Black Thorns, Red Roses
IC date: Summer 48, 1007
OOC date: Aug 7, 2012
PCs: Blackbird, Rusty-Gears, brief appearance by Sadaka
GM: None

It's been at least a week since she's seen hide or hair of Blackbird. The stallion hasn't really been…around. About town, at her place, anywhere. And for a friendly, and not to mention protective, pony like Blackbird, that's quite unusual.

Tonight, though, as the moon is starting to climb, Blackbird is at home, outside and chaining the gyrocopter to the side of his house. He has lots of specialty locks designed for it, and at present, his task is removing one of the vital pieces for the rotor to store elsewhere, somewhat like a key. The pony is on his back on the bottom of his transport, looking up into the bottom of the mechanisms, flashlight clenched in his teeth.

Rusty-Gears peers around the corner, hesitating a moment before slowly trotting towards the house. It's a bit late for a visit, granted — she'd meant to stop by earlier, but then she'd gotten working on that thing, and then that other project, and then she'd had that order, and… she wasn't nervous. Of course not. Rusty doesn't /do/ nervous. Of course not. She's just been… busy. And of course Blackbird's been busy too! Which is why she hasn't seen him. Not because he's mad at her or she did something wrong or he doesn't like her anymore or… nope, not nervous at /all/.

Clank, click click, cla-CLANK THUMP "OW, son of a mother!" swears the pony, as he clasps a hoof to his head where a sizable chunk of metal fell off the frame and clocked him one. In a fit of anger he slams a hoof against the console, and another piece rattles loose and THUNK, hits him in the nose. "GOD— AUGH!" He spits the flashlight out and sits up, eyes squeezed shut and hooves against his nose as he tries to stem the new nosebleed. "Great, just what this week needed," he mutters. Apparently, he hasn't noticed Rusty at all.

Rusty-Gears jumps in surprise at the sudden exclaimation, blinking and peering over at the glint from the flashlight. "Blackbird? What… oh, geez, are you okay? Did something break?" She hurries over, though catches herself in time to pause awkwardly a few feet away, fidgetting.

Blackbird jumps at the voice and whirls, eyes widening. "Rusty! Oh— god, no I'm fine, it's okay. Just a bump." He winces a little, but offers a bit of a reassuring smile. He hops off the gyro and starts toward her, but catching her awkward fidgeting he slows, as worry blooms and knots into his stomach. "Are… Is everything okay?" he asks nervously.

"Huh? Oh, yeah, everything… everything's fine!" Smile. Grin, even! Not nervous at all! Nope! "I was just… y'know, walking by. In the neighbourhood. Of course. I mean, we live in the same neighbourhood. Obviously." Shut up, Rusty. :< She rubs the back of her head with one hoof awkwardly. "…What're you working on?"

Blackbird flicks his ears back as she rambles like that, mouth pulling into an unhappy frown. "…Ah," he finally says at length, maybe a little sad. Or a lot sad. "I guess you heard whatever rumor's been going around then, huh? I— Can I please explain? Before you run screaming forever? I mean— I guess it's okay if you don't want to…hear it, that's fair. Maybe I deserve it. I just…no, you know what? It's cool. You don't have to make small talk with me." The inventor shakes his head and turns back to his gyrocopter, lost in /apparently/ his own little morose world. "It's probably better if you avoid me anyway."

Rusty-Gears blinks and tilts an ear, frowning as well. "…What in Equestria are you talking about?" she finally asks, sounding completely perplexed. "…Aren't /you/ the one avoiding /me/?"

Blackbird blinks. "Wha— No! I'm not avoiding you. Why would I be avoiding you?" The stallion turns back, blinking again, before a sheepish look creeps up his features. "Well— … Not you specifically. It's just been a crappy week, and I've just sort of…holed up a bit, I guess. I just thought… I don't know, you're acting different. I thought…" He trails off, nudging the ground with his hoof a little. "I'm sorry. Maybe I'm just a little rattled right now."

Rusty-Gears blushes sheepishly, scuffing a hoof at the ground. "Well, it… I mean… you just sorta… disappeared, there, and I… I mean, everypony gets busy, I know, and especially with the little one back, I guess, though it's summer so school's out at least, and you hadn't really said anything, and I don't think I've managed to blow up anything all /that/ important recently, but everything kinda went wrong anyways and I don't know maybe I should've planned it all better but I don't always plan stuff great and…" she trails off, stilling her hooves before she manages to dig a hole in his yard. And any /more/ of a hole verbally. Shut /up/, Rusty.

