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Contradictory

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Ivy Alexandria has a photographic memory. 

She can’t remember anything. 

 

So many days and nights spent with her head full of static and pain and the clicking of cogs. 

A human mind is not supposed to be inside a device, as fascinating as it was. 

Where is her childhood? Why can’t she remember? 

Camila and barely remembered flames took everything from her.

Where was she when that happened? She thought this device would perfect her memory. Camilla said so. 

She cannot help doing the calculations. “There is a 34% chance of- there was a 1/56 chance- the odds are 307:1-” 

How can she know so much, and remember so little?

A human brain is an amazing, delicate, intricate thing, more complicated than lungs or blood or even a heart. Her mind cannot fit inside the gears and wires. 

So she learns. And learns and reads and records and it fills some of the empty spaces but she can still feel it slipping through the cracks like sand in cupped hands. 

 

Lyfrassir Edda is haunted by the insane shifting  rainbow hues of yog-sothoth and the bifrost. 

They are colorblind. 

 

The first colors they ever  saw were in the bifrost. It was so amazing that they had wept. Now, the thought of anything but the black and white world  they were born in fills them with terror. They still see the colors in their nightmares. 

They haven’t seen color when awake since they escaped the yggdrasil system, and they could not be more okay with that. The rainbow in their nightmares when they sleep can wait. A human can live without sleeping for more than one day at a time, after all. 

Time is a hard thing to track when in space, but they spent days with their head in their hands, trying desperately to stay awake as the stars zoomed past. 

They are not going to give in to the rainbow behind their eyes.

Chapter Text

They were unconscious when Brian and Raphaella pulled them onto the aurora. Ivy watched and chronicled. 

It was Lyf, but they were changed. Rainbows danced over their dark skin in place of lighter patches, and their hair was going white. 

Marius determined that the former inspector wasn’t in horrible shape, just exhausted and somewhat malnourished. They hadn’t packed enough food and the shuttle they were in was out of fuel. 

Ivy was fascinated by the rainbow colors swirling across their skin. She sat in the medical bay with Marius as he actually took care of someone for the first time she had seen. 

“I didn’t know you could actually doctor,” She remarked. Marius gave her the finger and went back to checking Lyf’s vital signs. 

 

The former inspector woke up two days later. Marius had to smack them several times. He was starting to get concerned about food and water, as the med bay didn’t have any kind of medications that weren’t expired. 

“Good morning inspector! What can I do for you on this fine imprisoned day. Oh wait, you’re the prisoner.” 

They blinked several times, looking up at Marius. “ You.” 

Marius grinned and pulled out his violin. 

Ivy lightly smacked his arm, feeling one of her rings clang against metal. “Be nice for once.” 

“I’m not allowed.” Marius said, making a screeching note with the violin. 

Ivy smacked him again. “Lyf, how about you come with me and we don’t have to deal with him.” 

“Where?” 

“The library. Do you like books, inspector?’ 

“I’m not an inspector anymore.” Lyf muttered

“they have to eat something!” Marius said loudly. 

“Yes, they need food and water and calm, not violin .” Ivy retorted. “Inspector, I’m going to show you to the library and bring you tea and food.” 

She led the confused Lyffrasir to her library and sat them down at her desk. The library wasn’t cozy, exactly, neatly organized metal shelves and equally neat piles of books on the floor, but it was warm and quiet and the hum of the aurora echoed through the room. She kept it dimly lit with lamps, and had several chairs scattered around the room. She picked up an empty teacup from her desk and pushed aside some papers and tools. 

“Sit here. I’ll be back.” 

Lyf sat at her desk, looking around confusedly. They weren’t sure how they had gotten here, and why their prisoners were here, and they were now the prisoner. Clearly they had escaped the yggdrasil system, but how? The last thing they remembered was sending out a distress signal before finally falling asleep on the dashboard of their shuttle. 

In the distance they heard gunshots, yelling and something that sounded like… singing? 

Oh god, are there more than three of them? 

The singing, yelling and gunfire was getting closer. Someone sprinted by the library, cackling. Not someone he recognized. Their former prisoners didn’t cackle. 

Ivy came back a few minutes later, her hair untidy and with a lot of blood on her shirt. She was holding a teacup and a sandwich. 

“Are you okay?” lyf asked her. 

“Yeah, I’ll be fine. Jonny only shot me once.” 

“He shot you ? There’s more than three of you?” Lyf took the tea from her hands and sipped it without thinking. It wasn’t bad. 

“I’m fine. We’re immortal.'' She set down the sandwich on the desk. “Well, there's eight of us, nine if you count the Toy Soldier.” 

Lym made a humming noise in acknowledgement. They had a large bite of sandwich in their mouth. They were too hungry to think about the statement Ivy had just said - we’re immortal. 

Chapter Text

Ivy had offered one of the spare rooms on the ship, but Lyf decided to pile blankets into a corner of the library, even when Ivy warned them that she didn’t sleep. They bundled themself into the corner and closed their eyes. 

They forgot about the nightmares that came with sleep through the sheer confusion of the day. 

Lyf woke up in the middle of the night, nightmarish colors fading away to the familiar black and white world they were used too.  Ivy was sitting at her desk, head in her hands. He could hear her breathing, very fast and loud. 

“Ivy?” 

She didn’t respond. 

They stood up and walked over to her. they almost thought they could hear a ticking somewhere among the quiet humming of the aurora. 

“Are you okay?” 

Her eyes were blank and glassy. She didn’t blink when they waved a hand in front of her face. 

“Ah- oh no, please I don’t want to be stuck here with Von Raum and his damn violin.” 

There was a whirring sound, and Ivy’s eyes focused and unfocused several times as Lyf watched. 

She blinked. “Inspector?” 

“Call me Lyf please.” 

“Inspector, how did you get here? You should be dead.”

They stared at her in shock. “I know. You pulled me out of my shuttle.” 

“I don’t recall…” Ivy grabbed for the tablet under some papers on her desk and unlocked it, looking through files at an amazing speed. “Here. I see.” 

“Do you not remember?” Lyf asked her. 

“I’m afraid I don’t.” She looked up, making eye contact with them. “There’s just a field of static for about three days in my past now. Did you know you have rainbow patches on your face now instead of lighter skin?”

“Yes,” Lyf said stiffly 

“They move .” 

“Yes.” 

“Fascinating,” she added a note to the file she was reading. “If you ever find me unresponsive again, please don’t worry and please don’t stand too close to me. I can wake up quite startled, and I’m much stronger than I look. I don’t want to hurt you.” 

“If you ever come across me glowing or taking in my sleep wake me up right away.” Lyf told her. 

“I see we have an understanding.” Ivy held out her hand. They took it and the two of them shook on it. 

