What Could've Been (I am the monster you've created) - Chapter 3 - mxndaily (2023)

Chapter Text

“Strength and power comes to those who are willing to do anything for it. I chose to let a weak man die that night,” Silco remains unmoving, “There comes a time when you must kill that part of you that holds you back. We must move on and let the pain strengthen us. Perhaps, your time has come.”

Her lips twitch at the edges and she peers hopefully at the thin man. “Has your name always been Silco?”

The Determinists were right — free will is bullshit.

Jinx snatches the rubber band off the tip of her braid, brushing through the tangled locks with her fingers with controlled irritation.

“You were different today,”

Jinx glances up to meet Claggor’s hesitant gaze.

“It was kind of badass. But like, it was kind of weird too.”

Jinx fiddles with the edges of the handful of hair divided between her fingers.

“Thanks?” She says after a moment to consider her response.

Mylo groans with an exaggerated sigh, pulling away from the door where he’d busied himself with eavesdropping on Vander and Vi.

“Oh c’mon, call it what it is, man! You went psycho for a solid moment back there,” Mylo tongue is sharp despite his hushed tone.

“I still can’t believe Vi even let you tag along. First you jinx every job and now you’re trying to act all gangsta and failing at it, clearly .”

Not even gonna try to top that? Lame.

Jinx hunches away from Mylo, fixating on her half-done braid as Mylo leans into the door, ear cupped in a metal contraption flush against the wood.

Claggor sighs, leaning against the wall with a creak. Jinx adamantly ignores his gaze, pressing her back further against the wall from her chosen step on the staircase by the living room where Vander had promptly directed Vi into after so much as glancing over Jinx’s puffed eyes and dishevelled hair.

After her ‘incident’ at the rooftop (as she was now coining it), Vi had walked her down to their bunkbed to swap out her bloodstained shirt for a fresh one. She had caught sight of a ring of black elastic by the edge of Vi’s drawer. She slipped it around her wrist, barely having time to pull off the clumps of dust before Vi was ushering her out of the room with firm instructions to ‘act natural so that Vander wouldn’t suspect anything.’

Vi was never known for her stealth at any age so Jinx wasn’t surprised when they find Vander waiting for them by the living room door with Mylo and Claggor silent at his tail. Mylo averts his gaze when Vi glares at him. Claggor’s head is down, apologetic.

Vander seemed to take a quick glance at Jinx’s puffed eyes before he zerod onto Vi. With a disappointed sigh, he instructed the three of them to wait outside before motioning for Vi to enter the room. The moment the door is shut, Mylo rushed forward with an ear-sized contraption, leaning against the aged wood to eavesdrop.

Which led them ultimately to this current moment.

Claggor makes a daring re-attempt.

“The way you swiped the knife was pretty cool. Vi taught you that?”

‘Sevika had, actually.’ Reluctantly.

And she ditched you the second she could.

So now you’ve got something to say.

Jinx tugs at the leftover locks of unbraided hair, turning away from Claggor and folding each section of locks over the other, careful to block out any sight of Claggor in her field of vision.

Claggor sighs again, a little more frustrated now.

“Are you okay, Powder?”

Mylo clicks his tongue.

“I’m trying to listen in here, if you haven’t realised,” Mylo glares at Claggor briefly, “and stop being such a brat. Don’t ignore Claggor like that.” Mylo snaps at her.

The door opens abruptly with a groan just as Jinx ties the second rubber band around her completed braid.

Vander’s stride is heavy and commanding, pulling Jinx’s attention instantly.

“Get up, we’re going out.” Vander carries a sack and their loot in one hand.

He plucks the metal ear cup out of Mylo’s hands (much to his indignation) and dumps it into the gunny-sack that definitely held none of their haul.

“You want to be treated like adults? Fine,” Vander turns to Claggor, throwing the haul at him. “Dump the loot in the river. Take the back alley with me and then split off before the main road. And make sure nobody sees.”

“What? But that bag alone’s gonna make us rich enough to get a place in the Promenade ,” Mylo squawks disbelievingly.

“The only thing that’s gonna get you is a place in Stillwater,” Vander’s gaze borders between a glare and a look of amusement. He tosses the fake loot at the youngest boy. “Mylo, you’re coming with me to have a little chat with your informant.”

