ghosts. Unfortunately, this was often their only means of escaping these alternate hell dimensions with all of their limbs intact. Life sure went a lot smoother when she didn’t speak at all. When she refused to care, meddle or poke her nose in the affairs of others. Even if she ached with those loneliness pangs late into the night… what was a simple ache in her chest compared to this chaos? And she'd thrown herself into it headfirst, without even thinking. This was her life now. Total chaos, where everything changed faster than she could think, faster than she could keep up with. 'Such is the way of the tower.' The voices said. 'Such is the way of the tower. Accept it, don't reject it.'

“Pfft. ‘Course you’re not. A tiny priss like you wouldn't stand a chance against me!” Ian scoffed, puffing out his chest. Uh huh. He might’ve made a real convincing tough guy if his voice didn’t crack. “You’re short enough to be a pixie at Disneyland.”

Clara glared, unimpressed. But... wait a second. Wasn't that a reference to their conversation earlier? Was he starting to remember them—?

“I don’t trust that mouse. She's shady. And...” Ian pointed accusatorially at Thea. Then his finger hovered to Clara, trembling and betraying the fear he tried to hide. “Wait a sec. I know you. You killed your old man.”

Yeah? Except she had saved Ian then, so it shouldn't have been a problem. His reaction wasn't lining up with that part of the narrative. Instead, it sounded like an echo from somebody else, from some other distant memory, and his words cut her deeper than he ever could have realized.

“It’s not like I’m scared of you.” Ian wasn’t fooling anyone. He stumbled backwards and broke into a run. “But you two are fucking weird. Stay away from me!”

"Great." Clara swore under her breath. “Hang on, Thea.” She dropped the knife with a sigh, freeing her other hand so that she could cradle Thea with both of them. She might have botched that conversation, but at least she had her priorities in order! And she needed to keep her friend safe and steady while she chased after Ian. When she ran, the world wrapped around them like a rainbow tunnel before settling into a bright amusement park. This time it wasn't an abandoned shell of what it once was. The cacophony of noise and whirling neon lights were dizzying.

“…Yeah? Well, you keep eyeing those derpy stuffed animals.” Ivy’s distinctive voice cut above all the others. Clara's heart lurched and she stopped short. Nearby, one of her memories played out by a row of game stalls, where various fluffy stuffed animal prizes hung from the ceilings. “Aw, Clare-bear. Don’t tell me you want one? That’s fucking adorable!” She squashed her teasing tone into something nasally and high-pitched while pinching the memory Clara’s cheek. She smacked the offending hand away and rubbed her face, glaring off to the side. “…I don’t.” Yeah, that'd been a total lie. But then Ivy gave that husky laugh, the one that always drew her back in like a spell. “Don’t be mad, baby. I’m just messin’ with you.”

Meanwhile, the present Clara cringed. Because yikes. Did they think they were cool, standing on the sidelines, juxtaposing the cheery environment in their dark, grungy clothes? Well, they were only teenagers then. While it was painful to confront, she supposed she could cut herself some slack. For the record, though, the stuffed animals were very cute. They might have been a little bit cross-eyed, but that was part of their charm! (...Amusement parks had heaps of potential as a romantic date spot, too. Admiring the view at the top of the ferris wheel, sharing delicious desserts, and yes, winning some silly prize as a keepsake of a special evening. Ivy wasn't about that, though. Looking back, the imagery dreamed about was an embarrassing reminder of the dumb, corny, and ultimately unattainable love story she pined for.) Anyway. Tempting as it would've been to stay and fight on behalf of the stuffed animal revolution, Clara recalled their objective and continued after Ian.

Eventually, this led them into some attraction called the Tower of Mirrors. And the memories didn’t stop at the game stalls. In every mirror's surface, different snapshots of her life played out as if some sicko had been taking surveillance videos her whole life. It wasn't just scenes from her life either, as pieces of Thea and Ian’s lives were reflected as well. Without meaning to, Clara glimpsed a rather harrowing snapshot of Thea in a hospital bed. The sight burned into her retinas like the sun and she hurriedly snapped her attention elsewhere. Oh, Thea. Instinctively, she cuddled her friend a smidgen closer to her chest as if to protect her from it. Gosh. Who knows what else is being broadcasted in here. Like herself at eleven years old aiming a gun, for instance? No, don't look at the mirrors. Focus on Ian. Rushing past the myriad of scenes, they finally discovered him at the end of the maze. He'd dropped to his knees in front of the final and largest mirror. The gruesome image it unveiled was of him. Or rather his body, bobbing in a lake with that horrible collar still tied around his neck. Eyes hollowed out. Lifeless.

Feeling nauseous and winded from the journey, Clara quietly sank to the ground a few feet behind Ian. She opened her hands in her lap, granting Thea the freedom to roam where she pleased again. She peered down at her, visibly at a loss. Because this wasn't something she could fix. It was too big, too complex... and not at all like what happened with Lizzie. What now? What were they supposed to say in a situation like this?


Baba Yaga
Oh, fucking god. Like, couldn’t Ian get a grip? He had spent an unspecified amount of time in captivity, surrounded by the creepiest guys in history, and yet, yet he still chose to be afraid of two (2) innocent girls. (Alright, Thea had to admit, ‘innocent’ was a somewhat loaded term with the two of them, but honestly, what was the difference between a murderer and a hero? One’s choice of victims, essentially, which, come the fuck on. Who the hell was going to miss a horror movie nurse and… uhh, a general freakshow of a father? Nobody, that was who! If anything, the whole world should thank them for taking one for the team-- without them, it was a demonstrably better place.) “Ian, please,” Thea tolled her eyes, like the tortured martyr she was. “Do we really need to go through the lack of trust phase? I admit that we may not be the coolest people to hang out with,” especially with Clara’s ‘how do you do, fellow kids’ bro, “but let’s not pretend that you can actually be this fucking picky. Yeah, yeah, I may have bitten you, but in the context of everything else, that’s a non-factor. Would you judge someone for stepping on your foot accidentally? No? Well, for mice, that’s the equivalent of that! And besides, you kind of forced me to do it, too,” the brunette rambled on, ever the diplomat. “My friend’s freedom was at stake, so honestly, I don’t get all the pearl clutching.”

‘I’m far from the expert here, Ms. Minnie,’ the demon smirked, ‘but aren’t you trying to convince him of your cause here? Because so far, you haven’t been marketing yourself properly.’ Which… yeah, Thea had to admit that he had a point, heartbreakingly enough. “Clara is speaking the truth here,” she added. “The lunatics are going to fucking kill you. It’s one hundred percent certain, friendo. Like, ‘book your own funeral’ certain.” So certain that not even they could change that outcome-- contrary to what anime would have you believe, power of love and friendship could not change your fate. Not when it had happened already, anyway! …still, come to think of it, perhaps Thea should have fed him a few white lies instead. ‘Don’t worry, Ian, everything will be ponies and rainbows,’ ‘If you do just this one thing right, you will dodge all the bullshit,’ ‘I have cheats for reality’s engine, actually.’ Either of those might have worked, even if they were about as distant from the truth as the US army was distant from your average charity, but hey! Thinking things through had never been Thea Holloway’s style, for better or worse.

“Come on, Ian,” she rolled her eyes, “we’re trying to work out a fucking solution here. Cooperate a bit, will ya?” That strategy, however, seemed to produce the opposite result-- like the hero he was, Ian decided to just hightail it out of there. Great, just great. (How come that a single fucking thing couldn’t go their way? Like, would the fabric of the universe itself start tearing the moment they stopped being its goddamn chew toy? Disgusting. Disgusting and unfair! Honestly, maybe staying in her mouse form wouldn’t be such a terrible fate-- at least the biggest threat she would have to deal with daily would be the chance of being devoured by the nosy neighbor’s cat.) “Ugh. You think we can, like, lure him back if we promise him some rum?” If he was willing to risk it all for a can of piss poor beer, then a good rum… a good rum must have been like the holy grail of adulthood for him, man.

