the black goat of a thousand young

/ By kaitoXi [+Watch]

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Nothing left to do but the list. The cliff was right there, and he was staring over it. One step, and that was it; no more Daniel. Maybe forever. Hopefully not. No. He had to have hope. Still, his stomach churned just thinking about it.

Sarah appeared suddenly, bursting out behind them. The list? Already? Couldn't they wait a little bit? No, this was good. He should get it over with right away, so he coudln't worry about it and put it off. A few hours was a long way to go, but then again, he supposed blackmarket medical supplies wouldn't be easy to come by. That'd be the rest of his and Daniel's day. Might even be a good chunk of their night, too.

"Yeah, okay," Bell said. Daniel headed out the back door; Bell frowned. How was he going to check the groceries if he was outside? Whatever. He turned back towards the pantry and opened it, peering inside, then checked out the fridge. It felt so empty on the inside, but honestly, that was all the food two people needed. Unless... "Are we gonna feed the girls?" he asked. "We're gonna need more food, if so."

He followed Daniel outside and towards the car. He really wanted to reach out and hold him back, tell him they should just put it off 'til tomorrow, that the roads were bad at night, anything, but he didn't. Couldn't. This was Daniel's life in the balance. He didn't have any right to tell him to stop, to slow down. If it meant Daniel survived, even if he wasn't able to be with him for as long, it was fine.

He climbed into the car and hesitated, looking at Daniel. What if he split again, when he was human, and they decided they didn't want him? No. He'd just... they had the medication coming, right? Daniel's mom was sending it over. It'd be okay. Even if it meant just having Landon around, or just Daniel.

Alphie tightened one of the bolts again, for about the fiftieth time, then stopped and sighed out. She was never going to figure this out if she didn't talk to Sarah. But it was just... so horribly awkward. The dumb pair of idiots knowing about it. The way Daniel had just waved it in front of Sarah's face like it was obvious, and she hadn't even noticed. Could they just pretend nothing happened? But she knew that was impossible.
  Bellwether / kaitoXi / 5d 23h 19m 9s
Bell-boy's snort broke the spell the contraption had over him. Daniel looked up and shook his head. Another list, another errand-run. This time for medicines and the likes.
"Wait," he said, stalled in his tracks.
"What was your name?"

Sarah stiffened. Her name? Oh. Right. She'd introduced herself before, but Daniel had hardly been in the right state of mind to even register what was going on -deliberately. She winced.
"Sarah."

Daniel have her a curt nod, then gestured at Bell that he was ready to go.

Sarah waited for a moment, head bowed down, then finally, she lifted her gaze to look at Alphie. She couldn't tell whether the woman was angry, frustrated or just preoccupied. Neither of them had addressed the elephant in the room as accurately as Daniel had.
"I'll be back in a minute," she promised Alphie. No response.
She retreated after the two men.

Daniel shook his head at Bell.
"Nothing. There's nothing left to do," he said with a shrug. "Other than her list." Sarah almost ran into them.

"I -I'll go make it," Sarah promised, scouring her bag for pen and paper. They'd need more supplies as they went on, depending on how long the extraction was going to take, but the originator could take care of that once the time came. She almost forgot he was an original. Not just some hybrid, but a powerful, present monster, alive and dangerous.
She found a notepad and started to scribble a few things on there.
"This is the address," she told Daniel and stuck out the paper for him to take. Daniel took it.

"Is it far?"
Daniel studied the address, but he had no clue.

"A few hours driving," she waved. "I'll make sure he knows what to prepare. Just bring cash."

He nodded. "Thanks," Daniel waved the address.

"Don't thank me. It's not fair, what you are doing."

Daniel smirked at Sarah. No. No it wasn't.
"Right," he started. "We better leave you two to it. Give you some privacy," he said in a softer tone. Sarah blushed and Daniel grinned in reply. Just where he wanted her.
"Let's see if we still have enough food for tonight," Daniel offered and made for the back-door. One day they really ought to fix that one.
  Landon Turner / THERE IS NO EXPLANATION OR REASON / Urizen / 6d 48m 17s
Whoa, it was already hooked up? Bell glanced over at the tube. It didn't look much different than it had before, just the same old lump of metal and glass with a snarl of wires leading away, but now that he was looking closer, some of those wires now snaked their way all the way over to the wall. There was also a new, strange pump-like contraption tucked away behind the bulk of the machine, just out of sight.

