disclaimer—this fic is based off of "Worm", an original web serial 'fic by 'wildbow' and found at (parahumans. wordpress. com) all intellectual rights to the parahumans 'verse and the characters belong to wildbow.
this is a sequel/continuation of the one-shot "Looking Glass", i strongly recommend you read that first
She could not describe just what it was that made her realise that she was no longer alone. There were no changes in what she heard, no changes in what she could see—just an almost imperceptible alteration in what she could feel.
"...Hello?" she called out timidly. At least she thought she'd called out. But she couldn't hear the words coming out of her mouth, nor could she tell if her mouth was even moving.
Likewise, there was no answer—at least nothing she could hear. But, somehow, she could feel the other presence shifting in response.
She tried again. "Hello? Can you hear me?" Then, as a thought—a hope—kindled inside of her, "...Mama?"
She felt it again, that shift of whatever she was sensing. She felt the precise moment the other presence focused its attention upon her and she tensed in anticipation as she heard—well, not heard, but she perceived—a response.
"Hello?" If she could have, she would have slumped in disappointment. It was just her own voice echoing back to her.
"Who are you?" the voice continued.
She metaphorically blinked. She hadn't asked that. Maybe that wasn't just an echo. She tried again. "Who are you?"
"I asked you first!" Wow, is that what she sounded like when she was about to have a tantrum?
She frowned. "No you didn't, I did!"
"Are you a space jellyfish?"
She grew annoyed at the voice. "You're the one who just asked me... about... "
...What was she mad about again?
There was a moment of silence as she tried to settle her thoughts. Or a few minutes... or forever. It was hard to tell.
"...I—I think I'm lost," the voice continued. "Can you help me find my Mummy?"
It was weird, how this voice sounded just like her. But it wasn't her—it couldn't be her because she was right here! It was clearly just a stranger trying to copy her. Hmm... Well, Mama had always told her what to do if she ran into strangers. Tell them nothing but your name and ask them for the—
"... or can you take me to the Lost and Found?"
What? How did the echo know?
"I'm lost too," she admitted. If she was lost... and the stranger-echo was also lost—well, Mama had also said she should be polite to people she'd just met... especially if they were in need. "My name is Jamie, what's yours?"
"Mine's James! Hey that's funny, your name's almost like mine!"
A Parahumans fanfic by throwaawy
Jamie was a quick study when it came to her new body. Sure, it was weird having to float everywhere instead of being able to walk around like she'd grown used to, but it also provided loads of opportunities. Getting used to her new 'older brother' was a bit more confusing, but the oddest adjustment had been dealing with her Mama-who-wasn't-really-her-Mama. She couldn't give her hugs, for one thing. She couldn't give anyone hugs.
In fact, not being able to touch anything was a bore, to be honest. She wished it were just a stupid rule Big Brother had imposed over her, but even she could see that nothing really happened when she tried. She couldn't even turn the pages to the funny papers so she could read them. She had to wait for James... or find new ways to amuse herself.
"Jamie! Get OUT!"
She flew through the wall whilst covering her eyes with her hands, although the fact that they were more or less see-through lessened the act somewhat. She skidded in mid-air as she shed momentum and angled back towards the common room, narrowly avoiding a wet towel as James threw it into the wall behind her.
His irate voice follow her down the hallway. "I've told you time and again! Bathrooms are off limits! Go watch the telly or something!"
Despite the very real anger that was being directed at her, Jamie couldn't help but let a silly grin grow on her face as she dutifully parked herself back in front of the morning cartoons.
She retreated back into the privacy of her own thoughts, her mind only barely paying attention to the show currently playing as she cast her senses out. From the sounds of running water, she knew Big Brother had returned to his shower; and from the smells wafting up from downstairs, she knew Mama and Papa were cooking breakfast.
Her smile dimmed. She missed her Mama. She wondered if her Mama missed her back...
The white-hooded cape barely turned her head as the electric-blue spectre descended towards her position. "J," she greeted her. "What is the situation?"
Jamie crossed her arms. "Aww, I don't like that name, try again."
"We are broadcasting on a lightly-encrypted channel," Flurry replied flatly, raising a hand to her hood to indicate the microphone nestled there, just out of sight. "Code names are required protocol in case the enemy is tapping our communications."
Jamie blinked. Several times. "We're at a picnic," she finally said. "A children's picnic."
