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and they will say it's elementary

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If you take half your antibiotics, Is0bel knows, the remaining bacteria can become even more powerful.

The same principle applies to Gobbet, and to incredibly suspicious food, and to food poisoning. Gobbet doesn't often get sick, but when she does, the strain of whatever stomach bug has evaded her natural tendency to digest rotten food is probably a marvel of science. Specifically, the germ warfare side of science.

And so: Is0bel is playing Good Friend.

Is0bel knows that her and Gobbet are good friends, but their good friend moments are different to the good friend moments that most other people would recognize. Gobbet turns a mark upside-down to shake out a datachip she suspects him of stealing, and turns it over to Is0bel instead of any number of paying customers. Is0bel breaks bleeding-edge firewalls to download advance episodes of a show that Gobbet likes. Gobbet's rats have tiny beds on the deck of the Octopus, to nap with squeaky snores as Is0bel works, their tiny prey animal bodies completely comfortable in her presence. Sometimes, after particularly demanding missions (or just particularly long movies), the two of them curl up themselves, bodies fitting together like components made for each other, and Is0bel can't sleep for the feel of Gobbet next to her, her mind racing.

This is a much more standard Good Friend moment, broadcast in movies and media all the time, and it's disconcerting to navigate. Is0bel kneels next to Gobbet as she whines and sniffles and pukes into a bucket, and she will provide adequate companionable contact, as is appropriate for friends.

Hair, she desperately thinks. Isn't that a thing that drunk women do for each other? Something with hair? She reaches out, hand in the air between them, and halts. She eyes the thick ropes of Gobbet's braids and knows true despair.

She could tie them in a bow, maybe. She could tuck them into the back of Gobbet's shirt. She really needs to do a quick shadownet search for what she's supposed to do, but all her gear is far outside the potential biohazard radius. It had seemed like a smart decision at the time.

"Oh nooooo," Gobbet moans, her voice echoing damply from the petri-dish hell of the bucket. "This suuuuucks."

"You'll be fine," Is0bel says-- because she will, because this happens roughly every year-- and then, for lack of anything else to follow that with, she brings her hovering hand down on Gobbet's shoulder, and pats her like a dog. "There, there. I'm here."

Gobbet shakes. For a moment Is0bel assumes she's about to continue filling the bucket, but it's even worse: Gobbet lets out a pitiful sob. The sound drives Is0bel forward, her pats becoming more and more forceful, as if she can beat the misery out with touch alone.

"You're so good to me," Gobbet sniffles. "You're the best. Marry me."

"Okay." It blurts out of Is0bel without any consultation from her brain. It perhaps could have used some consideration. Her hand keeps patting Gobbet mechanically, but her mind has gone blank.

"Oh noooooooo," Gobbet whines, and for one moment Is0bel thinks that Gobbet regrets asking, regrets her answering, and it send a little sharp spark racing through her, a static zap from head to toe that makes her fingers shake. But then Gobbet turns a little, one bloodshot eye fixing blearily on Is0bel. "I was just-- I was just being stupid, saying something-- do you really want to?" and her voice is strained, her chest rising and falling hard in a way that doesn't have anything to do with rapidly ejecting stomach contents. Probably.

It feels like when Is0bel's half in the matrix, half out, her brain not quite working well on either side. "I-- well."

Gobbet's shoulders hunch. "Forget I said it."

A silence falls. Is0bel becomes aware that Folly and Madness are watching, their beady eyes fixed on her.

Sometimes Is0bel can think just as fast irl as she can inside the matrix. Instantly, she can see the future where she agrees to forget it, and she sees the awkwardness, and everything that it entails, and she knows, she just knows, that she rejects that scenario thoroughly and entirely. "I don't want to."

Gobbet jerks like she's been electrocuted. "Oh!" she says. "Um. I should kiss you."

"Please don't."

"I want to," she confesses.

Is0bel's head is spinning. "Well, good," she says. After a moment, she adds "I want to kiss you, too. Later. After toothpaste."

"Oh my god," Gobbet whispers. "This is the worst proposal ever!"

"I'm going to get you some more water," Is0bel says, and, standing, takes her hand from Gobbet's shoulder. Before she can step away, though, Gobbet reaches out and takes her hand.

Is0bel laces their fingers together. Gobbet's skin is warm like she always is; like a compost heap, she'd thought years ago, curled up safe against Gobbet's side, and now she knows-- this is the compost heap that she loves.

The worst sentiment to match the worst proposal. That seems about right.

"I'm going to get you some more water," Is0bel repeats, disengaging and stepping away, "and... I'm going to wash my hands."

"Probably a good move," her fiancée hiccups.