Hello all,

Woof, it's been quite a bit since my last update. First of all, no I'm not dead and this story is not abandoned - I've just been very, very busy. The writing of this chapter actually took quite a long time, hopefully the next one won't take as long. Some very minor spoilers for Max Payne 3 (go get that game, it's awesome) and also, no the ending to Mass Effect 3 didn't bother me at all.

Also, there is a new disclaimer on chapter 1.

Hope you'll enjoy.

Life Sucks!

Chapter 24 : The Trolling Troll

"Irene, don't go," sounded a sleepy and whiny Teresa as she clutched on to Irene, who was doing her best to disentangle herself from her embrace.

"We need to get dressed," Irene whispered. "If we miss revelry or get seen by others in the corridors, we risk being discovered."

"Don't so nervous, silly," Teresa stretched and used her yoki to increase her strength, cutting off any hopes of escape.

Irene sighed. Still, as infuriating as Teresa could be, having her naked and pressing against her after a night of passion wasn't exactly the worst situation she had ever been in.

A few days back all the single digits had been recalled to the Fortress in preparation for a dangerous assignment. Luciela was making a move on several of the southern townships and the Organization had to show the flag. So, while waiting to be deployed, all the single digits were in their personal quarters at the compound: it was one of the privileges afforded to those who were given the most difficult missions.

For the past couple of days, Teresa and Irene had sneaked into each others rooms to spend the night. Though absolutely wonderful, it was highly risky. One privilege the high digits didn't have was the right to form romantic relationships, something which was often ignored for couples in the lower digits. Still, the forbidden tasted all the better and the added risk only added to the excitement... to a degree at least.

She looked at Teresa, still using her body as a pillow and with a goofy grin crossing her beautiful features. Everything about Teresa was magnificent. She was a living legend - her body, her voice, her smile, her skills on the battlefield, her soul. Also her... sexual prowess, a thought which made blood rush to Irene's cheeks.

It made her often wonder why on earth Teresa had taken her as her lover. Irene was literally in her shadow on all the mentioned things. When she had once voiced these self-conscious concerns to Teresa at a particularly private moment, Teresa had smacked her upside the head and told her angrily not to talk herself down like that.

"Why on Earth do you want to be with someone like me?" Irene had asked her then.

Though it was years ago, she would never forget the soft words Teresa spoke next, accompanied by that sardonic faint smile of hers. "Because I love you, silly."

Funny, Irene didn't even remember how and why they first fell in love. It was just something that happened and evolved from that point.

Teresa stretched and stirred. "Run away with me, Irene. Just the two of us."

Irene stiffened. "Teresa..." she started. "Are you being serious?"

Teresa opened her eyes, shifted upwards and rolled on top of Irene. Silver eyes met silver eyes. "Dead serious."

Irene's heart pounded in her throat. A thousand scenarios ran through her mind, all ending with their capture and execution. Teresa's eyes questioned her.

"Don't be daft," Irene shook her head. "We'll be caught. They always catch the Claymores who run away."

Teresa rolled to her side and led a trail of kissed over Irene's chest, neck and cheek, only to end at her lips. "It's a lie, you know?"

"What is?"

"That they catch all Claymores who desert. Half of them are never found, so they just say they've been killed on the run. And it happens a lot more than the handlers admit."

Irene frowned. "How do you know all this?"

"Ermita told me."

Irene thought for a moment. Ermita was a young, but talented new recruit. He was one of the few handlers who had a certain rapport with the Claymores and had often even defended Claymores who had been in trouble with the Organization's leadership. Many Claymores had a grudging respect for him and many of his fellow handlers considered him a dangerous maverick. If it had been any other person than Ermita, Irene would have dismissed Teresa's claim.

"Irene, just think about it," Teresa said. "We can have our own lives. You and me! There's another world out there, Irene. And even if we're found, we've got enough power between the two of us to fight for our freedom."


An odd concept, really. Irene had been at the Organization since childhood. It was all she had ever known. to imagine a life away from the Organization was both alluring and incredibly terrifying.

"Run away with me," Teresa moaned sleepily after settling against Irene once more before drifting off into dreamland.

Though Irene revelled in the closeness and softness of Teresa, she lay staring at the ceiling, stiff as a board and with wide open eyes.

"Irene, don't go," Terry whined as, a thousand years later, Irene found herself in a similar position as she had found herself so long ago. With some subtle differences like a soft designer mattress and central heating, of course. However, today it wasn't Teresa's super strength to kept Irene in place, but rather the reluctance to leave Terry's embrace.

While a sleepy Terry lay half draped over Irene, the one-armed Claymore gently rubbed her raven hair.

"If I don't go, who will make fix you breakfast and coffee, hm?" Irene teased.

"Sod breakfast, I'll just eat you for breakfast instead," Terry said, then suddenly giggled. "That means two things!" she happily grinned.

Irene groaned at Terry's horrible double entrendre. But then again, Terry seemed to be made out of horrible double entrendres. Every time she and Terry had chicken for dinner, Terry would ask her if she was a leg or a breast woman.

"I fear I am not very nutritious, Teresa," Irene half-smiled.

"Hmmmmm," Terry moaned as she nuzzled Irene's neck for a moment.

