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Tea and Gladiolus

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All Freya can hear is the sound of the sea and the rhythmic thwup thwup thwup of a helicopter. There’s some faint ringing in her ears - what did she do to her body?

The agent’s eyelids are heavy. The bare tips of her fingers ache with an unfamiliar feeling. Her body hurts, and there’s a dull stinging sensation making itself at home in her face. The pain blossoms from across her cheek to her right ear, some of the tingling feeling settling into her right tentacle.

It sucks.

Oh, she can hear a little clearer. The pain makes her right ear feel like it’s underwater, but she’s straining to hear more. She has to, as an agent of the NSS.

Excited voices are around her. There’s the warbly voice of the captain. A wave of steady relief flows through Freya, knowing her captain is safe. She hears others, too; ecstatic garbled voices speaking in Octarian, but not from a Tentakook or similar enemies.

It’s an Octoling.

Uneasy fear takes its place in the pit of her stomach.
She has to get up.
She has to defend her homeland, her captain, her family.

Summoning all the strength she has left, Freya forces herself up.

She’s greeted with the most beautiful sight.

There’s someone kneeling - no, not kneeling, squatting down - close to where she is. The wind tosses her hair to and fro. A sun beam hits just behind her, veiling the girl in an ethereal orange hue. Her brown eyes are big, bigger than an Inkling’s; Freya realizes there’s no eye mask.

This is an Octoling.

Freya stares as she pushes herself up. She doesn’t know where she is, where her weapon is, let alone the situation - but then the octoling soldier does something unexpected in return.

The girl smiles with fondness as warm as the sun enveloping her in the radiance of the atmosphere.

Oh no, thinks Freya.

Suddenly there’s a lump in Freya’s throat, a foreign feeling fluttering in her chest. Her heart starts pounding harder than the beat in the Squid Sisters’ newest remix as she nervously takes in the features of the leather-clad soldier. A rich red-purple gradient colors her tentacles pulled back into a high ponytail - save for one of the loose tentas framing her face that is mottled with an almost alien looking mint green. Pinning the ponytail in place is a gilded golden toothpick with a takoyaki stuck to it.

The Octoling holds out a hand to help Freya steady herself. Agent 3 stares dumbfoundedly, mouth agape as she takes the hand offered to her. Their fingers meet achingly slow, like time slowed down just for this moment.

Freya can only think about how warm her hand is.

She opens her mouth to say something, anything to break the spell that’s enrapturing her.

“Who are-”

WHUMP.

The ground shakes as someone cries out excitedly. Freya’s head swivels in the direction of the sound, suddenly crashing back down to earth.

Oh. Now she understands what she heard earlier.

They’re up high, incredibly high. The sun is rising, silhouetting everything in an early morning glow. Freya spots Captain Cuttlefish cheering at the end of a helicopter platform as a huge statue - is that human? - sinks into the sea.
Freya then turns a bit further, spotting the other figures. The source of the sound is no less than hit sensation Off the Hook on the floor of the platform, with the aquamarine disk jockey of the duo embracing her other half with mountains of kisses. The shorter of the two - Pearl, Freya remembers - has her entire face flushed bright pink as she tries to get her partner to calm down, before succumbing with a big toothy grin.

The girl next to Agent 3 giggles, spurring Freya to commit the sound to memory.

Captain Cuttlefish beckons the two of them over to him. He sits down with his old Bamboozler laid across his lap as he starts to explain things to the Inkling girl about the journey they had, with the others occasionally popping in. Try as she might, she’s still a bit flustered about...well, everything that just happened. The Octoling soldier from earlier stands at attention as Off the Hook joins those seated.

She tunes out the next thirty or so minutes as the five of them watch the sun make its journey across the sky. Freya nearly feels peaceful enough to fall asleep...if it weren’t for the fact that they were on a helicopter lift and that her face wouldn’t stop tingling in such an uncomfortable way, she would.

 

- 🦑 -

 

Cuttlefish Cabin is just as charming as Agent 3 remembers.
Emerging from the kettle in a swatch of orange, Freya finally gets to look around at the little outpost atop Octo Valley. Pearl and the Octoling soldier, then the DJ follow, until Captain Cuttlefish at last rounds up the rest of the party and gently pats the sewer lid.

Paper lanterns are strung up across poles. Next to a modestly grown tree is a covered patio bench, accompanied by a slim looking television. The cabin itself has been given a new coat of paint. Pastel pink - likely Callie’s influence. It’s also wider than she remembers it being. Marie had mentioned she wanted to have the place remodeled...just how long was Freya in Kamabo? Above the shack, the gramophone has been replaced with a high tech satellite. The turquoise Octoling from before - Marina, that’s right - is currently marvelling at all the technological upgrades to Tentakeel Outpost.

Some Inkling she’s never seen before with long blue tentacles parted to the side of her head waves in Freya’s direction as she passes her by the kettle entrance, before tossing a big blanket over a very familiar giant snow globe. Freya almost asks questions, like who is this, what are you doing, is that fucking Octavio, what is he doing here before remembering the guests she’s dragged along.
She’ll find out her answers. She just has to go through the formalities for now.

“Helloooooooooo, we’re here. NSS meeting?” Freya calls out. She hears rapidly approaching footsteps.

In a bright pink and lime green blur, Freya is embraced by her sisters-in-arms all at once.

“You lived!” Callie cheers as she nearly crushes the shorter Inkling of the three in a bear hug.
Freya can’t help but laugh at that, her eyes shutting happily as she revels in this moment. “Well yeah, what kind of agent of the New Squidbeak Splatoon would I be if I died on the job?”
“A bad one, obviously!” Callie and Marie laugh as they pull Freya into a much gentler group hug.