The plan was good enough, it seemed to her, but as always, the world had a mind of its own. Instead of being left to their own devices, they… ended up in this weird glass mirror house thing. Shit. Does GDPR mean nothing these days? Thea certainly hadn’t consented to those memories being broadcast like that, and also, wow, had she looked this pitiful on the hospital bed? With her eyes glassy, her lips cracked, and something dark swirling in the corner of the room, darker than anthracite--

“Stop,” the brunette blurted out, sooner than she could think it through fully. “Don’t look at the reflections. I mean, who fucking cares? Those things might have happened, yeah, but they aren’t fucking happening now. So what, are you going to spend the rest of your lives in some weird memory prison? Well, I know that I am not doing that.” As far as motivational speeches went, this one was pretty subpar, but speeches weren’t Thea’s main shtick, anyway. Nope, man! Actions were, thank you very much, so she looked around, and… yup, perfect. A stone, lying on the floor, as if waiting for her. Damn, if only she had those opposable thumbs now! …maybe she didn’t exactly need them, though. “Clara,” the brunette turned to her friend, “just break them. All those fucking mirrors. I mean, what are they going to do? Arrest us for vandalizing their imaginary palace? I sure as hell don’t think so.”


“Don’t jinx it, Thea. Knowing our luck, a squad of police ducks will waddle in to apprehend us.” Clara said. In any other context, such a ridiculous concept supplied with her unenthused monotone would absolutely have been construed as sarcasm... but she and Thea (Thea who, by the way, was a mouse right now.) both know that she was being perfectly serious here. Ever since yesterday, that exact scenario sounded more like a possibility than an impossibility. The talking animals that inhabited these worlds were just as real as the real police, who were hunting them down in the real world as they spoke. And yeah, that was still an issue. A colossal one at that. However, they'd have to make it out of this place before they could even begin to worry about that. "But, yeah... okay. It's worth a try.”

Lifting the rock, Clara turned it over between her palms to get a feel for its weight. She scrunched her nose slightly as she envisioned how much damage it could dole out, as well as how far the broken glass might spray. “Although I'd feel better if we had some safety equipment. Like protective clothing and goggles.” Goggles. She nearly smiled, imagining a pair of goggles sized down for mice as well. Little mouse Thea in little mouse goggles… hehe, so cute. No! Focus, Clara. Regardless of her questionable thoughts on said safety equipment, those concerns were valid. Neither of them wanted to survive for this long only to get stabbed by a flying shard of glass at the finish line. “It might be dorky, but they make you wear all that getup in destruction therapy for a reason." For plenty of reasons, as a matter of fact. She nodded sagely and then rose up to her full height, studying the mirrors. Namely, assessing which one to obliterate first. Anticipation careened through her when she found an ideal target. "Now don't take this the wrong way. I still think you're a badass, mouse or not." She blushed, thankful that she was standing up and that Thea was so small, therefore rendering the shade of her cheeks indecipherable. Crushing her silly emotions under her heel, she focused on making her tone patient and firm. Because she wasn't budging on the matter of Thea's safety. "...But I am not going to throw this rock until you take cover. So go take cover. Let me know when you're someplace safe.”

Clara would have worried otherwise. She'd have worried so much that it would have rendered her incapable of throwing the rock at all.

'A goddess of destruction doesn't need to wear safety goggles, raven. And there's so much more you could do if you took my hand.' The demon spoke low and in a way he probably thought was enticing. Clara judged that his proposition sounded about as trustworthy as an mlm. Which, no thank you. 'If you really want to impress crow, destruction's the way to go.'

"And sell my soul in the process? Yeah, that's sure to impress her." Clara muttered, clutching the rock so hard her knuckles turned white. Stupid demon with his stupid observations.

When Thea gave her the signal that she was safe, Clara shoved the demon's goadings aside and lined up her first shot. It was the memory of papa burning up her old sketchbook. She never told anyone about it. Every hateful thing he said to her, every vile thing he did... and all the while she couldn't speak, not even if she wanted to. She couldn't tell Raoul with words that she needed help. (Thankfully he cared enough to sense it. That's why he gave her the rabbit, the one with the mechanism to record audio when she pressed the paw. He told her to keep it with her, to use it if she ever felt like she was in danger. Which was a smart move on his part. The rabbit's testimony was everything.) Every painstaking moment leading to the day that everything changed, she kept it all pent up inside. For years, the memories of mistreatment were buried beneath the guilt of the deafening blast of a gunshot she fired, watching the blood faucet from a wound she created. But despite that, she was entitled to her rage. Sending every ounce of feeling to her arm, she propelled every once of it into her throw. The rock sailed across the mirror house and... smash. His face shattered and glass rained down. And it was so satisfying. Without paying any mind to Ian yet, she went to fetch the rock and smashed another mirror. And then another. She bludgeoned all of her memories and then, needing to spend the rest of her adrenaline, she destroyed all of the mirrors on Thea's behalf as well.

Out of breath, Clara stood in the middle of the snowy white field of glass shards she created. Oh. Well, it was a good thing she was wearing close toed shoes? Glass crunched under her feet as she approached Ian, still crumpled in front of the largest and only mirror she hadn't obliterated yet. He met her gaze, then, silent. Okay. This was progress, wasn't it? At the very least, breaking all of those mirrors effectively broke him out of his trance.

"The booze made you remember everything, didn't it?" Clara ventured. That's why the fish tried to keep him from it. Did it represent someone from his life? Was it some figment of his own subconscious? These ghostly worlds were so mysterious. "You've been telling us over and over that you're okay with this. You've been trying to convince yourself for a long time, haven't you?"

Clara bit her lip. What would Raoul tell her?

"It's okay to be sad... it's okay to be-- to be angry. In fact, you deserve to be." They were basic adjectives, yes, and Clara might have thought of something better had she written a speech in advance. Either way, she figured they got her point across just fine. "But we can't face this for you, Ian." With that, she offered him the rock and tipped her head encouragingly towards the gruesome scene of his death. "Wanna try? It won't change anything... but it's pretty cathartic." She nervously tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. Obviously, considering she might've gone a bit overkill on those mirrors just now. "Speaking from experience here."


Baba Yaga
Safety goggles. Safety fucking goggles! Sure, why not-- and while they were at it, they should also, like, worry about the ringleader’s employees’ health insurance. The fact that they were soulless abominations didn’t matter, you see? You could say the same thing about most lawyers, and yet nobody disputed their right to be treated with dignity (Seriously, though. That concern was so quintessentially Clara that her lips twitched automatically, as if she was a puppet and someone pulled her goddamn strings. Not that puppets tended to be that intricate, but still! The comparison was good, Thea loved it and she was going to run with it, thank you very much. Linguistics police should just fuck off forever, really.) “Well, maybe that’s where their philosophy is wrong, though,” the brunette piped up, for no other reason than to rile her companion up. (Angry!Clara was cute, okay? Regular!Clara was cute as well to be sure, but her furious counterpart provided her with the type of cuteness that was usually in short supply around here. It, uhh… resembled a kitten with a flamethrower? Yeah, something like that. Look, don’t judge! Sheesh, just let a girl have her preferences in peace.) “Like, all those safety precautions just divorce your actions from their consequences,” Thea blabbed on, not caring that much whether it made sense or not. Coherence was so last century, anyway, right? “Which means that those things actually promote irresponsibility, and stupid choices, and…” Wait, wait, wait. Had Clara just told her that she was badass? It wasn’t that Thea didn’t know that she was badass, of course, but!!! Hearing those words from a cute girl’s mouth was the equivalent of… of running low on health in your favorite videogame and finally finding a med-kit. Pa-dam, instant revitalization. She’s just a friend, remember? the lone voice of reason that was still surviving somewhere in the wasteland of her mind asked, though by that point, Thea wasn’t really listening. (Had she ever listened? Stay tuned and find out in another episode of ‘Thea and her big, fat mouth.’)