"Sorry," Irene said, after realizing she had once again called Terry Teresa.

"No," Terry said. "I don't really mind you calling me Teresa. Funny, it just sounds right to me, especially when you say it. I don't think I hate being called Teresa anymore."

"Glad to hear it," Irene said. "Teresa is a beautiful name."

"I'll still kick the ass of anyone who calls me Teresa and is not you," Terry smiled. "Hey, Irene?"


"Do we really have to get up? I don't have classes."

"You do need to eat."

"Nrrgghhh," Terry replied. "Don't wanna. Wanna lie here and cuddle with my Irene."

"Can't argue with that," Irene said.

"Hey, Irene?"

"Yes again?"

"How long have we been together now? Three months?"

"Sounds about right."

"Funny. I feel like I've known you forever. Isn't that silly?" Terry replied.

"Not really," Irene said. "I'm not a very complicated person."

Terry chuckled. "That's a lie and you know it. You are a beautiful and mysterious lady with lots of secrets. Secrets I will unravel one day. I will find out one day how you lost your arm and got that horrible scar on your belly," she said, touching the patch of hardened skin with her fingertips.

Irene closed her eyes. She had been struggling with herself for the past months - there was no mistake about it. Terry was Teresa. And Irene was once again deeply in love. Yet, she had not told Terry the truth. Lying to the person she loved caused her an ever increasing sense of self-loathing, but she was also afraid the truth might drive Terry away.

"I love you," Terry muttered sleepily.

"I love you too," Irene smiled.

"Say you'll stay with me forever."

"Teresa," Irene said. "I will be with you forever. Nothing will ever make me leave your side. You'll never be alone again," she added. Despite everything, Terry was a lonely person. Just like Irene.

"Hmmmm..." Terry smiled blissfully. "All my previous lovers told me they'd stay with me forever. But, Irene? You are the only one I actually believe. I'm so happy I found you. Terry finally got a lucky break for once in her lifetime."

"Hmmm," Irene closed her eyes for a moment.

She felt Terry shift and lean in close to her ear. Irene was surprised to hear Terry start to sing softly.

"When it's cold outside

Am I here in vain?

Hold on to the night

There will be no shame,"

"What the..." Irene replied incredulously. Terry however, started to sing with a little more intensity


I wanna be with you

And make believe with you

And live in harmony harmony ooooh loooove!"

Irene blinked. Smiled. Then laughed. Uncontrollably. Terry soon joined in before the laughter was silenced with kissing.

"You're an idiot," said Irene.

"Yep," Terry confirmed with a smile.

"I swear," Irene said between chuckles. "You are never playing that stupid robot unicorn game again."

"Hah!" Terry laughed. "Deal. Besides, I like the Angry Birds better anyway."

"Me too."

"Liar! You've never played it. You never play computer games."

"I love it because it doesn't have looping background music I have to sit through."

Irene looked deep into Terry's eyes. Silly, nerdy, smart, opinionated, fun-loving, yet lonely Terry... and made up her mind then and there.

"Teresa?" she said softly, swallowing her fears. "I'm going to tell you why I have that horrible scar on my belly and where I got it from."

Terry's eyes snapped open and she propped herself up. "Really?"


"You're not yanking me around, are you?"

"No," Irene said. "But... I want you dressed, fed and sitting down. This'll take some time and might be somewhat shocking for you."

"Aaaawwwwwwwww," Terry groaned and threw herself back on the bed. "I want to cuddle! But I also want to hear secrets. Cuddle, secrets, cuddle, secrets, arrrgh! What a choice!"

And so, after a breakfast which was consumed in record time, Irene started to tell Terry all about herself - how she was a Claymore, how she had lived for hundreds of years and how she had spent those many years. Through it all, Terry listened intently. Unfortunately, at the end of the tale, Terry clapped her hands and thanked her for cooking up such a fine story to pique her fantasy and science-fiction addled brain.

It was then that Irene decided drastic measures were needed. She had to convince Terry with physical proof.

So, Irene walked to the kitchen, took a pair of scissors and clipped off her pinky finger in front of Terry. The idea was to show Terry that she could reattach the severed digit to her hand, thereby proving her self-healing abilities.

It didn't quite work out the way she had planned it.

Terry screeched and ran around the house like a headless chicken looking for the phone to call an ambulance. A stricken Irene tried to chase after her in an attempt to calm her down, but the fact that she was now being chased by a woman who was spurting blood from a gaping wound terrified Terry even more. So much, in fact, that she ran into the bathroom and locked herself in. It had taken Irene almost an hour to convince Terry to come out again, and by that time, Irene had reattached her finger, giving the proof Terry needed.

"I'm so sorry," Irene said while sitting on the couch next to a pale and trembling Terry. "I didn't think."

"No," Terry nodded. "You really didn't."

"It's just... something that comes so natural to me. I mean, in my long life, I've been stabbed, cut, bruised. Was even tossed down a cliff once," Irene shrugged.

"So... you lost your arm fighting a monster over a thousand years ago?" Terry asked.

"Yes," Irene said. "In a battle I didn't win but merely survived. But that day, I wished that I had hadn't."

"Why?" Terry asked.

