Description: I-No has finally completed her mission: Jack-O' is safely tied up in some kinky bondage that surely cannot be escaped. The witch just has to wait for the proper leyline convergence so that she can open the door to That Man's secret extradimensional base. Jack-O', however, has a different suggestion for how I-No can spend her time.
Somewhere, deep in flyover country in these United States of America, a menace has been decisively defeated by the hardest-working woman in witchcraft.
I-No sits on the hood of a beat-up truck, her back leaned up against the windshield so that she may recline. Stretching out before her is what used to be genuine American prairie. Used to be. Prairies do not often include naturally-occurring blast craters, green-flamed fires, or puddles of dissolved Gear corpses. Two of those are hazardous materials, so recovery's gonna be iffy.
But it's not all bad. This stretch of prairie may be fucked to death, to use a scientific turn, but I-No has directly benefited. Since out of the two of them -- the prairie and I-No -- the witch is the one who has the capability to scream and light things on fire, it's really for the best that she came out ahead.
I-No's good mood is directly related to the woman on the roof of the truck's cab. Said woman is tied up in a modified hogtie position with a length of black rope. She is mercifully rolled onto her side, which is a comfort enhancer, but also means that she won't have breathing problems from being left there for too long. The back of the truck holds a metal pumpkin that's been lashed down to the bed with approximately a dozen chains.
Time passes. I-No, perhaps uncharacteristically, is silent and possibly contemplative. Or maybe it's just being tired from chasing Jack-O' Valentine all day long. Whatever it is, it means dead air as far as the witch is concerned. Jack-O's ability to fill it with rambling has been curtailed by a gag stuffed into her mouth.
The oranges of the sky continue to dwindle, yielding more to the purples of oncoming night. I-No's irises filter through the same colors. Her first move in a long time is to reach underneath one of the flaps of her top and withdraw a phone. She looks at the time, and then tilts her head back against the windshield again.
"Ten minutes until the leylines match up. Scream once if you're still alive, twice if you're not."
~* ANTECEDENTLY ON MAGICAL PRAIRIE GIRL JACK-O'! *~
"So it's come to this, has it? Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine."
Jack-O' Valentine sits upon the pulsing furnace of her spawning pod in what is slightly less a gin joint and slightly more an open-air, real-ass American prairie. She has all the somber look of someone destined to be a true hardboiled noir star as she nurses her candy cigarette between her lips.
"I remember seeing that when it came out, you know. At least I think I did, sometimes. I... or she, I suppose... thought there was something magic about how bittersweet it was, at the time. Something that was never destined to be." Her pinkish red gaze drops, just a bit. "But now, I just think..."
And then they widen, with a look of dawning horror as her hands come up to cup her face.
"OH MY GOSH I-NOES WE'RE NOT IN A GIN JOINT!! THE SCENE SET IS RUINED! I'm sorry, but can we reschedule this until I find a gin joint that actually exists--"
And thus begins the violence.
~* SLIGHTLY LATER ON MAGICAL MOVIE BUFF JACK-O'! *~
"THIS ISN'T WHAT HAPPENED IN CASABLANCA AT ALL"
cries Jack-O', as fluorescent green explodes all around her and I-No with a domino chain of madcap self-destructing Gearlings.
"C-can we try another take--"
~* NOW, ON MAGICAL BDSM RECIPIENT JACK-O'! *~
"mmfphl frmm cshhblnchu aahhahl"
So complains Jack-O', from her comfortable position perched hog-tied upon the roof of a sun-warmed truck. Comfortable, of course, being a matter of perspective, considering how long she's been held like this versus natural flexibility versus bullshit Gear magic. All of it amounts to a Valentine who looks distraught for reasons other than the physical, hands wriggling a bit as best they can from their position behind her in time to the constrained squirm of her body as if she were doing her best impression of an upturned worm.
"whshh hiihs rryyee nsshshhuhree"
This, however, has been the extent of her attempting to converse around her truly tragic gag thus far. For someone as prone to long-winded and mind-bendingly nonlinear soliloquies as she was, it's perhaps shocking how silent she is in those moments as the sun begins to dip past the horizon so that it may better paint the heavens with its smearing arrays of purple and pink twilight hues. Time passes. And within that time, things feel almost... peaceful.