So close. He suppressed a shiver, not wanting to show weakness in front of the girls. It scared him, having to consign Daniel to that oblivion so soon. Maybe even watch him die. If it came down to that, he'd rather treasure the last moments he had with Daniel. But no. He'd made his choice. And this was his one chance to save Daniel. Nothing was going to stop him. Not even his own doubts.

Another address, another list. Bell snorted to himself. It felt like they were the girls' errand boys, sometimes, what with all the shopping trips they were sent out on. Still, it was for Daniel's sake, so he didn't mind.

Shoo. Bell glanced at Alphie, decided now was not the time to have a test of dominance, and nudged Daniel instead. "Let's get out of here," he muttered quietly, leading the way out. Let the girls figure out their feelings, let them figure out the last little bits to set up the tube.

The light spilling in through the windows at the top of the stairs seemed so bright as he ascended out of the basement. It felt like he was leaving his worries behind in the dark basement, though he knew they were chasing after him just the same as if he was still in the shadows.

He sighed and looked at Daniel. "What do we have left to do today?" They'd accomplished just about everything. Except groceries, maybe? Were groceries on the list? He frowned. He couldn't remember now. After all their worries about the girl, and the fear and exuberation that came from finally having everything, those meaningless thoughts had been washed away. Maybe Daniel and his photographic memory had a better chance of remembering.
  Bellwether / kaitoXi / 6d 4h 7m 17s
Bellwether’s words were concise and clear-spoken; if they didn’t give it their all, there’d be repercussions of the permanent kind. Sarah and Alphie might not recognise Bell-boy’s emotions conveyed with those words, but Daniel did. He didn’t betray a thing however. Didn’t want to. The blonde’s frown turned into a reluctant okay.
Daniel nodded.
Everything. That was a dangerous thing to ask, where the goatling was considered. It might just tell the researchers more than they’d ever care to know and leave their minds a broken mess.

“Thank you,” he managed, a sigh of relief escaping his lungs. Bell-boy’s grin told him the man felt just as relieved as he did. Things were looking up. They also became incredibly close and large. His gaze was drawn to the installation, much like Alphie’s.
There was a lot to think about, not all of which pertained their awkward cooperation.

“How long until…?” Daniel posed.

Alphie looked up at Daniel and sighed out, clenching a tool she’d pocketed earlier.
“We’ll need to test it, but the installation is hooked up,” she acknowledged his urgency. “After that we need to prepare the solution and you.” Her eyes roved his body.

Daniel cocked his head, a slightly confused look on his face.

Sarah stepped in.
“We’ll need medical supplies.” Not all of what they needed to track was built into this installation. Obviously it was made for the monsters only, not humans or whatever lay in between.

Daniel gave a slow nod.
“Why am I not surprised? So how would we get what we need?”

Sarah glanced at Alphie, who shook her head slowly. Not their organisation. It all had to be off the books.
“I know someone who might help us get some things, for the right price,” she sighed out. Her fingers still shook, but some of the tension had gone from the air now that she’d said yes. She realised Daniel was just like the other level fives: he would do anything to survive.
“I’ll give you the address and a list of things we’ll need,” Sarah muttered.

“Now shoo,” Alphie started, hinting at the door. “I still have work I want to do, so get out.”

So close, so far. Daniel unconsciously clenched his jaw. Shit. He should’ve never agreed to have the goatling in the first place, but he just hadn’t been in the right state of mind.
  Landon Turner / THERE IS NO EXPLANATION OR REASON / Urizen / 6d 12h 17m 43s
Bell watched the girls' reactions to Daniel's insinuations and couldn't help a smirk from crossing his lips. Young love was so sweet. Okay, fair, they were both older than him, but the love was new, and that was what counted, right? Right. So bashful. He snorted to himself; good thing they hadn't gotten another bed, or these two might be spending their time getting to know one another more intimately instead.