When Vander turns, his gaze locks into hers. His eyes dart to the living room door.

She nods in understanding. When it came to Powder, Vander wasn’t much for words. He had always preferred letting his actions speak to her for god-knows what reason.

Vander heads for the exit, asking Claggor for the details of the day’s events as they walk into the back alley. With a whine, Mylo trots behind the two as they set off to Benzo’s.

Well, that leaves the two of us. ’ Jinx hops off the steps and peaks into the living room. The door creaks.

“Powder?” Vi calls from the single’s sofa.

Jinx flinches as bright neon pink flashes across her vision (mind?) aggressively, angrily pounding at her skull.

“You okay there, Pow-Pow?” Vi (the actual physical vessel not the hallucinated Fat-Hands Vi) is standing now, leaning worriedly in her sister’s direction.

Jinx shakes off the sudden attack of memory. “Yeah, I’m good. Something flew into my eye.” She covers. ‘ Schizophrenia ,’ as Viktor once diagnosed her with, ‘ sucks balls when you can’t tell which blob is real and which one is just your head fucking with you ,’

The moment she realises you aren’t that girl anymore -

Yeah, yeah, I get it. No need for the replay .’ Jinx whines internally.

Jinx plops down onto the sofa, a lone hex crystal tumbling out of her pouch.

“Oh shit.” Jinx curses as she rushes to catch the death-ball before it hits the floor.

Vi perks up at the sight of the crystal.

“What’s that? Stuff from the apartment?” the older girl asks, her raised eyebrows betraying her act of nonchalance. “Yep,” Jinx replies by showing Vi the bag-full, “I think one of these caused the explosion.”

“That little thing?” Vi’s eyebrows dip into a scrunch. “Does Vander know?” Jinx scoffs in response.

“No way.”

Vi beams at that, moving over to the sofa Jinx sat on and leaning down to tuck a lone strand of hair behind her little sister’s ear.

“The braids are new. It’s cute. How’d you manage that?” Vi asks, her fingers immediately moving to tug gently at the braids.

“Vi wanted me to be a fighter.”

Jinx rolls her eyes, growing tired of Vi’s sheer inability to comprehend that Jinx had an intelligence level higher than a cockroach.

“I’ve got this sick new thing called poseable thumbs, sis.” Jinx frowns. Vi grins cheekily.

“Right. Sorry, Pow,” Vi leans against her, slumped comfortably into the sofa, “Love you.” Vi reminds her with an affectionate head bump, eyes darting towards Jinx as if she’d just reminded herself that she had yet to meet her daily ‘remember-that-i-love-you-pow’ quota.

Jinx sighs. She appreciates the effort but…this was Vi. Her sister that loved her immensely - no doubt about that - but definitely conditionally.

But…that was her Vi. Years from now.

“Sometimes I wish I was strong enough to just kill you already. Jinx .”

Jinx feels her heart shatter as she musters a manic-looking grin. “Funny, I feel the same way.” She offers the pistol to the older woman, whose gauntlets shone with a distinct hextech blue.

“Consider this an open invitation, Captain Kiramman.”

Jinx turns her head away from Baby-Vi abruptly, flinging the older woman’s voice out of her ears. Vi, with a physique much smaller than Jinx remembered, turns worriedly towards Jinx at that.

“You wanna talk about today, Pow? I’m really worried about you.” Vi sighs, suddenly exasperated when Jinx doesn’t respond immediately. “Look — I know I freaked out earlier and I’m so sorry about that, Powder. And I’m so so proud of you for sticking with us today — even when those guys came up to us! You were strong in your own way.”

Vi grabs Jinx's shoulders, gently pulling at the younger girl to face her directly. Jinx dares to study her sister’s features.

‘When was the last time you called me that? What makes you think you still get to call me that — say all that?’

“You know I’m always here for you, right? I love you no matter what and I just want you to be safe.” She sounded almost annoyed with Jinx.

Jinx averts her eyes from her sister’s earnest ones.

Ignore the tone ,’ she reminds herself, ‘ You always said to ignore your tone. You didn’t mean it.

