Lily and Lorne take the day to rest and work through Lily's depressive episode.
The next morning, like most others, began with Lorne's radio alarm. As always, it switched on at 8AM and the hosts of whatever Sunday breakfast show was actually going on handed off to the news bulletins.
"Y'all know what time it is!"
As soon as the voices of Off the Hook came on the air for the live morning news broadcast, both Lorne and Lily tensed, their eyes shooting open.
"It's Off the Hook, live from Inkopolis Square!"
"Ah, fuck..." Lily said drowsily, and Lorne, turned the other way in their bed, felt her curl up. "Here it comes..."
Lorne turned over, shuffling in to cuddle her, wrapping her arms just under her friend's chest, holding her close. "They wouldn't, Lily. Just remember... no matter what they say, we're here."
"Before we announce the day's stages, let's kick it over to Marina for the news!"
"Hello! First off, our top story today: A large, ancient four-wheeled vehicle was finally lifted from the roof of the New Albacore Hotel yesterday."
Lorne heard Lily hold her breath.
"There are plenty of rumors flying about for how it got there, but here are the facts - The car is still in decent condition, despite some water damage. It's hard to accurately pinpoint the age of the vehicle, as it looks as if it was only made sometime in the last 30 years..."
"Twenty, but okay..." Lily said quietly, listening intently, anxious, still curled in her ball and leaning into Lorne for comfort.
"But the script that adorns the vehicle, however, that's the most interesting part! It's hard to tell whether this vehicle is connected to the strange event that struck Inkopolis nearly three weeks ago - you may remember we mentioned several objects that had fallen from the sky - but some of the characters that appear in places on this vehicle match those on the phone we recovered from that event, and from old artifacts recovered from human ruins in the past few years!"
"We still haven't heard any word on why this stuff looks so much newer, though. What's up with that, Marina?"
"That's venturing back into rumors, but we're chasing it up with persons close to the situation."
"Yep! So y'all, if you know a girl in blue named---"
"Pearl, we can't do that, there's regulations about that. Folks, we'll keep you updated as---"
"They need to know that---" Suddenly Pearl went quiet.
"Whoops~! Guess Pearl's mic is uh, malfunctioning there. She'll be back shortly. Anyway, moving on---"
"We'll find you, Lily!" Pearl called out, yelling but quiet, distant, as if only caught through Marina's mic.
Marina, for her part, ignored the comment and moved straight along to the next story.
Lily stared up at the ceiling, fear creeping back into her thoughts. Her breathing began to quicken as her mind went wild with thoughts about what was still in store for her.
They basically told the whole world what she was with that piece, her panicked, overreacting mind told her. They already beat her about, what else were they capable of doing to her? What would anyone do if they caught her? If they knew what she was? If they had heard what those two girls had been saying about her kind?
Violence? Assault? Torture? Murder? An image appeared in her mind of her stripped down and bound. Blood was running down her body. Her blood. A lot of her blood.
Maybe it would be better if she just gave up. Let them bleed her out. Cut her to pieces. Slice through her body. Yes, finally. Finally... Let them destroy her. Let them celebrate again. Be safe again. Be happy again. Let her death be something to be joyful for. It had to happen.
Honestly, why even wait for them to find her? Why make them work for it? The kitchen was right there. She could just walk over, open the cutlery drawer and---
Lorne's hand smacked against her cheek, the impact jolting her back to reality. Lily blinked her eyes several times as she looked around. Lorne was sat up in their bed now, eyeing her nervously. "Whuh? What was that for?"
"You weren't responding to me, and you're starting to hyperventilate..." Lorne reached over and squeezed her hand. "Are you alright? What's going on in that head of yours...?"
Lily looked up at her, noticing her breath was indeed much quicker than it should have been, and her heart-rates too. She forced herself to take slow, deep breaths, wondering what to say to her. Dare I tell my best friend that I wish I were dead? How would she react...?