Chapter Text

It took Lyf nearly a half an hour to get the courage to go find Ivy. They did not want to run into any others, especially Von Raum and his violin or whoever had shot Ivy two days ago- Jonny? Was he the one who was cackling? But it had been almost twelve hours and they did need to eat. 

As soon as he stepped out into the hall, a bright light shone in his face and a familiar voice announced:

“Did you know you have more than double the normal cones for a human? But none of them are sending signals to your brain correctly?” 

“What?” Lyf shielded their face and squinted at La Cognizi, holding a clipboard and a medical scanner. “I know they don’t work. I’m colorblind, remember?”

“Oh, yes. You said they were the same color, but I digress. As did everyone else, I believe.” 

“It wasn’t fully my fault- where’s Ivy?” 

“I don’t know. I don’t think she’s dead though. I’d check… well, not the kitchen or dining hall or the bridge because Jonny’s probably there and he might kill you.”

“Who’s Jonny?” Lyf stepped to the side, trying to dodge out of her way, but she unfurled her wings, effectively trapping them. 

“He’s the first mate. He’s also the most… volatile of the crew, although we’re all pretty bad.”  

La Cognizi grabbed for their arm, but they ducked out of her way. “What are you doing?”

“I wanted a better look at that rainbow patch there.” 

“How about we don’t make a science project out of my trauma.” 

“Stop tormenting the inspector.” 

The two of them looked around. Von Raum was standing in the corridor. He had his violin. 

“You’re one to speak.” Lyf said, nodding to the violin. 

“I’m on my way to see how long I can play violin at Jonny and Ashes while they play cards before one of them tries to kill me.” 

“Jonny might break your violin.” La Cognizi noted. 

“I’ll fix it. It’s not one of my nicer ones anyway.” 

“How many violins do you have?’ Lyf couldn’t help it. They needed to ask. 

“Quite a few…” he frowned and counted on his fingers for a couple minutes before shrugging. “More than eight.” 

“He has them on his wall.” La Cognizi supplied. “He collects them. Oh, by the way, Marius, do you know where Ivy is?” 

“Something with the octokittens, I think. I saw her and Tim trying to get one out of the air ducts earlier.”

“The air ducts where ?” Lyf asked. He just wanted to find Ivy, who was the most reasonable person on this ship, and get a meal. 

“Why are you looking for her?” Von Raum asked. 

“She’s reasonable , she won’t kill me for no reason , and I’M HUNGRY.” 

“Neither of us are planning on killing you.” La Cognizi remarked mildly, folding on her wings so she wasn’t trapping them anymore. 

“I actually quite like you, after all that time you spent glaring at us through the bars of a prison cell.” Marius pointed his violin bow at Lyf. “how about we show you where the safest and most likely to be Jonny free route to the kitchen is?”

Chapter Text

Lyf could hear singing again. It had been two days since Marius and Raph, as they insisted on being called, had shown them where the kitchen was. They had finished reading all of the books within reachable distance of their blanket pile, and had moved to a new spot. 

They were sitting on Ivy’s desk, poking at one of the swirling patches of color on their arm. It looked greyscale, but they knew it was all rainbow. They didn’t wonder what color it was.

 It was trying to move, but stopped when they touched it. Ivy was doing some kind of work with her files, hunched over her desk. 

“Why are you immortal?” they asked. The rainbow patch tried to move in the other direction. They poked it again. 

“Our mechanisms.” Ivy said. “Raphealla’s wings, Marius’s arm, my brain. I- I don’t want to talk about it.” 

Lyf nodded and put their whole hand over the patch on their arm. It shrank away from their touch. 

“Why are they singing again?” they asked. “Why are you always singing?” 

“We’re a band,” Ivy said, putting her tablet aside. “We do shows all over, through time and space.”

“How does that even work?” Lyf asked, trying to push the rainbow patch down their arm to their hand. It didn’t want to go. 

Ivy launched into a very fast explanation that Lyf didn’t understand very much of. They gave up on the rainbow on their arm and picked up a book off the floor. Ivy was still explaining. 

“I think I get it.” Lyf said hastily. 

“oh, you do?” Ivy smiled. “Excellent!”

“Can you tell me about the rest of the crew?” lyf asked. 

“Well, you know about Marius and Raph and I probably more than you’d like. Jonny’s the first mate, he says he’s captain but don’t listen to him. Ashes is the quartermaster. They like fire and beat everyone at cards. Tim is the master gunner. He blew up the moon once. Nastya is the engineer. She’s in a romantic relationship with the aurora. Brian is the pilot. He’s nice, he won’t shoot you. The Toy Soldier is weird. It likes teeth. Don’t ask.” 

Lyf nodded several times. They were still very confused, but at least had names to the loud singing going on. “Aren’t you in their band too? What aren’t you singing?” 

“I don’t want to.” she sighed and put her head in her hands. “I’m too busy remembering.” 

Lyf nodded again. “Do you want a cup of tea?” It was the best way they really knew how to help. 

“Y-yes, that would be good.”

They left the library, heading for the kitchen. They could recognize raphealla’s voice, rising eerie and high pitched over the rest of the song. 

Down the hall to the right, past the scorch mark and through the door that looks like a storage closet, be careful to avoid the next door down Tim stores explosives in there- 

They stopped short outside the kitchen door. The singing was coming from inside there. 

The door opened and a person came outside. He had a guitar, slung over his shoulder on a strap, and was wearing a long coat, pale button up and waistcoat. He had long curly hair and a pair of goggles around his neck. He looked very confused. 

“Who the hell are you?” he asked, hand drifting down to a gun in a holster at his waist. 

Lyf hastily put their hands up. “Lyfrassir Edda! Please don’t shoot!”

“I’ve heard about you,” he said. “You’re the one Marius played violin at when he was in jail.”  

“I’m glad that's my legacy on this ship.” Lyf noted sarcastically. “I just wanted a cup of tea for Ivy.” 

“Then get one.” he pointed at the door. “I’m Gunpowder Tim, by the way.” 

“You blew up the moon.” 

“I did! ” he looked very pleased with himself.

“Is the first mate in there? Jonny?” Lyf asked.

Tim glanced inside the door. “Yeah, he’s in there. He’s one of the ones singing. You probably shouldn’t actually go in there, he’s pretty drunk and has his gun out. He’s standing on the table.”

“I just wanted a cup of tea.” Lyf muttered. “I’m just trying to help.” 

“I’ll get you a cup of tea, just wait in here.” Tim pushed him inside a room across the hall. It had shag carpeting, badly scorched in several places. Inside was a large plastic bin with beach toys in it. Lyf picked up a mostly deflated beach ball with a bullet hole in it and looked back at Tim, eyebrow raised. 