Mylo was right — You’re a jinx!

“Sometimes I wish you weren’t so angry,” Jinx whispers, unsure if it was a whisper of a memory or if she really was speaking to a de-aged version of her sister presently.

Vi tenses at that. Jinx reorientates herself.

“I’m not ang—,” Vi bites her tongue, “I don’t know. I-I’m sorry.”

Jinx feels an old flame ignite within her. She glares at her sister, pulling away from her grip.

“When are you ever not?” Jinx pushes herself off the sofa, beelining for the back-exit where Vander and Mylo had gone.

She slams the living room door behind her. She had more pressing concerns than her eternally ambivalent sister.

The last time they’d played this charade it ended with her sister gaining a fancy surname . Silco was going to need fighters and not wannabe-Pilties. This Vi was still a fighter and Jinx was going to make sure she stayed as one.

Powder pretends not to hear the crash of furniture and a strained ‘ damn it! ’ as Jinx exits the Last Drop.

Jinx sets off into a steady sprint. Her twin braids bounce against the back of her neck. They’re frayed from the choppy shortness of her hair and they’re laughably short. But Jinx never had an instinct for vanity.

It helps.

Little Man is fixing up an old grandfather clock down in the shop when Vander comes in.

Seriously, this thing was being impossible!

“Ekko!” Benzo calls from the counter. “What’s goin’ on with that thing?” Little Man pouts, huffing in frustration.

“Give me a few seconds,” he turns to Benzo, “the cannon pinion’s still busted—”

“Finish it later. Vander and I need a word.”


“Uh-uh! Off you go.” Benzo says in that voice of his that distinctly means ‘this-wasn’t-up-for-debate’. Ekko throws the wrench to the ground petulantly, grabbing his box of repair supplies before skipping off from the scene, not even sparing Benzo a glance out of pettiness.

As Vander lets the door swing shut behind him, Little Man finds a very familiar scrawny teen.

“Oh, hey Mylo.” Little Man greets. “Wasn’t Claggor supposed to be here?”

Mylo frowns. “Why would Claggor be here?”

Little Man pauses. “I don’t know,” a sense of deja vu, “Felt like he should’ve been the one coming down here with Vander.”

Mylo clicks his tongue at that, arms folded with a nasty glare at the younger boy. “I’m just as capable of bringing down the loot as Claggor is, okay?”

Little Man’s eyes gleam at that. “So you guys went?”

“Yeah we did,” Mylo smirks gloatingly in an instant, “biggest haul you can imagine! And we even slipped right through the enforcers — they couldn’t have caught us if they tried.”

“Woah!” Ekko is positively vibrating in awe. “Did Vi beat up the enforcers?”

“Nah, just some bum-wannabes who tried to take our loot. We sure taught them a lesson for trying to mess with us.”

“Oh man, I wish I could’ve seen that,” Little Man bounces in excitement, “Vi showed me some moves. I’ve been practising all week — Look!” Little Man pulls his right elbow to his waist, turning it as he thrusts his fist forward in an attempt to replicate Vi’s punching motions.

“Err, right. Looking good, Little Man,” Mylo says, voice tinted with amusement at the boy’s clumsy imitation of Vi.

Then, the dreadfully familiar rhythmic thunks of heavy boots. Enforcer boots. The heavy breathing of gas masks grows sharper by the second.

Little Man’s attention snaps to the approaching enforcers, counting two headed straight down the street. ‘ For Mylo ,’ his mind swiftly supplies.

At once, he’s pushing at Mylo’s torso, shushing him preemptively.

“Hey! What gives?” Mylo squawks hushedly. Little Man’s face scrunches into a moment of disbelief as he pushes Mylo further towards the alley right around the shop’s entrance.

Enforcers! Go, hurry!” Little Man throws his whispers at the older boy who pales at his words, scurrying off into the alley just as the pair of enforcers appear round the corner leading to the entrance.

Little Man leans against the his supplies box rested on the back seat of Powder and his’ uni-wheel-motorcycle-invention parked by the door. His hips jutted too awkwardly to pass off as ‘act-natural-nothing-to-see-here!’. That was probably why one of the enforcers seems to glare at him as he walks by.