Obviously she couldn't tell Lorne nothing was wrong, she'd never believe that. This was not Lily's first dance with depression, far from it. Nor even her first brush with suicidal thoughts. She'd 'grown into' the self-doubt and hatred and such over the last ten years of her human life, but she'd only ever thought about the idea of a world without her, after making a single attempt.
The thing was, in the past the threats were only in her head. The fact that Pearl had actively made threats to her, and had nearly made good on them, was almost too much to cope with.
Lily finally sat up on the bed, and clung to Lorne tightly, burying her head in her friend's shoulder. "I... Lorne... I'm not sure I can cope with all this."
Lorne quietly wrapped her arms around Lily again and held her close, cradling her against her warmth. "Come on, Lily. Talk to me."
Lily looked up at her, and sighed, deciding to just out with it. "I... have never really 'liked' myself, Lorne. Not as a human, anyway. Didn't think much of myself at all..." She paused and sighed, tearing up slightly. "It's.. Been better, since I got here, being so far away from all of the things that used to cause those feelings..."
Lorne nodded, stroking the back of Lily's head as she spoke. "But then yesterday happens and... suddenly it gets way too real, huh?"
Lily nodded her head slowly. "I always sorta just thought, but never acted on the idea, that the world might be better without me, that I was a burden that---"
"You're not, though---"
"I know, but... Well, I did know..." Lily pulled away for a moment, and stared into Lorne's eyes, worried. "But I'm just associated with... whoever it was now. Tartar. I am the representative for humanity now, whether I like it or not. And the fact that for his actions, they seem to want me gone, or dead, or something..." She let out a deep sigh, and learned into Lorne again. "I'm starting to agree with them. I'm causing us all too much trouble. Maybe it would be better if---"
Lorne cut her off, leaning in and softly kissing her lips. It was a brief, gentle kiss, the kind of casual kiss you might give regularly to a long-time lover. "Shh."
As Lily sputtered, flustered, her mind racing with questions, and yet wondering if she was reading too far into it... Lorne held her close, speaking softly. "No way. It's better for you, and us, and the world, if you keep living, and don't let their hate get you down." The way Lily seemed right now, she was a totally different squid to the one she'd known as of late... She told Lily, "Don't worry about Off the Hook. As Marie said yesterday, when we talk to them, I'll be right there with you. And I'll make sure they know that she has friends that would hate to see her hurt like this again. Just... remember this. You are loved. We love you." She closed her eyes for just a moment, taking a deep breath before staring into Lily's eyes, trying to seem as truthful and genuine as she could muster. "We'll get through this together. OK?"
"...Okay," Lily said quietly, with a blush, unsure how to respond.
Lorne smiled softly at her. "Good. Now c'mon, let's get up and get ready. I wanna try that new café place down the street."
"A coffee of some description would be nice..."
"Great." Lorne slid off of her side of the bed. "Dibs on the first shower!"
As the girls entered The Deck, the recent addition to the food and coffee industry in the suburb of West Inkopolis, Lily grabbed a table outside while Lorne grabbed their drinks.
Inkopolis is a strange city, Lily thought once again as she watched the traffic pass by. She didn't feel like she was too far from the CBD, but the buildings here were less densely packed. There was still plenty of traffic here, especially on this arterial road, but there was plenty of land here dedicated to small parks, or play equipment, or just... nothing. It was nice to see that not every bit of space had to be either traffic or building.
"Whatcha thinkin' there, Lily?" came Lorne's voice as she brought over their drinks, a latte for herself, and a hot chocolate for Lily.
"Thanks, dear," Lily smiled at her, taking a hold of her drink. She gestured to the street. "I'm just thinking again, how nice and aesthetically pleasing the city is. It makes it easier to think about living here than... out in the country."
"Mm." Lorne smiled at her. Lily figured she didn't really know what she meant, but that was okay. She never expected her friends to understand what she meant about her old world. "So, what do you think about this shop?"
