"Nah." You shrug. "Kinda wish I did, it was good, but y’know. Didn’t get exiled with nothin’ but th’ clothes on my back ‘n th’ sword on my hip."
It’s too bad, too. You risked a lot to get her the info she needed, and to meet with her. It’d be a damn shame if the whole thing was lost forever.
You open your book and start reading it.
You can’t believe this.
You flop back down and open your book up, but now you can’t focus on the words. Not only is there a piece written by your idol floating around out there somewhere, but it’s about you.
And you’ve never seen it. You might never see it. It probably doesn’t exist anymore.
It’s selfish, you realize, that you feel almost as devastated by this realization as you do the destruction you caused throughout the city. But you can’t stop wondering where you were, how old you were, what was happening, when it was published. How much would it have helped?
Not enough, according to Scofflaw. Still, you stare blankly at your novel while he reads his, and you fret.
You nod. It doesn’t really occur to you how important an author might be to him. For you, she was just someone you could use to get something done. You needed some propaganda written that might benefit shadow mages, and you knew she didn’t shy away from controversial topics. It was obvious.
"Yeah," you say, straightening up and flipping through your own book again. "Asked ‘er t’ write a piece on shadow mages for me. Thought ‘t might help."
You were hoping it’d make it easier for mages to defect to Prospit, escape being exterminated. It didn’t work.
"Was a li’l too late, but she wrote a nice enough piece, I thought."
You balk at him. You never read a fucking word Scribe wrote about shadow mages. Either you were already exiled, or on the battlefield, on your way to being exiled…
Or Derse did a good job sweeping the piece under the rug.
Maybe both. You’ve scavenged for copies of Scribe’s novels endlessly since you came out of exile—so few of them survived the book burnings and you feel compelled to preserve what’s left—but you’ve never, ever seen anything like that.
Maybe he’s just lying to you, although you’re usually good at pinpointing his tells. A pit grows in your stomach.
"Scoff, do… do you have a c-copy of it anywhere?"
Unlikely, but you have to ask.
You take the book and flip through. You’ll read it, although you’re not pleased with it being your only option.
You roll over to look at what he’s reading. You bet he kept the most interesting one for himself. You crane your head to get a look at the cover.
"Flatfoot Scribe?" You think for a moment. You definitely know that name. You snap your fingers when it hits you. "Oh! I know that chick, I met ‘er back b’fore I got my ass exiled."
You slam your book shut, and choke on your own breath and spit. It’s not at all flattering.
"You met her?!” you scream. He says it so casually, like it’s no big deal. It’s just the single most influential role model of your entire childhood.
Maybe the only role model.
You don’t know what else to say.
"… You met her?”
You wouldn’t kill a man over Hungry Hungry Hippos. You’re not that much of a barbarian.
Okay. Maybe if you were really drunk. Or in a bad mood. Or they were a real dick about beating you.
"We ain’t puttin’ a slip ‘n slide nowhere," you say, then you stop and think about it. "Not ‘less th’ girls’re willin’ t’ slide around with us."
You roll around.
"I might be willin’ t’ settle for readin’ a book," you say after a while. "But only if th’ book had sexy bits in it."
"The girls are too classy for that, and why can’t we play on a slip ‘n slide by ourselves?"
You huff at him, the utter picture of indignation. The man thinks he’s too good for an indoor slip ‘n slide. The nerve.
He does have you there, though. The books. You’re bound to have a few on your person. You’re not even sure which ones anymore, you just keep a few glitched and cram them in your pockets before you leave.
You unglitch a paper clip and hand it to him. You don’t invest in smut novels, but this one did have one raunchy scene, and a lot of action to go with.
For yourself, you take out an eraser, flop back down on your belly, and start reading your favorite Flatfoot Scribe novel. Something from before the war, the propaganda, the book-burning, and the eventual exile.
"My poetry’d be awesome," you mutter. "It’d be real raunchy, people love that shit."
"Or," you say, because you don’t want any shitty Ikea furniture, "She could bring us some board games and more batteries for my TV." And then maybe she could stick around and talk to you, because she’s better for conversation than this sad lump you call a brother.
Or she could just stick around and fuck you all day long. That would also be acceptable.
You love board games, but playing them with Scofflaw, well…
Men die over Monopoly.
With Scofflaw and Delinquent, men might very well die over Hungry Hungry Hippos.
You rub your face.
"… Do you think we could fit a slip’n slide in the living room?"
You’re a grown ass man.
"Friends who are also criminals, with a variety of murders and other lovely felonies under their skirts." You’d add a rude joke about what else was under their skirts, but neither you nor Innovator would appreciate it. It’s not your style, and even Innovator has his limits with you.