“Why hello ,” Little Man offers a mock salute at the nastier-looking enforcer. Nastier gives him a look-over before tailing closer to the buffer lady-enforcer who enters Benzo’s without a word.

Instantly, Little Man peers through the entrance’s window, cursing as he sees Vander sigh at the counter.

Nastier looks oddly pale, now that Little Man was observing him without his gas mask. The dimness of the shop gave him an almost inhuman pallor — but that couldn’t be right since Pilties don’t ever get sick, do they?

Or maybe its the undercity air,’ Little Man giggles at the thought of Nastier being bested by something as ordinary as air.

And then Nastier starts pointing in Vander’s face, suddenly bursting off the counter edge. Buff mutters something that catches Nastier’s attention and the next thing Little Man knew, Nastier is headed straight for the door, stomping almost as petulantly as Ekko had minutes ago.

With a wince, Little Man dashes for the shop’s side verandah before Nastier even reaches the door. He hops over the pre-stacked wooden crates before pulling himself onto the verandah roof. The window to his room rotates with a low groan as Little Man side steps past the window ledge.

He pauses abruptly at the sight of a blue-haired girl leaning over the steel and glass rafters, intently eavesdropping on the conversation below. She looks up at the sound of Little Man entering the room and tenses, her eyes blown wide.

Little Man didn’t really get what Powder was trying to tell him non-verbally with that. Instead, he points in the direction of the three adults downstairs, an exaggerated grimace and a shrug to convey his suspicion and confusion.

Powder takes a moment to decipher his gestures. She lifts one hand off the steel cautiously, beckoning for Little Man to hurry over.

He tip-toes straight to his security camera station, activating the camera swiftly. He had installed it a while back, telling Benzo all about how he was worried about people coming in and out of the store past closing hours. Benzo had said he was being over-paranoid.

While enforcers weren’t exactly parent-killing house-breakers to Little Man, they were very very close to it seeing that they weren’t above killing parents. Like Powder and Vi’s.

“We had a deal, Vander. You keep your people off my streets and I stay out of your business.” Buff says.

Little Man blanches in disbelief, glancing over to Powder who doesn’t so much as look his way in reaction.

“I’m sorry, Grayson,” So Buff’s name was Grayson.

“But I can’t offer up my own people.” Vander states, much to Grayson’s apparent dismay. Grayson sighs and reaches for a tube by her harness, detaching it swiftly.

“If you change your mind, this will reach me. And only me.” Grayson leaves the shop promptly with another look of disappointment thrown Vander’s way.

Vander sighs into his grip, palm clutching the tube firmly.

Just as Little Man opens his mouth to express his brain-short-circuiting shock, Vander speaks to Benzo below.

“We’ll gather everyone at the Last Drop tomorrow. Calm things down before old sentiments heat up again.”

Benzo huffs at that. “I sure hope it works.”

Powder pushes herself off the rafters silently, motioning Little Man over towards the verandah roof.

Her hair dangles in twin braids.

Ekko trips at the window ledge. Powder catches him with an unusual graceful swiftness. “Thanks,” Little Man mutters, eyes still fixated on his best friend’s new hairstyle, “I think I speak for the both of us when I say ‘ what the hell ’?”

Powder snorts. “More like how the hell,” Powder’s voice is almost…gravelly…in its tone. Has she always sounded like this? Little Man could’ve sworn that she had a whine to her voice, but not the irritating kind - the cute kind. Little Man fights off the growing scarlet spreading across his cheeks. Thank god he had dark skin that made his flush easier to hide.

“A deal with the sheriff,” Powder’s expression falls into a faraway look.

“Yeah,” Little Man responds, recovering from his bashful slip, “I can’t believe Vander would do something like that. But you heard the lady-enforcer -- err, Grayson , too, right? Maybe Vander’s deal really has been keeping the Lanes safe from the enforcers.”

“Hardly a fair deal if the enforcers have the upper hand the moment something goes wrong,” Powder comments sourly. “Don’t you see? Placating Topside is basically the same thing as giving in to them walking right all over us!” Powder’s arms flail wildly into the air in emphasis.