How this manages to be, with Jack-O' currently strapped up like a prize hog, is anyone's guess, really, and possibly raises any number of daunting questions, but maybe the time for said questioning is better spent enjoying the reprieve instead.
'Scream once if you're still alive, twice if you're not.'
... all good things must come to an end.
Which is why Jack-O' obligatorily screams once, high pitched and cheerful.
And then twice(??).
And then three times(?!).
Really just throwing her entire state into a truly open question until I-No chooses to look, if she should, to see Jack-O' still bound there safely (thank god (??)). Pinkish-red eyes level, yet serious, possessed of a certain intent.
The intent of someone who has something to say.
"yhhh hfff prblgffmmuh"
And apparently isn't going to wait to actually be coherent to do it. Thus always with Jack-O's.
For how much of a depraved maniac I-No can be, her ability to sit still and watch a sunset for this long is... a data point, like everything else in this reducible universe.
From Jack-O''s viewpoint, her gambit, codenamed 'screaming repeatedly like she's being horrifically murdered,' only causes I-No to tilt her head to the side. About five screams in, the red witch reaches up toward the sky with a hand, palm up and open. Her guitar comes flinging out of the distance, hurtling end over end, and of course landing perfectly neck-first in her waiting grip.
I-No slams the body of the guitar down on the hood of the car with an inelegant CLANG. While Jack-O' is working on scream number seven, I-No uses her instrument like a crutch to get onto her feet. It is from this lofty vantage point that she looks down upon her slain-ish prey.
"What, you got something to say?"
I-No leans forward and down, bending at the hips, her head close enough to Jack-O''s own that she can lower her voice and be heard just as well.
"Is it better to burn out... than to fade away?"
I-No pays not attention to Jack-O''s response, inarticulate as it must be. Instead, the corners of her red-lipsticked lips turn up as her gaze drifts across Jack-O's face. The oranges and purples of her irises shift to red, then whites and pinks.
"You're pretty close to her, right? You think that old timey bitch ever thought she'd be in a situation like this? At the mercy of a fucked-up slut with a real complicated relationship with personal boundaries."
The witch reaches with her free hand, the other still on her guitar. Her fingertips brush down the side of Jack-O''s face, her thumb coming to rest on the other woman's cheekbone.
"Just be glad I remembered that rag in the glove compartment when it came time to shut you up. Otherwise I might have had to get creative."
Her hand slips again. Her fingers tap firmly on the fabric shoved chokingly down Jack-O''s throat. She pinches, pulls slightly -- just enough to let the other woman feel it moving -- and then waits.
"Remember there's still time if I need to do it again."
I-No finally pulls the rag from Jack-O''s mouth. She stands up, tossing the thing off into a nearby fire that's cheerfully working its way through some scrub growth.
There is a certain sentiment that carries in Jack-O' Valentine's expressive features as she feels the clanging protest of metal against metal (of the guitar sort) vibrating against her cheek and hears the low pitch of I-No's voice and /feels/ her so close she can feel the tinge of the other woman's warm breath caress her cheek. It shines through her bright, wonderingly pink eyes, the heft of her white brows. The twitch of her (gagged) mouth. It translates with perfect, masterful clarity.
"ahh thhssskhu dhh dhrrpnns"
Not that it stops her from trying to answer that sweetly whispered reference, for even gagged as she is, Jack-O' Valentine refuses to obey logical conventions.
"krrbnn rrr uhng??"
No answer comes. Instead, she receives the gift of a smile that promises many things, all of them varying shades of ominous. But the glamorous pink hues of Jack-O''s thoughtful, observant stare only fixates partially on the twitch of those red lips -- the bulk of their attention seems set on I-No's own, multi-colored gaze, as if she could glean what the red witch of hard rock and harder times might be thinking just by watching the kaleidoscope shift of their irises. Like reading a mood ring.
In moments like these, with her voice and body language robbed from her, Jack-O''s expression seems to work overtime on communicating her thoughts. From the furrow of her brow into a knot of pensive consternation at the question I-No poses... to the subtle way that reddish gaze hoods, just slightly, like a ghost of an expression to reward the observant as she feels fingers drift their way down her face to the warmth of her cheek.