“Oh man, we’ve got to show you what we’ve done to the place!
They drag her inside to show her the improvements they’ve made to the cabin. Various posters are sprawled across the side of the little hut, both from music and fashion brands. Freya notices that there’s a Chirpy Chips and Off the Hook poster for an upcoming collaboration. A waffle maker lies on the makeshift kitchen’s counter, accompanied by a brand new microwave and smoothie maker. Fairy lights are strung over the edges of compact shelves in the living space area - oh, those are new - that now hold Boopsy, the Squid Sisters’ beloved family pet.

“Holy shit, Boopsy has a terrarium now?” Freya marvels at Marie’s little pet bug flitting around in its enclosure. The lil thing stares at Freya, letting out an odd whistle. Marie makes an indignant sound.

“Um, Freya, their name is Royal Knight Bartholomew the Seventeenth, and they’d love it if you used their FULL NAME,” she says with a hand draped over her forehead dramatically.

“Oh HELL YES, Freya’s on Team Boopsy! I knew you had good taste, you funky little squid kid, you!” Callie drags Freya into an affectionate noogie, causing the three to immediately pull each other back and forth the way Judd and Lil’ Judd do when it comes to the last can of tuna.

“Boop..sy?”

Oh. Right. The new recruit.
The Octoling soldier stands in the doorway, looking around the inside of the shack. Boopsy (or is it Royal Knight Bartholomew? Freya isn’t exactly sure which one she would prefer to use) once again chirps, flitting around in their cage. The soldier stares at everything as if she’s greedily drinking in to commit it to memory.

“Freya, who’s this?” Marie asks. Callie leans in ever so slightly in a way that reminds Freya of a cat closing in on their prey. Not a good sign.
“Ah, this is…” Freya starts, before being interrupted.
“I am Jeanne. Agent Number 8, Subject Number 10,008. I was in Kamabo Corp for three weeks with Captain. It is a pleasure to meet you…" Joining her hands in front of her, the Octoling makes a clean bow. She's literally at a 90 degree angle.

Wow, thinks Freya. She's really cool.

"Jeanne, huh.. well, welcome to the New Squidbeak Splatoon!" Callie smiles, ever the upbeat one. "If Gramps trusts you enough to bring you here, you're already part of the family. Let's get along, yeah?"

The Octoling - no, Jeanne, smiles widely. “I hope we can. I would like to be friends with you all…” She trails off, like she’s searching for the right word. “...As well? Is that correct?”

“Ah, yeah. You seem to understand Inklish pretty well.” Marie says, stepping closer with a practiced grace. “Are you bilingual? Speaking different languages makes it tough to find the right word you want, so we get that.”

Jeanne lights up as if that’s it. Her hands connect in a little tap, one flat, one in a fist. “Yes! You understand! I have problems finding the um, perfect word for the conversation! There are many words for many things in Octa.”

Marie nods knowingly, eyes drifting over to the giant snow globe covered with an intricately weaved blanket.

“Oh. This is Agent One Callie and Agent Two Marie,” Freya finally remembers to say, pulling her sisters-in-arms close. “They make up the pop sensation the Squid Sisters.”

Jeanne gasps loudly.

“You two! You two were at the conshierta! The one with King Octavio! I have always wanted to meet you two in person!” She suddenly takes both of the pop stars’ hands, shaking them up and down excitedly. “I was there! At the conshierta! You two are incredible. I have never heard music like that before in my life!”

She’s a fan? Freya wonders, watching the three of them talk about the fateful concert two years ago.

“‘Conshierta?’ Is that...‘concert’? Oh! You were one of the soldiers in the crowd??” A lightbulb goes off in Callie’s head. “No way! What are the odds that we were both there?!”

“Not that uncommon, actually. I think that fight was broadcasted all over the kettles.” Marie grins in her usual toothy way.

“It was, but I saw the fight in person as well! With the little Inkling who faced off against our reigo!”

Ah. Fuck.

Both of the Squid Sisters look at Freya with a grin sharp enough to cut through the testing dummies on the other side of the outpost.

“You know, Jeanne-” Callie starts.
Agent 3 panics. “Don’t-”
“Freya here-” Marie comes in with the combo breaker.
“Callie and Marie Cuttlefish-”
“Freya is one hell of a fighter, wouldn’t you say?” Callie chirps with the face of a demon in disguise.
“Please great zapfish kill me now-”

“Ah, yes! When I was stuck inside the blender, she saved me and Captain!” Jeanne says in a tone that seems like fondness. Hearing it from Jeanne shocks Freya to her core.

“Uh, blender?”

“Yes, blender!” The Octoling beams.

Freya can feel the eyes on her. “Ah, we should explain that...Cap! Let’s begin the meeting.”

It’s then that the girls remember their grandfather have returned as well, and practically tackle Craig Cuttlefish with a hug. Freya uses this opportunity to duck into the cabin, taking her seat at the low table inside.

Slow padding footsteps follow her. Jeanne looks around at everything within the cabin with wonder, with fascination. She stops at a framed photo on a shelf, then takes a few steps and stops again at a bowl of minty chocolates.
“Those are Marie’s. She won’t notice one missing. Go ahead and try one.” Freya realizes this is her first time speaking to the octoling alone. Her heart starts beating a bit faster.
The girl ponders things for a moment, then picks up a few to bring to the low table. She steps over to Freya and pauses. Watching the veteran agent, Jeanne kneels down onto one of many cushions around the table.

For some reason, being watched in such a scrutinizing way makes Agent 3 flustered.

“Ah, how do I…?” Jeanne’s voice snaps her out of it.

“Oh. Shit, I’ll show you. So like, you take one of these,” Freya explains, picking up one of the many Squandes chocolates from Marie’s bowl. “And you take the wrapper off. Some candies are harder to open than others. Once ya do that, you just go to town on that bitch.”

“‘On that bitch?’ Oh! Like chowing down!”

“Ah, yeah. Just uhh, don’t say ‘bitch’ if you don’t know what it means. Or ‘shit’. Or like, anything I yell when I get hit.”

Jeanne giggles. Freya swears on the Great Zapfish itself that the sound makes her want to cry, but in the good way. She’s never wanted to cry in the good way before. It’s astounding what one blackout does to her, really.