Little Man’s face is scrunched. “It’s not placating. Vander must of had his reasons —”

“Vander’s weak. That’s all there is to it.”

Little Man swats his best friend’s arm at her comment. “Take that back. Vander’s been protecting us all. And you live with him, Pow, don’t you think you’re being way too harsh on him? Besides, you guys did mess up the job so if anything it's kind of your fault.”

Powder snaps towards him at that, a deep frown settling onto her features.

In that moment, Ekko wonders if it was his imagination or if the shadows of the tinted glass and polluted air that tricked him into seeing Powder with striking magenta eyes, her frown deep with hurt, betrayal and —

And…Ekko doesn’t recognise that last bit.

Little Man fidgets uncomfortably as Powder stares at him wordlessly, uncharacteristically so. She’d always have something to retort, didn’t she? Was he being insensitive pinning the blame on his friends?

“I-I was just saying it. It probably wasn’t even you guys’ fault anyways since Vi must have —”

“Go get some rest, Little Man. I’ll see you around.” Powder says solemnly, suddenly sounding tired like how Benzo would sound like when he was upset with him but didn’t want to show it.

Little Man frowns. “Hey, Powder, I didn’t mean to —”

He doesn’t get to finish his sentence as Powder hops off the roof and scurries away from Benzo’s shop.

Jinx feels stupid.

And she doesn’t feel stupid often at all — lost, overwhelmed and tired? Yes, all the time. But stupid? No, she’s built explosives, teleportation devices and surveillance ware out of scrap — there was rarely a day that Jinx doubted her intelligence and craft — but god how did Ekko always manage to make her feel so stupid?

“Oh nooo, Powder,” Jinx mocks a mimicry of Ekko, “I didn’t mean it. I love you, I’d do anything for you, please, I’m not leaving here without you — LIAR! ” She throws a dud grenade at a steel beam, not caring as it bounced off and rolled off the river bank and into the water.

And Little Man had the audacity to not remember her. To remember that he was at fault for her even being here. If he hadn’t reported on Sevika to Vi (and her wretched sheriff) and if he hadn’t shown up on the bridge to try and stop her from finally securing Zaun’s win .

Sundown was approaching. It was odd for Jinx to be out in the open like this, even in her past life. Vi would probably be worried right about now, wondering where her dear Powder had run off to after their painfully awkward exchange.

And here she was, at the damned fishery again.

It was morbidly unfair how her mind made her come back to this place so often. Crave it's cold comfort. She killed Mylo and Claggor here. She watched as Vander’s chest fell permanently right at that alley diagonal to her. Vi left her there too.

She shot Silco right behind here. Jinx had a clear view of the exact spot from where she was seated.

And over the river, she could see the bridge too. She saw her mom’s dead body on that bridge. Jinx’s latest death-masterplan-turned-time-travel happened on the bridge.

There was something oddly comforting about sitting at this exact spot. It was as if she was watching her life from an outsider’s view, rewatching her memories again and again like a sci-fi movie with storylines so convoluted that you still wouldn’t get even after the seventh rewatch. She sat here, rewatching, hoping to one day figure out how exactly things turned out the way they did. Why she turned out the way she did. Why she couldn’t just suck it up and pretend to be Powder — the Powder that Vi could accept and love. Powder, who Ekko painted on his stupid mural. Powder, who was a nobody to Sevika. (And not Jinx who was her ex-somebody. If she ever did consider her somebody . Sometimes it was easier to think Sevika never considered her her somebody.)

She wished for it all to hurt less. She wished and wished to be able to walk away from it all. But now she knows that even after death there was no escape. Not for Jinx who was lavish in sins and destitute in material and love.

Was it so wrong for her to wish for happiness? That the world took it away from her anytime she gets so much as a taste of it?

No ,’ Jinx reminds herself, ‘ Piltover took everything away from me.

But Piltover wasn’t the person that tried to destroy what was left of Silco’s life work.

Jinx has no idea who was countering her. They had a very legitimate point, though. So it was probably Claggor. Or Silco. Or neither. It could’ve just been a rare appearance of her self-consciousness. (Or maybe the super-rare appearance of her mother, soothing her with empty words of comfort that were painfully tone-deaf to the circumstances.)