"I..." Irene started to speak, but decided against telling the whole story. Terry had been in enough of a shock today already. Being told that she was the reincarnation of one of the most powerful Claymore warriors to have ever lived would probably be too much for her right now. "I'll tell you at a later time."

"So... Claymores..." Terry rubbed her chin. "Real?"

"Indeed," Irene replied.

"So, you are mystical warriors with superpowers who kill monsters?"

"In a sense. Yes."

"So where are the monsters you hunted then? Those youma-thingamabobs?"

"Dead. Hunted to extinction. A few of them adopted a new lifestyle and hide among the rest of humanity with us... with varying success."

"How many of you are out there?"

"Not many. It's hard to tell just how many, but if there are more than 50 of us alive in total, I'd be very surprised."

"Is that why you eat so little and why you're an insomniac?"

"Indeed. Claymores eat and sleep far less than regular humans."

"So... do you have any special powers?" Terry asked. "X-ray vision? Laser-eyes? Super strength? Can you fly, like Superman?"

"Nothing quite as spectacular as that," Irene smiled. "But we do have super-strength and super-speed. Some of us have specializations as well."

To prove her point, Irene powered up her yoki and instantly moved from one side of the room to the other, in the time it would take for a normal human to blink an eye.

"Whoa!" Terry gasped, but then narrowed her eyes. "Irene, if you just would have done *that* instead of mutilating yourself in front of me, I would have believed you too, you know?"

"Uh," Irene looked away with a blush of embarrassment. "I, uh, forgot I could do that. At the time."

Terry sighed and rubbed her temples. Questions followed. Many questions. About Claymores, and youma and the Organization, about the number system, the generations, the powers, the Awakened Beings, the youma, Miria's rebellion and the years after. Every answer raised more questions in the curious Terry. And Irene patiently answered every single one of them.

Irene had often scoffed at Terry's obsession with all things Fantasy and Science Fiction, but now she was quite grateful for it, since it allowed Terry to accept the truth about Claymores more readily and more easily. Terry was always involved with 'nerd stuff' as she called it, be it a series, a movie or a game. She'd often tried to get Irene involved with such things, and after today Irene promised herself she'd pay more attention to those attempts.

"So..." Terry looked at her feet as she sat cross-legged on the couch. "You spent all those years alone?"

Irene couldn't deny it. She nodded briefly.

"But why?" Terry laughed. "I can totally see you as a saucy pirate lady swinging from ship to ship leaving acres and acres of satisfied ladies in her wake. Hell, a thousand years for passionate romance and hot sex! That's what I would do with my eternal lifetime."

Irene smiled gently and shook her head for a moment. "There... just didn't seem to be any point to it."

Terry looked her in the eye, so deep that Irene felt she was peering directly into her soul. "You spent all those years alone?" It was the same question as before, but unlike the last time, this one was laced with pity and genuine sorrow.

"Yes," Irene nodded. A simple answer to a complicated question.

"There was never anyone who..."

*anyone else than Teresa? What a thought.*

"That's so sad," Terry replied. "I can't imagine being alone for so long. So... never any romance? Never any comfort? Not even a one-nighter with someone you liked?"

Irene shook her head. And it was the truth.

"Then I'm honored and happy to be the first!" Terry announced in that perky tone of voice she often used when being determined. But soon enough, her expression softened. She shifted a little closer to Irene and lay on her back, with her head not resting in Irene's lap. "Hey," she said softly. "You lost someone precious to you so long ago, didn't you? Did it have something to do with that battle in which you lost your arm?"

Irene closed her eyes. Like Teresa, Terry could always cut to the heart of the matter. And like she was to Teresa, Irene was an open book to Terry as well.

"I'll tell you another time," Irene said softly. "Promise. Just... considering what you've already learned today."

"Hell," Terry chuckled. "It's not every day you find out you have a magical girlfriend. Hey, Claymores don't say a magic phrase and then transform, do they?"


"Dawwwwww," Terry huffed. "Why not?"


"Hey, if Claymores are real, what about other stuff?" Terry muttered. "Ever met Hercules?"

"I'm sure I'd remember if I did."

"Hm... what about that stuff from the Harry Potter books? That real?"

"I doubt it."

"Twilight books?"

"By all that is holy, I hope not!"



"My Little Pony?"

"Go to hell."

"Hm, what about the Stargate?"

"Not a chance."

"How do you know? The Stargate Command is a pretty secretive organization."

"Would they be on TV if they were real?"

"Touche," said Terry as she looked at the clock. "Oh, it's past noon already? We've been talking for hours. And the icecream parlor is open! Let's go get some icecream."

Irene couldn't help but laugh. Even after having to deal with the bombshell Irene had dropped on Terry's head, it was back to business as usual. "Icecream it is," Irene said as Terry jumped up from the couch and headed towards the broom closet.

"Not exactly," grinned Terry as she threw Irene a mop. "Clean up the blood first. The floor's a mess."

Irene couldn't help but chuckle briefly. "Fair enough," she said.

As she was cleaning up the spatters of blood, Irene hoped that Terry would take being told that she was the reincarnation of the most powerful Claymore who ever lived just as well.

Whoever thinks that Yoga is relaxing has never actually taught it.

