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Different Color

Chapter Text

For a while, all Natasha could do was stare at it.

Ever since she had been beaten several times in a row by a squid using the thing, she had wanted it desperately. Range was a class she had admired and envied for a long time, but the charge-based weapons that held prominence in that game made her uncomfortable- it was hard to cover ground quickly, and one could easily be cornered and splatted before you could strike back.

This- the Sloshing Machine- was a hard-hitting, no-charge weapon with enough range to coat an area from a safe perch before advancing. It could cover ground decently and efficiently, and splatted in two or three quick blows. The Splash Bombs combined with Bomb Rush made short work of claiming an area, and the bombs by themselves were helpful in offense.

It was exactly what Natasha was looking for- perhaps not the best weapon on the market, but it felt safe and comfortable and useful. It promised a great deal of use- at least until she could find a Roller with Inkstrike.

“Excuse me, ma’am?” Natasha jumped at the apologetic voice, turning to face the short, horseshoe-crab owner of the store. “Are you buying, or just looking?”

“Buying, please.” Natasha opened her bag and pulled out her Ink Battle ID. “Am I able to buy this Sloshing Machine?”

He scuttled over, and nodded after a glance. “Just need the money.” He waited.

Natasha, taking the social cue, waited as well.

There was a pause.

“Um. I believe you are supposed to pay me.”

“Oh? You mean, like, right here? Uh, okay.” The squid girl dug out about 3000 G, and shoved it at the crab. “That's enough, right? Just gimme the change.”

He did so, though it was nearly half what she had given him. With that, she left the shop, the owner still shaking his head incredulously at that girl’s odd habits.

Natasha held it in her hands on the way home, fidgeting and feeling it. It was a very good sensory item, at the very least- it had lots of good surfaces for rubbing. She headed for nearest launch pad as opposed to walking like usual- along with the Sloshing Machine, she had bought a new shirt that had good fabric and looked cool, a white-to-pink gradient with black squid patterns. The material was very soft, and the patterns were just plastic on the outside, so there wouldn't be any unevenness. It was reasonable baggy too- it could be untucked for hot days and tucked in for cold days, as well as adjusted for stimulation, of course. It was a good shirt, and she was looking forward to trying it on.

Natasha got in line for the launch pad- there were only two others here, two boys who approached it tentatively. Evidently it was their first time using it- only Inklings that had passed the morphing test could use launch pads, and these two looked young enough to be on their way home from it. The taller one nudged the other forward.

“You first. You got a better score.”

“Uh, no thanks. Why don't you? You're the daredevil.”

Natasha waited patiently for them. Eventually they decided to go together, and there was quite a bit of surprised shrieking as they shot off that she couldn't help but snicker at.

She immediately set the coordinates to the one near her apartment, waited for it to refill, then shot off herself. While the journey was always rather unpleasant- getting launched was fast and headache-inducing- it was nice every so often, the wind and motion felt good in a triumphant way. It had taken her a long time to get used to it, and she still preferred to walk, but she was feeling good enough today to deal with it.

Natasha flopped on the couch. “Bro,” she said. “I bought donuts.”

Natasha’s older brother, Jake, leapt up from his seat immediately. “Did you get the ones with the cream inside?” he asked excitedly, hovering over her from behind the couch.

“Last one.” Natasha handed it up to him. “I got myself one with the fancy new frosting for spring. It’s ridiculously pink. Look.” She held up a plain doughnut covered with hot pink frosting, then lighter pink and white flower designs on top. “It’s almost too pretty to eat.”

“I’ loo’ tas’ee zou',” Jake said, his voice muffled by a quarter of his donut.

“What did I tell you about talking with your mouth full? We’ve got to maintain some semblance of sanity around here.” Natasha bit into the donut. The frosting was surprisingly good- the hot pink stuff tasted normal, but the flower designs tasted lighter and sweeter somehow.

“Noh’ guh’huh happeh ahyway.” Jake now had devoured the rest of his donut, and he swallowed with a fake gulping noise like in cartoons. “We might as well enjoy it.”