Her mind drifts to memories of warm hands caressing her face, feeling safe in his embrace even if it was for a fleeting moment. Did she mean so little to him that he’d used her weakened state to wring information out of her? At least Vi was consistent. He keeps walking away and then coming back and confusing her and betraying her again and again —

You always let him, though.

“Of course I do,” Jinx spits venomously, “because I’m a fucking idiot around him. Can’t even tell him to fuck off proper and leave me alone. They’re both always so sorry but they never do shit about it. And where does that leave me?” Jinx sits up, addressing her imaginary company properly as they engaged in conversation.

He’s just using you, Pow —

“Like as if you’ve never used me too,” she counters what sounds like a combination of Vi and Ekko. It was true both ways anyhow. “They all do. They all want something out of me and never even think of something in return — like?" Jinx laughs humourless and breathless. "How selfish, aren’t I right?”

But I didn’t care before. I was happy to have Silco use me as a weapon. I was good with just being useful.

Jinx hummed in thought at that. ‘ But Silco genuinely cared. Unconditionally. That makes him different, right? ’ She responds to the stray voice, no longer caring to differentiate who was saying what. Everyone was overlapping with each other — it would be a complete headache to rein everyone back into their seats and speak clearly and in turn.

She tugs at her braids, desperate to ground herself before everyone starts yelling over each other and —

The first time Silco braids her hair was on the first anniversary of their first meeting. ‘The Night’, was the furthest she’d think about it most days.

Presently, she was seated before a body-length mirror that she had pulled out from the alley behind Babette’s. She’d been having trouble with mirrors for the past year. And it wasn’t as if she actively had been observing her reflection before then. Now, it was more due to the unease that came with catching glimpses of herself in window panes or puddles or in the smooth metallic sheen of her machines.

Powder had never been the type to be vain but the impracticability of being scared of your own reflection prompted her to at least try to remedy it.

So it had started off with her practising looking at her reflection. She’d made some progress. She was fine with checking her general appearance these days but today, she seemed daringly comfortable enough to settle her gaze on her unruly hair. Her eyebrows scrunch.

Up till now, she’d never thought too much about her hair. She’d usually pull it into a low ponytail but with its length now the stray wisps of blue only served as an annoyance whenever she hunched over to work.

She’d thought of chopping it all off into a short bob. Most of the fighters in the Lanes kept their hair short. Sevika maintained hers above her chin - she’d never seen Sevika with hair anywhere near her shoulders. It was practical. Difficult to grab and pull backwards in a fight.

She wasn’t a fighter, though. Sevika reminds her plenty. (Her sister used to say it a lot too. But that hadn’t stopped her sister from trimming her hair and tying it back for her like how fighters would.)

Everyone wanted her to be a fighter but what did that even mean ? Were they expecting her to grow muscles bigger than her face and start throwing punches at thugs on the street or had they meant it on a more philosophical level? The latter seemed far too unlikely for any simple Laner, so cutting her hair short wasn’t an option, clearly. That was plain deluding and lying to herself. The same way her sister had.

But…she looked so… Powder like this. It had been a year since then and it was as if nothing had changed for her. She was the same girl in spite of her empty, bold proclamations of not being a weak little girl anymore. Her weapon inventions were still failures. And when they did work, she couldn't replicate her successes. She still sucked at fighting and the cherry on top of it all was that she still tensed every time Silco came around, inspecting her work intently for progress of her ‘gadgetry’ (as he preferred to coin it). She doesn’t know why Silco had put up with her for this long but she also didn’t want to take her chances.

And…he always seemed warmer whenever she got something to work. At times like those he looked at her not the way people looked at Powder with annoyance and disappointment but there was something akin to acknowledgement in his healthy eye that spurred her on. (She doesn’t look at his other eye because it scares her.)

Her reflection taunts her now. And when she dares to shift her irises towards her face — She flinches violently, jerking away from the mirror.

She didn’t know if she could ever look at Powder in the eyes ever again after what she’d done.

She brings the bedsheet back over the body-length mirror from its crumpled pile by her feet and feels her breath stabilise into a steady rhythm by the second.