This was the thought on Miria's mind as she arrived home from the Yoga studio. After a grueling day, she was more than happy to see her beloved houseboat, wanting nothing more than to toss off her shoes and plop down on the couch with a good book.

When she stopped by her mailbox to pick up the mail. Aside from the usual bills and advertising leaflets, there was a package in brown wrapping paper. Though she didn't remember ordering anything, she was more curious about the leaflet which had a coupon for a free pizza delivery.

After getting inside, she tossed the mail on the kitchen counter, kicked off her shoes and plopped down on the couch. She half considered getting a beer from the fridge, but was too lazy to get up. Fortunately, Claymores recovered very quickly so maybe half an hour of rest would be good enough to get her through the next 24 hours. Thankfully, she had decided to shower and change at the studio.

Some twenty minutes later, Miria heard the sound of a car stopping outside, She peeked through the window and saw that Tabitha had indeed arrived. A few moments later, Tabitha came rushing in with a bag of groceries. "Sorry, Miria," Tabitha said after pecking her beloved on the cheek. "I know it's my turn to cook this week, but we had a big situation at work and..." she rambled on while heading into the kitchen to dump her groceries. "Okay, I was thinking something with a bit of bite for us two and since Riful only eats meat, I was thinking of putting this roast I bought in the oven and..."

Miria smiled. "I have a coupon for a free pizza delivery."

"Oh, no... no, no, no, no, no!" Tabitha admonished. "We've been eating lazy fast food for weeks. We're going to have a home-cooked healthy meal for a change."

Miria held up her hands while Tabitha brushed past her into the kitchen. "Alright, alright. It's funny, really, we don't need sleep for days and we will have our schedules filled to the brim."

"Miria?" Tabitha came out of the kitchen with a slight smirk. "Did you order something from Good Vibrations?"

"Huh?" Miria said while Tabitha removed the brown wrapping paper. "Uhm, no, no."

"Really?" Tabitha frowned. "Not even something on back-order that you've forgotten about?"

Miria blinked and took the package. "Oh, dear..." Miria said. "That is..."

"...large," Tabitha bit her lip.

Miria gritted her teeth as she read the name on the box. "It's called 'The Claymore'."

"It's addressed to us. I don't think it's a wrongful delivery. Oh, wait here's a card," Tabitha said as she took it. "To Miria and Tabitha. Have fun! Riful."

"Typical!" Miria growled. "That's just typical! Just when I'm starting to think Riful's turning into something slightly resembling a human being, she pulls something like this!"

Miria stomped over to the window to look at the warehouse on the other side of the street where Riful had her game room. "I'm going over there and give her a piece of my mind!"

"Miria," Tabitha started. "At least talk to her first. Find out why she gave us this. She might have meant well."

Miria huffed. "In what possible universe is this an acceptable gift? Isn't it obvious why she gave us this... thing? She's always saying I have a stick up my ass and need to get laid more!"

"That's because you *do* have a stick up your ass and you *do* need to get laid more!"

Miria turned to the window and found Helen had popped her head through it. She crossed her arms as Tabitha let her in. In her baggy camo, blue tank-top and mostly black make-up, Helen always made a spectacle of herself.

"Hey Helen," said Tabitha. "I really need to be off to the kitchen to fix dinner. Could you make sure Miria and Riful don't kill each other? Thanks."

As Tabitha rushed to the kitchen, Helen put her hands in her pockets. "Before you go stomping off to yell at Riffi, just keep in mind that I was the one who suggested it."

"Y-you? But it's... a... a..."

"The correct term is Adult Entertainment Product. A sextoy in layman's terms," Helen said smugly.

"I know what it is!"

"Really? I'm surprised," Helen chuckled. The plucky Claymore plopped herself on the couch, hanging against the side and spreading her legs in a very unladylike fashion.

"I'm not insipid, Helen!" Miria growled.

"Yeah, I'm sure *Tabitha* educated you thoroughly on the *ins* and *outs*," Helen winked while Miria grumbled angrily, fighting back a slight blush. "Anyway, Riful wanted to give you and Tabitha something. Call it a peace offering or maybe she just wanted to show her appreciation."

Miria rubbed her temples. "So... why... 'The Claymore'?"

Helen sighed. "Look," Helen started. "What's your problem? We're all grown-ups and I use one too! Come on, it's the 21st century and we're all women of the world here."

"WHAT'S WRONG WITH A BOX OF CHOCOLATES?" Miria retorted in desperation.

"Look," Helen sighed. "You have to stop treating Riful as if she's a child. She's been trying to make an effort to open up to us and the only one being a problem is you."

"Me?" Miria blinked. "How am I the problem? Riful is rude, disruptive..."

"Riful is older than you are. She's probably oldest of all of us, next to Isley," Helen interrupted. "And I think Riful would be a whole lot less angry with you and the rest of the world if some of us wouldn't forget that all the time."

"I..." Miria started, but was at a loss for words. She looked uncomfortable when confronted with Helen's smug victory grin.

"Look," Helen said. "She's a thousand year old woman. A woman! Trapped in the body of a child unless in Awakened form. Do you think that won't cause some major psychological issues. Really? How naive can one person be?"