The Octoling finally sticks the odd little chocolate (shaped like a squid, no less) into her mouth and chews away.
“Mmm, it is...oh! Minty, but sweet? I like it!” Her face smushes in the most adorable way, making Freya’s stomach do a flip. “The promised land has many treats...I like it.”

“Y-yeah. I like it too.” Freya mumbles, distracting her racing mind by gnawing on her own chocolate squid.

“The truck we saw on our way here. It smelled like the takoyaki the reigo uses in his battles. Do Inklings also make takoyaki?”

“Huh? Oh, you mean Crusty Sean’s food truck? That’s all fried food.”

“Crusty Sean…” Jeanne tests the name on her tongue. “Sounds crispy.”

“God, if you think he sounds crispy, just wait til you see him once he’s open. He’s open like, late nights and in the afternoon, but never in the morning. That’s why the truck was closed when we got to Inkopolis today.”

The floorboards creak, followed by several footsteps.

“Comin’ innn.” Pearl’s familiar voice calls out, notably raspier than usual. It almost forces the MC to speak quieter.
"I like what you three have done with the place! It's about time we renovate Cuttlefish Cabin anyway. Thanks for the lovely surprise, girls."
"Aww, thanks Gramps."
"Thanks Gramps!"

The rest of the group finally comes into the room. Sheldon is unsurprisingly here too.
"Ah, you two have already settled in." The captain grins as he spots Freya and Jeanne. "Good! It's about time we start the meeting. Anyone want some tea?"
"Pearlie, you want some tea to help your throat heal up?" Marina asks, tucking a tentacle behind her ear. The pint sized pop princess nods almost frantically, causing the captain to chuckle.
"I'll get that started then. Girls, feel free to sit down, okay?"
"Alright, Gramps."
"Thank you Captain."

The group finally sits down.
Across from Freya sits the blue haired Inkling. She has a graceful air about her. Secretly, Three is jealous. Next to the girl sits Marie, then Callie. Next to her is Sheldon, then Pearl and Marina. Next to the DJ sits Jeanne.
An empty spot on Freya's left stays open for Craig.

“So! Who wants to go first? Team Lesbians?” Callie asks. The long haired Inkling flushes a bright sky blue, tensing up with her hands beneath the table.
“Um...that’s both teams.” Marie points out, motioning with a hand to Off the Hook.
“Okay, valid. Team Octolings or Team...Hmm. This is tough.”

“How about Team Octo Valley and Team Kamabo?” Sheldon points out, his little head barely meeting the top of the table. “Since that’s where the two groups were stationed in, anyway.”
“Yeah, that works.”
“Okay then, why don’t you guys go first?” Sheldon asks Freya’s side of the table. “I’m quite curious as to what you guys were up to!”

“Oh! Well, um...Pearlie yelled her heart out, so she won’t be great for conversation until she gets her tea…” Marina says, gracefully bowing both her totally-not-girlfriend and herself out of the discussion. “Jeanne must be tired, too…”
“Ah, I am fine! I can speak.” The octoling grins toothily, her sharp teeth poking out. “Well, ah...Where do I begin? There is so much that happened.”

For the next thirty minutes or so, Jeanne tells her tale. Freya tries not to glaze over during the whole thing. She won’t admit it, but she’s absolutely staring at the octoling to watch her face.
Starting off as nothing more than a soldier in the newest conflict against Inkling-kind, Jeanne fought. She fought beak and nail, clawing her way through the ranks to try and stay alive. In the warrior culture she raised and expected to thrive in, she had to work hard. Whether it was recon or securing supplies, she gave her all.
That led to her being invited to the fight that opened her eyes to everything.
When the Inkling soldier from two years ago faced off against her king, she hadn’t known there was anyone strong enough to do such a thing. The very concept, the idea, the notion that DJ Octavio could be defeated was entirely out of her mind’s grasp until that moment.
Then the song started. As the girl on that stage fought her hardest, Jeanne suddenly felt awake. It was almost as if this entire time, for the past 17 or so years of her life, she had been asleep. Once it was over and Octavio had been captured, she looked around and saw that she wasn’t the only one who was touched by the music. Since then, she had fought for a new purpose: to reach the surface and be free to live her life the way she wants.

That changed, however, when Octavio became free again. She had stalled too long waiting for the perfect moment. Jeanne was then shipped back off to near constant work, nearly extinguishing all remaining hope.

However, one of her tasks ended up becoming a routine part of her schedule. Every day while passing through Octo Canyon for supplies, she consistently found a spot mostly secluded. Away from guard posts, camera reach, away from anything that could potentially stop her was none other than a long abandoned kettle that was bound to lead to the surface.

One night not long after this discovery, two entire years after she had snapped out of the iron grip of the hypnoshades, Jeanne made her move. She left no note - she rarely got along with anyone in her squadron, after all - and made her way to her one way ticket out of hell. The octoling faced no opposition until she crossed paths with two inklings on patrol.

Freya’s gut sinks.

Jeanne talks about how she fought with all her heart, with all her soul for freedom. The adversary she faced was too strong, however, too quick, too experienced. She nearly got splattered across the floor and shipped right back to HQ - but Jeanne tripped. She fell back into the kettle, spurring the other two to give chase.

The kettle led to Kamabo.
After falling for what felt like forever, Jeanne landed near the metro. She fought hard, passed every test, reclaimed every stolen memory, all with the help of her newfound friends.

“That is how I am here. I needed to escape. How could I stay, after learning about the things our reigo kept from us?” The girl looks down at a little squid shaped eraser in her hand and places it on the table as she stands. “It was worth every ounce of pain.”