Speaking a story without the words to express it, she waits with all due patience. She feels the gag jostle in her throat. It reminds her quite acutely of her situation, how she bends to the black bonds she's ensconced in. And yet the calm of her expression never quite shows her discomfort, even as that rag looses slightly around the slight, inelegant gurgle of her voice. She doesn't speak this time. She just nods, once. Compliantly.
And the second that rag is loosed with the wet sound of a cough around it, she declares,
"hkk -- ummmm... creative??"
with a sugary sweet, wide-eyed curiosity --
... that fortunately only lasts a handful of seconds before the warm calm settles like sediment into her features once more.
"Well... I could critique your approach a bit, but... regardless of anything else, you... seem like you're enjoying yourself, I-No," she notes, after a moment, as her breath catches up to her. Gear anatomy is a strange and magical thing, but there's something to be said about aping the human experience. Her head tilts, as much as it's able in her position, straining briefly against bonds as her white and red hair flows behind her with the motion.
"... And with that in mind, I have a proposition for you."
One can say many things about the sometimes-fabled musician in crimson -- many, many things, oh god, what a horrific collection of tales this is -- but let it be always known that she has a feel for drama that occurs on a spiritual level. Her power pose over Jack-O', hand on her guitar and hips boastingly cocked to the side, is backlit by an artful melange of sundown colors that leave her face the more shadowed part of the composition.
Slap a title on it and sell the cover. Call it Domed on the Range.
"Enjoyment's the only compensation plan we got these days. Aren't you?" I-No asks. She raises her hand with a sweeping flourish, removing her hat and tossing it over the roof of the truck. It spins lazily through the air like a slowmo frisbee, leisurely losing altitude to land atop Jack-O''s captured doom pumpkin. The hat's mouth opens and makes guitar distortion noises.
I-No drops into a squat to make her face more eye level with Jack-O'. She is heedless of the modesty of such a gesture when combined with the general physics of miniskirts, because they are alone on a prairie with not a living person for miles and she and Jack-O' have already bonded enough through slapstick violence. Some things are sacred.
"You? Proposition me? Am I blushing? I feel like I'm blushing."
I-No is not blushing.
Her smile widens, revealing the wolfish glint in her shiny white teeth. The colors in her irises go silvery, then parts go black, and there's a burst of yellows and golds as she leans forward ever so slightly. A hair trigger.
"Hit me with it, Jackie. Keep me interested."
Domed on the Range. Not acceptable for viewers anywhere, at any time, at any place.
Look away now, before it's too late!!
For as much and as simultaneously little and as simultaneously nothing that can be said about the quantum knot that is Jack-O', she is certainly a fan of theatrics at this very minute in time, if the exaggerated ooooos and aaaaas for I-No's DRAMATIC POSE that escape past her formerly be-gagged lips are any indication. She even tries to clap.
"Agh! Oh no, my wrists! Why can't I move my -- ooohhhhhh right! I'm being dominatrixed~!"
It doesn't end super well.
"--Oh no, I'm being dominatrixed!!"
Still, for once, her spouts of confectioner's sugar-sweet mood shifts seem to be more or less reigned in to brief spurts of diabetic enthusiasm at best for now. Maybe it's the direness of her situation. Maybe she's managed to devour enough sweetness to ensure her existential stability. Maybe it's the magic hour making the lighting that much more dramatic for somber moments.
Whatever the reason, it's a warm, hooded sort of stare that levels on I-No as she drops down before the two-tone-haired Gear. She feels the bruise of her lips with a particularly curious smack of her lips, a single brow twitching upward in thought as she speaks.
Isn't she enjoying herself?
"Honestly?" wonders Jack-O', and slowly does her gaze drift to the burning wreckage of that prairie. Somehow, her expression looks almost fond. Despite the madness and environmental decay. "... I am. Very much. I've been able to experience so many different things and see so many new people. And I've learned so much from perusing the world wide web. For example," she strains a little bit against her bindings, bellbottomed calves tensing against her thighs.
"... I believe this is called 'sekuhara'? Egregiously so."