Lily thought on it. "The people here seem relatively nice. I like what I saw of their design inside. Having a space outside is nice, I get to watch the world go by."
"Yeah, we should come back more often. I know you're not much of a morning person, but, y'know..."
"I'm not a morning person, but I'm always down for coffee." Lily smiled and took a sip of the hot chocolate. Mmm\~! The chocolate was rich, it just needed a little sugar. She took a sugar packet from a cup of packets provided on the table, emptied it into the hot choc, and stirred. A second taste proved it had given her the lovely, sweet taste she craved.
They sat and drank quietly for a bit, and Lily's mind found itself wondering about Lorne's kiss earlier. They were close, she knew, but that was the first time they had had any kiss. She found herself thinking that she liked that... Come to think of it, they'd been really close for a while, hadn't they? Would she be OK with the idea of them being together?
"Hey... Lorne?" Lily shyly, quietly said.
Lorne could see that she was blushing, perhaps had been for a bit. "What's up, Lily?"
"We're... pretty close, right?"
"Wh--- I would hope so, you silly thing!" Lorne giggled and sipped at her coffee. "I mean, we share an apartment, I've known you since you arrived... or were re-born, or whatever you wanna call it... We even share our bed, for goodness sake. Is... Is this more of your depression from earlier?"
"N-no, I promise, just..." Lily was quiet for a moment, drinking from her hot chocolate as she debated to herself whether she should say... She didn't want to potentially damage their friendship... relationship? If she said it and her friend took it the wrong way... "Are... Are we... a thing?"
"A... thing?" Lorne was confused for a moment by the generic wording. Her brows furrowed as she thought back on Lily's questions, trying to find the context. Then her eyes widened as she realised what Lily was asking. "Like, a couple?"
Lily's face somehow reddened more as Lorne put the word out there. 'Couple'. It was a nice sounding word... "I, uhm... I don't think we've ever talked about it, but we... This morning kinda... made me realise, the way you were just, there for me... it was like we were always that close, and just... grew... into it the more we understood each other... I'm just, kinda worried that you like me for being human, or having used to be a boy, and I'm not sure I'm either anymo---"
Lily cut off as Lorne's hand brushed against hers on the table. She glanced up into the eyes of her friend, and saw concern and worry in her eyes. Like this morning...
"Relax. Drink your drink." Lorne smiled warmly at her, taking another sip of her own drink.
The conversation paused while they drank, and Lily felt rather flat, panicking again. Now I've done it... I shouldn't have said anything, it was only a matter of time before I'm kicked ou--
"Yeah, I've thought about us as a couple." Lorne suddenly said. Lily's eyes went wide, and she opened her mouth, probably to object on the basis of her being awful or something, but Lorne raised a finger and she kept quiet. The orange squid wasn't done talking. \"Yeah, when we first met I... I thought it was incredible that I was friends with a real live human. Why wouldn't I be, right?
"But... It was when I first got back home after retrieving the Great Zapfish..." Lorne took another sip of her drink as she recalled. "I'd splatted so many Octarians without much thought, and took on Octavio, and Callie head on... and yet, that night when I opened the door, and saw you snoozing peacefully in my bed..." She snorted, in disbelief at herself. "I had the warm and fuzzies, but I remember I just... was more nervous than I was battling all of them."
"Nervous?" Lily raised an eyebrow.
"I didn't want to wake you. You were hurting - I remember that was the night you found out you weren't human at all anymore - but you seemed... more relaxed in sleep, maybe happier when I got in that night. I wanted to be close to you. I'm glad I managed to get in without waking you, really. And my... appreciation and love for you just sorta... grew from there..." Lorne blushed as her mind ran back through their interactions. "So... yeah... I've uh, thought about us as a couple. I um... I think if that ever happened, I'd like that."
"Even with... everything that I am?" Lily looked at her, a little awed, mouth ajar.