Chapter Text

Matt furiously played out the rhythm on his hand drum set, Natasha, Jake, Alex and Lily watching intently.

When he had finished, Jake whistled appreciatively. “Now that was something,” he said. “Never thought I’d hear that on drums. It sounds surprisingly good.”

“Thanks. Now, if you'll excuse me, I’m going to go rest my hands for several million years.” Matt stood up and retreated to the restroom.

“He’ll be back,” Alex said smugly. “We will lure him out with our extremely good playing even without him. What’re we practicing today, boss?”

“Hm.” Lily flipped open her schedule book. Despite Jake being the technical leader of their band, no one was in any doubt that the boss was their kind, firm and personally invested manager. “Looks like it's a free day. Whaddya wanna do? Jake?”

“I picked last time. Natasha?”

Natasha looked thoughtful. “Something with no words,” she said. “How about number eight?”

The other two nodded. The group made a lot of songs rather ambiently, but they only performed them when they were known inside and out, and they numbered them at first so they could take their time coming up with a name. Number Eight was a pretty new one, but they all thought it was pretty good and deserved better. (it is beautiful and it deserves better) And it would be pretty easy for Alex to substitute what Matt would usually do.

The threesome began playing as soon as they had their instruments set up. Jake had a drum set, Natasha had a guitar which could be used in both the traditional and electric styles, and Alex had a soundboard. Number Eight was a slow song, in a somewhat similar feel to a waltz, but with more modern effects to make it sound interesting. Alex had come up with it.

“What is this mutiny?” Matt burst out of the restroom, his voice incredulous in an obviously put-on way.

The others burst out laughing at his face and manner. “You were right!” Jake pointed to Alex. “It was this dork’s idea.”

Alex feigned a look of innocence. “Oh, but I never truly meant it! I only said it as a joke, but Lily was the one who took it seriously!”

Matt turned on Lily, seeing that this was a joke but going along with it anyway. “Is this true?” he said in a deep voice.

“Ah, yes, it is, my friend,” she said in a solemn voice. “We had the thought that it would lure you from your room of rest, but we did not consider the offense which you might take…”

Natasha could barely breathe for controlling her laughter. Jake had already given up.

The rest of them gave in as well. There was a moment of general agreement that this was hilarious.

“Agh.” Natasha rubbed her face. “Can we actually do this, now? We’ve still got the good part of an hour to fill.”





“Jake, stop that.”


Chapter Text

Natasha rubbed her eyes tiredly. “Man,” she said weakly. “We got our asses handed to us.”

“You're not wrong.” Lily scrubbed at her shoes with a passion. “I think that one guy should stop his idiot shenanigans..”

“Oh, that guy. Yeah, I think he’s figured out my weakness of literally not being able to look straight at anyone, and kind of ran with it.”

“Poor choice of words, but yes.” Lily quirked her eyebrows.

“It’s impossible to have a conversation without using the word ‘straight,’” Natasha declared. “More heteronormizing?”

Lily choked laughing. “Oh my word, ” she gasped. “What is wrong with you?”

“That’s the question I’ve been asking since I was a girl despite everyone telling me I was a boy. Oh, the go-ahead’s on. C’mon.”

The light indicating to them to go forward was indeed on, and Natasha dashed to the spawn point, going into squid form as soon as possible. (She didn’t like how the spectators stared at her, but that was the price you had to pay.) Lily followed closely, and two other squids, yet unknown to them, came afterword.

To Natasha’s great annoyance, a quick check of the battle-tracker-tablet showed that they were facing off against the same guy from before. (The writer does not wish to disclose how Natasha did that in squid form.) His registered name was Brandon. (The fact that it was his registered name did not mean it was his real or legal name. For example, Matt’s legal name was still Melissa, but the people registering were totally cool with him going as Matt.)