There is a quirk to the corner of her lips. Amused, ambiguous. It could mean everything and nothing all at once, just like her. Eventually, though, eyes shut with the flutter of lashes, and lips purse. "I feel much more grounded than I would have otherwise. I feel a little less... apart from myself? And it's all thanks to my B~ F~ F~ I-Noes, who's even so thoughtful she took the time to make this super elaborate mega uncomfortable kinda erotic binding for me~!" One can just imagine the delighted v-sign that would go right....... here. But it doesn't happen. Because, rope. Sekuhara. Etcetera.
"... And I think this chase has been the most fun of all. There's something exciting, isn't there? About not doing what you're told?" Pinkish red eyes crack open. Jack-O' lifts that stare towards the horizon, and I-No blocking her view of those darkening smudges beyond in her patently indecent squat. "We all know about it when we're children, but somehow, they teach us to forget that rush of discovering the boundaries of what you're allowed to do. The little electric thrill of it." A rush of breath escapes parted lips. She watches those yellow-golds swim in I-No's irises as she leans inward. Teetering between one point and another.
"So I think you shouldn't take me back to That Man yet; let me stay here. It'll be our secret. Because I know what you're trying to do. And I know you'll need help."
Her subtle smile blooms into a bright, excitable point, as if the figurative glow of it could offset I-No's backlit shadow.
"And it'll be super duper ultra kinda maybe sorta possibly slightly TOTALLY thrilling!!"
"And for free," I-No mutters. She surveys Jack-O''s rapidly vacillating enthusiasm (and vocal pitch) with the grim resignation of someone who has dealt with this shit for...
...oh. Oh it's not even been a year. Oh.
It's little wonder that I-No is distracted by the possibilities of facilitating sugar consumption. She can't remember a single damned thing about That Man explaining how Jack-O' works (TIMELINE NOTE: I-No stood there and listened but started thinking about the solo in Eruption) but lil' miss sugar queen sure has devoted a lot of her socializing schedule toward excusing her addiction to high-fructose corn syrup.
Maybe if I-No got a jug of sugar water and forced her to chug -- no, too liquidy, she'll just vomit it up. Molasses. Yes. There's no way anyone can vomit up molasses. She just needs to find the nearest olde timey general store--
Or wait another few minutes for the confluence. I-No narrows her eyes, watching carefully for an increase in the number of... outbursts. Incidentally, she also tunes back in to what Jack-O' is saying. It's a better turnaround time than what That Man usually gets.
Jack-O' leans in. The change in perspective changes the colors of the witch's irises. They stretch outward as if distorted by a magnifying glass, a familiar shade of auburn flooding out from the pupils and overtaking the rest.
"So," says I-No, stretching the word out like it's... taffy, right? It's candy imagery today? I-No is briefly distracted by a skipping web of connections that goes from Def Leppard to some definitely sekuhara thoughts involving melted sugar. I-No's gaze refocuses.
"You agree it's at least /kinda/ erotic."
The witch rolls her eyes away and tilts her head from side to side, probably to indicate ambivalence. Her irises filter through a few neon shades of rainbow.
"Needs more sell, Ohno. Right now all I'm hearing is 'let me go because you don't want to let me go,' and while I'm usually all for fuckin' things up I'm feeling real good about serving my dread master on this one."
Excitable smile meets lips pursed outward. Eagerness, thoughtfulness. Confrontation, consideration. Bell bottoms vs. a top that is eternally half a second away from X-rating any scene she's in.
"At very least you're gonna have'ta spill what you think's going on in this dirty little mind of mine."
"Viscerally, yes. I've also read a number of short stories on the internet that would seem to agree. Romantic appeal has changed drastically since I've been asleep. ... I think?"
It's a jumble of possibilities, Jack-O''s thoughts. It's hard to stay in one place when your being pulled in thousands, millions, trillions.
Like taffy strung across the universal tapestry, if we want to get grandiose with our candy metaphors.
She finds her focus where she can. In familiar things, or at least things that are familiar to a part of her that from an outside perspective seems implacably nostalgic like an unscratchable itch. The prairie reminds her of a memory with an awkward and aloof young man back when possibilities were endless. The scent of magic burning through it reminds her of sacrifices made in the name of progress.
The the sensation of rope twining at her wrists and bending at her back reminds her of... well...