If Daniel didn't survive. Bell's stomach clenched at the thought of it, that thought he'd been trying to push down for so long and hadn't quite managed to. "Let's put it like this," he said, speaking slowly so his words were perfectly clear. "You come in here every day and give it your all, then I know everything possible has been done to help Daniel, even if he doesn't survive. You turn away and refuse to help, then maybe I'll start thinking he might've survived if only you were there. Then we start walking a dangerous road, and it probably won't end somewhere pretty."

Sarah frowned. False. That was a false set of options. He'd blame them if they failed, because then they wouldn't have given it their all. He'd blame them if she walked away. He'd probably blame them if they succeeded. Coming here had been the wrong choice. The only way to win was not to play. She should've stayed away.

But then Alphie would be all alone, and she didn't--she couldn't--and she understood, didn't she. Because if Alphie died, if these men killed her, and she wasn't there to try her best to save Alphie, then she'd blame herself for the rest of her life.

"Okay," she decided. Reluctant though she might be, there was only one option. There'd only been one option from the start. They had Alphie hostage, and she knew the woman told put safety, love, money, everything on the back burner to figure out a puzzle like this. All she could do was be there for her, when everything went bad. "Fine. But you tell me everything you know."

Bell glanced at Daniel and gave him a grin. They had it all! That was the last piece.

Alphie stared off into space, still trying to come to terms with things. But... but Sarah had him. What was his name. Her old subordinate. Hadn't they had a thing, the two of them? And besides, what made Sarah like her? A crotchety woman half a decade her senior [i at least], who'd given up on love? They were friends, sure, but love was something else. Shit. This was really confusing. She looked at the installation. At least machines were simple. Machines never suddenly confessed their love to you.
  Bellwether / kaitoXi / 7d 1h 53m 14s
Before he could explain to Sarah what they'd done, Alphie picked up slack. Daniel gave her a wayward look. She was now fully committed to this, wasn’t she? “She’s right,” he breathed.
Sarah glanced at the stairs, sized them up, measured her odds and concluded she was on the losing end of the scale. What would she get out of it?

For Alphie, it’d been pure curiosity luring her in; her hunger for information rivalled their need to kill and she’d go through lives to get where she wanted to be. Sarah’s only devotion was to Alphie. She had nothing to gain from this.

Daniel took a deep breath.
“I can compensate you financially, if you’re inclined to materialistic tendencies, but for you… I think being able to watch over Alphie would be enough.” He pushed off from the wall and approached the girls. Sarah took several steps back, but Alphie was no longer scared -used now, to their presence.

“I think it’s time you told Alphie how you felt about her,” he told the blonde.

Sarah’s eyes went wide, cheeks a rosy red. She turned her gaze down and looked away.
Monetary compensation. Materialism. It made her protest feel insignificant, almost. As if he was demeaning her fears. And then there was a more dangerous undertow she could feel that cloyed the air.
She knew what the cretin inside this man could do; she’d seen the damages first-hand. Her life could be forfeit at but a thought of the monster inside Daniel.

Alphie gave Daniel a slightly confused stare, then rubbed the spot where Sarah had held her arm. Oh. Oh!
She turned away, towards the installation.

“I’ll tell you everything about them you want to know,” Daniel said as final offer. The blonde had been the one who was interested in ‘the perfect hybrid’, and all the other things he’d spilled. Information was worth more than money. It could mean receiving the final key to crack the code.

“I’m not asking you to hurt anyone. I just want you to help me survive,” Daniel said, softer now.

“And if you don’t?” Sarah snapped.

Daniel flinched, then sighed out. Then Bell would most likely kill both girls and then some.
  Landon Turner / THERE IS NO EXPLANATION OR REASON / Urizen / 7d 2h 25m 11s
"What says they find out?" Bell offered with a shrug.

Sarah whirled on him, then seemed to swallow back some of her anger--or was it fear?--in an attempt to compose herself before she spoke. "They will find out. They have eyes everywhere. How you two--how you're here, and they haven't found you yet--" It was impossible. They'd raided a base, too, how had they managed to do all that under the radar? These two were being actively searched for. And here they were, flaunting about right under everyone's noses like it was nothing!

"They won't find us," Bell said confidently, more confidently than he felt, though as he said it, he felt the truth in it, and was bolstered by it. "They can't. Not anymore."

"What does that mean?" Sarah asked. She looked at Alphie, pleading with her eyes. Surely Alphie didn't believe them? They were madmen!

