Marie's in a funk, and Lily heads in to play the role of support.
Lily was awoken early the next morning by a pleasant ringing noise. It took her a few moments as she was jolted from her sleep to work out that it was her squidphone! Someone was ringing her!
She sat herself up on the bed as she thumbed the 'answer' button on the touch screen. "Hello?" Lily said groggily as she checked her iPhone for the time. Early 6AM. Still dark out.
"It's Four," came the hushed voice on the other end. "Sorry to wake you."
"Oh gosh! Hey! Are you doing okay out there?"
"Yeah. I mean, it's what you'd expect. Listen, I can't stay long, just in case they can pick up this transmission too."
"I... have a favour to ask." Agent 4's voice was quiet, and sad. "We um... we found out some things last night. M's real shaken up. Would you go check on her for me?"
"Uh, sure, I can do that. What...?"
"I shouldn't say, not over the phone. Let her tell you if she wants to."
"A-alright. Stay safe. Come back in one piece, alright?"
"I'll try my best, Lily. I'll see you soon." Click.
Her train carriage was empty as it travelled the city loop. Further up the train, she'd noticed all types of passengers get on, but she enjoyed just the noise of the train as it passed the various stations. According to her phone's map, she was a few more stops away from the Square. Lily's leg bounced impatiently next to her backpack as she waited, her eyes occasionally zipping over to the picture of all the train lines and their stations, making sure she was going the right way and all that.
The City Loop was mostly underground, though it did dip above ground for some stops, giving Lily a view of the city lights, and the brightening sky beyond them.
Whenever the train made a stop, Lily would look outside and see two or three more passengers board, and eventually one of the small jellyfish creatures entered Lily's carriage and sat off to a corner.
The train eventually announced its arrival at Inkopolis Square, and she got up and exited onto the platform. The underground station was well looked after, two relatively small platforms for the area's popularity which exited through a ramp onto the main square.
While making her way toward the exit ramp, she spotted the musician and news anchor, Marina, exiting from the other end of the train. She didn't put too much thought into this, and made her way along.
Marina did notice her though, and, remembering her curiosity about the inkling with the odd phone, kept an eye on Lily as they both made their way into the square among the group leaving the station.
They both reached the Square, quiet in the early morning, and Marina broke off her gaze to turn toward the Inkopolis News studio's back entrance. She'd unlocked and opened the door and half-stepped inside when she heard Sheldon call for "Lily!" from the other side of the Square.
She turned around, peeked out from behind the studio wall, and saw him standing out the front of his store, holding two hot drinks, and apparently waiting for the blue squid in rank 1 clothing.
Maaaan, what is going on between those two? Marina thought, standing in the doorway.
She turned and, making a note to message Pearl about it once she got to the break room, stepped inside, shutting the door behind her.
"Sorry I took so long to get here," Lily sighed, walking up to the little crab fellow. "Still learning the train system. Enjoy your drinks."
"Actually, these are for you to take to Miss Marie," he said, handing them over. "Coffee. Flat Whites. One for her, and one for you since it's still early." He forced a smile. "I'm not a morning person, don't think too well before I've woken up y'see... But I thought this would help cheer her."
"Same here, mate. Uh, friend. Sorry. But, uh, sure... I can take these along to her."
Sheldon raised an eyebrow. "Excellent. Now hurry along! The three of us have important work to do, and a depressed squid is not fun to work with, believe me."
"Well I got bad news for you there, friend." Lily returned the grin. "I'll do what I can. Thanks."
Sheldon nodded, and waved her off. She turned to make sure she wasn't otherwise watched, and dove feet-first into the grate to Tentakeel.
The lights of Cuttlefish Cabin weren't on when Lily got there. It was dark, but the sky was beginning to brighten and a red tinge on the horizon told her the sun was not far off rising. She set one of the drinks down by her feet as she stepped up to the cabin, and used her free hand to very gently knock on the door.
There was a slight pause, then a muffled and tired "Yes...?" from behind the door.
"Agent 5. I brought drinks."
"...Yeah, okay. Come in."
Lily picked up the other coffee and pushed down the handle of the door, entering slowly. "It's only coffee, but I heard you weren't in the best way and thought maybe having someone here would help..."
Marie was laid on the bed, a bit of a mess. She looked like she hadn't slept much, if at all. Her performance outfit had been taken out of the closet in the room and was draped over the television. "That's fine," she said. "I mean, I want something more alcoholic, but coffee will do I suppose. Take a seat."
Lily placed Marie's coffee on the bedside dresser, and sat on the end of the single-sized bed as the Squid Sister forced herself up from the mattress, turning herself around so that she was also sitting on the side of the bed next to the other girl.
"Did you manage to get any sleep last night...?" Lily asked her, in a worried tone.
Marie sighed, head down. "Maybe. I think I might've blacked out once or twice overnight, but no, I don't feel like I've slept more than one or two hours."
"Jeez, that bad, huh." Lily frowned, and slowly, unsure if she should, placed a hand on her friend's shoulder. "I can't say I understand what you're going through, but I do know from experience that sleepless nights only make it worse. I... know you and Agent 4 have got a big job ahead of you, so I hope the coffee will help keep you going at least..."