Freya almost asks what she’s doing, but is swiftly answered with Jeanne nudging her ink tank aside. Below the crop top she wears, Freya understands. Mottled angry blue flesh covers her back in the shape of various repeated explosions. Craig lets out a soft sigh as he sits down, passing out cups. He sets down a steaming teapot of whatever the cabin had on hand for the brew with something between weariness and resignation on his face.
“They made Eight do so much. Going on and on about how if she wanted to make it to the Promised Land, it was necessary. She kept going, and…” The captain sighs, clearly still caught up in the emotion of it all. “Whenever she failed a test, that tank would go off like an ink mine. I hated having to watch it. I can’t even imagine how it felt…”

 

Freya can’t let out the breath that froze in her throat. She just stares, right at the small of her back that’s been covered with proof of Jeanne’s tenacity. It reminds her of how young they all are; hell, she’s barely 18 and she’s absolutely got some traumatic experiences from her first campaign with the NSS under her belt.
Three finally snaps out of it and unzips part of her vest, tilting her head to the side.
The scar across her throat should still be there, after all.

“You won’t be alone here. We’ve all gone through something similar...so, um, don’t feel ashamed about it at all, okay? About the uh, scarring.” She murmurs, shutting her eyes to try to ignore the eyes on her.

The octoling stares for a moment with those big brown eyes of hers. Freya almost wonders if maybe she stepped out of line - but Jeanne lets out a quiet laugh. God, it makes her feel like she’s walking on air.

“Okay. Thank you, um..?”
“Freya.”
“Freya...Thank you, Freya, for your kind words. I appreciate them greatly.”

The fluttering feeling is back, making the collar of Three’s jacket vest combo rather warm. She stutters out a ‘no prob’ as she unzips the jacket the rest of the way, pointedly trying to ignore Callie and Marie’s teasing smirks.

“Well then, Three, where were you during all of this?” Sheldon asks. Now that Freya is out of her whole mindset, she realizes Sheldon is typing out a report through one of the NSS laptops. It’s notably plastered in stickers and likely doesn’t have an antivirus - so one of Callie’s old laptops.

“Well, it’s kind of a fucking pickle? I don’t know exactly where to start.” The inkling props her elbows up on the table as Craig pours out what smells like chamomile tea for Pearl. “When I was falling, I got like, hit halfway down. By some debris, or something. I landed in this whole other place.

“There were these odd looking octolings, like...walking around with these huge syringes. They seemed completely unaffected by my attacks. I ended up having to run from them most of the time. They were...aggressive. When I finally managed to get away from the majority of them, I snagged this thing from one of the stragglers.” Three reaches into her pocket for the employee model CQ-80, but finds it’s gone. “Ah, fuck. It’s gone. But uhh, using it to guide me away from the enemies in the vicinity, I tried to find the captain.”

“This thing?” Jeanne asks, as she places her two CQ-80s onto the table. Sheldon immediately snatches up one of them to tinker.
“Oh, fuck. Yeah. Did you get that when I blacked out?”
“Mhm! It was very cool.”
“Blacked out? Care to explain?” Sheldon asks as he nudges the laptop over to the bluenette inkling to keep typing for him.

“Ah, um, so with the whole thing about Kamabo? The testing?” Freya steeples her hands. “It was being overseen by a ‘Commander Tartar.’ When I was wandering through Kamabo Corp, his name kept popping up. Once I got my hands on this administrator...whatever, I went on autopilot.”

“So you got lost?” Marie says with a grin on her face. Freya sputters indignantly in response.

“I did not! I was being thorough! I had to be. Captain Cuttlefish is strong, but...I was worried about him.” He’s getting on in the years, after all. It’d be natural to worry about her captain. “I think I was running through one of the test chambers...that’s when my little device started blaring out this distress signal.”

Marina nods. Her hands are occupied with smoothing out Pearl’s hair, the smaller inkling leaning on her as she sips her tea through what looks like a bendy straw..? Freya has learned not to question the idol duo, and moves on with her story.

“I followed it, kind of broke some things in the process, and before I knew it, I realized the signal was beneath me. I thought, if anybody was out there that needed help in this place, I had to act. So I broke through the floor. I saw this structure, and inside it was the Captain. With Jeanne, too. So I acted without thinking and...I blacked out after that.”

“It was incredible!” Jeanne jumps in. “I had never seen anything like it. She sailed from the air like she was a bird. Very graceful, very powerful! She broke the blender open before we became, ah...dead!”

“I really did think we were done for… Freya really did a lot for us that day. Thanks, squiddo.” The captain says, patting the inkling on her head.

She’s totally not shy. No. Not at all. Freya feels the flustered glow of orange reach her cheeks, only spurring on the feelings she’s sparring with. It’s not that Three is modest, it’s that she doesn’t get praise like this often. Sure, there’s old lady Hiyoko who she helps regularly, but those kinds of words come naturally from elders.

When such high praise comes from someone her own age, Three is clueless on how to act.

“I. Um. Thanks...Ah, fuck. I was just doing the um, right thing...” She stutters out.

Craig is gracious enough to pick up where she’s left off. “After that, she destroyed the blender. She just busted right through it! Freya was completely knocked out cold from the impact. We found the CQ-80 on her, then used the maps on it to lead Eight out. She went on ahead, while I stayed behind hoping she’d wake up soon.”

He talks about how Jeanne had to do various things to escape, from sneaking through an entire area covered with guards that likely arrived after Freya broke through the ceiling, to guarding a power cell under heavy fire. At some point, where he was waiting, the telephone that tried to grind them up started making noises.

“At that point I thought, it’s just a telephone. It surely isn’t going to do much else after we broke the blender it tried to snag us with, right?” Craig says with a sheepish look on his face. “So I left it be. But what happened was...it suddenly came to life and spat out this odd looking liquid in my direction.”

The table is silent.

“Three...Freya came to right then. She probably doesn’t even remember that it happened, but she charged in between me and the liquid.”

Freya’s eyes widen as she realizes all eyes are on her.

“She saved me from being...hijacked by the telephone. When it hit her, she started screaming and clawed at her face. But when I tried to go over and help her, she suddenly grabbed me.”