Alphie spread her hands. "They've been here along enough to settle in and rent a house, and no one's even noticed a blip on the radar, right?" They'd done something to hide. Daniel had mentioned it, hadn't he? The originator had done something. They wouldn't be found here, at least at long as it was waiting for the child to be born. "This is the originator's child. It's used all its power to make sure the child is born safely. They won't find us. Not if the originator doesn't want them to."

No! This was stupid. Sarah glanced at the stairs, at the men she'd have to pass to get there. The implicit threat in the way they stood there, between her and the door... she didn't like it. But then... they hadn't been discovered. How? And the child, they'd never seen one born like this--no! She couldn't be swayed. Not so easy.

"What do I get out of this?" she tried. These men were crazy if they thought she was going to do this without any benefits to her. See? Then it was easy. Easy to make a decision if she didn't get anything out of it. What was the point? "What's in it for me? If I do help you, what do I get?" She wasn't going to risk her job and life for nothing.
  Bellwether / kaitoXi / 7d 3h 42m 7s
“…and what after it’s finished?” Sarah said, hesitantly. If what Daniel said was true, about him dying, they had every motive to be cooperative and not hurt them. After the experiment was true however, there were no guarantees. Alphie was ready to take that risk, apparently, but Sarah wasn’t dumb enough to let her sacrifice her life for this kind of research when there was so much more to discover.

“After it’s finished, we part ways. The creature inside of me will be offered the dog, and it too will find its way in life,” Daniel shrugged. “We have no motive to kill you.”

Sarah looked down. They did. She’d put Daniel through torture and even if the man couldn’t remember it all, she suspected he knew. How could he forgive them like that? Bellwether’s reaction as Alphie described him, was more predictable. The man was angry and had a hard time swallowing it back for his sick friend. That, in her eyes, made Daniel the risk. Once he woke up and decided they were no longer of any use, there was no telling what might happen.

“It’s too dangerous,” she said. Sarah’s eyes flicked back to Alphie. It was too dangerous. Actually, if they said ‘no’ right now and walked away, they could just as easily be considered obsolete. Had Alphie already realised that?

Her eyes fell on the familiar jars. Chemicals. “Where did you-?” She lifted one and inspected the jar. “This one went missing the other night. You stole it? How?” And no one had been killed. Only one researcher had been injured, but suffered only a mild concussion for it.

“They kept their promise. Sarah, I know it’s dangerous but I think this could work,” Alphie said.

“I know what you think! You think you can get away with all of this and then just walk away without consequence! Even if these two don’t kill you, ‘they’ will. They’ll want to know everything you did here and more and won’t stop at-“ She swallowed. Self-conscious now, she glanced at Bellwether and Daniel.

Daniel crossed his arms and leaned against the wall, just observing the two.

Sarah felt a cold shiver go up her spine at the man’s gaze. He was dangerous and hid it well. There was a strange undertone to it. Like that of the monsters. Like that of an originator’s presence.
  Landon Turner / THERE IS NO EXPLANATION OR REASON / Urizen / 7d 12h 42m 53s
He met Daniel's eyes with raised eyebrows of his own. Sure, they could wait it out, but why? They were likely the most contentious point in the girls' argument. Might as well go confront them and see what they could offer as input.

After a second, Daniel seemed to get it. He let go, and Bell kept going, heading down into the basement. The girls were arguing. Blondie had her hand on Alphie's arm, a pleading look in her eyes. Looked like the conversation was going in the opposite direction of what they'd hoped. Instead of Alphie convincing the blonde, the blonde was trying to convince Alphie to leave.

Eyes on them. Blondie jumped back and stiffened. A familiar awkwardness filled the air, the kind that he recognized from whenever someone caught him and a lover. Was Daniel right? It wouldn't surprise him. They were close, in any case.

"It doesn't have to be a solo operation," Bell offered, lounging against the stairs. He came down slowly, trying to look as nonthreatening as possible; not easy, when he was more used to acting threatening. "You could help her out."

"Sarah, you don't have to do anything," Alphie said. "This is just my own selfishness. I want to see this research to the end, but that's all. That's all it is."

Sarah gave her an exasperated look, glancing over at the men. "They're murderers!" she hissed.