Marie nodded quietly. She reached for her coffee, and took a sip. Lily took her cue and also dug into her drink. Not as sweet as she hoped, she thought, but coffee's coffee. So nice and warm too...
Lily finished drinking some of the coffee, glancing over at the other squid to see that Marie was watching her. She blushed. "Do I look weird drinking? Sorry..."
"No, no. Just... It's occurred to me I still don't really know anything about you, besides what Agent 4 and Sheldon have told me." Marie thought a moment. "And I suppose, what I've seen of you when I first took you in." She let a small smirk stray onto her features.
Lily's blush coming back in full swing. "Aw, come on. Of course you'd still remember that night."
"Not even that night though. You were the first living human I, or anyone really, have ever seen. Yeah, it was a short-lived experience, but... hey, some of those memories still have to be in that head of yours, right?"
"...Are you asking me to remember human life for you?"
"Look, I just want a bit of time to not be thinking about Callie. Distract me."
"...Alright. Well, since the sun's just about to rise, do you wanna head outside and we'll talk?"
"Sure. That sounds nice. Just lemme get out of these pajamas. Meet you out there."
A minute or two later, Marie emerged from the Cabin, holding her coffee and dressed, for the first time in a while, in her Squid Sisters outfit. Lily, waiting by the stone archway, stared in awe. "Wow. You're looking pretty fancy there," she managed to say. "Shame about the circles under... around... you still look tired."
"Oh shush," Marie replied, but she couldn't help but smile a bit. She gestured down toward the other end of the Hideout. "There's a good spot down there past the kettle where we can watch the sunrise over the city, if you're into that."
And so, a short walk later, they sat together, feet dangling from the edge of the platform as they looked past Octo Valley towards Inkopolis. The dark blue night sky was slowly giving way to a vivid orange sunrise as they sat there, drinking their coffee.
"So?" Marie prompted between sips.
"I mean... I don't know where to start. Prompt me."
"OK then, what did your average day look like?"
"Weekday? I guess I could talk about both. I'd... wake up super early, usually it's still dark. Thankfully I have an alarm and all that, and I'd have this smart light so I can just fade it on without getting out of bed so I can wake up better without blinding myself. Then uhh... I'd eventually get up and get ready for work, pack some food, and drive about... half an hour to work?"
Marie held up her hand to stop Lily briefly. "How'd it take half an hour to drive anywhere at that time of day?"
"Was commuting from one town to another. Sure, there were big cities like Inkopolis, but I was kinda on the outskirts of a smaller community. I lived out in the country. That's still a thing, right?"
"Yeah, no, it totally is still a 'thing'. I came from the country! Still got family out there, actually."
"Oh, sweet. What kinda country is out there?"
"This is your story, not mine."
"Oh." Lily paused for a moment. "Well... I lived in this place where there were lots of farms, so there were lots of fields and trees, but I was basically on the edge of this big country city. It made for a nice relaxing drive. Wish work was like that."
"Hm? What did you do for a living?"
Lily sighed. "I had a nice cleaning job for just over a year, got a qualification for that, tried and didn't like hospitality, and ended up in a food production factory right up until everything happened. Basically packing things every day."
"Oh..." Marie frowned. "That's not what I would have thought you did. You seem... above that, in a way?"
Lily took a sip from her coffee and shook the cup. Nearly empty. "It was fine. It just made my hobbies that much more special when I wanted to do them. Y'know, I'd get home in the late afternoon, get on my computer and just... hang out online. Talk to friends. Try and do mashups. Play video games. Just sorta, whatever I felt I could do until I had to go to bed and do it all over again." She was staring down at the coffee she was holding in her lap. "I'm glad I made friends at that job. I kinda miss them. I miss all my friends... But at the same time I just really needed that extra income."
Marie nodded, with a slight smile. "Whatever helps keep you going, I get it. I gotta interrupt you again though... Mashups?"
"Oh, so the idea is, you take two or more--"
"No, I know what they are, just... really? You don't make your own things?"
Lily blushed deeply, and buried her head in her lap. "I'm sorry!" She said, muffled. "I just like having fun with the music... it's my way of learning."
"Heeey, hey." Lily felt Marie's arm over her shoulder. "You're supposed to be the one comforting me."
"I'm honestly just really bad at making my own music, so I'd play at being a DJ..."
"Look at me for a sec."
Lily lifted her head, and Marie took it in her gloved hands and turned it to face her. "As an artist, I get it. You make music how you want to. Just, maybe don't go claiming it as your own work."
Marie gently, carefully pulled the other squid into a sideways hug, and Lily blushed deeply, just sitting there for a moment before slowly reciprocating, hugging her friend close. After a minute, she gently let go, and rested her head on Lily's shoulder as they watched the sun peek out from behind the city.
"Uh, what are you...?" Lily said, still blushing.
"Shhhh. Just lemme have this for a few minutes."
Lily nodded quietly and let herself relax, looking out into the horizon. They let the conversation lull for a few minutes as the two sat together, Lily's arm around Marie's shoulder, and the green squid against her.