I-No. Mostly it reminds her of I-No.
And somewhere in the middle of all that, of a past not hers and a tenuously claimed and a future that could belong to anything, Jack-O' finds enough of a center to let a promising sort of smile touch her lips.
"... There's a pattern to them, isn't there?" she notes at the tail end of I-No's demand for a more persuasive pitch. The shift of her body makes her wriggle across the hood of the truck cab with a scrape of the roof across the metal of her myriad ankhs decorating her jumpsuit as she vaguely sideways inchworms her way closer. "I've been trying to figure it out. You're an interesting study, you know? Like deciphering a secret code." The warmth of her grin is dazzling in its earnest fascination as her lips split to reveal white teeth for a glimmer of a moment. As if, despite the dire discomfort of her positioning, she could ignore it all for the sake of that curiosity.
So she leans. Her eyes widen a bit with an edge of intensifying interest; unable to lift herself due to a matter of rope, she has to content herself with the awkward tilt of her upper body against the strain of her bindings as she watches the shift of that gaze with the faint press of her lips together. What is going on in I-No's mind?
"A few things that would be unladylike to say out loud and would require at least a bit more courting effort," she declares roundly first and foremost. Her eyes squeeze shut briefly in an energetic shift of bubbly mirth spouting from her like a cotton candy volcano. "But there's also Rammy~! You're so interested in her! Not the creeper kind of interest, but ummm I wouldn't say it's NOT creepy??" Those eyes crack open, inquisitive, studious. Her smile remains.
"There's something important about her, isn't there? Her purpose as a Valentine should have been fulfilled, and yet... mm. And I think you would have tried to just remove her from the board if you thought that would help, but it obviously hasn't before. So you want to <3 influence <3 her~! ... But if you don't mind my saying, I don't think you're ready for the role of a single mom." Her head droops, until that halo rests against the hood of I-No's (??) truck.
"Maybe I can help be a bit of carrot to go with your stick?"
"AH WAIT BUT NOT THAT STICK! ... I think???"
Behind them, Dopoulos, the mighty pumpkin that it is, shifts against its multitude of chains to squint at the hat currently topping it. Its glowing mouth opens. It spews a series of unintelligibly cartoonish noises as an angry counterpoint to the hat's rock and roll melody of sound.
One can only imagine what strange and wonderful things it's trying to debate.
I-No cocks her head to the side in confusion that is, for once, more genuine than theatrical. Then she realizes what pattern Jack-O' is talking about and the delicate honesty of her expression collapses into a showman's scowl, half-lidded eyes and downturned lips.
The witch reaches behind her back with a flourish of her fingers and withdraws a pair of red-tinted sunglasses. She flicks the arms open with a clever gesture with her wrist, and slides them onto her face. They completely nullify the color-shifting effect, leaving her irises to appear an even and fitting red. I-No smiles tightly.
The tightness does not leave as Jack-O' goes briefly but decisively tumbling forward into the bubble bath again. The witch flexes the fingers of her free hand, clenching and unclenching a fist. When Jack-O' opens her eyes again, I-No's face has drifted more toward neutrality. Based on historical data, that's a good sign. It means she's actually thinking in the moment, which in turn means that Jack-O''s words are finding at least a smidgen of purchase on this most lubed-up of minds.
Clonk goes the halo. Cartoon goes the Dopoulos. Rrrrorrrranggggggweeeoooooogrnnnnnnnnnn goes the Dietrich. I-No's hat, having completed its wailing retort, heaves mightily and then vomits a colorful waterfall of old guitar picks that goes cascading down Dopoulos' face.
The metronome comes swinging back the other way. I-No gives her trussed-up tussle target a lopsided and roguish grin. She leans forward with impetuous disregard for her balance, catching herself from tumbling forward at the last moment by slamming her hand down on the hood next to Jack-O's face. It brings her face dangerously close, also.
"I think we both know that if we were playing mommy and daddy, I'd definitely have the stick."
A moment passes. I-No's smile fades away as her expression becomes more languid.
"Okay. You help me smooth over Rammy while she's on her Pinocchio bullshit. How do I know you're not gonna pumpkin launch yourself over the horizon the second your idiot half decides it'd be fun to be one of the Wonka kids who didn't make it? What happens when YOU decide you're not hardcore enough to do what needs to be done?"