Tim shrugged and went back into the kitchen. Someone, probably Jonny, fired a gun. Lyf flinched. There was a mostly smashed plastic bucket in the bin. It had what appeared to be teeth in it. They decided they didn’t want to know and turned their back on the bin. There were several bullet holes on the wall above the door, and a cracked screen on the wall. 

There was a loud crash from inside the kitchen. The screen lit up, and Lyf stepped back, startled. 

Hello! Welcome aboard! I am the Aurora! ;)

“What?” they pressed their back against the opposite wall as the message repeated itself. “Why are you talking to me?”

I am introducing myself! I am the starship! ;)

What ?” They tried to press back further into the wall. “Are you alive?” 

Somewhat! I am sentient. ;) 

“What the-” across the hall the door slammed open and they heard yelling and a loud thud. 

“Goddamnit Ashes, you could have let me do it.” 

“Listen, I was so sick of him. He deserved to, y’know, take a fall ” 

“onto your knife, so conveniently left on the floor there.” 

“Listen-”

There was a loud clatter and two gunshots. “I’M NOT DEAD! BUT YOU ARE, ASHES O’REILLY.” 

“Not for long, they aren’t.”

 “YOU’RE GOING TO JOIN THEM IF YOU DON’T SHUT YOUR MOUTH, BRIAN.” 

Two more gunshots, and Tim opened the door to the room Lyf was in holding two cups of tea on a plate in one hand and a gun in the other. 

“Here’s your tea. You have about five minutes.” 

Speechless, Lyf took the plate from Tim. 

“I’d hurry. Ashes is getting up.” Tim stepped back into the hall. 

Ashes was slumped against the wall, grinning up at Tim. “That was worth it.” They said. Lyf noted the large streak of blood going down the wall behind them. 

“Well, Jonny and Brian will be up soon. Pity I had to shoot Brian too. He’s quite nice, even in interesting Brian mode. Ashes, Lyf. Lyf, Ashes. They’re in the library if you want to talk later when Jonny’s not in murder mode. Hurry up, now.” 

Lyf nodded and set off as fast as they could towards their exit before Jonny woke up. They had finally actually seen the first mate now. He had branching eyeliner all over his face and looked deranged. 

Lyf had just gotten out of sight when Jonny woke up. They hurried back to the library trailed by yelling and gunshots. 

Chapter Text

Ashes knocked on the door of the library a day later. They looked very uncomfortable and tidy. 

Ivy opened the door. “Did you know you don’t have to knock? You live here.” 

”I’m here to meet Lyf when I’m not mostly dead.” 

“LYf! Ashes wants to talk to you! Ashes, no gasoline or lighters or matches in the library.” Ivy pulled a bucket out from a bookshelf as Ashes guiltily started taking things out of their pockets. At least three lighters, six matchbooks, a matchbox, two handfuls of loose matches and a small vial of gasoline from their boot. 

Lyf watched, interested and terrified at the same time as Ashes took off their hat to reveal a second box of matches. 

“Why do you have all those?” Lyf asked. 

“It’s my job. I'm head of the arson club everywhere.” they said. 

“Arson club?” Lyf asked. 

“I made it up.” Ashes blew a bubble with gum Lyf didn’t realize they had. “How are you on this-” 

“Not you too.” they sighed and put their hand over their eyes. 

“Blame Marius. For everything.” they spun their hat around on their finger. “What did all of those idiots get up to in prison anyway?” 

Lyf sighed. “Vo- Marius played violin a lot. We kept taking the violins but he just got more. Ivy was quiet if we gave her books.”

“They were very interesting!” Ivy put in. “Books I’d never read. I think.” 

Lyf nodded. “Raph did equations on the wall and sang with Marius a lot. They also broke out at least four times.” 

“That’s more interesting.” Ashes blew another bubble “did you have to chase them down and catch them?” 

“No, they came back. Robbed the vending machine every time though.” 

Ashes let out a bark of laughter. “You came back? Just came back to jail?” 

“Free food, free rent, and Lyf was there. It was also very fun to see everyone lose it when they realized we were gone and back again.” Ivy said. 

“What do I have to do with it?” Lyf picked up their tea to take a sip. 

“Oh, Marius had a huge crush on you.” 

Lyf spit out their tea. “ What?” 

Ashes jumped back. “Calm down!” 

Him and his- his damn violin had a crush on me?” 

Ivy shrugged. “You are handsome, I suppose. All of that antagonizing and violin playing was flirting.” 

Lyf sat down in a chair. Their face was very hot. “I thought it was just that. Antagonizing and violin playing.”

“He was upset when he thought you were dead.” Ashes said. “You know what’s cool about that rainbow stuff you’ve got going on? You are a walking pride flag.” 

Lyf ribbed their arms. “I’m colorblind. I can’t appreciate it if I wanted to.”

They nodded, a mix of sympathy and curiosity. “How’s life on the Aurora treating you?” 

“It’s insane here.” Lyf shook their head. “I have no idea what’s going on ever but there’s singing and murder.” 

“That’s about it.” Ashes said. “Add in whiskey and destruction and there you have us, the immoral space pirate crew known as the mechanisms!” They spread their arms out and looked up. 

“Von Raum was always singing this damn song about whiskey.” Lyf muttered. 

Ivy suddenly started singing from her perch cross legged on the desk. 

Like whisky mixed with gasoline-“ 

“Please no.” Lyf said. “Please. I am so sick of that song.” 

“You never even heard the whole thing.” Ivy said. 

“And if I’m lucky, I never will.” 

“There is a 87% chance you will hear that whole song in your time with us if it is four months or longer.” Ivy said. 

“I might be dead by then.” Lyf noted sarcastically. 

“Well, out of the five of us you’ve met, none of us are going to kill you. And the TS won’t, Brain almost definitely won’t and Nastya might but probably not.” Ashes said. 

“I’m worried about the first mate.” Lyf said as Ivy spouted some statistic about how likely Brian is to kill him depending on morally switch, whatever that meant. 

“Yeah, he’s pretty bad. Probably the only one who would still kill you on purpose after talking to you.” Ashes sighed. “He’ll get used to you, and maybe be careful for once. He can be gentle.” 

Ivy rolled her eyes. 

“He’s gentle with Nastya and sometimes me,” Ashes snapped. “He’s like the horrible older brother I never had.” 

“Horrible older brothers don’t kill you.” Lyf said. 

“They would if they knew you could come back.” Ashes said. 

Lyf sighed. “Well, I should probably meet the rest of the crew so they won’t kill me.” 

“Brian is in the cockpit, the TS is tied up in a closet, and Nastya is in the engine room. Jonny is dead again, in Raph’s lab. She tried an experiment on him.” Ivy said. 

“How did you know that?” Ashes asked. 