“You think I’m badass?” she asked, trying and failing not to sound too flattered. “Well, you haven’t even seen anything yet! Just wait till I…” Till what? Till she slew a dragon? That had kind of happened already, but she had constructed her sentence in a way that suggested that something even greater would come later down the line. Ah, shit! Why the hell did she have to be so awesome that coming up with false stories of her prowess was so damn difficult? The human imagination simply wasn’t capable of keeping up with the actual reality here, and that was so unfair that it hurt! Man, mediocrity just sounded so much easier. “…till I actually invent something worth bragging about,” she smiled sweetly. “I will blow your mind, mark my words.” But, yeah, fun as this was, being killed by a random glass shard stuck in her eye would not be the most epic way to go. Therefore, taking cover it was! Work smarter, not harder, etc., etc., etc. “Okay, I think I should be safe here,” she concluded. “More or less, anyway. Now show the glass who is the boss here, Clara!” And, yup, her friend certainly didn’t disappoint. The shards were falling from the sky, as numerous as snowflakes during a storm, with the main difference being that these snowflakes could actually kill you. Ian seemed to be captivated by the sight, Thea didn’t fail to notice-- he downright stared, reflected lights dancing across his face. (What was it that he saw in there? Considering that pieces of her own past were obstructing her view, the brunette genuinely couldn't tell.)

“I’m not angry,” he said, in a voice that sure sounded angry to Thea. "Why the hell would I be? So I fucking died, a big deal. A lot of people die every day. Kids, too, even if everyone likes to pretend it doesn't happen. And at least I had a memorable death, okay? It beats dying from... from a heart attack, or basic shit like that. At least I got a column in the local newspaper, so who's the real winner here, huh?" Ian rambled on and on, his words becoming more and more frantic, and... yeah, the guy definitely was coping, with all the elegance of a jackhammer.

"Listen, Ian," Thea rolled her eyes, "take someone's advice for once, fucking will you? Yeah, people die, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't suck. Like, according to that logic, you can't even complain about breaking your arm or losing your keys or... or anything! And what would life be worth without complaining? We're not fucking characters from toothpaste commercials that have to smile 24/7, man! If you're angry, then be angry. Nothing wrong with that."

Ian continued to stare at her, unresponsive at first, but then? Then, something in his eyes shifted. Suddenly, he looked... small, really. Younger than he was, and older at the same time. "I guess," he whispered. "Anger is cool, at least. But what if I'm not angry? What if I'm sad? Breaking those mirrors won't do shit. Nothing will."


Clara bit her lip, watching Ian and Thea's back and forth. (A feisty mouse coaxing a sad teenaged ghost through his emotions was not something you saw every day. But she had other things on her mind right now.) Because she did her homework after they discovered Lizzie, all right? There was no record of her anywhere, nor any news of the other kidnapped kids. The same was probably true for Ian. It was fair to assume that their captors held the influence to scrub their disappearances and deaths clean from the media. Hell, maybe they even had some means of legitimately brainwashing the public and erasing their existences altogether. It wouldn't have been that outlandish, would it? After all, wasn’t it kind of suspicious that neither she or Thea could remember any of these kids? Not only that, but they had even forgotten each other. (And Thea just didn’t seem like the kind of person she would go and forget about so easily, you know? She was too talkative, too memorable, too… important? Yes. Of course she was important. She was her friend.) Either way. Their deaths would be forgotten by everyone but those horrible people that benefitted off of them and that was a fact. Not unless she and Thea escaped the same fate. Unless they remembered, carried them with them, and did something about it.

The problem was… should she even tell Ian that? Would those cold facts help him? Or would it only make things worse? Probably worse. Clara seemed to have a penchant for making things worse lately.

“Then be sad? That’s okay, too.” Clara repeated uncertainly. Okay, they weren’t getting anywhere like this. And it wasn’t as if the adolescence section of a psychology textbook was going to suddenly rain down from the sky and into her brain to help her through this. That said, most textbooks didn’t cover helping ghosts cope with the undeniable fact of their deaths anyway. Ghost therapy. That was essentially what this was! Too bad that neither she or Thea seemed particularly well-equipped for that profession. Ian would just have to take what he could get. “I won’t sugarcoat it. What happened to you…” She shook her head, glimpsing the scene in the mirror. It made her stomach twist, just like the sight of Lizzie's body did. “I don’t think I have words for how horrible it is.” And did she really need to describe how horrible it was in excruciating detail when it was right there on display for them to see? Her guess was a resounding no. “Just be honest. I think it’ll feel better than lying to yourself, at least. Pretending for so long must’ve been exhausting.”

"You think?" Ian sassed her, in a fashion that was so typical of Ian that Clara genuinely expected it at that point. She trained her expression to stay perfectly still in response, refusing to humor him with any visible cues of annoyance. Picking arguments was his default, it's how he distracted himself from the truth.

"I do." Clara said matter-of-factly, her eyes boring searchingly into his. "What do you think, Ian?"

Yep. Keep it calm, keep it honest. Ian was annoying, yes, but she wanted to help him. She held onto that fact like her compass and used it to navigate through this.

“It sucks.” Ian said after a while, his words treading a thin line between furious and miserable. And sure, he was reiterating the same words Thea used only moments before, but... wasn't admitting it progress?

“Yes. It sucks.” Clara agreed with a nod. Then she faltered, glancing between Ian, the rock in her hands, and the mirror. Coping with the fact of your own death had to be indescribably hard and she truly sympathized with him here. But it would take time. Like... the sort of time that she and Thea simply didn't have. They had a real world to get back to, other problems and other ghosts presumably. There was a bigger picture here. A bigger way they could help these kids. Clara felt it in her gut. (But what if Ian didn't let them out of here until he felt he was content, though? Clara might have to take Thea aside and maybe... tell her to talk to her heart's content until he got annoyed enough to kick them out?) "My offer still stands, if you’re interested.” She set the rock down next to him on the ground and took a step back. He could take it of his own volition, that way. "Or, ah..." What did kids need when they were sad? Hugs, she guessed? Hugs tended to work as some sort of key between herself and Thea. And since she was the only available human around with a set of arms... oh, geez. "Or if you're leaning towards sad and need a hug, I can... uh." She hovered her arms about awkwardly. "There's no shame in asking for one, if that'll help. Because I'm here to, um... help."


Baba Yaga
By that point, Thea had expected a lot of things-- as in, if Jesus fucking Christ appeared out of nowhere in order to teach her the authentic French pronunciation, she probably wouldn’t too be shocked. All logic had ceased to function, so why not, right? Even so, somehow, the brunette had not been prepared to become a part of an impromptu therapy session. (Geez. Couldn’t they have, like, found a more sensitive person for that kind of thing? Maybe someone who didn’t only Feel Her FeelingsTM in self-defense, hmm? Thea wasn’t an expert here, but she didn’t really think that her set of coping mechanisms would be helpful. Ian was meant to uncover shit here, while she had spent most of her life trying to shove all the mess under the metaphorical carpet! Wouldn’t that be like… uhh, like trying to hire a mass murderer for peace talks? Thea was much prettier than the average mass murderer, of course, but in other respects, the comparison totally felt apt. Just like that murderer, you see, she’d fuck everything up! Where the hell are therapists when I need them? …in their fancy offices, most likely, instead of being stuck in this surreal nightmare. Sigh.) “Yeah,” she finally piped up, unwilling to leave everything up to Clara. (Her friend also wasn’t the hippie feelsy type, okay? She must have been at least as bewildered as Thea herself, and nope, she wasn’t going to force the responsibility onto her. You could do that with pointless shit like PowerPoint presentations for a lesson you hadn’t prepared for, but this? This was bigger than either of them, really. Bigger than most things pretty much anyone had ever experienced, too. Abandoning her in a time like that would have been a certified asshole move, which wasn’t really a title Thea wished to claim for herself! …especially since Clara was the only person she could rely since forever, thank you very much.)

“Hugs make everything better,” the brunette continued, “unless you count all those instances where that isn’t true. You shouldn’t, though! That totally fucks the statistics up, man. Besides, it’s been scientifically proved…” (translation: ‘I want this to be true) “…that if hugs don’t work, it’s the subject’s own damn fault. You know, gotta open your heart and shit. Once you do that, the almighty healing power of hugs will be unlocked. It kind of works like skill trees in RPGs, though not quite.” Yep, yep, great job! If she talked a little faster, then maybe, maybe nobody would notice that what she was saying made no fucking sense, too-- it was a war of attrition, basically, and everyone else had already lost because Thea Holloway never ran out of words. Never, you understand?

