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After the final battle…

 

They’re flying back to the city, and Agent 8 is on the verge of falling asleep. The strange clarity that gripped her when she was shooting hyperbombs is wearing off, the way it does when she finishes a particularly stressful test, and she wants to sleep.

“If you want, you can stay with me,” Agent 3 says, apparently out of nowhere. “I’m sure Pearl and Marina would let you stay with them, but they’re…busy. With their show, and each other, and…anyway, if you’d like, I could help you get settled.”

Agent 8 blinks and looks at Agent 3. She’s only met her twice, and one of those times was to shoot her until whatever the Telephone did to her wore off. Otherwise, all she knows about her is that she broke into the Deepsea Metro to save some random Octoling and Cuttlefish.

…Mostly Cuttlefish, probably.

Still. Agent 3 did save her life.

Agent 8 settles for a nod and hopes Three understands.

Marina lands them in an alley behind a recording studio. “We’re late for the broadcast,” Marina whispers, “and we still have to change out of these clothes…Three, please take care of Eight!”

“Right,” and Agent 3 walks toward the entrance to the alley. “My place isn’t far, but we’ll have to be careful, no one’s used to…” She trails off.

“What’s wrong?” Eight asks.

“There’s…” Three shakes her head, drops into squid form, and reforms, apparently to make sure she’s really seeing what she sees. “There’s so many of them.”

Eight peeks out just in time to see another Octoling wander by, in the same outfit as Eight, looking a little confused and very overwhelmed.

“That makes things easier, but we’re definitely going to have to figure out what to do with them,” Three says. “In the meantime…” She walks out of the alley and beckons Eight after her. Eight, entirely unsure of herself, follows, and Three leads her to an apartment building.

“I’m here by myself,” Three says, unlocking the door. “It’s pretty small, but there should be space for you till you can get your own place.”

Eight makes it through the door before stopping and staring. Three’s apartment is so…so much.

There are weapons stacked haphazardly against the walls, clothes tossed everywhere, plates in the sink…it’s all very different from the Deepsea Metro’s sterility. Eight loves it immediately.

“First things first, let’s get you some clothes,” Three says, leading Eight over to another door leading into an equally messy room. “Sit on the bed, I’ll find you something…”

…Bed? Eight goes toward the general direction Three indicates and sits on something that she immediately sinks into. She’s never been on anything this soft ever, and she really doesn’t mean to flop back on it, but she does. She’s so used to sleeping on the Metro…even with the ink tank on her back pressing into her, she wants to curl into it and never leave.

Three tosses a polka-dotted button-up shirt at her, followed by a pink something-or-other with sleeves, and a pair of pants that look infinitely more comfortable than her skirt.

“Here,” Three says, and helps her ease the ink tank off her back. She sets it down cautiously, wary of the ink bomb still in place. “I’ll be right outside, so go ahead and get dressed!” she calls, slipping out the door with an armful of clothes.

Getting the outfit from the Deepsea Metro off is difficult, but it’s such a relief to be out of the stupid heeled boots. The shirt takes some doing, but once she works out that the buttons are supposed to go in the little holes in the shirt, she gets it buttoned up. The hoodie is much easier—pull it over her head, put her arms in the sleeves, and it’s on. She puts on the pants last, and they’re just as soft as the jacket, and there’s no weight on her back and she wants to curl up on the marshmallow bed and sleep for a week.

Three returns, dressed in a flower-print hoodie and a skirt, and looks Eight up and down contemplatively. “Everything fit okay?”

“Warm,” Eight murmurs, burrowing into the just-slightly-too-big hoodie.

“How about we get some rest,” Three suggests, “and tomorrow I’ll teach you how to play Turf War.”

Eight vaguely remembers something in the chat logs about how Turf War was a game the Inklings played, but she’s already dozing off on the bed and barely hears Three shut the door and click the light off for her.

 

The sensation of being half-awake, the next morning, startles Eight awake. She’s never been comfortable enough to sleep through the night before, and she blinks in confusion at the sunlight filtering through the windows, trying to orient herself.

Was that…not a dream? The light in the window doesn’t feel canned or cold the way the Metro’s rare fluorescents did. She’s warm and comfortable, the ink tank isn’t pressing into her back…

Not a dream, she concludes.

So warm, but something smells incredibly good and she wants it more than she wants to stay and fall back asleep, so she gets up, tugging her hoodie straight again, and pokes her head out.

“Good morning, Eight!” Three calls as she comes down the stairs. “I made pancakes.”

Pancakes? There’s a little stack of spongy somethings on the table, and Eight picks one up (ow, hothothot, the ink comprising her fingers bubbles and she nearly drops it) and takes a tentative bite.

This is the best thing she’s ever eaten in her life, and the entire stack disappears while Three is cooking the next batch.

“Hungry, huh?” is Three’s only comment before she grins and gets back to flipping pancakes. “That’s okay, I’ll make as many as you want to eat.”

Eight might be a little in love with this miracle squid who gives her soft clothes and makes her pancakes.