“Security cameras that you all haven’t managed to break yet.” Ivy held up her tablet to show ashes a blurry image of the kitchen. Tim was sitting on the table drinking coffee. “And the scanners of the ship are still active. I can see where everyone is if I’d like.” 

“Where’s Marius?” Lyf asked. They couldn’t help it. 

“In one of the music rooms. Probably playing violin.” 

“Let’s go find Brian!” Ashes grabbed their bucket of flammables and started putting them back in their pockets. “He’s in boring Brian mode again I think, so he 100% won’t kill you.” 

“What does that even mean ?” Lyf asked, grabbing the coat Ivy had given them from somewhere. It was too big for them. 

“You’ll see when you meet him!” ashes said. “Come on!” 

Chapter Text

Ivy doesn’t like to sleep, but after a couple of days she’ll just quietly pass out wherever she is. She was shelving books and just felt herself quietly drop into blackness, and then fire. Smoke and blood and fire is Ashes’s thing, but that doesn’t stop little Ivy in her dreams, running and stumbling, arms full of books and eyes full of blood and tears. 

Everything feels clear and connected again, and she almost hates it. She can feel the burns on her legs as she flees the flames again. She can hear the screams and crashes as paper towers fall and die, so much knowledge gone forever. 

It hurts again. 

She wants to wake up, back to the world of fog and static and peace. The mechanisms kill quickly. A burst of pain and peace until she wakes again. 

Fire and pain and she’s screaming and her eyes sting and it's all gone…

She doesn’t want to dream about this over and over, every moment of blood and flames, in the only place where she feels alive. 

She’s alone except for the dead and the fire and noise and her brain cannot hold it in anymore. She knows the words for it - sensory overload- but the Ivy running and crying does not think those words. She only thinks of fire and death.  

She only spirals deeper, to a room of quiet and books and a nest of blankets on the floor and a sudden smell of smoke and fear. She cannot escape the flames. 

It goes on forever and she longs to wake but her exhausted body will not let her. 

Someone is calling her name. 

“Ivy? Ivy?” 

She can hardly hear it through the crackling of burning paper and wood. 

“Ivy, I’m getting worried.” 

She is alone in the fire nobody worried nobody cared.

“IVY!” 

She opens her eyes to see Lyf, rainbows dizzyingly swirling across their face. They are shaking her shoulders, fear and concern apparent in everything about them. She coughs, swearing she can taste smoke and blood in her mouth again. 

“I-I came back a-and you were asleep on the floor so I-I made tea and I came back again and you were screaming-” 

Wordlessly, Ivy embraces Lyf. they are startled, moving away from her on instinct, but they realize she is comforted by them. Lyf pulls her close to them, rocking back and forth as she cries. 

“Do you want to talk about it?” they ask. 

“The fire- th-the… it's all g-gone-'' she tries to tell them, she really does, but it just hurts. She shakes her head, unable to form words. She is coughing again, throat dry from screaming and tears.  

Lyf is quiet, colors racing across their skin in erratic waves. She knows they are remembering too. All of them have hidden, buried pain. Today, it has been dug up from lockboxes and holes. 

Ivy doesn’t really feel real again, just hears the ticking of her mind. She doesn’t mind. It's better than the sharp pain of reality in her nightmares. 

 

It was hard to breathe. She was now sitting one her desk, staring at the cup of tea Lyf had meant for themself. Tapping her pinkie finger against the chipped china, hearing the faint clink clink of her ring against glass. They had draped a blanket over her shoulders, despite the warmth of the library. 

“We’re taking care of each other, okay?” Lyf said. 

Ivy nodded into the cup of tea. She doesn’t want to think about any of it anymore. 

Lyf climbed onto the desk next to her and put an arm around her shoulder, draping the blanket around the two of them. “I’ve got you.”

Chapter Text

Lyf was wandering the ship. 

They didn’t really know where Ivy was again, and weren’t even really looking for her. All they could hear was quiet music. Someone was playing the violin, and they were following the sound without thinking. 

It was two people playing the violin, one of them perched on a large metal cabinet and the other one sitting on a chair. The one in the chair was Marius, and the other one was a woman with shoulder length hair and glasses, wearing a long coat. Her eyes were closed. 

Lyf leaned against the wall and listened to them for a few minutes. They were both excellent violinists. 

Marius noticed he was there, and made a loud screech with his violin. The woman opened her eyes and raised an eyebrow. 

“Ah, Inspector Lyf!” he crowed, playing another discordant note. “How do you do whatever time this is?” 

“Time for you to shut up, I think.” Lyf said. 

“The inspector is getting snarky.” the woman said. She had a strong accent - cybernian? 

Maruis raised his violin bow again. 

“LIKE WHISKEY MIXED WITH GASOLINE!” Marius started. 

The woman sighed and hopped off the cabinet. “It’s nice to meet you. I am Nastya, engineer of the Aurora.” 

Lyf nodded and shook her hand. “Please just call me Lyf.” 

WE’LL GET YOU STINKING DRUNK! 

SO SHUT YOU FACE AND SETTLE DOWN, YOU SNEERING LITTLE PUNKS.” 

Marius was yelling, hardly even singing at this point. 

Nastya grabbed his violin. She had left her own on top of the cabinet. “We’re done now.” 

“Aww, come on.” Marius gave her the finger. She returned the gesture and put the violin on top of the cabinet with hers.

“I can still sing without the violin.” Marius said. 

“I will shoot you.” Nastya snapped. 

Marius opened his mouth again. 

FOR SPACE IS VAST AND YOU ARE SMALL-” 

Nastya pulled out a laser pistol from her coat pocket and pressed it to his neck, under his chin. He closed his mouth. 

“Are we quite done?” Nastya asked sweetly. He nodded. She turned back to Lyf. “it's wonderful to meet you.”

They nodded. She put the pistol back in her coat pocket. 

ITS BLACK AND BITT-” 

Marius was cut short when Nastya shot him in the chest. 

He didn’t look surprised, just one eyebrow raised as he coughed - blood oh god oh no - and sank to the floor. It felt like a million years to Lyf as they ran to him, trying to catch him, all thoughts of the mechanism’s immortality gone in a second as Marius gasped, struggling to breathe and only finding blood as he died. 

It was silent for a minute, Nastya muttering something under her breath about “didn’t think they would react this badly” and “immortality.” 

Of course. Immortal. The mechanisms were immortal. 

Lyf realized they had been holding their breath. Their hands were soaked in Marius’s blood. they didn’t even know why they were so desperate to see Marius open his eyes again. They hated the man. But that didn’t stop the heart dropping terror as they had seen Marius fall. 

“I’m sorry. I didn't know that would affect you like this.” Nastya said stiffly. 

“I didn’t either.” Lyf’s voice cracked. What the hell? 