I-No's eyes turn hard. Even behind the sunglasses, there's a glow. This might also be genuine.
"I signed up for this. You came out of a tube. How committed are you?"
In the distant land of the truck bed, Dopoulos rages against the machine that is an endless cascade of magically spawning guitar picks that clatter ceaselessly against its scrunched face. The blorps and bloops of the familiar are contemptible indeed. It attempts to retaliate, mouth opening to spit bubbling green magic.
The chains make it so that the green just sort of splatters in a messy array across its face before it drowns in old guitar picks.
It's not great. It will never forget this moment. This injustice...!
Where I-No is a mask of theatrics only threatened in precious splinters of moments, Jack-O' seems to wear everything on her sleeve, her rare ambiguities coming as a consequence of her nature. As I-No masks the sincerity of her confusion by a downturn of lips and a donning of shades, Jack-O' displays the sincerity of her disappointment in her own downturn of lips and the expulsion of a sigh.
"Sorry. You don't like people to see you," she notes, voice subdued. "But some things I just can't help."
And apologetic as her tone might be, she doesn't seem particularly apologetic about that part. Jack-O' is Jack-O', even when she's anyone other than Jack-O'.
She might have more to say on that subject; she might have some sort of odd tangent to pursue that would drift off into some many varied unrelated fields -- except that any divergent rambling is cut off by the crash of a palm against sunwarmed metal. She feels the vibrations of the impact thrum against her cheek as acutely as she feels the puff of breath on her opposite as I-No settles in close. Treacherously close.
o/` I think we both know that if we were playing mommy and daddy, I'd definitely have the stick. o/`
Her lips part. It's almost intimate, the way her head tilts forward, until her forehead bumps against the red rock witch's. Almost sweet, almost promising, one could only imagine the sweet nothings she might murmur--
"... danger zone...!"
... or that. It could be that.
She stays there, though, comfortable in her hog-tied discomfort, as I-No poses her possible dilemma. Will Jack-O' go blasting off again? Will she leave I-No holding the Ramlethal-shaped bag?
Does she have what it takes to do what needs doing?
Jack-O' sees fit to quote the wise words of Asia:
"Only time will tell. Won't it?"
It's not much of an answer. But it's followed close behind by the quirk of a smile so close I-No can practically feel it. The glamorous pinks of her gaze hoods, diverts, but this close, all she sees is red leather as she speaks next,
"There's not a lot I can guarantee, because there's not much guaranteed about my existence, even the fact that I exist. But I can say this. You asked me, is it better to burn out than fade away. I might be made, but I have a will. Wants. Desires. Some of those might change from day to day, but I know this much: between the two, I'd always rather the former. Facing something inevitable and unavoidable I'd rather flare out struggling every possible, futile way against it than complacently accept it as something silly as 'fate.' Rules exist to be adjusted. Boundaries are made to be tested."
Her gaze lifts once more. And she confides, sincerely, "If you can trust in anything, I-No, you can trust that I'll never give up. I'll do what I have to. I might not agree with you on what that entails, but..."
With a little undercurrent of warm fondness.
"I'm quite hardcore when it comes to pursuing hope.
"... Is 'hardcore' really a trendy word these days...?"
Dietrich stops vomiting guitar picks finally, but only so it can comment on Dopoulos' misfortune with what sounds to be a Bowser-esque modulated 'laugh.' That's halfway cartoony. It wouldn't be frustrating if they didn't almost have everything in common, would it?
I-No remains where she is, dangerously still and perilously near, a looming Sword of Damocles shaped like too much woman (and, to be honest, too much alcohol). Jack-O' states her case. Her explanation continues in fullness, until everything she has to say has been said. It seems I-No's very patient day isn't quite over yet.
Silence holds sway in tense tyranny as the bloody baroness studies the face of her constrained captive. Seconds pass. I-No's face tightens, but to what end?
"Trends don't exist."
And then the red witch pushes herself up and off the hood, standing up once more with her guitar wielded as a cane. I-No exhales, feigning haplessness and lifting up her free hand to show her empty palm.