She winds up eating ten pancakes. Three introduces her to the concept of whipped cream, and after a bit of encouragement, Eight figures out that the amount of whipped cream on her pancakes directly translates to how good they taste and buries her plate in it.

“So I thought,” Three says, “we could take you to Sheldon’s and let you try out weapons today, see what you like. We could play Turf War together, if you wanted.”

“I don’t really understand Turf War,” Eight admits, shuffling her feet. “It’s a game, right?”

Three gets a grin on her face that could only be described as wolfish. “All you have to do is cover the turf with your ink,” she says. “And not get splatted.”

“Why would you do that on purpose?”

Three’s nose wrinkles up kind-of-adorably. “…I guess you might have to play it to understand? It’s fun!”

“Fun,” Eight repeats. She’s not convinced.

“Here, I’ll let you borrow my shoes, so let’s go get you a weapon,” Three says, offering her a pair of navy shoes that match her hoodie, except for the pointed pattern on the soles. Eight puts them on and follows Three, not sure what else to do.

“Three!” Sheldon says as soon as they step into the shop. “Thank goodness, Agents One and Two haven’t been answering, there’s Octolings everywhere…”

“They heard the Calamari Inkantation,” Three says quickly. “They’re not a threat, but we need to talk about resettling them. Keep trying to reach One and Two.”

Sheldon relaxes visibly at the words Calamari Inkantation. Eight remembers something about that in the chat logs…Have I heard that? Is that why Three isn’t scared of me?

“I think if we pair them up with volunteer Inklings, they’ll adapt,” Three continues. “Speaking of…Sheldon, this is Agent Eight.”

Eight steps out from behind Three, where she’s been hiding, and waves.

“Eight!” Sheldon jumps up from behind his counter. “Always a pleasure to meet another Agent! What can I do for you?”

“She’s hoping to try out some weapons,” Three prompts. “I’m going to teach her how to play Turf War.”

“Just through there, you know the way,” Sheldon says absently, already tapping on a tablet. “Don’t let her break anything.”

“You know me better than that.”

“You’re right. Eight, don’t let Three break anything!”

“Don’t listen to him,” Three advises, “I broke his charger on a mission once and now he doesn’t trust me with his gear anymore…”

Eight really can’t help the giggle that escapes her at the thought of the same hyper-competent Agent 3 she battled accidentally tripping and breaking her sniper rifle.

“Anyway,” Three says, pulling a door open, “the test weapons are stored in here. You’ve done some of these before, right? In the Metro?”

Eight has, in fact, worked with nearly every weapon type as far as she knows, and has developed fairly strong opinions. She will never use a charger again if she’s not forced.

She does remember using a particular weapon on a particular test that she’d enjoyed, and she goes for that, pulling it down.

“The Sploosh?” Three asks.  “That’s not…” She stops and takes in the way Eight has it hugged to her chest. “…Go for it.” She crosses the room and picks up a pre-filled ink tank. It’s not quite the same pink as Eight herself, brighter, but Three doesn’t seem concerned, hooking it up to the Splooshomatic and settling it on Eight’s back. It’s lighter and more comfortable than the one Eight is used to, and she likes it already.

“I don’t need to test it,” Eight says, holding on to her gun. “I want this one.”

“Okay,” Three says, with not the slightest hesitation, and that’s that, they go out and pay Sheldon for it and it’s hers.

“Ready to ink some turf?” Three asks, that wolfish grin coming back. “I put my limiter back on, so I’m back to normal. And I promise we’ll be on the same team.”

Eight doesn’t exactly agree enthusiastically, but she lets Three pull her to the lobby and meet up with six other squids, none of whom even question the Octoling.

“We’re all going to splat each other and pair off,” Three whispers in her ear. “Go to the pink point, okay?”

“…What?” Eight asks, right before someone hits her with several well-placed ink shots and her form dissipates.

She floats up, finds the pink point (it’s like a checkpoint but so, so much bigger) and lets herself dive into it and reform. Three stands next to her, some sort of giant brush in hand, and an announcement calls out a countdown.

Three…

“Cover as much as you can and splat anyone who gets in your way!” Three yells, raising her brush.

Two…

Her other two teammates ready their Dualies and…a bucket?

One…Go!

Everyone rushes forward, tossing bombs and shooting their gun, and after a moment’s hesitation Eight follows them.

At first it’s just methodically inking turf in between the tracks her teammates leave. It’s peaceful, save for shouts of “BOOYAH!” and the occasional “ouch” in the distance, and Eight almost believes she’s back in the Deepsea Metro.

That only lasts a minute, though, until she reaches the center of the map. She sees Three up in the air with an Inkjet, blasting anything that moves, sees her other teammates reclaiming territory and trying to push forward…

And then she gets it.

She sees her bucket-wielding teammate rush forward with a battle cry at another Inkling, sees them both grinning, even while they throw ink at each other, and she gets it.

Eight raises her gun and rushes forward into battle.