"We have been tasked by our employers to supervise a scheduled public function that includes a large amount of... young civilians," the older girl clarified. "Security is of the utmost importance and we should not slack in our vigilance."
"Oh for crying out—" the transceiver crackled to life as Volley cut into the channel. "Boss, Glass just wants to know if you wanted a hotdog or something. He's over by the food tables."
Jamie nodded. "What he said."
Flurry remained still for several moments, her expression impossible to read behind her featureless, white mask. Finally her shoulders slumped slightly and she thumbed off the transmitter. "I would prefer a polish sausage," she whispered to the girl floating beside her.
"Polish, got it," James replied over the comm, even as Jamie grinned.
Flurry stiffened. She keyed her microphone back on, "I—"
"Huh, you surprise me, Boss-lady," Wu Lung chimed in, "I would have expected you to go for the ice cream. Hey Glass, make mine a cheeseburger."
Even without being able to see her face, Jamie could hear Flurry clicking her teeth in annoyance as she turned away. The stoic cape said nothing in reply, resolutely focusing her eyes on the perimeter even as she was mobbed by preteens trying to grab her attention.
Jamie decided to take pity on her. "So!" she said, glancing at the small crowd below her. "Who wants to play tag?"
It was a mess. A complete mess. Although it wasn't like the landscape had been picturesque in the first place, with nothing around to see but rocks and ice. Except now the rock formations had been shattered by the extreme forces being thrown around willy-nilly and the ice was on fire.
It bore repeating: the ice was on fire. Thick clouds of volcanic fog hung over the sky, creating a gloomy atmosphere on an already dismal day.
From her position halfway up the summit of Eyjafjallajökull, Jamie could see the other capes fighting for their very lives against a gigantic monstrosity. She saw one go down, screaming as he or she stepped in too closely and spontaneously combusted—burned from the inside-out by Behemoth's kill aura.
She glanced once more at the rocks below her, staring down at the battered body lying there.
It looks worse than it feels, James assured her through their link. He was too injured to speak normally. Pain continuously lanced through him as a result of the rocks pressed against him. If it weren't for the fact that she knew his injuries were survivable, she'd probably be panicking.
Not that she wasn't, regardless. Not that she'd let him know either, if she had anything to do about it.
She kept a neutral expression on her face as she floated towards the ground, looking into his eyes. "Was I helpful?" she asked him. She needed to know that she hadn't been useless. That she—his 'power'—hadn't gotten him involved into a hopeless fight. That she hadn't brought him to this forsaken ice cap for the sole purpose of having a rockslide nearly crush him.
He tried to reassure her with a smile, but it looked more like a grimace on his bruised face. You got some good intel on his movements at least. We saved a lot of lives today.
Jamie said nothing in reply. She knew at least one group of capes had benefited from the advance warning of the Endbringer's movements, managing to escape to safety before it trampled through their former position. It had been a temporary reprieve, however. The Endbringer's lightning strikes didn't seem concerned with positioning or barriers when seeking out their targets.
James winced as a rumble surged through the ground, shifting the rocks pressing down on him. Jamie glanced up and saw one of the American capes flying away, clawing for distance after having tried to plant Behemoth's head into the rocky surface. The one-eyed monstrosity had simply absorbed the strike and channeled it harmlessly away from itself.
Harmless to itself, at least. She saw several capes in close proximity to the monster falling to the ground in its path with the force of the tremors. Most managed to regain their footing and fled before its advance. Others didn't and burned.
She bit her lip, but the question had brought the memories of what she'd seen to the forefront. Thoughts too fresh and strong for her to keep from their link.
Flurry and a formation of other capes attempting to form a barrier against one of his energy strikes and failing. Volley plummeting several hundred metres as the rocky outcropping where he'd set up his equipment had been torn free from the mountain supporting it. Wu Lung pitting his Dancing Dragon against the Endbringer directly... with less than spectacular results.
She saw James' eyes squeeze shut in pain, both physical and emotional as he read her train of thought. "Don't sleep," she reminded him. "The first-aid handbook said you have to remain conscious until help arrives."
I know... he groaned. His body shifted and he winced. It's just so... uncomfortable.
She heard a crack in the air and spun in place to see a cape dressed in light blue colours materialising less than a metre away, responding to the emergency beacon built into James' wristband. "Over here!" she called out to him. She felt James responding to her sudden relief, then felt her own horror as he relaxed and started to slip away...