"What can I say? I'm a sucker for a nice ass. Especially one who plays hard to get."
I-No swings her guitar up to hold it for play, which of course she does not require a shoulder strap for because she has magic. The witch tilts her head down, her bangs working with her sunglasses to obscure her eyes.
"Lucky us, I don't need to trust you. You may be the only Valentine who knows her way around a spell, but I'm still the Bitch Queen of Magic in these parts. Enchanting you so you can't run so easily is simple... as long as you don't struggle too much."
I-No's thumb runs lovingly down the G string, drawing out a taut and unmelodious noise. I-No looks up just enough so that she can meet Jack-O''s gaze with her own.
"What'dya say, babe? Do you trust ME?"
Sometimes things repulse each other when they're too similar. See: Dopoulos and Dietrich, never to see eye to eye.
And sometimes things are just different enough that you get an unknown void composing a meta-narrative of uncertainty where the future could hold everything good and anything awful.
See: I-No and Jack-O'.
Today, though, is a perfect storm of patience in an impatient witch and constancy in an inconstant Valentine. Relatively speaking, of course. There are none of us perfect. Which might be why I-No is a constant range of motion, showing much without really ever showing anything important. And why Jack-O' --
"Oooo, I KNEW it was the good kind of fat! I-Noes is so sweet~!"
-- slips sometimes back into familiar roles of sugarplum insanity, calling constant question into anything she might claim.
Can I-No trust that inconsistency? Does it matter?
Can Jack-O' trust that mask?
Does it matter?
The answer comes, as much as it can, as Jack-O' Valentine slowly tips herself over until she may flop bonelessly bound onto the hood of the car belly-first. Chin resting comfortably at the edge of the cab roof, she watches the way I-No works her musical magic along the cacophonous cord of her guitar with an inquisitive eye. Her fingers spread behind her, as best they can, like some sort of a mock surrender. Does she trust the other woman?
"I think I might have answered that," she responds back, voice suffused with an unmistakable confidence, "Unless it was a memory of me answering it that never really materialized. It's hard to keep track," ... even when she's talking about how she's not that confident in what she literally just said. Some things just carry in tone alone. "Regardless..."
Just as much as the serenity of her stare might as she tilts it down to meet I-No's red-masked pair and says, unequivocally,
Without a single moment of hesitation where any even reasonably sane person might possess even the slightest sliver of doubt.
"So do what you think you have to. And I will, too."
Like a frog blithely inviting a scorpion to cross the river with them without even once questioning its nature.
"Besides, it'll be super duper exciting seeing if I can worm my way out of I-Noes' pervert bindings! WHERE THERE'S A WILL, THERE'S A WAY~!"
Albeit, an incredibly insane frog, currently writhing like she lacks a spine on that car top in an over-exaggerated struggle against her rope.
"OH NO, WHERE'D MY WILL GO?!"
It's hard to say who's in the most trouble, here.
It's hard to say what that's in response to. Chronologically, it came after Jack-O' said I do, but careful watchers will note that I-No started smiling more earnestly when the other woman called her sweet. Everyone will have to wait for the liner notes to figure out what she was really thinking.
The red witch shifts her weight, leaning forward and then leaning back to put a curl in her spine. She stretches with luxurious indolence, taking her time to take her muscles to their limit. An uncharacteristically soft sound escapes her lips as something pops just above her tailbone. She sighs, even as Jack-O' starts raging against the hogtie that just hogwon't come unhogdone.
I-No moves forward, bringing up her leg to set her boot on the corner where the windshield meets the roof. She looks down the length of her electric blue electric guitar. There is a peaceful quality to her face that is rarely present. It is something that her sunglasses cannot hide. The memories may explain it to Jack-O': this is the expression of someone at home in their craft.
"In that case, Ms. Jackie O," she says, her tone throaty in a not unpleasant way. "I pronounce us gal pals."
Her hands move against the guitar. The sounds she draws from the instrument are, from the first, ethereal -- literally so, as a lack of an amp isn't stopping her. But the witch of rock is magic in many ways, and it is for others to argue whether her talent on the strings is the more mundane of her abilities. The only trickery at work here is the ease that belies the years of work.