Helen brushed past Miria, cracked open a beer from the cooler she had been carrying and downed it in a single gulp. "I was talking with her some two weeks ago. Riful really opened up to me, though... that bottle of scotch we've shared might have had something to do with it. It was funny, really. Have you ever seen her drunk? It's seriously cute. Anyways, she wanted to give you and Tabitha something you both could enjoy."

"So naturally, you suggested a sextoy."

"Pffft, hypocrite," Helen scoffed. "Seriously, you are the most repressed person I've ever met! You were even worse before you and Tabitha became lovers!"

Miria sat down. "Can't have been that bad, can it?" she said sheepishly.

"You *were*," Helen hissed. "I tried to set you up with guys all the time back in the days. I swear, if I had known you were into girls, I'd have bedded you myself to get that cactus you had lodged up your butt out of there. Thank god for Tabitha. You've gotten much more agreeable."

"Are you finished?" Miria narrowed her eyes.

"And it's not just her," Helen crossed her arms. "You treat everybody like a child! No exception!"

"I don't!" Miria protested. "You are all free to..."

"Oh, please!" Helen smirked. "Undine moved to the other side of the world to get away from it!"

"You..." Miria snarled as if she wanted to say something nasty. "You..." she sighed, fell silent and fell back to the couch. "You are absolutely right..." she whispered softly.

"I am?" Helen blinked in surprise. "Oh, yes, I am!"

Miria sighed heavily. "I treat Riful as if she's a child. All the time. That's not fair to her. And not fair to me. Tabitha doesn't... And Tabitha and Riful get along so much better."

"Don't hit yourself over the head with it," Helen shrugged before putting a hand on Miria's shoulder. "Look, you're our leader and our friend. You've always been looking out for all of us and we're all grateful for it. But sometimes you just need to let go."

Miria nodded gently, a bit lost in thought

"And do yourself a favor. Get laid tonight."

"Who's getting laid?" said Tabitha as she came back from the kitchen.

"Miria is!" Helen proclaimed. "Tonight, you are going to be wearing your tightest fitting latex bodysuit, preferably one which only has silk straps over your breasts. Then, you're going to treat Miria to whipping, licking and hot candle-wax!"

"Helen..." Miria growled while Tabitha blushed wildly.

"Tabby, don't forget to use 'say my name, silver-eyed bitch!'," Helen grinned. "Always a sexy classic!"

"Oh, I know!" said Tabitha. "Miria usually... uhm," she stopped when she realized she was giving out private information.

"I think... I'm going to have a chat with Riful before dinner," Miria nodded. "I forgot all about Miria's Rule of Leadership number 25."

"Which one's that again?" Helen asked. "Was that the one about beehives?"

"When Helen of all people is the voice of reason, you take pause to listen," Miria smiled.

As soon as Miria entered the warehouse and took the lift up to enter Riful's gaming den. When she got off the lift, she was greeted with a room smelling of a mix of cigar smoke, cheap snacks and electronics.

Miria navigated through a small labyrinth of bookcases containing piles of games for all kind of consoles and found Riful sitting behind a pimped out PC playing a first person shooter. Next to her were two flat-screen TV's with endless amounts of wires going back and forth too all kinds of consoles connected to it. On the other side of her desk was a two-person bed for relaxing or playing hand-helds on. The parts of the walls not covered with bookcases, were adorned with all sorts of posters. Most prominently, a place of honor was given to a large poster of a stocky, muscular man holding a massive gun was standing on a pile of obviously dead aliens. The caption underneath said 'Duke Nukem - Hail to the King, baby!'.

Riful herself was wearing a baggy t-shirt and, as usual, her trusty baseball cap. What was a bit of an eyecatcher, was that several ribbon-like tentacles sprouted from her back to a small laptop sitting on the bed. The ends of three tentacles were folded over the keyboard and appeared to be tying, while a fourth was operating the mouse. A fifth tentacle was hovering in front of the screen, confirming a suspicion which Miria had for a time now that Riful's tentacles also doubled as sensory organs.

A sixth tentacle was constantly picking up a cigar from the ashtray on the desk and putting it to Riful's mouth before putting it back. A seventh tentacle was wrapped around a 2 gallon bottle of mountain dew, while an eight hovered above a bowl of pretzels, ready to scoop up some of the food to bring it to her mouth. This way Riful was never out of the game.

Miria scraped her throat to announce her presence.

Riful held up her hand without turning around. Apparently, there was something very important happening on the screen.

"After a couple of hours of lying in shit, you learn to appreciate what you've got. And right now, all we had was each other," sounded a gravely and slightly depressed sound of a middle-aged male blasting from the oversized speakers next to Riful's PC. "I was a wreck and Giovanna, well, I knew what she'd seen, no amount of drugs or therapy could erase. That kind of pain follows you around forever, the constant shadow of a wasted life. The poor girl had gone through enough. We had to find a way out of there."

The action apparently started again and Riful paused the game.

Miria couldn't help but cross her arms and shot Riful a glance. "*Now* you pause it?"

Riful held up her hand again. "One does not simply... pause... a May Payne dialogue."

"It sounded kind of grim," Miria said.

"Heh," Riful grinned. "I feed off his misery."

Miria took a few steps closer.

"You never come here," Riful said a hint of suspicion on her voice. "Are you here to fetch me for dinner? Tabitha said she'd call me when it was done."