Maruis coughed again, struggling to move away from Lyf’s death grip on their wrist. His head was on Lyf’s lap. 

He cracked a bloody smile. “Good m-mmmph!”

Lyf had leaned down and kissed them on the lips. It was quick and messy, ending with  the corner of Lyf’s lips and some of their cheek smeared with Marius’s blood. 

Nastya pulled a flask out of her other pocket and took a drink. Everyone was blushing. 

“Well, what was that for? Not that I mind.” Marius said.

Lyf dropped his head and stood up, breathing very fast. “I have no fucking idea why.” 

“Ow,” Marius said from the floor. Nastya took another drink from her flask. 

“I don’t like you. At all.” Lyf said. They could feel the colors swirling wildly over their face. 

“What?” Marius said. “Oh, sure.” he was very busy looking at Lyf’s lips. 

Nastya took a third drink from her flask. She very much wanted to get her violin and crawl into the air ducts to get away from them. 

Lyf turned around and took off running down the corridor. 

 

They were huddled in one of the spare rooms, about an hour later, head in their hands. What were they thinking? Kissing that fool? They let out a sharp nervous laugh. 

“Hello! What Are You Doing?” 

They looked up. A wooden man was standing in the corner of the room, mostly wrapped in several belts. 

“Panicking. I did something stupid.” they sighed. Why am I telling a man made of wood this? 

“I Have Done Many Stupid Things Also! May I join You?”

“Why the hell not.” 

It sat down next to them, awkwardly because of the belts still wrapping it. “What Did You Do?” 

“Kissed Marius. I hate him, why did I do that ?” 

“I Have No Idea!” it said. 

“You are very unhelpful. Also creepy.” Lyf said. It smiled at them. “That’s worse. Please stop. Who are you anyway?” 

“I’m The Toy Soldier!” it said cheerily. “Jolly Good To Meet You!” 

“You like teeth,” Lyf said, suddenly remembering what Ivy had told them. “Why am I talking to you?’ 

“Because You Did Something Stupid!” it said, tipping its head to one side. “Do You Not Want Me Here?” 

“Do whatever you want.” Lyf sighed. “I don’t have feelings for him. Well, besides hate and stuff.” 

“Whatever You Say!” It started trying to undo one of the belts pinning its arm to its side. 

“Oh, god, what if I do have feelings for him?” 

“You Just Said You Do! Feelings Of Hate And Stuff!” It managed to free its arm. “Aha!”  

“You’re no help.” Lyf sighed. “I’m going to find Ivy.” 

“Will You Help Me With These Belts First?” it said. 

“Yeah, sure.”

Chapter Text

Ivy dropped a cookbook down next to Lyf. 

“We’re cooking.” 

They were in the kitchen, making toast. It was the only thing they could find that they knew what to do with, and besides, it was low effort. 

The cookbook was called “fancy meals to cook in space with limited ingredients.” 

“Do you know how to cook?’ Lyf asked, flipping through it to the pages Ivy had marked. 

“Nope!” 

“This looks really complicated.” they said. 

“Let’s try it!” Ivy was very excited, the happiest Lyf had ever seen her. 

“So, we’re making… fettuccine Alfredo with bruschetta and Macarons for dessert?”

“Yep!” 

They made noodles first. That was the easy part. The rest of it was just a mess. 

Ivy was frantically stirring in ingredients to the sauce as Lyf called out instructions when Marius walked in. “it smells like smoke, who’s cooking. Oh! Good morning, inspector Lyf!” 

Raphealla followed him in. she opened a cabinet and started digging around, pulling out a jar of something green. 

“What are you even trying to do? That looks like the stuff that killed Jonny, from Ralph’s lab.” Marius grabbed Ivy’s spoon and poked the mess in the pot.

“You’re doing it wrong.” Raph said. 

Marius tried to lean over Lyf and rest his head on their shoulder, but Lyf was too tall. He settled for draping an arm over their shoulder and leaning down to look at the recipie. 

“That is extremely complicated.” he said.  

Raph walked over. “I know how to make that.” she glanced at Ivy and raised an eyebrow. “How about you two go in the pantry and get the rest of the ingredients?” 

“Come on, Inspector!” Marius opened the pantry door. It was a closet, really, a closet with shelves of freeze dried and reconstructed food. He went inside, looking through the shelves by the door while Lyf went all the way inside, looking for more flour. 

Suddenly, Raph slammed the pantry door shut. Marius lunged for it, but was just a little too late, and the door latched. There was a click of a lock, and the two of them were left in darkness. 

“Now would be a bad time to tell you I’m claustrophobic, right?” Marius said. Lyf could hear the fear in his voice. 

They felt their way along the wall until they found Marius, pressed against the door. “I’m here.” they said quietly. 

They didn’t expect Marius to hug them, pressing his face into Lyf’s chest and nearly knocking the taller person over. Lyf stumbled back before catching Marius. 

“Let me be very clear. I do not have feelings for you.” Lyf said. 

Marius let out a shaky breath and pulled away from them, sinking back against the wall of the pantry. Lyf’s eyes were adjusted to the darkness of the pantry pretty well. they were struck by the sudden thought that Marius was seeing the world the way they do, black and white. They sat down across from him. He was huddled, knees to his chest, staring at the thin sliver of light from the door. 

“If you’re claustrophobic, why did you agree to come in here with me?” Lyf asked. 

“I didn’t think the door would close! I was just going to stand by the door and leave if it got bad!” he shook his head. “They think it’s like a seven minutes in heaven type thing but jokes on them.” he let out a shaky laugh. “Seven minutes of terror.” 

Lyf moved around so they were next to him. Marius leaned his head on Lyf's shoulder, able to reach it now. 

“Sorry, I should have asked.” Marius said as Lyf moved away from him slightly. His voice was Sheepish, still frightened. 

“It’s fine.” It was either very fine or very not, and Lyf couldn’t decide. 

Marius melted into their side. He was shaking. it was remarkable how much Marius was like a cat, really. Loud and in the way and… endearing. 

Oh no. 

Lyf put their arm around Marius’s shoulder, and pulled his head close to theirs. 

Oh god. 

What am I doing. 

Lyf stood up suddenly, hitting their head on the shelf above them. Marius’s eyes flew open and he reached up for Lyf. 

“Don’t leave-”

Lyf grabbed the door handle and shook it, trying to avoid their emotions. 

“Come back,” Marius said. His voice was full of tears. Lyf stopped fiddling with the door. 

They sat back down, and Marius immediately draped on them again. Lyf stroked his hair, running his fingers through the thick black waves. They didn’t know what else to do. 

“I never thought I’d wind up here the first time you showed up in front of our jail cell.” Marius said. 

“I never thought I would be here when I got my job with the police and a band of space pirates showed up.”  