Her play is as gently inevitable as the sunset behind her, as boldly obvious as the fires around her. Her fingering is dextrous and fearless, callused skin dancing across strings both thick and thin, pressing in sometimes, sliding along the strings, bending them now and then, each coy little wiggle of her hand reaching into the world of sound and making gesture manifest.
The reds of the setting sun have left the sky, leaving only the shyest pinks to linger with the purple and black. I-No's hand drops from her guitar. She looks up to the sky, silent for a time. Only a time.
The knots in the rope slide apart like they were never tight at all. The bed of the truck briefly stops all conversation with the clanging cacophony of collapsing... chains.
If Jack-O' were to pick a time to flee, this moment is better than most.
There's something sincere in those unspoken seconds. In the lift of I-No's smile, to the amused exhale past her lips. But it is what comes next that inspires the rage against the (bondage) machine that is Jack-O' to come to a slow but eventual stop:
The sound of a master plying their craft.
Slowly does the faux-Valentine stop doing her best impression of a BDSM version of the Worm as she hears that electric strum vibrate at the tiny hairs in her ears. Slowly does she turn wide, wondering eyes upon I-No, tracking the line of a long leg down to the rest of a guitar spilling out its electric thrills. It's a familiar sight to her, in the way that someone who has seen a movie countless times is intimately familiar with concepts they have no experience with. It evokes something in her, something that softens her expression. Something that stills her struggle. Something that quiets her expression into an impassive, briefly unreadable... briefly sad sight as she watches the ethereal thrum of fingers dip and twitch and stroke music to the dying of the light into intensifying violets and tenaciously lingering pinks. I-No looks upwards.
And Jack-O' is still watching, as if caught in the echoes of her song.
She feels her bindings loosen and slide away from her, as gentle in their parting caress as they were harsh in their previous tightness. The contrast draws an almost fascinated sigh from the otherwise quiet Gear as she looks at the sunglass-masked witch, lips pursed.
"... I like the way you look, like that," she says after a moment, as her hands fall forward, feeling the sting of her wrists as she folds them beneath her chin. Feeling the protests of her joints as she sprawls them like a luxurious cat across the roof.
If Jack-O' were to pick a time to flee, this moment is better than most.
... Jack-O' presses palms to the roof of the truck.
Digs shoed toes into the warmth of its metallic surface like someone ready to spring.
Wiggles her be-bodysuited ass into the air like a cat ready to pounce.
Cat ready to pounce--??
Which is exactly when she springs upon the red leather witch with eyes a-flared with candylicious delight and hands drawn up palms forward in the most pounce-ready position to tackle-embrace her way into I-No's life.
"I knew we were BFFs! I don't even know what that means and I knew it!! We're gonna have so much fun playing around~!"
And thus is the horror that I-No has unleashed, as the released familiar that is Dopoulos suddenly starts to engage thrusters in an angry attempt to simultaneously pumpkin-butt Dietrich into the heavens with pumpkinful wrath, which is, as it turns out, quite wrathful.
Dopoulos, the ball and chain familiar.
While Jack-O' still clings gleefully to I-No.
"Yep! You and me! Just gal pal things--!!"
"Yeah, well, don't get used to it," says I-No on the subject of how she looks. The spell of the moment hasn't fully left her. She breathes in, then drops her shoulders and her head, closing her eyes as she feigns exhaustion.
"After all," she continues, her voice picking up more of that sharp, irreverent tone that most know. "I need something to relax me properly, right? And that's either Marlene, or a good fuck! So, if you want--"
I-No cracks an eye open to look up at Jack-O' to continue the lewd attack, but this just means she gets an eyeful of the impending kitty pounce. Her open eye widens.
Jack-O' and I-No go tumbling off the hood of the car. They never hit ground, because Dopoulos, the ball and chain familiar, is flying off into the sky. Dietrich sits atop its head -- an easy feat since the entire thing is head -- hopping up and down and vehemently cursing recent events in its guitar-distortion warble and rage.
"JACK-O' YOU LOONEY TUNES BIIIIIIIIITTTCCCHHHHHH--"
Years later, the truck stands a rusted-out hulk half-choked with prairie grass.
Log created on 20:28:08 11/13/2018 by I-No, and last modified on 21:49:18 11/14/2018.