“What the hell?” Ian asked, his eyes darting between her and Clara. “What is a skill tree?”

“Oooh, my bad,” Thea’s mousy face scrunched, “you probably died too early to experience those. I mean, when we were still kids, games weren’t nearly as good. Hipsters will claim otherwise, but never believe those… whoops. Not the point, okay?” Ian stared at her, as if he couldn’t believe what he was hearing, but then, contrary to her expectations? The boy chuckled.

“You really are exactly the same dumbass as I remember you to be, Thea. I guess that at least I don’t need to regret missing out on growing up-- adulthood really is a fucking lie.” With that, he turned to Clara and… spread his arms for a hug? Okay, the world must have been officially ending, because there was literally no other plausible explanation for a teenager emoting willingly.

“Well, what are you looked at?” he asked Clara. “Hug me, then. I’d ask you to hug me, too, Thea, though rats are too diseased for me. I’m sorry, but I will have to pass.”

“Hey!” Thea protested, not sure herself whether her outrage was feigned or not. Maybe partially? “There is a difference between a rat and a mouse, thank you very much. Kids these days really know dogshit about biology, man.”

It hadn’t occurred to her just how short Ian actually was-- he was lanky enough for a teenager, that much was true, though in Clara’s arms… well, in Clara’s arms, Ian looked like a child, all disproportional and skinny. (Had they all looked like that, back when they’d been kidnapped? On some level, Thea knew that to be true, but dude, the entire thing just felt so fucking surreal.) One thing felt even more surreal than that, however, and you know what that was? Ian’s features slowly losing their sharpness, as if they were only looking at a blurry picture. It got worse, too, with his entire self suddenly feeling terribly out of focus, and… “Thank you,” he whispered, before the rest of his body dissolved. “You weren’t that bad.” In the background, a tower exploded into flames, and everything was burning, burning, burning, the taste of ashes invading her mouth--

Next time Thea opened her eyes, she and Clara were both a) alive, b) sitting at the side of the road next to a positively wrecked car. “Jesus Christ,” she stood up, “is that the one we stole? I guess that we still would have had to get rid of it,” since, you know, it was probably easy to track, being a police car and everything, “but they didn’t have to let us spawn in the middle of fucking nowhere like that.” Just, what a pain in the ass! They were totally alone here, just them, the wreck and the starry sky, and… “Oooh, I’m human again!” the brunette beamed, realizing that she was watching the world from her usual height once again. Another realization struck her then, however-- a realization that was far less pleasant. “Wait, where are my clothes?”


Clara opened her eyes, finding her arms wrapped around nothing but the cold night air. Ian was gone. It was a strange thing, to hold someone and physically feel it as they lost sustenance and disappeared. Ian’s thanks and subsequent vanishing act made her feel oddly whole and empty all at the same time. It's over. She drew in a deep breath, folding her arms around herself instead as she coped with the rush of contradictory sensations. The taste of the fresh outside air, of being free from that nightmarish place was distinctly bittersweet now. They survived. Great. And she liked to think that she and Thea helped him find some peace. But there was only so much they could do. Of course they couldn’t work miracles and bring him back to life. They couldn’t change any of those horrible things that happened in the past. The inevitability of it all made her feel helpless and small in comparison, it made her want to be held herself… by someone warm, someone who wouldn’t dissolve into a puff of smoke before she needed them to…

Huh. Well, that was an admission if she ever heard one. So what? Clara was only human, after all. And maybe she needed to be held as much as he did, after all of that.

Clara brushed the thought aside. There was one person around to ask and for various reasons, it was way too embarrassing. Namely because she wasn’t a little kid anymore and Thea—

And Thea was naked.

“Oh.” Clara squeaked, her whole face blushing red. She swore she caught a glimpse and only a glimpse before she whipped herself around to face the other direction. Oh. Her mouth went suspiciously dry. If she let her gaze linger any longer, there wouldn’t be anything left to her imagination. Then sight of her would find a place in her mind, drift unprompted into her thoughts when she couldn’t sleep at night and— and— Okay. This was fine. This was normal. Natural. She had taken that summer figure drawing course at community college and sometimes the models posed nude. The media tried to romanticize those courses, spin them so they were all artsy and sexy when they really truly weren't. Because when you studied the human figure, it wasn’t weird. It wasn’t weird unless you made it weird. So this? Well, this was all a matter of perspective! Yeah. It's not like Thea has any, ah, parts she’s never seen before. Parts? Oh, goodness gracious. Get a grip! You're not a teenager anymore, Clara. And yet no matter how hard she tried to reason with herself, her heart was basically pounding out of her chest. In fact, maybe she was reasoning through all of this a little too thoroughly, to the point that she was making it weird— which is specifically what she set out not to do in the first place! But this was different for numerous reasons. Mostly being that the models in class were strangers and Thea was Thea. Lively and charming and pretty--

Listen. Seeing as Clara's train of thought moved from sharing an innocuous hug with Thea (the first hug that they'd reciprocate without demons being involved, anyway)… to suddenly switch tracks and speed towards the idea of holding her the way she was right now? The whiplash was perfectly understandable! Just imagining it, the warmth of her, the softness of her skin under her fingertips— ah, nuts! Stop it, Clara. Stop it now.

“Car. Clothes. I— I have…” Clothes in the car. As in the spare clothes that she had packed in her getaway bag. Clothes that Thea could borrow, clothes that would fix this and hopefully reboot all of Clara's glitchy grammatical issues. This wasn’t on her, okay? This was all Thea’s fault! She scrambled her brain! ...Not on purpose, mind you, but still.

So with that admittedly childish thought rioting in her mind, she turned towards the wreckage of the car, fumbling around broken glass to grab her bag. It took a few fumbled tries with her anxious, trembling hands to gather everything— shirt, jeans… oh geez. And she needed undergarments too, right? Technically Clara had them. Yet the thought of sharing… (But she wouldn't make her go without them, if it was an option. Beggars couldn’t be choosers, she supposed.) With a sigh, she grabbed the black set and stuffed them into the bundle before pitching the bundle in Thea’s general direction.

“Here, take these. They may be a little small, but… they should still fit.” Thea was taller than her, so naturally they wouldn't be a perfect fit. But their sizes in general weren’t all that different aside from that. Either way, whatever she had would have to suffice for now. Until they found a thrift store or something, they would just have to wait. Aw. If they weren't on the run from cops and a murderous demon cult, the concept would've sounded a lot more fun. Shopping with Thea, trying things on together... oh, she could style all sorts of outfits her friend would look stunning in, if she were given the opportunity! Ah... ahem.

Moving onto serious matters, important matters that Clara really ought to be focusing on right now... she realized she didn't notice Spooks in the car when she grabbed her bag. That was probably a good thing, to a certain degree, seeing as discovering her beloved dog’s mangled body inside of this car would have thoroughly broken her. But if that was the case, then she was also lost and—

Clara stiffened. The concept of leaving Spooks all by herself in the apartment with so much chaos unravelling on her doorstep was not an option she was willing to entertain. However, coming here with a dog was not her brightest idea, either. Sure, she didn't expect to be kidnapped right out of the parking lot, leaving Spooks to fend for herself. But the fact of the matter was, no matter how much she needed her emotional support animal right now... realistically, a life on the road with them was going to be difficult.

“Thea, where was Spooks when—“ Clara was just about to lose herself to panic when Spooks, as if summoned by the sound of her name, miraculously came trotting towards her from the woods nearby. Her snowy white fur was filthy and covered in burs, but… her tongue stuck out sideways and her tail wagged like always, indicating that she was happy to see her. Clara’s knees practically buckled with relief. “Hey, baby.” She scooped the pup up, completely undeterred by how dirty she was, realizing instantly that her furry little body was shivering. “I’m the worst, I know. I’m sorry.” And again, it wasn’t like she could help the fact that the ringleader had essentially just plucked her up and tossed her into another dimension. But, still. She probably should have thought of that before suggesting that they come here in the first place. Spooks had her tags. They... probably ought to leave her someplace safe. Then whoever found her could call Raoul and at least she'd be home again. That would give an undeniable clue to their whereabouts, though. It'd be risky. We'll figure it out later, I guess...