The music started. Natasha started by covering the area in front of her with the Sloshing Machine’s quick bursts, and then swam toward a shortcut to a good range perch. She covered the area under the spot, leapt down, and splashed a trail forward.

It wasn’t long before the two teams met. Of course, by Natasha’s luck, she came face-to-face with her antagonizer.

“Hey, girl,” Brandon called at her. Natasha ignored him, continuing a trail of ink in a different direction. “Whatcha doing? It's rude not to respond.”

No, it's rude to try and distract opponents while you're battling, Natasha thought angrily.  She had circled around him- now she turned around abruptly and splatted him.

That done, she moved onward. She was glad that she had been able to ignore him- last battle she would get so flustered she swam away.

Now, if I can keep it up every time he reappears…

Unfortunately, it was not to be. Only half a minute later, Brandon was back.


“Shut it.”

“Wow, rude. What did I ever do to you?”

Natasha was left floundering for an answer. While she was distracted, the he ran at her in a startling way, and she squeaked embarrassingly and swam away.

She was able to hear him and his nearby teammate laughing at her.

Why was she so distracted by this? She never liked having to deal with people, but this guy really had her on edge. It was something about him- some just bigger feel, that got worse the more he dogged her.

She knew that some people felt different to her- she was always very sensitive of the feel of people, a sort of… aura was the only word she could think of… that was around everyone. It would change with emotions or personality. Some people felt smaller or bigger than others. And from what Natasha had felt, she was dealing with a very big, arrogant squid.

She took a deep breath. She remembered the current, comfortable feeling from hiding in ink, to metaphorically bring with her. It was a strategy that worked pretty well, but took a great deal of concentration.

Natasha began covering ground again. Whenever she saw Brandon, she ducked away. She managed to keep her distance until near the very end.

At first she tried to dodge away, but he followed her, blocking off her attempts. Natasha ducked and swam, trying to find a way out. She found a path, and ran towards it, only to feel a strike at her back and flop over face-first in her usual limp way.

The dirtbag had punched her!

Natasha waited for the officials to call him out, and panicked briefly when it seemed that they were distracted by her own teammates.

“Natasha?!” Natasha heard Lily gasp as she saw her slumped form. “You okay?”

“Owwww,” She sat up, rubbing her back where the scum had got her. “Somehow a punch feels worse than being splatted.”

“Hang on, I’ll tell the judges… That idiot did it, didn't he?”

“Yeah… Aw, man.” The three-minute mark was called.


“At least we won.”


The judges were originally going to call the match off entirely due to the girls’ teammates using illegal weapons, but once they found out the foul against Natasha, they decided to give it to their team. (The reward was withheld from the foulers, of course; that was the standard practice either way.) Lily was walking back with Natasha, who was still limping, when they encountered Brendan.

“Hey, girl.” He grinned at her, but it seemed to Natasha more like a sneer. “Sorry about that. I kinda got caught up in the game, ya know?”

Natasha shrank away, trying to hide, but it turned out she didn’t have to.

Lily stormed forward, wearing her familiar Done With Your Shit™  face. “How dare you,” she hissed. “First of all, how dare you harass her like that, you turd. You have no right to attack someone like that. I don’t care what it looked like to you, but you cannot, I said cannot continually stick around someone who so clearly is made uncomfortable by you. Second, how could you have the balls to come up and lie to her face .”

“What?” He stepped back. “You- what- I didn’t-”

Lily’s glare stopped him. “Shut your face. That girl is the goddamn nicest person I know and the last person who deserves to be treated like this. You will apologize to her, or I’ll show you a fraction of the discomfort I know you put her through.”

Brandon hesitated.

Too long. Lily promptly socked him in the face.

She turned around and stormed away. “Natasha, let’s get out of here,” she said quietly.

Luckily, it was only a few blocks from Lily’s apartment, and they decided to stop there. “Are you okay, girl?” Lily asked.

“Y-yeah.” Natasha hated how easily she cried.

“It’s okay, boo. You’re okay now. It’s okay for you to feel like this.”

“Thank you…”