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I

The first time one of Powder's toys works it rips out a chunk of her nail, which is probably the least of her eventual successes. In fascination, Powder lets her finger redden and swell until it starts to ooze.

"You sneaky little showoff, you should have come straight to me," Vi says. Half a bandage dangles between her teeth; Vander isn't around to tell her that's unsanitary. But Powder is smiling so hard she thinks she'll float. Her monkey clapped and leapt, and split into a cartwheel of sparks, pink, pink, gold. There's nothing like it. Her hands made a thing bright and beautiful enough to set their whole apartment alight. Under the scrunchy brows she thinks Vi is tremendously proud of what she's done.

It's worth having to wrap her finger for weeks. Vi ties every knot. It's worth the powder Vi pours on it that burns like pale fire—Why would you be named after that, Vi says, although Powder wouldn't mind being named after something so useful. When her sister lines their fingers up her pulse feels like Powder's, just like her fingerprints will always look like Powder's. The beats you can't tell apart: as if from a misplaced heart.

 

II

The warehouse is huge. The walls loom far enough apart that she can pretend Mylo and Clagger are just rats when they scurry across them. Nothing here but claws and crescents of black oil, tiny unnameable bones and bolts.

"I hope you enjoy your new home, Jinx," Silco says, his hand cool where it holds hers at the door. Jinx loves/hates/itches over how he says her name: not like Vi said it. Like there's nothing wrong with it. "You can decorate here however you want. Make whatever gadgets interest you. I look forward to seeing them—" She loves how his voice never wavers, all careful politesse, that says she'll be a real partner in his work.

That first year she rarely sees anyone but Silco and his favorite soldiers. Vander's followers might have been retired revolutionaries, but they were so clean-cut that even the fingerbreadth tattoo Vi wanted under her eyelid would have marked her out, and not for endearment. Silco's followers flaunt their histories on their bodies. Silco has a taw for an eye and a crag for a cheek; his thugs' veins out-glow the sun, when he lets them stand in front of his window where the light bleeds into the underground; Sevika is very busy acquiring scars across her face and arms, such a constellation that Jinx's mind doesn't need to draw anything else on her.

Jinx builds jukeboxes (Margarets) and injectors (Bombies) and bombs (Chompers), which work. Vi's flare gun doesn't. Leaky cartridge, broken trigger, oopsies, looks like Saint Sister didn't test her things any more than Powder did. Jinx's version blows higher than the whales Silco loves. She even gets the clouds tattooed on herself for good measure. Find me, Vi. I'm not useless anymore. Take me with you and wind me up.

Vi's a dud just like her gun. Jinx licks the snot off her own face and in time she starts building other guns.

It's not that she doesn't love Chompers. Vi wanted Powder to be sweet enough to write off: all tick-tock and no boom. Some hoary idea of being the better sister won't abandon the ideal Vi wanted for Powder, however long Jinx'll grow out her hair to redraw her own silhouette. Her Chompers are still too toothy for their mouths, and their squiggles are entirely unlike the art deco they'll be used to destroy. They're cute enough for Powder. Plausibly deniable. Jinx loves doodling over them in blue and pink and coaxing them into blossom.

But bombs have to be set. Choose in advance when you'll end a building, or a bridge, or a life. Planning is usually Silco's way, although he seems to prefer minions to machines. Jinx loves/hates/itches over the intimate and immediate option.

The first time she kills someone with her own gun cradled in her hands, Vi's ghost pops in her head realer than ever. Off to the side Silco is directing someone to chainsaw the corpse, but the buzz in Jinx's head drowns the noise. Vi's eyes are a scribble of askew lashes. The outline of her fists shine hard and Shimmer-bright. Jinx aims her barrel into the liar's mouth, twists it into the frown's twist. "Here's to you from my Pow-Pow," Jinx says, and she never sees Vi in her peanut gallery again—

If you lie enough about a liar, can you change the truth?

 

III

Lying in Vi's old bunk, Jinx can almost feel herself being touched. Just two fingers redirecting her elbow, as lightly as she's touching herself. Or rewind: imagine Vi's hand open, mid-gesture, a peninsula in the air, instead of any tease of contact, because Jinx knows people think she's crazy, but she's not crazy enough to think the real Vi would help her do this.

To think Vi would help her—

People call this a lot of things, but most of them sound like violence. Imagine violence, then: a thing you bottle, then a thing you let go. What happens to potential energy. An age of smoldering so you can, in that final second, snuff out a life or a desire.

The shadows on the wood could be tonight or a decade ago. She shifts her hand under the sheet, inside the boxers that used to be Vi's, and she remembers when Powder just wanted to build.

The crack in the door says, "I almost sent Sevika after you when I saw you weren't at home."

Jinx's skull hits the bedframe. It feels like an uppercut. "She doesn't have your riotous sense of timing," Jinx says, too off guard to comment on homes. The old sheet, nearly translucent where it isn't patched, can still mummify her shape. Old men, Tahm's tongue, vomit, she thinks. Ekko's first zits. But anything can be unfortunately sexy if she's been thinking about violence for long enough. There's already water in her eyes anyway, so she gives Silco tears if he cares to check. "Say whatever you're going to say. Some of us were working on our psyches here."