"We won't hurt you," Bell assured them. Maybe a lie, but for now it was true. "Hell, you'll have Daniel hostage the whole time. I'd have no reason to want to hurt you."

He didn't know. He was doing his best, but he didn't think he was being particularly convincing. Bell glanced at Daniel. Maybe he'd have a better idea of how to persuade them? He wasn't good at talking, and he wasn't good at dealing with women, either. Daniel would know how to deal with this, right?

Sarah's eyes darted to Alphie, then back to them. He could see some kind of mental calculation ticking away behind her skull. Interested, he watched, curious. Run or stay? What was she thinking?
  Bellwether / kaitoXi / 7d 22h 51m 57s
Goldy was the first to greet them. Her wet snout pressed against the palm of his hand in a friendly greeting and Daniel ruffled her fur. “Not much of a guard-dog, is she?” he muttered. If the blonde had any ill intentions, Goldy would be none the wiser.
Daniel followed Bell around the back and listened with keen interest: nothing. So far, nothing seemed amiss. If the blonde had brought hunters, they were hiding well. No foot-prints, scuff-marks or otherwise betrayed there were more than four people and a dog present.

He waited for Bell-boy to check the kitchen, then followed in slowly. Conversation. Down the door to the basement, he could hear conversation flowing. It was agitated, but nowhere near what Alphie had sounded like when she’d made the racket earlier.

Daniel grabbed Bell’s arm.
Was he going down? He looked the man in the eyes. Disturbing the conversation now might ruin his chances. He needed Alphie to convince the blonde to help her. Somehow, their love or affection, or whatever it was they shared, had to win out over the odd and potentially dangerous situation.

After a moment’s thought, Daniel let Bell’s arm go and nodded. Whatever. They might as well pitch in.

“I just don’t get it,” Sarah said, for what felt like the tenth time. “You left because you were afraid after what had happened and I understand that, so why go back to help the men who caused all of this in the first place?” a desperate tone clung to her voice.

Alphie sighed out.
“It’s…different. I’ve had time to think about things, about what happened.” And Daniel had let her live. He’d even spilled information that they as researchers hadn’t discovered in all the years they’d been studying these monsters.
“And weren’t you the one who proposed dangerous experiments on the hybrid because you were curious? How else will we learn more, Sarah? How else will we arm ourselves in the fight against these monsters?” Her hand touched the installation, as if cradling her work.

“Just…why? You owe them nothing -we owe them nothing. Why make this a solo operation? What’s the guarantee that you’ll leave this place alive after all is said and done?” Sarah reached for Alphie’s arm and held on. Her eyes said what she couldn’t voice.

Daniel cleared his throat to announce themselves.

Sarah’s hand instantly shot back, as if burned. Her eyes searched Daniel’s face instead. What could they guarantee them? He looked away, to Bell. He didn’t intend to harm the researchers, but Bell-boy… he wasn’t sure about Bell.
  Landon Turner / THERE IS NO EXPLANATION OR REASON / Urizen / 7d 23h 32m 14s
The rumble and crunch of gravel warned him in time to look up before the potholes struck. Sitting in a car looking down while it was wobbling that much was a recipe for vomit. There were two cars in their driveway already; one Alphie's familiar car, the other unfamiliar, hopefully the blonde's and not the hunters'. Daniel said it was a risk he was willing to take, but how do? His life was on the line. It wasn't a risk Bell was really willing to take, but he hadn't seen any way around it, was all.

"If she really burned the place down or something, she'd better run," Bell commented to Daniel's "still standing." They parked, and he hopped out and stretched, subtly limbering up just in case. Couldn't be too careful when hunters might be in the picture.

His wrench? "Hope not," he said, and grabbed it out of the trunk. It was a little top heavy to sit right in his back pocket, but it was better than just holding it and walking in; blondie might faint if he did that. She seemed nervier than Alphie in general, or maybe she was just worse at faking it.

Goldy came running up to greet them with a sloppy lick and a good sniffing. Bell petted her as she greeted him, reassured by her relaxed manner. She was no watchdog, but she certainly wasn't acting like there were strange men in her house, either, which boded well. But then again, maybe she was just being a dumb, friendly dog. She had certainly adapted to her new owners fast enough.