"We should grab any supplies we might need from the car first." Clara suggested, perching herself down on the curb as she busied herself with picking the burs out of Spooks's coat. The first aid kit and flashlight especially. She still needed to treat Thea's burns. "And maybe there's a lake out in the woods? We should check it out before we go to the effort of pushing the car out there, though." Ugh, that was going to be a pain. But she supposed this was their life now. "And... I know I want to hightail it out of here as much as you do. But we should find someplace to sleep around here for tonight. It's already dark..." She stared at the sky. The stars were beautiful. But, of course, admiring them was the furthest thing from her mind right now. Her brow was furrowed. Troubled. "Not safe for hitchhiking."
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Baba Yaga
Sheesh, this was like a bad fucking dream. Yeah, yeah, tropes revolving around disappearing clothes were funny enough when they were happening to your fav characters, but in reality? In reality, Thea had to admit it was 3/10 at best, and it had only earned those three meagre points because the breeze felt nice against her skin! (That she had fantasized about this exact set-up before didn’t exactly help, either. No, really. Being naked in front of pretty girls came with certain… ehm, ehm, connotations… and nope, this situation didn’t live up to her imagination at all. Like!!! That there weren’t rose petals, that Thea could live with, but Clara avoiding her gaze as if she had somehow turned into Medusa herself was kinda a deal breaker. Seriously, was she that unpleasant to look at? Based on her own experiences with mirrors, that simply couldn’t be true.) “Yup, clothes,” she nodded absentmindedly, seemingly unbothered by her state. “Those would be nice, I guess. I mean, they’re practical. Without them, I don’t think we would have survived the Ice Age, or even the average winter. Although, come to think of that,” she rubbed her chin, “maybe that would have been better for everyone involved. Have you asked your friendly neighborhood dodo what he thinks of the human supremacy, Clara? Obviously not, because we’ve fucking killed them all! One of the humanity’s greatest crimes, if you ask me.” Thea and rambling? Nooo, obviously not. ‘Embarrassment’ was a wholly foreign concept to her, much like ‘failure,’ ‘sorrow’ or ‘not dodging your responsibility at every opportunity.’ Talking like that meant that everything was fine, thank you very much-- it was just something Thea did, and as everyone could confirm, acting according to the established pattern contributed to the general feeling of… normalness? Normalnity? Normalcy? One of those, the brunette was sure. Hahahaha!

‘Get a hold of yourself, crow,’ the demon rolled his eyes. ‘This is just plain embarrassing. Why are you humans so concerned with nudity, anyway? Your ape cousins seem much more rational in that regard.’

‘Yeah? Should have gone and possessed a fucking ape, then.’
Like, what the fuck was that, even? This was like… like a thief stealing your laptop, and then returning to complain that its webcam wasn’t up to his fucking tastes! Outrageous, but also completely expected, somehow.

“Anyway,” she began, firmly decided to ignore the asshole for now and for the rest of her life as well, “clothes are good. That’s my hot take. Everything except bras, at least, because those fucking suck. I can’t believe that someone apparently invented something this uncomfy on purpose! I bet it was part of a world-wide conspiracy to ruin women’s lives or something,” the brunette blabbered on, words falling from her lips with the cadence of the average machine gun. “If you think about it, it’s not even that far-fetched. The whole planet seems to be designed to--” …ooof, how was she supposed to think in conditions like that? The idea of wearing the clothes that Clara had once worn, pressed right against her skin… Not that you could wear clothes in any other way, of course, but for Some ReasonTM, stressing that felt relevant. Important, even. (Yep, this went right into her ‘fantasies fodder’ folder! It was overflowing at this point, but hey, could always squeeze a few scenes here and there, especially ones inspired by Actual Real Events, and… Oh my god, stop. Stop, stop, stop! How does one turn off one’s own fucking brain, anyway?)

With these thoughts, and many others like it, Thea somehow maneuvered herself into the borrowed clothes. “I guess that works,” she announced, after stretching her legs. “What do you think, how do I look? Not that it matters, just asking for science, I guess. Like, I’m not fishing for compliments or anything.” Duh, definitely not, since who would want to be complimented by their friend, right? By the friend they’d lowkey been friendzoned by, to the boot? Only a masochist, and while Thea Holloway may have been many things, nobody could possibly accuse her of not liking herself enough. After the moving reunion with their resident puppy, they were apparently… meant to take care of the car? Geez.

“Can’t we just pretend it has never existed?” Thea rolled her eyes. “I’m sure that, if we leave it as it is, aliens will kidnap it sooner or later. Everyone knows that they can’t resist delicious bait like that. That, or I guess we can offer it to the earth and wait till it decomposes.” All brilliant plans, if a little incompatible with reality, but who fucking cared? Reality sucked, anyway, and Thea didn’t think people should have to bend to its ridiculous expectations. “But fine, fine. Sleeping under the stars is only cool in the movies, I will admit. Can you imagine how many bugs will crawl under your clothes if you let them? All of them, Clara. All of them.” With that mental image, Thea’s resolve to find a suitable sleeping place skyrocketed, and off they went. “I suppose a cave would do? We could, I dunno, block the entrance.” The night was warm enough, if nothing else, so they could probably get away with not lighting a fire-- good news for the nearby forest, probably, because she knew fuck all about bonfire safety. “We’ll have to get a new car, too. Don’t get me wrong, walking is all nice and dandy, but I don’t really think we will be able to run away from cops on foot. Unless you’re secretly an Olympics-level runner? I sure as fuck am not, though, and so you’d have to carry me on your back,” Thea offered her companion a bright smile. (Aw, shit, shit, shit. Abort mission! Clara looked way too good in the moonlight, and paying too much attention to her felt about as wise as staring directly at a solar eclipse.)

“Sooo… ever planned a grand theft auto, my friend?” Because, you know, nothing killed romance quite as well as good ol’ criminal conspiracy.


"You look like you've been through hell." Clara supplied honestly, offering a noncommittal shrug with one shoulder. Fitting enough, wasn't it? They might as well have been through hell. Two nights in a freaking row now to boot. Touching the ends of her own disheveled hair, her shoulders slump and she punctuates her discomfort with a heavy sigh. "We both do." Remnants of her insecurities from earlier started to claw at her heels and she kicked back at them before they could grab ahold of her. No. There is so much more to focus on right now than how we look. Or what she thinks of me for that matter--

Clara curled her toes tight and self-consciously combed her fingers through her hair, trying to smooth it out the best she could. It would be so, so much simpler to act like she had it together if she looked the part as well. No more excuses, though. Time to get to work!

"...You're covered in burns, too." Clara said pointedly, masking concern with her usual air of seriousness as she maneuvered around even more broken glass for their first-aid kit. She held it up and gestured to it meaningfully. The implications ought to have been clear that she intended to treat them the minute they found a place and that she fully expected Thea to comply. Speaking of which... she still had those giant gashes on her back, too. They'd get infected if she wasn't careful. And... in a place that would be entirely too inconvenient to try and patch up on her own. Which also meant taking off her shirt. And considering how the last couple of minutes had gone, she wasn't sure if-- "If only our injuries disappeared like your clothes. But that'd be too convenient."

Not that either of them would benefit from standing around and moping about their lot in life right now. At a bit of a loss, Clara glanced at the wreck of metal they once called a car and then back at Thea. "I mean, you're the expert in this department. They've probably already tracked the car by now, anyway. What does it matter if we leave a big piece of evidence lying around for them to find? Maybe they'll assume we died and I don't know. Those aliens of yours took our bodies for science." Well, that wasn't how she usually reasoned through things. But it was late, she was tired, and... maybe Thea's silly ramblings were slightly infectious under the stars. There was something kind of cinematic about playing the role of a rebel at night, too, and-- well, whatever. "If they're on our scent already, guess we'll run faster if we don't exert ourselves any more than we have to." She grabbed the flashlight and followed Thea's lead as they searched for a spot to squat for the night. Belatedly, she also had to add, "Running sucks."