Freya feels cold, like her ears suddenly shut off. Three’s head feels fuzzy - her fingertips, too. She looks down and on her hand, she realizes there’s some light burns all over her right fingers. It hurts. Some of the memories rush back all of a sudden - fear. She remembers fear.

“Agent Three was hijacked.” Marina speaks up. “The sludge that Commander Tartar used had effects not very far off of DJ Octavio’s brainwashing. With Three under his control, Tartar used her to try to block Eight from leaving the facilities.”

All Freya can think about is why? Why did Jeanne look at her like that then, if she attacked her while under the influence of some gross goop? Shouldn’t she hate her?

“Three, you had your limiter off.” Craig says softly.

“...What?” Freya abhors taking off her limiter. She hates the notion of just aiming to kill, all the time. “But I don’t remember taking-”

“I know. It’s okay.” Craig’s hand almost touches her shoulder, but he hesitates. Freya shakily nods, and he comforts her with a sweeping motion across her shoulder blades and spine. “It wasn’t you.”

But I should’ve tried to stop it, Three wants to say. I would never DO such a thing, Three wants to scream.

“Three has always done things like this,” Craig explains to the newcomers. Callie and Marie nod. “She sees us like family. Whenever there’s a threat, she just…”

“- charges in and tries to reduce collateral damage by taking the hit.” Marie finishes. Freya tries to ignore the hot flash of shame that strikes her when Agent Two says those words.

Callie pouts. “I think it’s really noble. It’s super brave of Three to do such a thing on the regular…”

Freya feels uncomfortably itchy. Her face burns in an odd way.
“Look, I just wanna go home...Can we finish the briefing?” Three tries not to whine.

The other three veteran members of the New Squidbeak Splatoon stop talking and collectively look at each other in an indescribable emotion, but nod.

Craig, Jeanne, and Marina then tell the story of how when Three went down, Eight then picked up Freya and started to climb up to the surface. They talk of a statue that awaited them at the top that meant to eradicate cephalopod-kind and replace it all with the ‘superior lifeform’ Commander Tartar likely created with the previous 10,007 test subjects. Off the Hook had arrived to pick up Jeanne and Craig, but ended up becoming the vital help that Jeanne needed to save Inkopolis.

Pearl then raspily talks about how she shouted at the statue so hard it blew up. Freya almost wants to doubt her, but she knows how loud the little inkling can be, so she just goes with it. Jeanne then says that’s when Freya woke up, then they made it here.

Callie and Marie just listen in awe.
“Shit, man…”
“Our task seems almost boring compared to yours,” Marie breathes out. She looks to the inkling girl, then to Callie. “Okay, so… Let’s start with the final splatfest we ran.”

Marie talks about how when she went back home to visit her mother about two weeks ago, Callie didn’t show. She was worried, and naturally so was her family. Making up her mind, Marie returned to Inkopolis to search for her cousin - but was greeted by a shattered snowglobe.
Octavio was set free, and he likely had an accomplice.
Marie had to find a new secret agent and fast.

Along came Akila.
Freshly moved in after a bad breakup, Akila was hungry for purpose. It only took for their eyes to lock for the new inkling in town to follow the lime green idol into the sewers, and before she knew it, she was the newest agent in the New Squidbeak Splatoon.

Looking at Akila, Freya can see why Marie scouted her in particular. There’s a quiet fury bubbling beneath the gaze of her lilac purple eyes, masking the bite of a fighter. Her long blue tentacles reach down to her mid thigh. She wears an NSS made tank top that shows off her absolutely chiseled muscles, along with a nasty looking burn scar on her right shoulder. Judging by the color, it looks like it was caused by octarian ink. Freya can relate.

Marie and Akila then talk about their fight to search for Callie. Over time, it became clearer and clearer that she had joined forces with DJ Octavio. Whether or not it was voluntary, of course, was up for question. The two inkling women went on to fight their way into Cephalon HQ, apparently realizing their feelings for one another??? Freya is appalled at the notion that anyone would be romantically involved with one of her big sisters-in-arms. She tries her hardest to not make a face.

The two break into a stadium for their final face off against Octavio and Callie, who was under the influence of brainwashing lenses. The Octobot King fought against Akila fiercely as Callie performed alongside him. With those guns, Freya is impressed that Akila didn’t immediately break him over her knee or something. Marie then swooped in with the help of Sheldon and actually shot the shades off Callie. The two of them laugh as they jokingly reenact the scene.
From there, it only took some memory jogging to snap Callie out of the influence of the shades. Once Callie was out of danger, Sheldon let Akila go feral with an incredibly modded Rainmaker. It was over before Octavio could even start for real. From there, it was incredibly easy to trap the king again and confine him to his snowglobe once more.

“And that’s how it happened. We have him outside, but there are no ways for him to escape from the globe without outside interference again. Which, speaking of, Callie did end up letting him out a few times,” Marie jokingly deadpans, side eyeing Callie with a grin.

“Okay but I looked hot in them, okay?? Can you blame me?!” Callie shouts predictably, causing the inkling girl trio to break out in giggles.

Freya smiles, but she feels the exhaustion settling in. It must be evident on her face, because it makes Craig smile in that way that she knows means he feels guilty. She takes one for the team and just says what’s on everybody’s mind.

“Well, now that we’re caught up, are we good to go? I really want to take like, two days to just sleep.” Freya tries not to snark.

There’s a beat of silence. Then two.

“Holy shit what are we gonna do about Eight?!” Pearl blurts out, sitting up with her cup of tea. “She doesn’t have a place to live up here, she’s barely been in Inkopolis for a few hours!”

“Oh fuck.”
“She’s right…”

“Well then, maybe I could buy Eight a house? Or lend her one of my mansions? It wouldn’t be a big deal.” Pearl looks at the table. Jeanne’s eyes widen. “She could even live with me and ‘Rina if she felt like it! There’s a ton of space in our house!”