Marius’s cheek was pressed against Lyf’s shoulder. They could feel his breathing, fast and panicked.

 

Raphealla and Ivy were having a great time. The cooking was actually getting done, and they were not only rid of Marius, he was in the pantry with Lyf, hopefully dealing with their emotions. Ivy stopped by the door, head tipped to the side, listening. 

“Do you hear anything?” Raph asked. 

“I think they’re talking.” 

“Good. Can you give me that spatula?” 

“Marius sounds upset.” 

Raphealla paused in her cooking. “Open the door, then.”

 

Lyf was pretty sure Marius was going to lose it. Or hyperventilate, whichever came first.

They did the first thing they could think of to calm him and pressed a kiss to his forehead. 

The door opened. 

Marius immediately tumbled off of Lyf and into Ivy’s ankles as she stood in the doorway. 

“Are you okay?” she asked. 

“I’m claustrophobic, you fuck.” Marius said into the floor. 

 

Marius was still mostly in Lyf’s lap. The two of them were in one of the mismatched kitchen chairs, a large battered armchair that could easily fit the two of them. Raph was finishing cooking. Ivy was sitting on the counter reading the cookbook. 

“You owe me.” Marius addressed Ivy and Raph. “that was a shit prank.” 

“Fair.” Raph said. “You two get to have dinner together. Ivy has a book for me.”

Ivy looked up at the word book. “I do? Oh, yeah, I do.” 

“Mmm hmm.” Lyf said. They wished they could braid Marius’s hair. It was too short. 

Raph grabbed a plate and scooped some pasta onto it. “You two get to stay in here. Come on, Ivy. the cookbook will wait.”

Ivy wrinkled her nose but put the book away and followed Raph out of the room. 

“They’re setting us up.” Lyf said as soon as they had left. “A dinner date.” 

Maruis got up. “Yeah, I figured that out. What's a dinner date without music ?” He pulled out his violin. 

“Where did you get that?” Lyf snapped. “This isn’t a date. No. it’s not a date. We’re just having dinner. Alone. Nothing romantic there.” 

Marius sighed and set his violin down. “Spoilsport. What's a dinner date between friends?” 

“That's called a date, Von Raum. one with romance.” 

“I’m fine with that too!”  he hopefully picked his violin up again. 

“No.” 

Maruis shrugged and grabbed two plates, ignoring a tinge of disappointment. 

The food was actually good, to both of their surprise. They sat next to each other, not across from each other, in the least romantic way possible, and ate in silence. 

 

“That was actually good.” Marius said. 

Lyf nodded. The two of them were walking back to the library. 

Marius suddenly stopped in front of a turn off. He was blushing and mumbled something.

“Yes?’ Lyf asked. 

“Dyouwannastaywithmetonight?” 

“What?”

Marius took a deep breath. “D-do you want to stay with me tonight?” 

“Ah-no.” Lyf said stiffly. “I’ll give you this to go with you though.” 

They took Marius’s hand in theirs, bent down, and kissed it. 

 

Lyf sat in their blanket pile and tried to not think about the feelings they were probably having for Marius. Ivy wasn’t back yet, and they had the library to themself. 

There were several clanks and a loud crash as the ceiling vent opened and Nastya fell out of it. 

“Are you okay?” they asked. 

“Broke my ankle. I’ll be fine in like an hour.” 

They sat there silently for about ten minutes. 

“So, I’m sorry about killing Marius earlier.” she said. 

Lyf sighed heavily and put their head in their hands.

Chapter Text

 

Lyf was on the bridge for the first time. 

They were playing cards with Ashes, Ivy and Nastya. Ashes was winning, of course, they always won. 

Tim came in, coat absent, holding a large weapon of some kind with a label in Raph’s neat handwriting labeling it as space bazooka . Raph liked to label things. “What are you doing?” he asked. 

“Playing rummy. What are you doing?” Ashes asked, nodding towards the ‘space bazooka’ as they lit a cigarette. 

“Looking for Jonny. He cut all these slashes in my coat when we were fighting yesterday.” Tim hefted the weapon. “Do you know where he is?” 

“He messed up your coat so you’re going to shoot him.” Lyf said. 

“Yep!” Tim grinned. “He can sew, but he won’t, so I’ll shoot him instead!” 

“I can sew,” Lyf said. “And so can Marius. And Raph and Nastya.” 

“Yes, well, I’m going to shoot Jonny anyway! Then one of you can fix my coat.” Tim grinned. 

“I’m not fixing your coat.” Nastya said, picking up a card. “I only know how to embroider.” 

“Can you embroider the moon blowing up on my coat?” Tim asked. 

“No.” Nastya sighed and pushed her glasses up her nose. “Don’t damage Aurora too much please.” 

Tim tried to flip her off, almost dropped his space bazooka, and left the room, slamming the door shut. There was another label on the now shut door, labeling it as bridge door

“Why has Raph been doing this again all the sudden?” Ivy asked. “Last time she labeled at least 50 books with property of the mechanisms and labeled Tim’s octokittens with octokittens 1-11 ” 

“Tim only had ten octokittens.” Ashes said, discarding a card. 

“I know!” Ivy picked up a card. The back of it was labeled playing card (Ace of Hearts)

Ashes grabbed the card, despite Ivy’s protests, and looked at it. Ace of hearts, slightly singed. “How did she get a hold of my cards? They were in my pocket.” 

Brian opened the door. He was wearing his hat, which was labeled brian’s hat and his shirt had a few buttons undone, showing off three labels on his chest: Brian (toaster), Brian (bastard mode) and Brian (not quite robot)  

“Have you seen Raphealla? She has her label maker again. I thought we hid it.” 

Nastya started checking her arms for labels. 

“You have one here.” Ivy said, taking a label off of the back of her neck. 

Nastya (gay)

“Goddamit, Raph.” she sighed and held up the label. Ashes burst into laughter. 

“Not wrong!” they yelled. “Brian (toaster) and Nastya (gay) these are a lot more accurate then last time!” 

Lyf started looking for a label on them as well, and found it on their wrist. 

Lyfrassir (denying emotions and yearning)

When they pulled it off, there was a neat rectangle of dark skin instead of the patch surrounding it. There was a label on their other wrist as well. 

Lyfrassir (eldritch)

“Lyf, do you have a label in your hand there?” Ashes asked sweetly. Ivy was still looking for hers. They held up the one that labeled them as eldritch, slipping the other one in their pocket. 

“What the hell?” Ivy had found her label, on the back of her vest. She held it up. 

Ivy (cute)

“Raph may have a crush on you.” Nastya said wisley. She laid down another set of cards, putting her above Ashes. Her label was on her forehead. 

“How did you do that?” Ashes asked, nodding at her new set. 