That much was true. Despite having her living space here, Riful had her bedroom on the houseboat and always enjoyed dinner with Miria and Tabitha. And she had never been late, no matter how involved in a game she had been.

"No, no, it's not that," Miria started. "I..."

"You got my gift!" Riful pivoted on the chair, making sure her tentacles were still correctly aligned. She pressed escape to pause the game and looked at Miria intently. "Did you like it? Have you tried it yet? Did Tabitha like it? It does sort of look like a sword hilt, doesn't it?"

"Uh..." Miria started to blush. "It, uh, just arrived this morning and..."

"So do you use it on Tabitha, does Tabitha use it on you or do you alternate?" Riful asked without any hint of modesty.

Miria let out a sigh. "That's a bit personal, don't you think?"

"No," was Riful's simple reply.

"So what are you doing, then?" Miria stressed, eager for a change of subject.

"Playing Max Payne 3," Riful pivoted back towards her screen. "Full of grit, bloody murder, depressing violence in a world where human life means nothing. Classic," Riful said with clear appreciation on her voice. "Also, I was trolling with Ophelia a bit earlier today."

Miria nodded. As odd as it sounded, of all the youma-touched Riful was closest with my motherly and kind Tabitha and the insane and sociopathic Ophelia. A very odd combination to say the least.

"Excuse me, did you say trolling?" Miria asked.

Riful swiveled on her chair, retracting all her tentacles except those working the laptop. "Yep, trolling," Riful said. "Ophelia and I usually do tagteam trolling on forums. Ophelia lacks subtlety, but she makes it up with her sheer level of annoyance. Mind you, I've been successfully trolling ever since Al Gore invented the internet, so it's no wonder that I'm a bit better at it than she is."

Miria raised an eyebrow. "Al Gore didn't invent the internet."

"Yes, he did."

"No, he didn't!"

"What are you talking about? He said so himself."

"The internet is far older than Al Gore's claim! It started as a military experiment and..."

Riful shot Miria a lopsided, toothy grin. "Problem?"

Realizing she'd been trolled on the spot, Miria let out a groan and rubbed her temples.

"Told you I was good," Riful said. "Today, Ophelia and I went to the Call of Duty forums and made a post that Battlefield 3 is the best game evar! And then we went to the Battlefield forums and made a post that Battlefield can't hold a candle to Call of Duty. Both forums were one fire for half a day. We'll be fanning the flames for a bit and then head over the My Little Pony forums. We've got some new 'stop fapping to horses'-pictures prepared just for the occasion. I think it's safe to return there now. We actually stopped trolling there for a month."

"Did you upset so many people that you stayed away?" Miria asked.

"You can't troll same place too many times or people become numb to it," Riful said. "But bronies are a class in themselves. They are so sensitive, it's hilarious. In fact, that's what got us in trouble. Ophie and I were tag-trolling this one brony, I mean, we massacred him completely to the point where I think he was crying behind the screen. Well... it turned out the brony wasn't a him, but a her. It turned out we were trolling Agatha."

"Come again?" Miria rubbed her temples. "The two of you caused Agatha to be so utterly depressed that she's been living at Helen and Deneve because she didn't want to be alone anymore down in the sewers? Is that why she spent hours on our couch crying in Tabitha's lap last month?"

"Well," Riful sighed. "We did sort of try to convince her that 'his' life was worthless and that pony-collection made 'him' a social outcast. I'm just glad she never found out that was us."

Miria's expression softened slightly. "I couldn't help but notice you being extra nice to her whenever you both are at Stinky's."

"Yeah, well," Riful said somewhat evasively. "I just don't want to have to rip her head off if she would attack me, that's all."

"Uh-huh," Miria smirked. "Oh, that reminds me, I have to give Clare a call. Just a moment."

"No, wait!" Riful said, but Miria had already pressed speed-dial.

In between the moans and groans coming out from under the duvet, a cellphone lying on the nightstand started ringing and buzzing. A few moments later, an arm stuck out form under the duvet and felt around for the phone.

"!" sounded an annoyed wail as Clare's head popped up from under the duvet as well.

"Yes," she said as she clicked on her phone and set it on speaker. "Miria, what is it?"

"I'm sorry to bother," sounded Miria. "But I wanted to ask you if we could use Stinky's to receive Clarice and Miata. It's a more neutral place than our houseboat.

"DAMMIT, MIRIA!" snarled Ophelia as she propped up on top of Clare to shout at the phone. "Can't you hear that Clare and I are trying to FUCK here?"

"Hush," Clare said. "Sure, it's fine if you want to use Stinky's to... AAAAAAAAAAAAAH!"

Clare gritted her teeth as Ophelia bit down on her shoulder so hard that rivulets of blood streamed down her back and chest. "Sorry," she hissed. "Gotta go."

As Clare turned from her stomach to her back and found Ophelia staring at her with a mix of a loving and a hungry gaze, she couldn't help but smile. The two kissed hungrily before disappearing back underneath the duvet.

"Yeah, the reason why I'm waiting for Ophelia is that she gets sexually excited from trolling people. That's why Clare doesn't mind it so much."

"Ophelia is... Ophelia," Miria concluded with a sigh.