“Noooooo! You have done more than enough to help me. I am thankful, but I am fine! I would not want to make you go through the trouble.” Jeanne flushes a light red-purple at the notion.

“If Pearl’s is out, then we’re open!” Callie chirps immediately, to Marie’s dismay.
“Um, are you serious? Have you seen how messy the house has been? Even my room is out of sorts. There’s no way Jeanne would be happy there.” Marie frowns as Callie deflates. “Our place is out, unfortunately.”

"I live in a pretty small apartment…" Akila admits, a finger on her chin as she thinks. "Maybe Sheldon?"

“My place is above the weapons shop, and it’s kind of full of weapons to repair all the time…” Sheldon speaks up as he finishes typing out his report. “Sorry I can’t be any help.”

That leaves two people.

Craig Cuttlefish and Freya Rán.

“You’ve seen where I live. I don’t think it’d be a good place for a young Octoling to learn about life on the surface,” he says in that comfortingly rumbling voice of his.

Fuck, that’s right. Craig practically lives in a manhole and the sewers.

Freya’s heart starts beating faster as she realizes the depth of the situation. Holy shit she’s moving in with you. She barely knows you and you barely know her but you’re moving in together. Is that allowed. Is that allowed???

 

She opens her mouth to object, to decline, to do literally anything, but then she locks eyes with Jeanne again for the second time that day.

Those big brown eyes blink almost delicately as she stares back at Freya.

Oh, she’s saying something? She barely noticed.

“- I am sorry to intrude on your home. Is it okay if I may live with you, Freya?” Jeanne asks. It’s barely hitting Freya how the way Jeanne speaks has a distinct Octa accent. Her head is buzzing.

“Of course,” Freya says, sealing her fate.

 

- 🦑 -

 

It’s late afternoon when the girls part ways.
Callie, Marie, Akila, and Captain Cuttlefish stay in Octo Valley with Sheldon to go over their intel in further detail. Pearl and Marina head home with the same excuse Freya has, that they are just shitfaced exhausted after the day they’ve had. The entire NSS exchanged contact info before heading out. As they parted ways, the girls all promised to meet up again soon to help Eight get acclimated to life in Inkopolis. The girl needs to shop for things, now that she’s going to be living up here.

Jeanne is thumbing away at the brand new phone that was gifted to her (rather forcibly, by the way) by Off the Hook as the two of them approach the subway station that heads out of town.
Freya, meanwhile, can’t stop thinking about the sheer amount of info that’s been dumped on her as she waits almost impatiently for the subway.

“So! Freya! This subway we are taking, it is like the Metro?” Jeanne asks, wrapped up in Three’s generously gifted jacket.

“Mm, sort of? There’s a map, and it takes you to places, but it’s not like the Deepsea Metro in the sense that you have to test to get off. You just have to pay.” Freya crosses her arms as she feels the air on her tongue, the light taste of sea salt registering on her taste buds. “It’s not nearly as complicated or deadly, so you don’t have to worry.”

“Ohhh, is that so? Well, I am excited to see this place that you live in. It is far from here?”

“No, not much. It’s barely like, out away from the city. It’ll be quieter than here for sure.”

“Ah, I see! I understand. What are the people like?”

Freya feels shy as she suddenly has to scrounge up memories of her neighbors. Truth be told, she doesn’t talk often to most of them. “Well...I think maybe it’d be best if you found out yourself. I want you to be able to see things with your own eyes, and stuff.”

Jeanne hums in response, about to respond as a sleek subway with rather artistic graffiti of a Kraken on the side pulls up. “Oh! It is here. Shall we go to your home?”

“Yeah, let’s head on. I’m beat…”

With a hop and a step, the two girls get onto the subway. It’s almost empty. Only about five or so inklings are on board, and at that the majority are distracted with other matters. Freya leads the way as she sinks into a hard plastic seating area, sprawling out with exhaustion.
Jeanne follows and sits primly next to the inkling, a little smile on her face. “You are ‘beat?’ That is tired?”
“Yeah. Some people use ‘wasted’ too, but I prefer ‘beat.’ You’re not tired?” Freya asks.
“No! I am excited to see more of the surface. I want to see as much as I can.”
“I get that. Once you’re able to act for yourself, you’re free as the wind.”
“You understand?”
“Uhuh. I’m living on my own, so I get to do what I want.” Freya shuts her eyes as the subway finally jolts to a start, scooting along as it pulls out of the station.
“Ohhhhh! I understand. You have no reigo to order you.”
“Mhm! I’m my own ruler.”
“So inklings are their own reigo?”
“Uhh, sort of? We do have to pay things like rent, but I’m almost done with the mortgage on my house. Then I own it and don’t have to pay every month anymore.”
“And mortgage is?”
“Mortgage? It’s like, uhh. You don’t have all the money for a cool weapon all at once, so you pay it in chunks over time. Wait, that’s a bad metaphor. Sheldon would never do a layaway plan. I’m just like, paying off the full price of my house over time instead of all at once cause I while I have money, I don’t have enough money. Does that make sense?”

Jeanne stares a bit, then blinks.
“Umm… I think I understand.”
Freya thinks it's the first time she's seen the octoling look the slightest bit confused. Jeanne's a sharp one, probably sharper than everyone else in the Squidbeak Splatoon.
"It's fine if you don't. I'm the one that pays for it anyway, so nobody will mind if you're on the property."
"Property?"
"Ah, I'm going to have to figure out a better way to explain things…"

Freya's eyes wander to the window behind her. She turns a bit to get a better view of the world outside. Jeanne's line of sight follows, peeking out the window.

The sky is a vivid orange as the sun nearly finishes its daily trek across the limitless expanse. Now out of the city, rolling fields of grass sprawl out across the landscape. The occasional sign pokes out amongst the fields as they blur past. Birds drift on the wind as the plains practically sing with their pale blue flowers dancing in the wind.

"Do you like the view?" Freya asks quietly. The question has been on her mind for a while.
Jeanne lets out a hushed 'yes' in response as she watches the world go by. She gets comfortable.