He headed around back, scanning the ground for any extra footprints. Nothing he could see, but it was pretty hard-packed and grassy, so that was no surprise. The back door was just as broken down as ever; he pushed it open carefully, ready to jump in or flee.

The kitchen awaited him, same as always. In its nook, the door to the basement was propped open, a gaping dark maw. He could hear conversation, faintly; two women, it sounded like. Bell relaxed just a hair. Okay. Seemed like it was just Alphie and the blondie after all. Still, he kept his guard up as he headed downstairs, just in case.
  Bellwether / kaitoXi / 8d 4h 6m 46s
Once the air-conditioning kicked in, the temperature inside the car dipped to something manageable. Daniel glanced over at Bell-boy to find the man’s nose dipped inside a book. He hadn’t pegged the other, but why not? It felt more like they were celebrating nostalgia than anything else anyway.

“That’s a risk I’m willing to take,” Daniel agreed. He certainly hoped not, but if hunters had already compromised their location, there was no salvaging what was there. Not even Alphie’s cooperation. He’d just have to find another way then. Or give in to the goatling’s demand, taking the flawed immortality it offered up to him.

“I think blondie did my stitches at some point, so she probably told me her name,” Daniel confessed, toying with the car’s radio. “They already had me on the good stuff then though.” His memory’s accuracy tended to taper down with fairly big intervals when high on something or other.

Bell-boy went back to reading and Daniel found a radio-station with some upbeat music to listen to for the duration of the ride. Soon enough familiar roads guided their way back to the house. No smoke. No other vehicles so far.
Daniel crossed his fingers his little bet would fly. Blondie might agree it was best not to involve her other ‘colleagues’ to visit Alphie while she was in an incriminating position, putting her life at risk alongside theirs. For all eyes, it seemed as if Alphie had sided with them, the mass murderers that had wrecked their previous base.

“Everything still seems to be standing,” Daniel muttered, lowering the volume on the radio.

The grit underneath their tires cracked and popped until they reached the bumps towards their driveway. Daniel pulled up and cut the engine, then turned back to fetch their things from the back-seat.
There was another, unfamiliar car parked next to Alphie’s, so the blonde had managed to find the place easily enough. Now they just had to make sure she wouldn’t compromise their location.

He looked at the house, then slammed the car door.
“Let’s go around back,” Daniel told Bell. He opened the boot of the car. Bell-boy’s heavy wrench was still in the back.
He glanced at the man. “Think we’ll need it?”
  Landon Turner / THERE IS NO EXPLANATION OR REASON / Urizen / 8d 13h 2m 18s
Daniel turned the book over in his hands, seemingly surprised by finding it there. Did it really take that much thought? When he answered, Bell suddenly understood it all. Becky, huh? Daniel sure didn't like to talk about her. Then again, fair enough. He'd choked the man out enough times for it. Come to think of it, they had both been reading that series. She'd been the one to suggest it to him, and honestly, it had been more her thing than his.

"Look at you, whipped already," he joked. "She did like that series." Wait, was Daniel planning on having her out? He frowned and looked back at Daniel, the question on his lips, but it was too late; they were already at the counter. The lady behind it seemed a little puzzled as to why they were buying what they were, but didn't comment, just carried out the transaction.

He shook his head, somewhat amused at the idea of the girls wrecking the house without them there. "Let's hurry on back, then. If you insist." He certainly wasn't going to force Daniel not to drive. He didn't mind at all.

They couldn't get to the car soon enough. Same as Daniel, he opened the door to let it air, let the heat escape. For a minute, he stared around, dazed. So hot. So damn hooooot. Motion caught his eye. Daniel was climbing into the car. With a sigh, he followed, feeling the backs of his legs flinch from the heat of the upholstery. Shitty hot day.

He popped open the book and started browsing. It wasn't quite as exciting as it'd been when he was young, but it was still pretty good. Entertaining enough for a car ride, anyways.

After a few minutes, he put it down and looked at Daniel. "Hope blondie didn't bring the hunters in," he commented. "Speaking of which, we absolutely need to learn her name." Couldn't keep calling her blondie forever. Especially if she was going to keep working for them. It'd just get embarrassing, at some point.