"Everything that you were. We're not out of the woods yet with this human stuff, clearly, but... You've fit in as an Inkling so well. I am comfortable saying that you're one of us, maybe you were destined to be or something." Lorne smiled, pausing for another sip. "But for what you are, and were, that is who I've fallen in love with."
Lily blushed deeper, and shyly twiddled her fingers together. "You're... very well spoken sometimes, Lorne. I... honestly would love to have someone to love." She gave a soft smile, and shyly leaned in a little closer, cheeks burning. "If... if you want to... I would be happy with us... being that."
"Of course!" Lorne laughed, and she pulled Lily's head forward for a kiss, both girls feeling relieved and their burdens much lighter. Lily smiled up at her, and Lorne could see that, at least for now, her sadness and her pain were very far away from her thoughts. As it should be, she thought.
It was after that fleeting moment, when Lily drank the last of her hot chocolate, that she noticed a male/female couple eyeing them and was suddenly aware again of their location, and Lorne laughed as she blushed furiously and buried her head in her arms on the table.
A lot of the rest of the day was spent in the apartment, celebrating their formalized relationship with... much of the same, but with more cuddling. This was Lily's 'day off', or supposed to be, so they relaxed and watched TV, and Lily either joined in, bathed, or played with her music program.
She'd been inspired over the last month to attempt to put together a mix of music (human music, she reminded herself) to introduce the wealth of old recordings to her friends. Beside her laptop sat the three Squid Sisters' albums she and Lorne had bought to see the other side of their bosses, and Lily was going to find a way to mix a song or two from them in, somewhere.
"Hey... Lorne?" Lily said that night, sitting on her side of the bed and paused midway through dressing for bed. "Before me, how'd you sleep, clothes-wise?"
"Uhh..." Lorne blushed, glancing over at Lily from behind her, in a loose-fitting white top and plain pink undergarments. She was half-way through putting on a pair of gray sweatpants. "Well, two things. One: Fuck you look so cute right now. Two: I never really changed how I slept. Besides like, hogging the bed and stuff, y'know? Why d'ya ask?"
"Well... Cuz... way back when I had my own bed, y'know... I used to like, undress for bed?" Lily blushed deeply, and let go of the sweatpants. "I just found that more comfortable. And like... I just sorta... I like how being in just this stuff feels and... I was wondering if you would mind if I just slept in this."
"...Nah, I wouldn't mind," Lorne said with a smile. "It'd be a nice view to wake up to." She let her smirk show. "Whatever's most comfortable to you."
With a smile and a blush, Lily nodded. "I never woulda asked if I didn't trust you completely. It's just... hard to ask, y'know? I'm used to just having my own bed, fuck the rules, I'll sleep naked if I want to. I jus---"
"It's fine, Lily." Lorne grinned, lifting the blanket for her. "C'mon, get in then. It's cold without you."
"Pff, I know how good this bed is with only one person, thanks." Lily obediently snuggled in, leaving her pants on the ground and snuggling up behind Lorne. "I know I say it often, but... thanks Lorne. For everything you've done for me."
"It's all good, Lily." Lorne turned her head and smiled. "Love ya."
"Love you too." Lily reached over to kiss her again.
"You ready for more Turf War tomorrow?"
"Sure. I got plenty of exercise the last time."
"Heh. Just wait til we get you to level 4, dear. Then you can finally wear something other than that basic tee to the games."
"Can. Not. Wait."
Both girls giggled tiredly, and laid their heads on the pillows. Lily found herself thinking about past relationships. She felt lucky to have Lorne at all - it must have been a one-in-a-million chance that of all the places to end up, she arrived somewhere where she wouldn't have been gawked at like a freak, surrounded by two sweet people who looked after her, and kept her secret to boot.
She wished she could have brought her old friends with her, but it wasn't exactly her decision to come here in the first place.
That said, she thought to herself, despite all the troubles, moments like this... This is probably the best fate I could have asked for.