"So why are you here then?" Riful asked. "It can't be because you are seeking my pleasant company."

Miria took a deep breath. It was now or never. Already, she had remained silent too long; Riful was looking at her with narrowed eyes.

"I wanted to apologize." There. It was out. And judging by the look on her face, that certainly got Riful's attention. She looked at Miria with a mixture of stunned silence and slight suspicion. "I've been pretty hard on you. You're trying your best, but you're also your own person. It was wrong of me to try to push you so hard," said Miria.

Riful leaned back in her chair for a moment, contemplating what Miria had just said. "Hell, I know I can be an asshole. Just ask Dauf," Riful snorted.

"You wouldn't be here with us if you didn't want to be here," said Miria. "And I'm doing my best to drive you away by treating you as a child."

Riful smirked a little. "I will never, ever forgive you for putting me away in that goddamn school. But I suppose I shouldn't blame you," Riful said in painful honesty. "I always get angry when people treat me as a child or won't take me seriously, but on the other hand I have benefited from it. Playing an innocent little girl has been my main hunting technique for the last five hundred years. Need I remind you what kind of people I snack on? And you want me to stop eating those folks?"

Miria sighed. "Riful, we've been over this."

"No, no, no, no, no," Riful said. "Let's talk about this now. I mean, these are child molesters and rapists. The way I see it, I'm doing a public service. By removing those wretches from the gene pool, I protect innocent children. Yeah, just call me the cleaner. Not to mention, do you realize what those assholes would do to me if I wasn't a powerful man-eating monster?"

"Look," said Miria. "I'm not going to debate the mixed morality of eating child molesters with you, that's a discussion for another day. I just wanted to apologize for not taking you seriously."

Riful nodded. "Fair enough. I wasn't expecting this, but I appreciate it."

A slightly awkward silence followed as both Miria and Riful avoided each other's gaze. It was Riful who first broke the silence.

"So, are you going to tell me how you and Tabitha are going to enjoy your gift," Riful chuckled. "I didn't give you that thing to just look at, you know?"

Miria sighed and started to rub their temples. "Funny, Helen said just the same. I'll tell you the same I told her; that's private!"

The small girl cocked her head sideways. "Oh, come on, we're both women of the world here. I mean, I..."

"No!" Miria held up her hands. "Please don't tell me you were about to say that you use it yourself, or my head just might implode."

"Okay," Riful grinned wickedly. "I won't tell you, then."

Miria stood by in stunned silence while her phone started to ring in her pocket. Without missing a beat, a ribbon-like tentacle shot out from Riful's hair and deftly snacked Miria's phone from her pocket. The tentacle brought the phone to her eat. "Hi, Tabitha. Yeah, we're coming over."

Riful tossed the phone back to a stunned Miria, which she lamely caught. "Yeah, we're expected for dinner," she said as she brushed past her. "Close your mouth, you're catching flies."

While Miria and Riful had their little chat, Tabitha had finished dinner. At the table in the living room of their houseboat, Miria and Tabitha enjoyed spicy paella, while Riful enjoyed an overly sized pot-roast. For the occasion, Riful had even decided to eat with knife and folks rather than her usual tactic of shredding the meat to bits with her tentacles. Over dinner, there had been a lot of conversation, as Riful generally tended to open up more towards Tabitha.

The dinner was winding down, and it was time for dessert. Tabitha put down three plates of pudding, which found at least two eager eaters.

"So," Riful said between bites. "I wrote this fake three page essay in which I cited all the reasons why I loved the ending to Mass Effect 3 and everybody who hated it were idiots. Then I posted it on the Bioware forums and just watched it explode. I went back to the thread and posted some strategic inflammatory messages every now and then to fuel the flames. It was awesome."

Tabitha frowned a little while eating her pudding. "Isn't it a little mean to egg people on like that?"

"Ah, it's harmless," Riful waved with her hand as to dismiss Tabitha's claim. "It's not as if it hurts anybody. And, really, you have to admit, if they get so riled up by someone having a different opinion, their conviction wasn't too strong to begin with."

Tabitha rubbed her chin. "That *sounds* logical, but it still seems a bit... mean."

"Ah, I'd better get back to it," Riful said as she popped up from her seat as soon as she had finished her dessert. "Ophelia will wonder where I went off to and I still have to finish the new Max Payne."

"Sure you won't stay?" Tabitha asked.

"No, no, no, no," Riful grinned wickedly. "Besides, you still have to, ahum, try out my gift."

"Riful!" admonished Miria while Tabitha blushed slightly during the cleaning of the table..

Before Riful left, she stopped at the front door and turned around. "Hey, Miria?" she said while fishing something from her pocket. "You're alright. But don't tell even think about telling anyone I'll said that, because I'll deny it and then rip off your head while you sleep!"

Miria smiled, surprised and hopeful about this change of heart Riful seemed to have. "Promise."

Riful stood for a moment, as if deciding to go through with whatever it is she wanted to do. Finally having apparently decided, Riful tossed the object in her hands to Miria. The Claymore caught it and held it up to the light. It was a USB stick.

"What is this?" Miria asked.

"Stick it in your computer," said Riful while turning around and walking out of the front door. "It'll blow your mind."