Eventually, after what felt like a lifetime of walking, they did find a small cave clearing to scrap together a makeshift camp in. Clara prepped her supplies and settled herself down next to Thea. "Alright. You know the drill, Holloway..." She reached for the ointment and some gauze, squinting to see her better in the darkness. "I'll tend to your burns and you can talk." Using her memory to navigate, she gently took Thea's hand in her own and began to apply it. "I guess you did have a car the other night, huh. I'm a total novice, so... tell me how grand theft auto works, I guess." This was it. The beginning of her life of crime. Well, technically it began the moment she plowed those cops down with demon magic or whatever. But still. Good thing she was so thoroughly tired, she supposed. Otherwise she would have a hell of a lot to be panicking about right now.


Baba Yaga
"Awesome," Thea cheered, genuine joy sparkling in her eyes. "That must mean that we look fucking badass. I mean, you know how in action movies, the heroines always look as if they've just attended some big ass Hollywood party, right? So fucking lame. Like, they can't eat their cake and have it, too! If you go through some shit, you're gonna look like shit, and that's good because it's basically your Official Badass badge. Also, the most unfair thing is that they never get any cool-looking scars, either. Oooh, you think some of my injuries are going to scar?" It hadn't seemed physically possible before, but somehow, Thea's smile grew even wider. "Man, I'm gonna be a fucking chick magnet. Trust me, the ladies know what's up. I'll invent a story to go with them," because, duh, the actual reality was too outrageous for anyone to believe, "and then watch me become the next Casanova." That hadn't initially been her plan, btw, but you know what they said, right? To forget your current crush, you had to... uhh, crush other people's hearts, or something. The law of equivalent exchange, baby! (And also, also, Thea had genuinely been just lonely. What? Spoiler alert, but no, you didn't tend to get much action in the fucking asylum. Female wing of the hospital or not, clinging to the pathetic remains of your sanity generally didn't put you in the mood for These ThingsTM.)

"Oh, burns. Sure," she groaned absentmindedly, as if that was the very last thing on her metaphorical 'to take care of' list. "We should probably, like, buy some medical supplies when we get the chance. Just a suggestion. See? I can be responsible when I want to be, too! It's just that the world usually doesn't incentivize me nearly enough." This time, Clara was in the luck, though, because Thea also intended to... uhh, get certain other things from there. You know, things that were actually important? Such as her pills, whose greatest crime was that they couldn't multiply on their own. (Why the fuck did things have to disappear when you used them? Stupid universe and its stupid, no-fun-allowed rules!)

"Now you're getting the right idea," the brunette smirked. "A girl after my own heart, really. Ignore a problem ostentatiously enough, and it will disappear!" If not, you could always brainwash yourself into thinking it had, but these teachings, Thea felt, were too advanced for a reality fetishist like Clara. Well, no matter! The sky was the limit when it came to improving yourself, and with some gentle guidance, even her companion could unlock the power of denial. "Plus, the cops aren't exactly famous for not being horrifically incompetent. More than likely, they'll find the car and then spend like 90% of their brainpower on filling out paperwork. I bet the fuckers can't even spell my name properly-- them trying to figure that out should buy us a few months of peace, at least. Did you know that any warrant is void if the name on it is misspelled?" ...that wasn't true, but it very well could have been, and Thea loved the idea too much to let it go. "Ha, defeated through the inconsistencies of English!"

As always, Clara stood firmly on the ground, while Thea... well, Thea was already crafting her masterplan. "Okay, so listen," she began, allowing her friend to take care of the burns. "I'm about to unveil the most ingenious plan ever created, from the master thief herself." ...what? That her first stolen car had been a matter of beginner's luck was just a tiny, unimportant detail, and Clara certainly didn't need to know about it. That sort of thing would only undermine her confidence, which they sure as hell didn't need! Fake it till you make it, as all the wise philosophers claimed.

"You know what you need when you go hunting, Clara?" she asked, her voice low and dramatic. "That's right, bait. Juicy, juicy bait. So, like, why not do that as well? We can always pretend we're in trouble-- two innocent girls, defenseless and shit out of luck. I bet hitchhiking would be real easy with a set-up like that. We get some guy to stop, and then boom! The car is ours." A step or two were missing, sure, but Thea simply considered that to be the '???' phrase that came before 'profit'. That was how these things worked, right? Right! "I mean, it can't be that hard to overpower a single driver," she added after a while. "We've literally killed zombies and dragons before, so I don't think that we would run into trouble here. What do you think, Clara? Any suggestions?" And please, for the love of god, don't say that there's a hippie fucking alternative. There just isn't. People didn't tend to give up their cars because you asked them nicely, you know? Thea had tried it, and nope, she Would Not RecommendTM.


“It’s not like we have to pretend we’re in trouble when we’re actually in trouble.” Clara snarked, attempting to downplay the rising panic that threatened to drown her. They were in trouble. Deep, deep trouble. And while it obviously wasn't something to joke about, what would panicking do for them? Absolutely nothing, that's what. Getting tossed into open waters, obviously they would fare better by swimming instead of sinking. Not that she could swim. (Speaking of which, could Thea swim? Although even if she could, Clara suspected their shared childhood trauma stopped them from particularly enjoying it growing up. Even if, for a while, they never quite understood the reason why.) Geez. She really ought to do herself a favor and drop the water metaphors altogether. Biting her lower lip, at a loss again, she directed her focus at the burns on her other arm. "Any... suggestions?"

To be honest, there was still a whole lot about all this that Clara hadn't yet processed.

"I mean... it'd be easier on my conscience if I knew we were ambushing someone who actually deserves it." And the type of person who would stop to help two strangers out of the goodness of their heart, for all extents and purposes, was not the type of person who deserved it. Not even remotely. But then again, there had to be countless people out there with enough ill intent to stop and take advantage of two women who were in a bind, too. In the end, it would depend on who they encountered out there, wouldn't it? She shrugged. "Still. It's not like we have any other choice."

Finishing with the ointment, Clara reached for the bandages.

"...But just in case? I say we come up with two plans. We can decide on which depending on who stops to help us. If anyone stops at all, that is." Clara's gaze flickers up to Thea's in the dark. "Hear me out. If it ends up being someone who seems decent, we could always let them drive for a few hours. It'd be a good opportunity for us to catch up on our rest." She sighed and glanced over at Spooks, snoring soundly in the corner. "I shouldn't have brought her with me. I don't know what I was thinking..." Her heart clenched. After she left everything else behind, the thought of saying goodbye to her was almost too much... but, no. She had to think of what was best for her. And right now, this high-risk life on the road just wasn't it. "But wouldn't a cute dog work as bait, too? We could say we found her out here. We could ask our mystery driver to drop her off somewhere safe and... while they're distracted turning her in, we could take the car." Yeah, just take the car! As if it was that simple. But there were too many unknown variables, so much that they couldn't prepare for even if they tried. They would have to rely on their instincts, act in the moment... and the lack of certainty in the equation left her feeling restless as all get out.

"And if that doesn't work, then its fine. To be safe, we could make up a code word or something. You know, something we can use if either of us thinks we're in danger? And then we'll always have your plan to fall back on." Clara shrugged. Right. Thea's master plan, which was essentially just violence. "Just be warned that I... don't know how helpful I'll be." When she finished treating Thea's burns, she set the supplies aside and hugged her knees to her chest for the comfort she so desperately needed. For a while, she stared at the long, strange shadows cast by the flashlight in their tiny cave. "I still don't understand what I did this morning. I don't know whether or not I'd be able to do all of that again. The, uh, magic stuff."