"I’ll do my job, and you do yours-or whatever the equivalent of a job is that you have. Bring Scofflaw back, or not, and see if I care." The tone is callous, but your heart isn’t in it. It’s too early in the day to start in with real venom. "Just try not to break anything else while you try to make him a kingpin again."
You have an office to get to. An office, where more clients are probably waiting for you to help them with their petty little problems, where nothing ever gets done, and the rest of the Company has probably decided not to show up. You consider your final words, weighing them mentally, and decide they’re vague enough to serve as a proper warning. With only the slightest of nods, you try to ignore the mobster, and turn to go.
Does Deadeye actually have any murders on the girls? You’re going to have to look into that, and wipe the record clean if he does. It wouldn’t be the first time.
He will find out, of course, and hate you even deeper than now. But the girls are more important than your silly schoolgirl crush. Which, you have to admit, is only spurred on by the fact that he doesn’t take a pot-shot at your female companions. All things considered, it’s downright gentlemanly.
He’s walking away from you, and you should probably not force him to stay. Not in public. Especially not after what happened. But the conversation can’t end here, so you take a few long strides to catch up, if only briefly.
"Wait wait wait!" You’re going to do this properly, god damn it. You fold your arms behind your back and give him a quick bow. You’re still going to sneak him coffee later in the day, but for now, you can give a proper, respectful goodbye. "Good day, Detective."
This isn’t trying too hard, right? You’re not trying too hard.
"I gotta get Doxy t’ bring us some games or somethin’," you say. You think for a moment. "I think there was some paper ‘n pens in th’ other room. We could play hangman."
He starts chewing on your arm, and you ignore it. Him biting you is nothing new. At least he’s not trying to break the skin. “Or I could jus’ get int’ lit’rature. I could write poems all day ‘n night.”
You’ll reveal your existence to the city not with a bang, but with a book release. Yesss.
"Scofflaw, I forbid you to even attempt poetry. You would single-handedly kill an art form.”
Scofflaw’s great at faking charm but he’s shit at finessing once you’ve slipped past his tricks.
Still, you’re growing bored with biting him, so you sit up and consider what few options you have.
"I think that we should send Doxy to Ikea and have her bring us a piece of furniture to assemble. That will keep you busy for several days."
It will also keep him enraged for several days, which will amuse you greatly to watch.
You sigh softly, wishing desperately for another cup of coffee. Of course, Innovator’s already had some. Luck apparently doesn’t favor the righteous.
"Fine. Clean up your mess and get back to breaking the law. If you’re expecting some kind of peace prize, don’t wait up. It’s the Scoundrels that caused this, and though you might try to make it better, you still can’t fix it totally. The blame for this is solely on your head. Heads. All three of you."
You pause, factoring in what you know about Scoundrel operations, and scowl. “All five. Make that all five. If you step one foot out of line, there’ll be recriminations.”
You’re not really sure if anyone actually uses the word ‘recriminations’ anymore. Who cares. It gets the point across.
You would buy him a cup of coffee in a heartbeat if he would ask you to. You may just bring him one later, anyway. You’ll just sneak it into his office. That way he can’t say no.
"I wish you wouldn’t include the girls," you say, with a frown that is not too exaggerated and also not insincere. You’re pretty used to lying to people by now, up to and including him, and you’re also pretty used to getting away with it. "They’re not involved in any planning or decisions, they’re just our friends."
If there was ever a time in your life you needed Deadeye to buy one of your lies, this is it.
You fidget when he knees you, but you don’t get off of the bed. You just flop your arms around and kick your feet, groaning in frustration.
"I dunno. Entertain me! Do somethin’."
You know he’s too bedridden to do much of anything. You really wish he wasn’t. You roll around, resituating yourself so that you’re on your back.
"Th’ other safehouses ain’t ‘s safe ‘s this one though," you say. You know damn well you can’t go anywhere else. If there’s the slightest chance anyone might see you, or overhear you, it’s too risky. "Guh. I shoulda’ kept up th’ electricity payments on this shithole."
Then at least you’d still be playing shitty phone games.
"Y’think we got any board games ‘round here?"
"Doubt it. If there ever were, Delinquent would’ve smashed them long ago."
You counter his rolling onto his back by rolling onto your belly.
"You could pretend you’re on a desert island and start counting the days by marking the walls with a rock."
You shouldn’t be encouraging him to wreck even more property, really, but whatever.
At least Scoff’s whining is a good distraction from the fact that the angel is never going to contact you.
You wiggle closer and start biting on his arm.