This was nice, Lily thought to herself.
"Hey," Marie said quietly, a bit of her usual self starting to show again. "Speaking of music, do you have any human music on that phone of yours? I'm curious..."
"Uhh... yeah?" Lily dug out the iPhone and unlocked it. She was glad she'd gotten around to re-training the fingerprint sensor. Opening her music app, she thought aloud, "Hmm, a taste of music or a taste of my taste in music...?"
"I mean, either works," Marie said, looking up at her. "Just play me whatever."
Lily looked at her. "Well, if you say so." She dug up the live version of a song called "Randy", one of the last things she had added to her phone from the human world. "I'll play one of my favorites, why not? This one brings me back to the first concert I attended, and while it's repetitive, it was really good at getting me pumped and in a good mood."
She hit play, and let the sound of Justice fill the silence, nervous. As the tempo built up, it all came flooding back to her. The light show, the crowd, the heat, the excitement. She couldn't help but start bobbing her head to the beat when it kicked in, and imagine it all over again, a smile on her face. Marie could feel this energy pouring from her, and couldn't help but join her, sitting up and dancing from her seat.
After three and a half minutes of rocking out, the breakdown into the verse of the song brought some quiet, and before the vocals kicked in, Lily asked her friend quickly, "Do you want me to try to translate?"
"If you think you can."
She nodded and thought hard, trying to recall the lyrics, and with some thought, not following the rhythm, but trying to keep the pitch, translated the lyrics from English to Inkling:
"Get up and shake it off
It's time that you listen up and hear the call
Bail out the water
Better not, you're on fire
Back against the wall
Try to make your mark
And make your mind up
Work it out and try to make it
Get yourself together
Got to get it up to make it better
You don't have to suffer
Step outside and find yourself a lover
When you know you've arrived
And it's time, don't shoot low
Aim it high
When you know you've arrived
And it's time, take it slow
Shoot it hiiigh-iigh-iigh~"
"Impressive." Marie grinned, bobbing her head as the next part of the song kicked in. "I didn't know you sang. You were focused pretty hard for that."
"Eheh, yeah." Lily had put one of her arms out in the air, and was shaking to the beat. "I had to make sure I didn't accidentally start singing in English with the guys on this track. I reaaally wanted to do that."
"English... is that the name of the human language?"
"Er, one of. I wanna say there was probably more than a hundred languages being used on the planet when I left? English is the one I grew up with, and one of the most prominent."
"Wow. I will say though, you were right. This song would be really good at getting the squids moving. There's a certain quality to it that..."
The crackle of a radio in Marie's pocket interrupted her, and she sighed. "Ahh, she had to interrupt this eventually." She pulled it out and keyed the transmit button. "Come in?"
"Hello up there!" came the voice of Agent 4. "How are you both holding up?"
"Better, thank you," Marie said into the radio, looking over at Lily and giving her a thumbs up. "You do alright overnight?"
"Yeah I'm good," came the reply. "Found somewhere relatively safe to hole up."
Lily gestured for the radio, and got it. "When you say 'relatively'..."
"Hey Li-- Agent 5! Yeah, look down from where you are now."
Lily got up from the edge first, then, getting on her front, peeked her head over the edge of the platform.
Waaaaaaaaaaay down below them, on the watery floor of the Octo Valley, were a series of moving platforms surrounding a giant pit, with metal hatch doors recessed into the pit. It uneased Lily. "...Point taken," she said, and handed the radio back to Marie.
Marie took the radio, and keyed it again. "We'll get moving shortly. I know we've still got some things to do first, but with the help of the both of you, I think I'm ready to take this fight directly to him. Two out."
"Four out." The radio went quiet.
Lily and Marie both got up from the edge, and started to head back. "Look, thanks for coming around this morning. I hope that one day once things have settled that I'll be able to explain what's been going on." She took a moment to glance at the back of Lily's head. "At least that cut is healing well. You should be out on the field again before too long."
"Mmm." Lily stared forward. She immediately thought back to the fall. "I guess so, yeah. I'm a little nervous though. I guess I'm just gonna take the plunge and see if there's any way I can get into those Turf War sports and build up my skill without getting my ass handed to me."
Marie nodded. "Honestly that would be best. At the same time, once our work is done, we can probably help you with what's left here in the Valley... I shouldn't promise too much more though, I'm still technically holding the fort here while the Captain's out on business."
"I get it. Hell, you've done so much for me already, in you and Four just acclimating me to the world..."
They had made their way back to the Cuttlefish Cabin. Marie turned to Lily. "Well, so long as it makes our world worth living in, We'd welcome having you in it." She turned toward the door to the cabin, making to enter, but turned back around shortly after. "Oh, before I forget. The News said there may be some rain in the next day or two, so be careful."
"Will do!" Lily smiled, misunderstanding the idea of the message. "You take care, Marie. I guess contact me when everything works out. I'd love to be here to welcome Agent 4 back."
"Heh, alright. Take care, Agent 5."
Marie stepped into the cabin. Satisfied that her job was done, Lily casually binned her empty coffee cup and leapt through the grate to swim back to Inkopolis.