Of course it's at this moment that heeled boots approach her door and she hears two stiff knocks against the door before it creaks open. His heels clack against the floorboard as he approaches her slowly, seated before the cloaked mirror, hugging her knees and hiding her face in between her arms. It’s silent for a minute but she feels Silco’s gaze burning into her back every second he just stands there, probably contemplating what to do with her.

“I assume you’re taking a break from your gadgetry for today?” Silco’s voice is less apathetic than usual.

From her spot on the floor, she merely offers a shrug and curls further into herself. She could barely get herself off her bed today. She was in no state to work with explosives and machinery like this.

The silence that ensues itches at her skin, neither of their breaths loud enough to fill the silence. They seemed to be equally cautious of one another but she couldn’t fathom why in Runeterra Silco had any reason to be cautious of Powder . Of her. Silco was always observing her from afar. This was the closest they’d been to each other ever since Powder’s sudden, desperate embrace a year ago.

Was he… upset that she wasn’t working on her bombs?

Slowly, she unfurls her head away from her arms. “I’ll look at them later,” she says but it comes off as a mumble. Silco must have found her somewhat coherent because he hums in acknowledgement before he approaches her bed. He sits down with a soft creak against the old wooden frame.

“More troubled than usual, are you?” She instinctively scoffs at that, turning around upright to face him with a hesitant glare. “I’m not troubled . I haven’t caused trouble for anyone recently.”

“You know that’s not what I meant.” Silco’s expression remains stoic despite her sudden defensiveness. “It’s been a year,” he says, “I don’t fault you for feeling particularly… unwell today.”

She hadn’t expected that from him but she knew better than to construe any kind of empathy from the man that caused her family’s death.

But to be fair that was on both of them, wasn’t it? She killed them. It was all her fault —

“Why haven’t you gotten rid of me yet?” She asks abruptly, milking whatever courage she held in that moment while she dared to meet Silco’s gaze.

Silco’s head dips into a slow nod at that, turning away from her and breaking eye contact. She tenses as Silco rises from his seat by the edge of her bed and saunters towards her.

“That’s quite an assumption, Powder,” she can’t help but to flinch at her name, “You believe that I want something from you. And that if you fail to provide, I will dispose of you,”

Silco crouches to meet her height, his slightly calloused fingers grasping at her cheek as they nudge her to meet his stare.

“You’d be wrong, if that’s what you’ve been thinking. If anything, you became indispensable the day we met.” Silco declares and she dares to read gentleness into his tone.

She’s…relieved to hear him say it. And it was so compelling to believe him from his tone alone but her sister had a tone too and she always told Powder to listen past her sister’s tone because she never meant anything from her tone.

Not even when it's followed by belongings thrown against the walls or furniture pummeled by her sister’s fists.

Did she mean it when she called her a jinx?

Silco’s hands retreat from her cheek, hanging loosely against his knee. “You’ve barely succeeded with your gadgetry. Sevika tells me that you can’t hold out longer than a minute into your spars and you’ve taken to isolating yourself and disappearing to work on your machines alone,” she shifts uncomfortably but Silco continues.

“And I disagree that a broken airship propeller is an appropriate location for a lab. Especially one that dangles rather precariously over an abyss leading straight down to the Sumps,” she averts Silco’s knowing look, disappointed that he’d found out about her little sanctuary but mostly hurt at the facts he was laying down before her.

“I’m not a fighter.” She chooses to pick on before he can make his point about her flaws.

“That, you aren’t,” Silco responds immediately.

“Vi wanted me to be a fighter,”

She’s shocked at herself, blurting out her sister’s name so suddenly when she hadn’t been able to do as much as think of her sister’s face this past year without spiralling —

“Did she?” Silco continues smoothly with the unweighted question, leaving her without the chance to lose herself.

Her hands move to fiddle with the ends of her hair.

“She always said I didn’t have to. That it was okay that I was different,” she doesn’t know why she’s telling this to Silco who looks at her with the same stoicness.

“Yet you believe she still wanted you to be like her?”

Powder fidgets under his gaze, hair in between her fingers absentmindedly.

“She didn’t have to say it,” she frowns, “she always trimmed my hair or tied it up the same way she would.”