Nastya raised an eyebrow. “We’re playing cards. I drew the cards I needed to lay down another set. Do I have to explain the rules of rummy to you?” 

“Probably.” Ivy said quietly. She was looking down at the label in her hands. 

Brian, still standing in the doorway, crossed his arms. “Are we going to find Raph or what?”

“I dunno, this is pretty funny.” Ashes said, taking a label off their hat. “Ashes (arsonist) seems pretty accurate.”

There was a loud explosion and the sound of Tim yelling from somewhere. Nastya flinched and reached down to lightly pat the floor of the aurora. 

“Guess he found Jonny.” Nastya said. 

Lyf still had yet to actually meet the first mate. At least, when he wasn’t dead. they’d met him dead twice now. Ashes complained about him using all the eyeliner a lot, and Lyf could see why, even though Ashes also tended to wear an ungodly amount of eyeliner as well. They had done their makeup a few times, always using lots of eyeliner and glitter. Lyf found out they were allergic to the glitter. 

A very tied looking Marius came in, wearing striped pajamas and holding a tin of coffee. “Who poisoned the coffee?” he asked, holding it up. There was a label on it: coffee (not poisoned) 

Ashes started laughing, while Lyf determinedly avoided eye contact with Marius. He had a label on his forehead reading Marius (yearning for Lyfrassir)  and hadn’t noticed it yet. 

“Raphealla found her label maker again.” Ivy said, giving Lyf a look. They were staring down at their cards, feeling the patterns swirl across their face. 

“You have one on your face,” Nastya remarked. 

Marius peeled the label off his forehead, looked at it, looked at Lyf, looked at the label again, and immediately blushed. 

“Your ears are an interesting color there, Doctor Baron Von Raum.” Nastya noted. 

“We should find Raph before she labels the whole ship with questionable things.” Ivy said. 

“Probably too late.” Brian said. “How does she do this anyway? She labeled Marius’s face without him noticing.” 

“Fuck if I know.” Ashes said. They grabbed the whole deck of cards and started looking for more labeled ones. “Game over.” 

“I win then.” Nastya said. Ashes flipped her off. 

“Other people are allowed to win at cards, Ashes.” Ivy said. Ashes flipped her off too. 

“Marius, put a proper shirt on and we’re going to find Raph.” Brian said. 

Marius smoothed down his pajamas. “This is a proper shirt.” 

Brian sighed and shook his head. 

They found Jonny fast enough. Dead on the floor, mostly burned. There was a label on one of the soles of his boots: Jonny (expired)

“At best guess we have 2 minutes to an hour before he gets up.” Ivy said. 

“That’s a very wide range. Why?” Lyf asked. 

“No idea. It’s most varied with Jonny and Nastya, they were first, and Ashes can be unpredictable as well, but it’s hard to say.” 

“I’m always unpredictable.” Ashes said. They were lighting little bits of paper from their pocket on fire with their lighter. 

“I know how to get him up!” Marius announced, glancing at Lyf with that look he gets. The “I’m about to thoroughly annoy you and there is nothing you can do” look. Lyf couldn’t decide if they loved or hated it. 

Marius pulled out his violin. 

From where, nobody could say, but it was in his hands and he placed it under his chin. 

“What shall I sing? I know!” He grinned at Lyf, who turned around to bang their head on the wall a few times. 

LIKE WHISKY MIXED WITH GASOLINE!” Marius yell-sang. On the floor, Jonny’s wounds started healing. 

WE’LL GET YOU STINKING DRUNK! 

SO-”

Jonny sat up. “SHUT YOUR FACE!” He roared. Lyf ducked behind Ashes, which didn’t work as they were taller than them. 

Jonny started getting up. “What the fuck are all of you doing in here?”

“Raph found the label maker.” 

“Well, Hell. Do I have any yet?” 

“On your boot.” Ivy supplied. 

He found it, and read it, laughing bitterly. “Sometimes I wish. Where’s Tim? I need to kill him.” 

“We need to find Raph though.” Marius said. His violin was gone again. 

Jonny scowled at him. “I should kill you too, for that singing. Why are you in your pajamas?”

Marius raised an eyebrow. “I am dressed . I am wearing clothing of some kind. You’re singing all the time and I don’t kill you for that.” 

Jonny glared at him. “You have a label on your arm. Who’s Lyfrassir?” 

Lyf tried to duck behind Ashes, but Jonny noticed them anyway. 

“That rainbow person we pulled out of a shuttle?” he said. “The cop?” 

“I’m not a cop.” Lyf muttered. 

Jonny studied them for a minute. “Normally I say once a cop, always a cop, but I can believe you.”

“Lyf is the one we annoyed when we were in jail,” Marius said, pulling off the label.  

“That sounds like a fucking romance novel.” Jonny laughed. “I’m Jonny D’ville, your humble captain.” 

he swept into a bow as everyone else in the hall said “first mate.” in the same bored, resigned tone. He came up from his bow with both middle fingers in the air. 

“Well, now that we’ve met properly, how about we go find Raphealla and maybe Tim? I won’t kill Tim unless he rubs it in my face that he got me with his ‘space bazooka.’” 

Jonny brushed some ash off his waistcoat. He was wearing at least four belts and had a length of rope tied around his leg. 

Ivy had found another label, on her leg. Ashes grabbed it from her. 

“It says Ivy (cute)” Ashes laughed. Raph is flirting!” 

“Through labels?” Lyf asked. 

“Not the strangest way I’ve seen someone flirt. Just look at Marius.” 

Maruis, who had his violin out again, blushed and almost dropped it. He had been playing something quietly and Jonny had been humming along without noticing. 

“I wasn’t flirting!” Marius said, a little too loudly. 

A label floated down from the ceiling, Jonny grabbing it midair. He laughed. 

“Marius (liar), according to Raph. the whole universe knows about your crush at this point, you yearning fool.” he said, sticking the label to Marius’s mechanism. Marius tried to swat at him, but he ducked under his arm and kicked Marius in the shins. Marius gursed and tried to hit him again, but Ashes grabbed their shoulders and pulled them apart like kids. Ashes’s strength was surprising to the rest of the crew when they showed it off, but they were very strong. 

“Now, now, kids, don’t fight,” they said. “Come on, we have Raphaella the label making monster to find.” 

Jonny and Marius both flipped them off at the same time. 

They sighed. “You two. Marius, stop flirting-”

“I’m not!” 

“Yes you are. And Jonny, try not to kill anyone.” they let both of them go. “Jonny, put the gun away.” 

Jonny put his gun away, glaring daggers at Ashes. 

“Good! Now that we’re all getting along, we need to find Raph. ” Ivy said, stepping up next to Ashes. Another label fluttered down from the ceiling and landed in her hair. She didn’t seem to notice. 

“Ivy you have a label there.” Nastya said. 