He yawned and picked the book back up. At least a chapter's worth, but not too much. Didn't want to read the whole thing on the way home from the book store.
  Bellwether / kaitoXi / 8d 23h 50m 5s
A fan? Oh, so Bell-boy recognised the book as well? Daniel raised an eyebrow and ponderously looked at the cover of the book.
“I uhm…hmm.” Honestly was probably his best bet. Daniel tapped the book’s back and flipped it back so he could glance at the back. “Becky told me it was one of the things she wanted to do, if she got the time. Amongst other, more ambitious things, so it’s probably a meaningless gesture, but…”
He shrugged. Rebecca probably wouldn’t even remember telling him, not that it mattered. It couldn’t hurt either. Daniel thought for a moment and then grabbed the first volume as well. Considering both Bell-boy and Becky had taken an interest, it might be a nice case-study.

Bell’s choices wouldn’t entertain the man for a particularly long time, but Daniel didn’t comment.
“Nothing else?” he asked, just to be sure and took the books off Bell’s hands. Daniel took them to the register, where a kind older woman gathered up their choices appreciatively. She couldn't quite match their choices to their appearance, so her eagerness to get to know her customers ended there. They weren't students, or even in their target group, nor kids, even though half their choices seemed to allude to that fact.

Daniel shrugged apologetically and paid their books.
“Do you want a bag for that?” she asked after the till started rattling its consent.
“Yes please.”

So ordinary. So normal. Routine. It felt off.
Everything about reality felt slightly off. Borderline though. As if there was only an extremely thin barrier between him and complete insanity. Daniel smiled as she presented the bag and he carried it back to Bell-boy.

“Let’s see if the girls left our house standing,” he muttered. “Want me to drive?” Daniel offered, already on the way out of the store. It was hot out, humid in a way that betrayed rain might happen once things cooled down enough. For now, it meant that the sun relentlessly beat down on the pavement. Their car was a hot bundle of iron, rubber and plastic. Daniel opened the door and held there, allowing the air to vent out.

The blonde was the last ingredient. If she said no, Daniel wasn’t a hundred percent certain on what they’d do. Possibly contact some people from the movement that had helped them do away with vat-goat. At least some of them had to know who might be able to help them. Distracted, Daniel crawled behind the wheel and got the car started.
  Landon Turner / THERE IS NO EXPLANATION OR REASON / Urizen / 9d 22m 24s
Despite his rushing, Daniel took his sweet time. Bell sighed dramatically and stole one of Daniel's chips. Guess Daniel wasn't all that worried about the house, even though he'd been the one to bring it up.

Bell grinned back. Yeah, spending their time in bed was plenty fun. He wasn't opposed to continuing that trend, but, well, sometimes it was nice to have something to just pick up and put down in between doing stuff. Maybe having a book around to distract Daniel would motivate him into actually fixing that back door. Goldy wouldn't be happy about that one, but she'd live. Maybe he'd install a doggy door for her, as long as he was being handy.

It was a short but hot walk to the bookstore, short enough the chill from the burrito shop hadn't quite left his skin by the time they were back inside the air conditioning. It was a massive bookstore, and still well populated despite the supposed decline of books. Bell wandered off towards the fiction section, pausing to stick his tongue out at Daniel for the comics comment. So what? Comics were fun. Certainly more fun than reading about whatever he was picking out from the nonfiction section. Who read nonfiction for fun?

Oh, right. Boring office people. Bell wrinkled his nose at the books before him. He'd totally forgotten Daniel used to be one of those people. Still had the same tastes, despite everything.

A few series he remembered enjoying back in high school were still available as back of the shelf move it out bargains, while a fantasy book he remembered being just okay had a whole shrine dedicated to it and its extended universe books. He shook his head at the whole affair. No one had any taste around here.

In the end, he settled on a sequel and a comic compendium, the kind that had several years' worth of classic comics compiled into one big volume. To his surprise, Daniel grabbed a fiction book as well; Bell peered at the cover. Oh, that one? He'd never finished the series. It'd been completed right after he'd ended up on the streets, and other things had seemed more important at the time. But why did Daniel want it? "You a fan?" he asked, eyebrows furrowed. It made a weird match with the biography and textbook he was holding.
  Bellwether / kaitoXi / 9d 3h 48m 15s
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