Maybe she'll get away with one of his fatherly lectures, as though directing a bunch of druggie monsters qualifies him to deal with her. She's almost in the mood to hear one. Aural optimism: he always drags his voice into its most formal ranges, defying all those little muscles in his neck and lungs she knows Zaun has made decrepit and dying. Maybe he'll even add a tangent on sea monsters, most of which she knows have really weird penises—surely he'll understand if she laughs—

"She's gone," Silco says. Lamplight floods the space between him and the door in lurid yellow. For a moment, standing there, he looks like half a man cut out of cheese. "This place should be gone, too."

He raises one knuckle to his lip and mimes in one fluid movement: kiss-silence-lighter flick. Then he goes away, and something in Jinx's head ticks.

She shoves the sheet away and braces her feet until the springs of the mattress bite into her soles. She thinks of the real Vi's weight, all twenty pounds or more of it she has on Jinx, and also the weight of her fucking moral certainty. How it used to lie here in this place where Jinx is becoming dizzy because her throat refuses to breathe. You're gone, she thinks. You can't protect me from anything. Vi's ghost has pitchforks in place of her eyes, their corners unclosable. She has knuckles with scrapes Jinx can feel split open when she presses them into her, and dark lips and hair darkened with blood. When Jinx comes, her knees and then her toes bang the ceiling so hard any quota of violence must be filled.

All the colors have lurched out of the walls; in her sight the veins crawl back slowly.

Everything in the Sump ignites fast. The gas must love a spark.

 

IV

What right does that Enforcer have to even look at Vi? She's never built anything with her own hands. She thinks to make her reputation off someone else's crimes, totters around waving someone else's prestige, wears someone else's clothes, aims someone else's guns. Has dared to hold the shoulders of someone else's sister, when that someone else had just felt Vi's warmth through her ribs before stupid Caitlyn crashed the party.

The Kiramman house, though, that's a pity. Vi would have loved the windows and their fine gold latches—although Caitlyn doesn't bother closing them, of course—if you could first wipe the scent of effortless privilege that clings to every whatever thread count or Ionian marble whatever surface Jinx taps her nails on, waiting. And Jinx knows good structural engineering when she sees it collapse. Someone loved this more than the topsider house, or the crab slaughterhouse, a childhood ago. This building goes gently enough that everyone in Piltover has time to see a home burn all the way down.

Jinx has time for a look at what Vi appreciates, apparently: the nutritionally sufficient height, the skin pampered as the day she slid out of the womb, the untouched eyes and meat on her chest. It's fine. Jinx doesn't need to be a body you write elegies to when you lay it on a bed or a slab. Jinx's calling cards are writ large and neon, projecting her self beyond her flesh. Her sister went away, first, but her sister came back to life when Jinx needed her. Caitlyn has fucking nothing on the fate that drew Jinx and Vi from the same well and fire.

Not that Jinx would mind wasting a bullet, just to belabor the point.

 

V

"Here's to the new us," Jinx says; and letting her rocket lie by her feet for just a tick, she glances at what this new Vi will be, bound to this table where perhaps they can both tell the truth, before Jinx goes to tear apart the codependency that is the city her father hated and the undercity her father loved. In a room full of the restless angularity of her ghosts, the newest of them ember-bright where he stands, Vi's eyes are wet and sweet like rotten fruit.

"We'll figure it all out," Vi says. Jinx can't believe Vi once accused her of a one-track mind. "Please. We'll work it out together."

Jinx leans in and slides one thigh over Vi's lap. Vi can support her weight for once. As soon as she's there friction holds her, thanks to all that nerve-wracked sweat collecting down her back and legs. Pink, pink, gold, the candlelight and the hair shivering in it alike, when Jinx fits her hand from the shell of Vi's ear through the pulse of her throat.

"I don't like figuring people out. That job's all on your side, big sis. My head has just met so many snakes, it's slithering. What do you think I should do about that?"

"Whatever you want," Vi pleads. "You don't have to do what he wants anymore."

She can't summon up enough amusement to note Silco didn't actually approve of this—itch—at all. "Shh. It's complicated. You wouldn't want me to choose wrong."

She focuses on the blood on Vi's brow and chin. It's blood that isn't the same as Jinx's, so she tries to remove it, but it's dried in gritty over Vi's skin and under Jinx's tongue. Vi's mouth opens, protest or accusation. Jinx tilts her head—Why do you always cock it like a bird, Silco used to ask—and slots her mouth over Vi's instead.

The rabbit pulse under her fingertips is instant, but some things you just need to hold on to before the tinder's ready to burn. Close as breath: "The scaredy-slug act isn't helping me feel loved, really."

"I love you," Vi says, but she's flinched as much as the ropes allow her. Liar: Jinx feels her thigh give a little bit. Jinx hasn't missed a target since she was ten. "Maybe—maybe—we can work out what kind of love it should be. What's right."

"I don't like rules," Jinx says, placing the words in the air like bombs: deliberately, and as if they could fluoresce. "I respected them once, or at least your rules. Look what it got me. Dead father one, dead father two, dead sister you. I should make you leave the world the same way you came into it—" She lifts one of the steak knives and lets Vi wriggle for a second before she saws one of Vi's hands free, and waits to see where it lands. "Bloody and crying. But you know, you and Powder never got a real sendoff. So.

"Can you love me, Vi? Do you love me, Jinx or nothing?"