Baba Yaga
"Well," Thea shrugged, "if it helps, I'm pretty sure that nobody is actually innocent. That's some Disney-tier propaganda. Like, I guess this can be delayed payback for them tearing butterflies' wings off when they were lil' kids, or for them stealing candy from some mom and pop's shop. Blah blah blah, karma, blah blah blah, instruments of fate. Doesn't that sound fucking badass?" It also sounded like a load of bullshit, but hey, as long as the excuse worked, Thea wasn't about to undermine it. Nope, nope, nope, if Clara wanted to poke holes in her awesome logic, she had to do it on her own! ...thankfully, though, her companion didn't insist on not tarnishing her Lawful Good alignment. Whew, what a relief.

"For sure," Thea nodded sagely. "I mean, we're just poor victims here, so I'd say it's our right to let the world taste its own fucking medicine. Gandhi's approach was just way too lame. Without some blood flowing, there will never be a meaningful change! That's just Revolution 101, my friend." And no, the fact that they weren't technically trying to overthrow any regime didn't invalidate their efforts-- their goal was to, uh... uproot the laws of the universe itself! Right, no aim was too big for the two of them, it seemed. ('Delusional,' her mother would have said, but the joke was on her. Why would she think, after all, that the asylum could possibly contain her? Her soul was too free to be shackled, and her hands too prone to stabbing to... okay, that didn't come out right. How to phrase it without coming off like a total fucking psycho? Asking for a friend, of course.)

"But fine, fine," she rolled her eyes, "it's not like I'm suggesting to shank anyone who gets in our way. Peace has never been an option here, but I guess we don't need to go all out no matter what." Don't get her wrong, Thea wasn't totally heartless-- she just happened to have a healthy set of priorities, where 'I' tended to tower over pretty much everyone else. (Come the fuck on, how was anyone supposed to survive without that? Had she been able to rely on people other than herself, there might have been a convincing argument to be made, but that situation was so hypothetical you might as well have spoken about, say, them acquiring the fucking Excalibur. So, nope! Looking out for the number one it was. ...for the number one and Clara, who had somehow defied every single expectation so far. Thea half expected to wake up one day and find out she had hallucinated her in a drug-fuelled trip, but so far, she was there, you know? And the brunette certainly wasn't one to rain on her own parade. Eh, not like she won't leave one day, too. Everyone always does in the end, once they find out just how fucked up I actually am.)

"Thanks," she beamed at Clara, shoving the dark thoughts under the metaphorical carpet. Who needed self-awareness, anyway? It only made your disappointment last that much longer, which was a 0/10 experience. "Need help as well, or...? I'm no fucking surgeon, but I know how to wrap some bandages. I have a perfect track record when it comes to not killing my patients, too! Granted, most of them were made-up, but I'd like to believe that it still counts for something. Mentally, I've been preparing for my role, at least," she winked. Then the conversation turned to Clara's earlier use of magic, though, and Thea... well, believe it or not, but Thea's expression grew somewhat serious.

"Yeah? And is that a problem? Like, I dunno, but I have never been one of those strange-ass kids who dream of being sorted into a fucking Hogwarts house. What I'm saying is, I'm okay without magic. Don't you think it's weird how His Majesty Asshole keeps shilling it constantly, anyway? He sounds like a goddamn telemarketer and there has got to be a reason behind that," Thea concluded. "Or like, is he acting differently with you? What is he saying to you?" Since, y'know, it might be good to compare their notes while they could.
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“Good. I know it can’t always be helped, but violence should be a last resort.” Clara nodded, relieved. It wasn't even that she thought they couldn't handle it, per se. Because if the last two days have proven anything it was that they could handle a hell of a lot. (She could handle a hell of a lot. More than she ever would've expected. For a while there, she'd almost forgotten what it was like to invest her energy in something bigger than herself. To care about something other than, well, living a relatively peaceful, mediocre life. A peaceful, mediocre life which for all extents and purposes was dead and gone now. Sigh. She considers it both a blessing and a curse that she's too preoccupied to mourn it now.) Still. They were dealing with enough as it was without making more enemies in the real world. The more people who got involved, the more stories the news networks would circulate... and the worse their reputations would get. And who would they be if they started hurting people for their own gain? Attacking a proven scumbag was one thing... but what if innocent bystanders got caught up in the mix? Their captors were despicable people. And while she and Thea were nowhere near their level, not even a little... she had no intention of lowering herself to their level if she could help it.

“Mhm. Don’t mention it.” Clara shied away from Thea’s dazzling smile. Mostly because the sight of it stirred more of those pesky butterflies in her chest every time she saw it. Whenever her heart beat this quickly, she had trouble discerning whether it was inspired by happiness or fear. Perhaps it was an amalgamation of the two, as the two so often went hand in hand. It could have also been in part because she anticipated, well… this. Of course she would have to figure out some means of bandaging up her own wounds. They just so happened to be on her back, meaning they were both difficult to see and reach. Okay, so Thea’s help would make it easier. But… “Right. Sure.” She agreed, taking her up on it before she could talk herself out of it. It's important to have these things looked out sooner rather than later. Her future self will surely thank her for it. I-It’s no big deal. She reminded herself matter-of-factly And yet even the voice in her head seemed to stutter. It's nothing. Just my back…

Yeah. And it wouldn't be anything like that time Ivy saw her back. Opening up about the serious implications behind her branding and having it laughed off like a joke was... just about as fun as it sounded. And suddenly Ivy's hands didn't feel warm anymore. They felt all wrong and Clara didn't want them anywhere near her. But Thea's not Ivy.

Although Clara's heart pounded she did nothing to let it on. (Except blush. But it was dark and so they could all conveniently pretend like the heat in her cheeks didn't exist!) Turning to face the other direction, she slipped out of her jacket and gingerly pulled her torn shirt over her head. (How was it that Thea could hurdle over all her boundaries at such a break-neck speed, anyway? When the butterflies made a reappearance, she was confident it was fear this time.) Swallowing hard, she gathered her hair into her hands and tucked it over her shoulder to get it out of the way, revealing the three gashes— the middle of which struck right through the branding on her back. XVIII. A near perfect match to the XIX on Thea's collarbone. The sun to her moon. Which was reason why she was able to do this at all. Thea just got this in a way no one else could.

“Is it bad…?” Clara asked hesitantly. She wasn’t sure herself... obviously she couldn’t get a good look at it from her vantage point. (Papa could call her a demon all he wanted, but let it be known that her head could not spin all the way around like that.) All she knew was that it bled and that it hurt. Mhm. Yep! Pretty standard stuff as far as getting mauled by a dragon went. Seriously, what was her life right now?

"The demon..." Clara wasn't sure if she was comforted to be talking about something other than her injury or concerned about the subject matter. "Well, yeah. He does the same thing to me. And you're right, I think we should be careful about striking deals with him. It was scary when he possessed you back there." Her stomach squirmed at the admission and she changed the subject. "But sometimes I can do stuff on my own. I don't hear his voice... I just do it. Like this morning." She traced one of the strange shadows on the cave walls with her eyes. If she concentrated enough she could get it to change shape. As a kid it'd just seemed like nothing more than shadow puppet powers to her... something she later chalked up to hallucinations born of paranoia and sleep deprivation. And, you know, the manifestation of a horrible label her papa tossed at her. It was just shadows, it was harmless. But whatever she did today was not harmless. It was helpful in the moment, yes. But also dangerous. Exactly the sort of thing her papa would've been afraid of. Her papa and tons of other people too, she was sure. Self conscious, she rubs the back of her neck. "It's never been that way for you?"


Baba Yaga
“It’s…” Gnarly? Hardcore? Really fucking awesome? Thea could see the menu with the choices in front of her, is if life was some cheesy visual novel. The thing that made it glaringly obvious that it wasn’t that, though? That she couldn’t fucking save! Whatever she said there would remain recorded in Clara’s mind for eternity, and that didn’t at all give her Good FeelsTM. (What if her reaction wasn’t good? What if she judged her for it? Don’t get her wrong, Thea was certifiably awesome, but the rest of the world often didn’t get her brand of awesomeness. So, like, what if there was a misunderstanding? Well, it’s not like it matters too much, she reminded herself. You don’t really mean shit to her, remember? Since literally everyone under the goddamn sun knew that ‘let’s just be friends’ was just a socially acceptable code for ‘let’s never meet again, actually.’ Granted, their situation was a little more complicated than that, with the cult and the demon and whatnot, but really, without that, would Clara have stayed? How long would she stay? Was there any point to feeding the stubborn fucking hope that refused to leave her the fuck alone? …most likely not.) “It’s not that bad,” she finally decided. “Maybe you’ll need some stitches, though. I mean, the scars left after that would definitely invite some dumbass questions.” Gently, in a way that could only be described as uncharacteristic of her, Thea pressed the bandage against the gashes. “Does it hurt? Too much pressure?” Because, duh, she was trying to help her, not squeeze the rest of her blood out of her as if she was a giant fucking lemon. As in, Thea wasn’t a doctor, but that seemed like a distinctly bad idea.