Ivy started patting the top of her head before Ashes grabbed it and handed it to her. 

“It says the same thing as before.” Ivy said. “Ivy (cute)” 

Everyone looked up. There wasn’t anything on the ceiling. There weren't any vents above either. 

“How?” Marius asked. 

“Fuck if I know. We need to find her!” Jonny pointed his pistol at the ceiling, a six shooter made of gleaming black metal and dark wood. “Raph! You and your label maker needs to get your asses over here!”

“Does a label maker even have an ass?” Marius mused. Ivy smacked him in the face as Lyf sighed heavily. 

“This is who you have a crush on?” Nastya asked Lyf quietly. 

They nodded slightly, not even bothering to deny it. “This fool.” 

They followed the labels to Raph. 

They were stuck all over the walls in one hallway, in another, Ivy found two more in her arm, in a third turn off a label on a wall - wall (door) - showed them the location of a secret door, which Nastya opened. 

Lyf had never been in this part of the ship before, and, based on the nervous looks from other crew members, none of the others had either, except for Nastya and Jonny. 

“I thought you knew where everything in the ship was.” Marius said to Ivy. 

She scowled. “Knowing the floor plan isn’t the same as thoroughly exploring several times.” 

Lyf nodded. Ivy had two more labels in her hair. Lyf was fiddling with one in their pocket. 

Every time Nastya passed a label labeling the ship, she lightly tapped it.  Aurora (wall panel), Aurora (new wiring), Aurora (air vent). Eventually the labels became too many for her to continue doing that, but every now and then she would tap one again, or brush her hand along a patch of wall. Jonny teased her about it, casually, the two of them dissolving into a smacking fight at one point. 

Marius and Lyf wound up at the end of the group, Marius fiddling with a loose button on his shirt and Lyf chewing on their nails, at least until Marius grabbed their hand. 

“Don’t do that.” he said. “I’m taking custody of your hand now.” Lyf just sighed and squeezed his hand lightly before continuing on, pausing to see which hallway would drop a label on Ivy before continuing on. 

Raphealla was in her lab at the end. At least, Lyf thought it was her lab. Ivy had said there were three on the ship, one was locked up, one was Raph’s, and one was empty. They were pretty sure that this one was empty, based on the sheer number of octokittens inside. They were nested all over, some of them wearing collars and name tags, some inside shipping crates and some of them asleep in large gloopy piles. 

Jonny looked inside first. “It’s all full of octokittens in here. Is this where Tim stores them? TIM? YOU IN THERE?” 

There was no answer save several startled octokitten noises. 

“Anything labeled in there?” Ivy asked. 

“Yeah, everything. Y’all think the octokittens would attack inspector Lyf here?” Jonny asked. 

“Depends on how long ago they were fed.”Ivy said. “Tim’s more tame ones tend to be in here, last I checked though.”  

“How many octokittens does Tim have?’ Lyf asked, peering into the room. 

“All the ones with collars.” Ivy said. “They have names too.” she pointed at a striped one, sitting in a beaker. “That’s Pillowcase. And that one stuck to the wall is Vase. That one, under the table is Boudoir. The one on top of the pile is Belt. And those two are Vestibule and Hutch.” 

“That’s enough octokitten naming.” Jonny said.

“That one with spots is Pocket, and the one in that tray is Scarf. The one draped on that chair is Worm-Off-The-String. The other octokitten stuck to the wall is Pastry” 

Jonny sighed and facepalmed. “Ivy, we are on a mission.” 

“And that one is named curtain! And that one is Glove, and that one is Lunar Cannon!” 

Nastya put her hand over Ivy’s mouth. She stopped talking and started at Nastya. 

“We’re done.” Nastya said. Ivy nodded. “You can introduce Lyf to the octokittens later.” Ivy nodded again. 

Jonny fired his gun into the room, straight up. There was a loud hissing, skittering sound, and all of the octokittens vanished into the ship. 

“Problem solved. They can’t kill Inspector Lyf now.” he holstered the gun. “Come on, Raph is in there, based on Ivy’s new labels.” 

Ivy had another one on her face. She pulled it off and stuck it to her arm instead, where she had quite the collection. 

“Raph really has a crush on you.” Marius said. 

“You’re one to talk.” Ivy nodded at his hand, still holding Lyf’s. Marius tried to let go, but Lyf squeezed his hand again and gave in. 

Tim came running up the hallway out of nowhere, holding an armload of octokittens.

“Who’s shooting at the octokittens?” he said.  

“I was just scaring them.” Jonny said. “Raph is in there with her label maker.” 

“I noticed,” Tim said, holding out an arm labeled Tim (trigger happy) and Tim (guitarist). 

“She’s using them to flirt with Ivy.” Ashes said. “It’s very funny.” 

Tim raised an eyebrow. “Ohhh.” he leaned in and stage whispered while one of his octokettens oozed around his neck “ Lyf and Marius are holding hands.” 

Lyf and Marius both gave him the finger with their free hands at the same time. 

Raph was sitting on a table, with her label maker in hand. As everyone filed in, she looked up, grinned, and waved. 

“I see you have found me!” she said. There was a sleeping octokitten in her lap. 

“Which octokitten is that?” Lyf asked Ivy. 

“Potassium.” she said. “Good morning Raph. someone has been flirting.” she held out her arm, adorned with labels reading Ivy (cute). 

Raphealla grinned. “I have! Tim, can I keep Potassium?”

“As long as you don’t experiment on him.” Tim said. His octokitten was now oozing down his leg. 

“Raph. we said you had to keep your labeling to your lab and the kitchen.” Nastya said, in the tone of an exasperated mother. 

Raphaella grinned. “I was trying to get your attention!” The comment seemed to be directed at Ivy. “Anyway, labeling is fun.” 

Ivy sighed and walked up in front of Raph. she took the label maker from her hands and worked for a minute, before sticking a label to Raph’s forehead. 

Raphaella (cute) 

***

Lyf slipped into Marius’s room. He was sound asleep, wrapped in a cocoon of blankets. Lyf, holding Raph’s label maker in their hand, walked up to the wall of Marius’s violins and printed the first label. 

Violin (annoying and adorable)  

***

Lyf was reading, bundled into one of the chairs in the library, when Raph came in. her wings were covered in sticky notes, in Ivy’s cramped, messy handwriting, reading things like Raph (cute) and Raph (smart) and Raph (interesting) 

She was smiling. “Have you seen Ivy?” 

“She went looking for you.” Lyf said, turning a page. “With another pad of sticky notes.” 

Raph nodded. “Thank you!” she turned and left the room, showering paper strips from her wings. 

Lyf, smiling now too, turned the next page. There was a label on the back of their hand, reading Lyfrassir (Marius’s partner).