"We're over he—"
Darkness. Always Darkness.
"James?" Her voice seemed to echo, as if she were in the middle of a wide-open room with nothing around her but distant walls. It reminded her too much of the time she'd spent alone, long before the day he'd responded to her so many years ago.
I'm here. His mental voice was insubstantial, a sort of quality that made him sound unearthly, unnatural. It was a sharp contrast to whenever he talked to her in person. It resonated within her head, carrying with it all the various tones and feelings with which he spoke. It was something she could not shy away from, could not ignore.
She relaxed. That voice kept her from becoming too anxious, from feeling too alone.
She always felt heavier here. That twinge that occurred whenever she flew through a wall was present, but it was sustained—the feeling didn't go away. His presence, especially in the absence of all other sensory input, was a welcome escape from this void. But there was always Darkness... unless she...
"Where are we, James?" she called out.
He didn't respond. At least not in words. His presence suddenly dimmed, as if he'd moved a great distance away. Which was odd, since no matter how far she was from him, he was always right there. Muted feelings poured out from him and she was forced to concentrate in order to try and pick them up.
Fear, anxiety, determination. She'd felt those plenty of times whenever they went out with the group. Flurry had once explained to her that it was normal for any person—cape or otherwise—to feel such things whenever they put themselves in harms way.
Regret, though, was something more undefined. She could put a label to it, because that's how James himself seemed to categorise it. He usually seemed to feel it when he was with his parents, though. Or more recently, whenever his thoughts dwelled on the Endbringer attack. And she also felt it from him whenever the Darkness came.
Especially whenever the Darkness came. And sometimes, when he got really quiet like this—so completely lost in his thoughts...
There! She caught a flash of something and zeroed in on it. As if it were a light at the end of a tunnel, she fled the Darkness as quickly as she could and used their link to tap into James' own perceptions. Opportunities like this didn't come very often and she revelled in the return to awareness. Even if she was still unable to move, she was now able to see. It almost made her giddy with relief.
That feeling quickly died down, however, once she saw what James was focused on. The white, sterile room. The machinery and equipment lining the walls and the bed. The girl tucked into the bed, fast asleep.
She wasn't stupid. She might not have had the life experiences a girl her age normally would, but if there was anything she shared with her 'older brother', it was that same inquisitiveness and ability to make connections that had made him such a good student. Even if her perceptions in this darkness were limited to what he allowed her, she was fully capable of reading between the lines.
And James was such an open book to her. He wasn't able to hide anything from her if she put her mind to it. Perhaps it was a result of her becoming aware of the Darkness an indeterminate amount of time before he did, or because it had become her job to look for the things he didn't notice first—she wasn't sure. Looking at herself through his eyes was easy once he let his guard down. Conversely, she had no problems keeping her own thoughts a secret from him if she really wanted to.
It would have been so easy to be angry with him for trying to keep her in the dark, so to speak. But seeing what he saw, the extreme guilt and self-loathing he was feeling, as if he had anything to do with her condition... well at least his heart was in the right place. She couldn't begrudge him that.
Besides, right now he was her entire world. He was all she had. In all of the nights that she'd spent here, she had never once seen her parents in the chair set to the side for visitors. There had been a nurse or two on rare occasions, seeking a quiet place to rest, but never her Mama. James had been her only constant for the majority of her life now.
"Silly James," she said. Her vision was cut off as James abruptly refocused himself, her connection to him reverting down to its usual level as he sorted his thoughts. "It's not your fault."
What are you talking about? Even as closed off as he tried to make himself, there was no mistaking the quiet horror and suspicion currently running through him.
As she had so many times before, she decided to take pity on him. He didn't deserve the blame he was putting himself through. "Your team," she said, sidestepping the issue. "The Endbringer. There was nothing you could have done."
His relief was palpable, so infectious. If she'd had a body to express herself with in this plane, her smile would have been bittersweet as she successfully redirected him.
Unseen by either of them, the bedridden girl's mouth twitched.
a/n—so i got some pretty good responses to my first venture into the wormverse, so i thought i'd try again. i've planned a rough outline while i was still in classes and now that it's summer i figured i'd give it a go. but the devil is in the details, and i've never quiiite been confident in my flair for drama (i like to think i can write a mean crackfic, however)... so we'll see how this goes.
feel free to review! it lets me know where i'm failing.