Three can't help but smile to herself.

The two sit in a comfortable silence until the subway eventually slows to a stop at their station.

A ‘ding’ chimes out as the subway doors open, letting any passengers get off.
The inkling stretches, sighing softly as her muscles tense then relax. “Well then, let’s head home so you can rest.”
“Ah, yes! Please lead the way.”

The girls disembark from the subway car. They pass the subway’s sign on the boarding area declaring ‘PRAWNFORD STOP’ with a little sticker of a prawn slapped on to it.
While every bit as clean as the Inkopolis stop they departed from, this station has an entirely different vibe to it. The walls outside the boarding area have a more open approach. One can see the sky from inside the station. A mural depicting a saintly woman in the waves of the sea is painted over a wall in the platform. She looks human. Jeanne takes in the artwork, holding up her phone to take a picture.
Further into the platform before it splinters off into stairs and escalators, a small snack bar lies across the room from the ticketing booth. Freya tries to take her mind off how hungry she is. The duo then take an escalator heading down. A simple clear canopy covers the area above to shield people from the elements while still allowing you to see the sights. The town below is by no means on the scale of Inkopolis, but it is lively nonetheless.
Styled much like an old world pueblo, the town of Prawnford bustles on. As Freya and Jeanne walk the rest of the way to their destination, the smell of the sea and food frying on various food stands greets them. Someone nearby blasts Wave Prism from Chirpy Chips’ newest album on their stereo upstairs above the ground level; the pedestrians below sit around bopping their head to the beat as they dine outdoors.
While there are paved roads that pass through the town, nearly everyone is on foot as they make their way through. The occasional bike or motorcycle zooms past the duo.
Now and then people will greet Freya as she passes them by, from young teen inklings complimenting her boots to elderly ones eating out with their families. She pays the teens no mind as she just puts up a hand in greeting, though she does stick around to ask the elders if they are well.

“You seem popular,” Jeanne giggles as the two of them detach from an older man who asked about what Freya was up to these past few days.
It makes Freya scoff a bit. “Hah, it’s just ‘cause they haven’t seen me in like, a month. They were probably worried by now, y’know? Ah-” She cuts off as Freya spots an elderly woman with braided tentacles strains to reach a crate of daikon radishes being offered to her. “Miss Panuko! Let me get that for you.”

Jeanne watches as Freya swoops in, quickly grabbing the crate so the older woman doesn’t strain herself.
“Oh my, if it isn’t young Freya! How have you been, dear? I haven’t seen you come home at all these past few days.” The woman’s eyes shut in a wrinkly smile. “And who is this? A little friend of yours?”

Ahahahaha fuck. Freya can’t stop the bright orange blush from rising to her face, almost causing her to lose her grip on the radish crate. “Ah! This is! My friend Jeanne. She’s going to be staying with me for a while.” She turns to the octoling girl quickly. “Jeanne, this is Miss Panuko. She’s my next door neighbor.”

“Oh? I am happy to meet you, Miss Panuko!” Jeanne bows at the waist, her tentacles swaying as she does so. The action makes the old woman chuckle a bit.

“Goodness, dear, I’ve told you it’s okay to call me Miss Hiyoko or Yoko! At least, I thought I did…”

“Um, we’re heading home if you want me to accompany you, Miss P- wait, Hiyoko…Sorry, I’m used to being-”

“More formal? I know dear, there’s no shame in it. But we’ve been neighbors for two years now, so I thought you should know!”

“I know, I’m sorry!” Freya laughs. “But, shall we?”

“Yes. Now Jeanne dear, tell me about yourself! If you’re going to be staying with my favorite neighbor, I should get to know you.” Hiyoko smiles up at the octoling as they begin to make their move back home.

“Ah! Of course! I am a new...coworker? Of Freya! She is letting me stay with her because I have nowhere else to go.”

“Yeah, she had a weird situation with her hotel, so I offered to let her stay at my place.” Freya swoops in, face even as she lies through her teeth. “She does good work! We’re just working things out ‘til her first paycheck comes in.”

“Is that so?” Hiyoko gasps as she walks along. The trio turns a corner as they follow the street lights past a marketplace full of people. “I do hope you get that figured out, then!”

“Hah, yeah…” Freya trails off.
“Yes! I am excited to see this place that Freya lives in. I have not been here before.”
They pass a corner food stand, finally getting to the more residential area of Prawnford. The houses become single-storied to give the tenants yard space.

“Oh! I see! In that case, once you two are all settled in, you should come by my restaurant. It’s not far from here, actually.”
Freya’s stomach rumbles incessantly.
“Coddddd, you’re making me hungry Miss Hiyoko. I don’t remember the last time I ate.”
“Well then, all the more reason to do so later! Today’s my day off, though.”

 

“A restaurant?” Jeanne asks.
“Yeah, there’s food and an arcade game and everything. Sometimes even reservations for parties. Miss Hiyoko invites me to any of her personal reservations cause she’s sweet like that.” Freya smiles shyly.
“Oh, I understand! That is very kind.”
The octoling’s words seem to touch the old woman’s heart. Hiyoko grins, her eyes creasing closed as she does so. “Well, Freya is living in that house all by herself, after all. We have to care for the youth. They’re the future of tomorrow! Ah, here we are.”

The trio stand in front of a street with several houses lined up. Trees half painted white to ward off rot are planted every few houses in front of high gates meant to ward off thieves.
“Now then, it was very nice meeting you Jeanne. I’m sure I’ll see you around! Freya dear, let me take those daikon back now.”
“Hah, sorry, but I know you’re getting a little tired by now. Let me at least get these inside for you, okay?” Freya readjusts the grip on the crate of radishes, adamant on helping out her neighbor.
“You see, Jeanne? Freya is a sweet girl. You’re in good hands with her.” Hiyoko says before unlocking the gate and heading inside. “Don’t be a stranger now! See you two around.”
With that, the elderly woman heads inside with Freya, who pops out a few moments later sans the crate.

