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The PPC was originally created by Jay and Acacia. Gremlin and Xericka were created by me. Many thanks to Desdendelle for betaing this piece. The following story contains physical affection between two women.

Eight days. Eight days of hiding, running, fighting, killing, and–at the very end–dying.

And now it was over.

Gremlin gave only a quick statement congratulating the winner before making her way back to her response center. Some of the camera-drones tried to follow her, but she shorted them out. There were probably a bunch of angry techs out looking for her now. She didn't really care. She just really wanted to be alone, in a familiar place.

She had tried to sleep. That failed. She had tried to muster up an appetite. That failed. So she resorted to Plan C: sitting on her bed with her back against the wall, her eyes closed, and her knees tucked up to her chest. So far, that had been a rousing success.

There was a faint hissing sound as the door to the response center bedroom slid open. Gremlin could hear footsteps. Familiar, booted footsteps. "Hey Xericka," she said with a sigh.

"Hello, Gremlin," Xericka replied. "Congratulations on your fourth place finish in the PPC Hunger Games. You did quite well considering the numbers and quality of the competition."

"I guess."

There was a pause. Gremlin did not open her eyes, but she guessed that Xericka was giving her that inquisitive, cocked-head look she did so well. "You are not pleased with your performance?"

"No, but… sort of, yes."

There was another pause. "I will need some sort of explanation," Xericka eventually replied. "Your answer was too vague to come to any firm conclusion."

Gremlin sighed and finally opened her eyes. Xericka was standing a few feet away, hands at her sides. And yes, she did indeed have that look on her face. "If I had to hazard a guess, I would say that your disappointment has nothing to do with your ranking," the Nobody continued. "That would likely not result in your being so ambiguous."

"Yeah," Gremlin murmured. Xericka had to lean forward slightly to better hear. "I'm not upset about coming in fourth. That's… whatever. Fine. It's better than I did last time. I'm just… You were watching the whole thing, right?"

"Of course."

"So you saw when I got that hatchet?"

"Yes, as was implied by my positive answer to your previous question." Xericka bowed her head slightly under Gremlin's glare. "My apologies. Continue."

"This next question… it's going to sound really weird." Gremlin took a deep breath. "Why did I carve a quote into it?"

There was a brief moment of silence from Xericka. "I cannot speculate as to your motivations," she finally replied. "Is that some sort of rhetorical query that, now posed, you are going to answer?"

"That's the thing. I really don't know why I did that. But at that moment… I couldn't think of a reason not to. Then, when I got my first kill with it? It was… it was such a rush." A small, horrified smile passed across her face. "Then I got two more the next day. And it felt right. And now? Thinking back on it? I don't know why I felt that."

She drummed her fingers on her legs. "Ever since I got my powers, I've always been afraid that I was going to go bad. That I was going to just lose my mind one day and start hurting people. 'Cause that was what metahumans did, right? Everyday on the news, when I was a kid, there seemed to be some new crazy person with powers. It was just… how it worked.

"As I got more control over my abilities, that fear just got bigger and bigger. It didn't help when I came here and found out that crazy people with electric powers were common enough to get a page on TV Tropes."

Gremlin fought to keep a tremor out of her voice as she kept talking. She was only moderately successful. "But in those moments during the Games, I lost that fear. And now looking back, I feel like… like I'm sliding down the slope. I'm scared out of my goddamned mind that I'm going to start having more moments like that in the future. And I don't know what to do."

Silence fell across the room again. Gremlin could not bring herself to look at Xericka's face. She let her feet slide down along the bed until her legs were splayed out in front of her. The back of her head bumped against the wall as her hands clenched and unclenched.

"May I sit down?" Xericka eventually asked.

Gremlin nodded. The bed shifted and squeaked as Xericka awkwardly arranged herself, cross-legged, next to her. They sat there, in silence, for close to a minute.

"I am not the best person to talk to when it comes to matters of reassurance," Xericka eventually said. "But I will say this: I know you. I have known you for years. You are not someone who delights in causing pain, nor someone who seeks out the chance to deliberately harm someone else. You are in no danger of losing yourself."

"But during the Games–"

Xericka held up one hand, cutting Gremlin off. "I observed that many agents suffered similar breakdowns to yours during the Games. Mental trauma seems to be a common side effect of that particular activity."

Gremlin let out a deep, wavering breath. "But what if I am going nuts? For real?"

"Then I will do everything in my power to keep you sane."

"And if you can't help me?"

Xericka reached out and took one of Gremlin's hands in her own. "That implies that there would be a moment where I give up," she said, her voice quieter than it had been before.

Gremlin was about to respond when she felt a faint, cool kiss against her temple. Her words died on her tongue, and she had to fight not to spew a bunch of bewildered gibberish out of her mouth instead. Various parts of her brain, which before had been pondering the natures of fear and insanity, were now preoccupied with the thought of 'durr, smooches.'



"I assure you that I would never do such a thing," Xericka went on to say as she straightened back up.

There was another moment of silence. Finally, Gremlin smiled let out a quiet half-chuckle. "You really know now how to throw someone out of their funk, Xerry," she said as she intertwined her fingers with the Nobody's.

"No. Not someone. Just you."

Gremlin slumped over so that she was leaning against Xericka. She had missed this. More than anything, she had missed this one familiar sensation. "But seriously, though. Thank you. Hearing you say all that… it means a lot to me."

"You are welcome."

"Can you just… stay here with me, for a little while?"

"I am capable of doing so." Xericka paused. "I should note that we are in danger of missing the awards ceremony, however."

Gremlin blew a dismissive raspberry. "What are they gonna do, give my medal to someone else? I can pick it up later. This is more important. Besides, I sort of already have a souvenir from the games."

She looked over at the desk across the room. Lying on top of it was an etched hatchet.

"I… was under the impression that was a hologram," Xericka said slowly, as if pointing out that fact would suddenly cause the world to throw a fit.

"Me too. But when I came out, I still had it. All the techs looked really confused."

The Nobody looked down at her partner, who was still leaning on her side. "Why did you hang on to it?"

Gremlin shrugged. "I sort of figured that if I was going to go crazy, I might as well go crazy in a notable way."

There was a long, drawn-out sigh from Xericka. "Sometimes, you are very difficult to understand."

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