“Like a fighter would.” Silco supplements.

“Yeah,” at that, she looks at Silco for the first time without fear. “Exactly.”

They share their first look of understanding.

Silco shifts into a cross-legged position behind her.

“May I?” He gestures to her hair.

Powder nods with a slight jerk. She’s tense when he runs his fingers through her hair, rubber band slipping off. She feels him split her head of hair into two before he flicks one side over her shoulder.

He tugs at her hair as if he was braiding it.

“I haven’t been entirely forthcoming with you,” Silco says with an uncharacteristically soft tilt. “Back then, I was looking for your sister. She was an impressive fighter,” he tugs at her hair again, layering each section of locks over each other rhythmically. “The cause needs its fighters.”

She sees flashes of pink across her vision suddenly and fights the urge to flinch violently. She focuses on the constant tug on the left side of her head and traces Silco’s progress as his hands move towards the end of the braid. He ties the end securely before collecting the hairs that rested over her right shoulder, awaiting their turn.

“I found you instead,” Silco continues and she looks to the fabric-covered mirror blankly with her ears keenly captured by Silco’s monologue.

“I saw a young Vander within your sister that night. But with you, I see myself,”

She wanted so much to believe him but she couldn’t see him. If she could just pull at the bedsheet she’d be able to see —

“You and I are the same. We have both been forsaken by the one we loved the most. And love is a fragile thing -- I’ve grown more fond of loyalty.” Silco reaches the end, holding the braid between his index finger and thumb securely. He hums, observing his handiwork and scanning for anything within his reach that could substitute a rubber band.

“Do you have another tie?” he asks her.

“No.” She replies instantly. She’d only ever had that one after she lost her second hair tie back when they’d moved in with Vander.

Her fingers don’t even twitch. She pulls the bedsheet off the mirror, letting the fabric descend like a waterfall, crashing gently onto the floor. She keeps her gaze focused on the fabric as she tears off a piece no longer than her forearm before handing it to Silco, arm stretched behind her back towards him. “Try this.” She says, waiting for Silco to accept the torn strip.

She moves her line of sight to observe Silco whose expression of surprise quickly dissipates. He takes the fabric and wraps it around her braid, tying the two ends when it was short enough to be tied securely.

They sit in silence again, observing each other tentatively through the mirror.

“But…that can’t be right,” she starts this time. “You’re you. You’re strong and I’m just Powder -- I jinx everything. ”

Her traitorous eyes moisten and her heart clenches when Silco’s gaze so undeniably softens and he brings his hand up cautiously before placing his palm on her head, unmoving.

“Strength and power comes to those who are willing to do anything for it. I chose to let a weak man die that night,” Silco remains unmoving, “There comes a time when you must kill that part of you that holds you back. We must move on and let the pain strengthen us. Perhaps, your time has come.”

She studies his expression intensely, tearing him apart, looking for lies but no matter how she looked at him she found nothing but sincerity within the stoicness of his scarred features.

She inhales shakily as she brings her irises away from Silco’s reflection, moving daringly towards her new braids that were very much un-Powder-like and she pulls her gaze further and further until she sees blue .

She sees the crystals. She sees Vander dead and blood on the floor and when she turns she anticipates the bloodied pink and anger —

Silco’s palm presses against the top of her head, grounding her. And she sees the blue of her eyes that suddenly seemed so foreign to her. She releases her breath in a disbelieving laugh. Her gaze tears away from Silco whose expression returns to a variant of his usual stoicness.

This was it?

Her lips twitch at the edges and she peers hopefully at the thin man. “Has your name always been Silco?”

Jinx, completely lost in her own mind and memory, fails to hear the tapping of soft working boots behind her.

He watches the young girl, confused and unsettled at the sight of her conversing with herself. When she eases abruptly, he wonders if he should step in. The girl tugged harshly on her braided pigtails. She could hurt herself if she tugged any harder.

Silco frowned at the sight. How many more children of Zaun had to suffer while Vander settled them under Topside’s shadow?

When the girl finally rises back into reality, her eyes are bloodshot — mixed over her eyes to give her an uncomfortably familiar tint of magenta.

“Has your name always been Silco?”

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