“She is very thankful for you!” Jeanne chirps, causing Three’s cheeks to warm.
“Hah, yeah… We’re right here next to it. Let’s go so you can rest up in an actual bed, yeah?”

As Three unlocks the gate to her home with a resonating clunk, she pushes the door open for Jeanne with a half flourish. “Mi casa es su casa...or something like that. Hope you like the place.”

Freya’s home is tucked in within the gate fences. Pots filled with soil - but notably, not plants - cover a ledge in front of the house’s big windows. It is shaped almost like an L, though more upside down in terms of layout. To the left of the gate entrance, smooth stone pillars holding up a canopy lead the way to the front door.

“Here’s the house tour, okay?” Freya starts. When her coworker nods, she grins as she continues. “Here’s the hallway-slash-living room-slash-dining room.” The door opens as Freya’s home greets her with the faint smell of fried food. Three motions like she's a Wahoo World employee guiding some people as she speaks. “To your left is the bedroom. In front of us is the bathroom. And to the right is like, everything else.”

It’s a modest home. Empty for one person, likely cozy for two.
I was thinking of getting a cat or something at some point, Freya muses. Guess I can’t now.
The walls are sparsely decorated - mostly because Freya never had an eye for interior design. Blackout curtains cover each of the house’s big windows, making it seem almost like night inside. Freya almost flicks a light on, but decides against it. No point anyway - she’s going straight to sleep once she gets the chance.

“So uh, I’ve got a lot of boxed mac and cheese. It’s the only thing I have a ton of that doesn’t go bad easily aside from canned stuff. We can go shopping tomorrow...I’m sure Mako Mart has to be open.” Jeanne watches as Freya opens her pantry, showing off her expansive macaroni and cheese collection. “I’ll show you how to make it sometime. That way you won’t starve if I’m not here.”

“These are rations?”

The question is so packed with things Freya knows for a fact she doesn’t want to touch upon right now.

“No. It’s a meal option. You can make as many of these as you want, even not eat any of these if you end up not liking it.”
“So it is not like, a piece you break off?”
“Nah, it’s hot food. We’ll get it going once the both of us get some rest. Unless you’re hungry now, I mean?”

Freya watches as the octoling takes a moment to genuinely think. She can’t quite put her finger on why the expression on Jeanne’s face hurts her.

“No. I am tired… Food before rest, it hurts the stomach.”
“Oh, yeah. I get that. Let’s get you situated, then.”

Freya leads the way to her room, passing the kitchen counter and the couch where she’ll be sleeping tonight. She’d have to be mindful of her phone during the night when playing her white noise. Opening the door with a creak, Three tries to not make it obvious that she’s praying that she cleaned her room before leaving for the cape with the captain.

Thankfully, her prayers are answered.

The floor is a simple rug, the color long faded before Freya moved in. A lonely dresser sits on the left side of the room. A lone Squid Sisters poster signed by both singers of the pop duo is carefully framed above the bed. It’s big enough for Freya, long tentacles and all, to sprawl out on during hot nights and avoid feeling sticky.
A sliding closet is on the right side of the bedroom, to which Freya steps over to. She pulls out a few blankets and pillows as she motions for Jeanne to get acquainted with the room.

 

“Hope it’s to your liking. I don’t get to decorate much. Help yourself to anything in the closet if you feel like changing out, okay? That can’t be comfortable to sleep in.”

 

“Ah, thank you! Will you sleep here?”

The tone in Jeanne’s voice makes it clear it’s an innocent question - Freya knows that. Even so, she can’t help but freeze up as a tangerine blush blazes across her cheeks.

“Um!” She tries to start. “I! Kick in my sleep! And I want to make sure you enjoy sleeping in a real bed. So uhh, you just get some rest, okay?”

Oh, that was REAL smooth. Totally.

Jeanne buys it though. Her mouth opens in a little ‘o’ as she claps her hands together. “I understand! But, ah, where are you going to rest?”

“Mm, don’t worry about it. I’m just gonna be on the couch in the living room, okay? If you need anything, don’t hesitate to come ask. Got it?”

“...Yes. I understand! And, um...Freya?”

Three’s heart skips a beat.

“Yes?”

“Thank you.”

 

- 🦑 -

 

She’s staring in the mirror of her shitty bathroom after she’s changed out of agent gear. Three traces over every detail of her own face as she scrubs away at her beak, making sure to eradicate the germs she’s accumulated during Kamabo.

 

She’s such a sweet person, Freya thinks. I...don’t know what to do.

Three spits the foamy toothpaste into her sink with a grimace, her orange tongue poking out of her mouth as she stares down her reflection. The events of the day are barely starting to settle down within Freya’s mind. It makes her feel heavy.

She saved your life.

The inkling leans down to get some water into her palms to splash onto her face before bed. A grumbling sigh escapes her as the liquid hits skin. Freya blindly reaches for a towel to dry off.

A bed would’ve been heaven by now, she reminds herself.
But then she wouldn’t have anywhere comfortable to sleep. It isn’t fair to Jeanne, she reasons back.
Suit yourself.
...man, you’re really talking to yourself, huh..?

Finally too fed up with everything, Freya heads out to the living room. She triple checks to make sure the door REALLY is locked before at last plopping down onto the couch.

It’s been a long day.
I know, the lone inkling says to herself. It’s only the beginning. She knows it.

But she’s gone too far now to really refuse. She’s housing an octoling now. In other places, it could be considered a war crime. Freya decides not to think about the legality of her situation.
Three silently scrolls through her sleep aid playlist before getting comfortable under a weighted blanket. Sounds of the ocean - appropriate.

Jeanne’s smile suddenly flashes back into Freya’s mind as she sits awake, staring at the ceiling. There’s a fluttering feeling in her chest as she thinks back to it: the sun, the sea, the smile.

Slumber takes her at last.