“There you go, all done!” she smiled, as dazzling as ever. (So what if their days were numbered? In the end, pretty much all relationships were doomed to failure-- only Hollywood movie addicts believed otherwise, and you’d be wise not to take advice from… hmm. You really want to call them people? Hahaha, yeah, right! Anyway, once they were done with this, Clara would most likely leave her. There would be no reason for her to stick around for a moment longer, so expecting that from her would be akin to… uhh, akin to thinking that Elon Musk would buy you a car just because he could. Like, sure, his bank account wouldn’t even notice, but why would he do that? That was the key issue here. Might as well enjoy myself while I fucking can, though. Again, from the practical standpoint, whining about it made no sense, now did it? They were together now, with the stars shining above their heads, and with some mental editing, Thea could pretend that she was happy.)

“Sooo, I presume a hospital is our next stop?” she tilted her head aside. “If you feel too bad about screwing over our potential rescuer, we can ask them to drive us there. Once we get to a city, it will be that much easier to steal a car without us… dunno, cracking some skulls. Everyone wins!” Of course, there was still a decent chance that they’d run into some fucker thinking to take advantage of two lonely girls, buuut yeah, that was a problem of their future selves. Moreover, it wasn’t like Clara’s pacifism applied to bitches that didn’t deserve it, right? Since, so far, she had always entered into her ‘would cut a bitch’ mode.

…wait. Wait, wait, wait. Fucking what? “No,” Thea looked at her, wide-eyed, “that has sure as fuck never happened to me. Like, never ever. Shit, what kind of cheats are you using here and why aren’t you sharing?”

‘I thought you didn’t want to go to Hogwarts,’ the demon mocked, his voice quiet. It… kind of sounded as if he was speaking from a great distance? Eh, whatever, probably meant nothing.

‘Has anyone ever asked you? Once I want your brainless hot takes, I will fucking request them.’

“You goddamn overachiever,” the brunette chuckled, “always going above and beyond. You know what? I’m not even shocked. It totally checks out. So, like, can I be your padawan? Not saying that I want to join the ranks of weirdo kids, but if I can, say, make a flamethrower with my mind, that would be so damn cool.”


That sound couldn’t have been good news, Thea was sure, and when she turned around? Sure enough, there were the lights of flashlights dancing between the trees, no doubt belonging to people they didn’t want to meet. (How did she know that? Well, let’s just say that the gunshots weren’t exactly reassuring. Not unless you were actively suicidal, anyway!)

“Shit,” she uttered, grabbing Clara by the hand. (The way her heart sped up immediately? For now, the brunette decided to ignore it-- this wasn’t a goddamn soap opera, and she would do well to remember it. If anything, the genre was getting closer and closer to horror each passing second.) “I don’t fucking think we should wait for the welcome committee. C’mon, let’s get the hell out of here!”
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"...It's fine. I'm fine." Clara said quietly, not entirely present while she was locked up in her head. It did hurt a little, but Thea wasn't at fault for that. Adjusting to breathing with a bandage firmly wound around her chest, she nodded in lieu of thanks and reached for the tatters that was once a shirt, pulling it back on over her head. Normally she'd have mourned the sight of her ruined clothes... but this wasn't a normal situation by any means. What was an outfit compared to all of this? Dead children and monsters, the traumatic memories and demon cult they've unearthed? (The demon cult that, for all extents and purposes, wanted the two of them dead.) If anything, it was confirmation that all the things that went bump in the night were more than just figments of her overactive imagination. Shivering, she pulled her jacket on to cover up the rest of her, burying herself into its depths. Ugh, she's always had poor blood circulation. Cold, tired, and she might be getting hungry, too. It's all starting to catch up with her. Stitches. Hospitals. Yes, that sounded like a reasonable solution, but... "Are you sure about that, Thea? Is it worth the risk? If we go to a hospital..." She bit her lip. The news was circulating Thea's picture all over. At the very least she would need a disguise before they went anywhere in public. And Clara had no idea at this point if the networks had stuck her name into their story as well. There was something to be said for the fact that her friend didn't even hesitate to suggest it. She was hurt and the solution was to fix it and... that level of care was so profoundly Thea that she didn't know what to do with it. "We'll see. We can figure it out as we go." Not her usual approach, but again, there were too many unknowns to plan for anything at this point. She was as helpless as a petal on a stream, meant to follow the current wherever it took her.

Clara knew it wasn't intentional... but Thea's wide-eyed stare struck her like a slap. I knew it. It's different. She tore her gaze away, overcome with the urge to hide in a hole. It's creepy. I'm creepy.

'Poor little raven. You've been getting so comfortable, so forthright...'
The demon chastised. And to Clara's ears? Why, he sounded louder and clearer than ever. 'Are you sure that's such a good idea, though? This isn't an anime. You will not unlock any special powers when you finally reveal your heart.' His laugh was so throaty that it sent vibrations through her body. 'Your silly human heart is pathetic. It's useless. And if you're not careful, crow will see you for what you really are and leave.'

Clara blinked, having trouble processing Thea's words through the haze the demon cast over them. She recovered quickly, perhaps a bit too quickly, and was laughing as if it was nothing in the grand scheme of things. Letting it all roll off her shoulders like it was nothing. But what if it wasn't nothing? The demon had his claws sunken into her, perhaps so deeply now... that she was a lost cause in comparison. Maybe she'd be nothing more than dead weight, holding Thea back from making an actual escape. Holding her back, just like she always held her brother back... A problem. A burden. The long, strange shadows on the cave walls slithered like vipers around her. Hissing a static into her ears, glaring at her with red eyes.

'In the end, I'm the only one you'll have left. Remember that.' The demon's voice was smooth, as if it was supposed to console her. It, of course, did the exact opposite of that. 'Crow's right, you know. You're the teacher's pet! But you've been very disobedient today, raven. So how about I let my friends entertain you tonight?'

Evidently, those words carried two meanings. The demon was leaving Clara with what she could only define as a horror movie audio track. The static in her ears blew up to their maximum volume, burying harrowing, muffled screams and cries long past. She resisted the urge to clamp her hands over her ears, to let Thea in on the fact that something was wrong. Headphones. Shoot. Where were her headphones? In her getaway bag, maybe? Or back in the car? But it seemed a distraction came in before she could concern herself too much about that. And not the good kind, either.

The gunshot must've been the only noise to exist outside of Clara's mind, seeing as Thea reacted to that as well. It invited unwelcome snapshots of the past, bloody rabbit paws, the blurry trailer carpet... she never liked guns. And to think she'd had one pressed to her temple that morning. That's probably what triggered the magic, wasn't it? No... no pun intended.

"W-w-wait..." Clara was too frazzled to cope when Thea's hand wrapped around her own and snapped her out of the flashback. She swayed ungracefully on her feet as she swung her getaway bag over her shoulder and scooped Spooks up under her other arm. Then her grip tightened around Thea's, perhaps embarrassingly tight, but... so what!? She was scared, okay? As any rational person would be. "O-o-o-okay!" Damned stutter. But right now, words weren't necessary. They needed to run!

Then they were off like two bullets in the dark, stumbling through the trees. Clara knew she couldn't trust her hearing at this rate. She could only hope... only trust that Thea would have a better sense of where to go. She was better at this, wasn't she? The action part. The beam of a flashlight grazed their backs and the shouting behind them grew louder. "Th--Thea... What should we do?"

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