After Riful left, Miria watched the little USB stick in her hand. After a few moments, curiosity finally got the better of her and stepped into her office. Miria's office was where she conducted all her research; looking for signs of other Claymores and signs of any sort that the youma-touched were in any way in the public eye. There were books, ledgers, newspaper clippings, external harddrives... decades of research in world events. Some of her friends had called her obsessed and perhaps that was true. But she thought it had been necessary and valuable to keep an eye out.

She booted up her laptop and put the stick in one of the USB slots. Immediately, her computer sprang to life as it seemed the stick has some sort of autoplay. The screen turned to black and Miria lent forward to see what Riful had shared with her.

"It's Friday, Friday. Gotta get it down on Friday. Everybody's looking forward to the weekend, weekend. Friday, Friday..."

"Gah!" Miria snarled and ripped the stick from her computer, cursing herself for trusting Riful. She was startled when three ribbon-like tentacles blasted into the room from the open porthole and lifted Riful through it. Being careful to only pull her head through the porthole in case of needing a quick exit, Riful grinned sardonically.

"LOL U MAD?" Riful laughed happily. "OH, YEAH! U MAD!"

Miria let out some choice expletives questioning Riful's parentage. It was even more aggravating to her that her office was actually on the water side of the houseboat, meaning that Riful had been using her tentacles to hang from the side of the boat waiting for the moment to pull off her prank.

"My, my, my, you kiss Tabitha with that mouth?" Riful smirked. "Only joking," she said and pulled another USB-stick from her pocket. "Here's the real one."

Angrily, Miria snatched the USB-stick from Riful's hand. "Let me guess, my computer will explode when I put this in, right?"

"Nah, I've had my fun. Enjoy your real gift," Riful grinned. "Mind you, I think that vibrator was a much better gift than this, but, eh, you're weird," Riful shrugged before withdrawing. After Riful was gone, Miria stuck her head out of the porthole to see if she wasn't lingering. Satisfied that she was really gone, Miria almost reluctantly put the stick in her computer. There was no autoplay this time, just a single large PDF file. Miria clicked on it, and what she saw took her breath away.

Tabitha was in a good mood. But then again, she always was when she was about to get intimate with Miria. After hurriedly throwing the dishes into the dishwasher, Tabitha headed into the bedroom and changed into something more provocative. She had chosen for red panties and a matching see-through camisole and stepped out of the bedroom to look for her beloved.

More often than not, it was Tabitha who initiated lovemaking, since even after all these years together, Miria could still be rather prudish and easily embarrassed. All the more special was it, when it was Miria who would snatch Tabitha from the ground and throw her on the bed for passionate lovemaking.

Tonight was not such as night, as she found Miria in her office with her face glued to her computer's screen.

"Oh, for crying out loud," Tabitha groaned slightly. "Miria, come on. There's something I want to... try out."

Normally, Miria would never reject an invitation by Tabitha for intimacy, but what Miria saw on the screen had somehow overridden even sexual desire for the woman she loved. "It can wait," she whispered. "Look at this."

"Miria," Tabitha whined slightly, and bend over Miria's shoulder. Usually, blowing in Miria's ear or gently biting her shoulder or neck would be enough to convince her captain to join her in the bedroom. But then she too saw what was on the screen.

"My god... is that what I think it is?" Tabitha blinked as the imagery burned into her brain.

"Yes," Miria lean back and smiled. "Yes, it is."

On the screen was a scanned page of what seemed to be a very old handwritten text.

"The Organization's grimoire," Tabitha gasped. "Is it... complete?"

"It's all here," Miria whispered. "Descriptions, diagrams, experiments, names, dates, all of it... it's what I've been searching for my entire life."


"Riful had it. She must have had it all along," Miria said. "You did say you sensed her around the fortress the day we rebelled. She must have snatched it from one of the fleeing handlers. For so long I was afraid this book had fallen into the wrong hands, but it's safe... we're safe. We're all safe."

"Oh, Miria," Tabitha kissed her softly. Immediately, Miria grabbed her around her waist and kissed her hungrily. Tabitha yelped as Miria dragged her down to the floor.

"Wow, they're humping right on the floor!" Riful giggled as she watched the spectacle through night-vision binoculars from the roof of a boat on the other side of the marina. Next to her, Ophelia was standing by with a video camera.

"Let me see!" Ophelia took the binoculars and looked. "Cor, that's nasty! Don't you think she's nasty? I didn't think Captain Stuffy-pants had it in her. What did you give her?"

"The Organisation's Grimoire," Riful shrugged. "I didn't find it particularly arousing when I read it."

"Trust Miria to have a weird fetish," Ophelia sighed. "Miria's not normal like we are."

"That she isn't, Ophie, that she isn't," Riful grinned. "Say, did you turn on the tape?"

"Camera's recording," said Ophelia before looking back to the spectacle that was unfolding.

"Oh, go for it, Tabitha, go for it!" Riful said.

"Let me see!" Ophelia took the binoculars. "Oh, that's nasty!" she concluded as she did her best Cleveland impression while watching the show unfold.

"Told ya, it was the perfect gift!" Riful grinned.

Next time we'll be visiting Yuma and Isley (who has been ignored for much too long).