Blackbird blinks a little, and after a moment of hesitation, he trots forward and nuzzles her neck affectionately. "No, you're fine, Rusty. You're fine. I'm really sorry. I just— I panicked, and I sort of shut down a bit. I should've… I don't know. There's stuff. And…I want to tell you about it but I… I'm nervous, I guess. About how you'll take it. It's not about you! It's just…stuff. And I'm sorry that I left you wondering."

Rusty-Gears blinks and blushes, returning the nuzzle. "I know things have gotten kind of… crazy… especially for you… but… but you know you can tell me anything, right?"

"Yes— no— I don't know," Blackbird replies in frustration, pushing a hoof against his forehead. Blood trickles down his chin from his nosebleed, and he blinks, pressing his hoof against it again. "I…I should get inside and fix this." He trots past her, to the door. Is he just going to leave the conversation like that?

But no, he pauses at the open door, looking at her. "Coming?" he asks softly.
Rusty-Gears lays her ears back and looks down at the words, seeming to droop a bit. The invitation perks her back up, if only slightly, and she moves to follow him into the house. "Here, you… sit down, I'll get some towels and such."

Blackbird nods a bit then pauses. "You get the towels, I'll get some tea started. If I'm going to tell you all of this crap, I might as well do it with some hot tea. … I should also make sure Sadaka's in bed. I don't want her hearing any of this." With another little nuzzle, the tired stallion turns to scoot up the stairs and check on his ward as quietly as he can.

Sadaka is indeed in bed, curled up and sleeping with her little stuffed pegasus doll hugged close, a half-finished book open on her pillow and the candle on the bedside table still flickering lightly.

Blackbird smiles softly, and leaves the candle burning for now. So cute~

Retreating back downstairs, the teacher goes about making tea if Rusty hasn't ninja'd that from him, and then he nods the two of them down into the basement, his workshop.

Rusty-Gears trails after him, loaded up with towels and bandages and hot water and icepacks and /stuff/. FIRST AID GOOOO.

And down they go, into the rabbit hole…

Within fifteen minutes, they've settled onto cushions in the corner of his workshop, gas lantern turned up to illuminate the corner. It's cozy, but also a little… well, dark. Foreboding. Tea is poured, and the teacher is quiet for a long moment as he carefully sips his beverage.

"I wasn't always a teacher," he begins slowly, eyes on the ground. "In fact, that's a recent development. Nopony who lives here… I mean, you don't go to Horseshoe Harbor if you don't have a past. Something you're running from."
Rusty-Gears nods slowly. Admittedly, she's not entirely unfamiliar with this concept herself. This is that sort of place… a good 'start over' place. For some unfathomable reason.

"Iiiii…" Blackbird draws the syllable out and bites it off with a frustrated sigh. "I was— It was what you /did/, right? I grew up— My family was a good family. We looked after one another. When they died, I— I mean, I had to do something. I was young. And I… I mean, they were there for me. They— The… The… The Black Rose. I joined the Black Rose." As much as he seems to feel conflicted about it, this name means exactly squat to Rusty.

Rusty-Gears tilts an ear. "The… Black Rose? What's that?" She's got the impression it's not something to be all that proud of. Not with that sort of reaction. But she's sure never heard of it.

"Aggh," Blackbird replies, wincing. He reaches up and rubs his mane furiously. "It's— okay, it's… I— Okay. Back in Stalliongrad, there were… There was, I guess, political unrest. Let's call it that. And…so… there was the military, and then there was… I guess, sort of, the paramilitary? If that makes sense? We were under the government, but we were…sort of our own jurisdiction. The… the kind of jurisdiction that… W-well, I'll get to it." He stares down into his tea. "Look, the short of it is… the short of it is the Black Rose is sort of a… a governmentally funded mercenary organization? I guess. If that makes sense."

Rusty-Gears nods slowly. "So sort of like… military hired hands. Okay." Well that could be worse.

Blackbird nods a little. "Yes. No. Sort of. Well— sort of." He bites his lip, a little frustrated, but he soldiers on. So to speak. "They raised me from a little colt. And…so, I mean… You learn. You learn to follow orders. You do what you're told. You don't question. I didn't question. We weren't— we weren't military hired-hands. We were military assassins. They…sent us after political opponents. Protestors. And we— /I/— killed ponies. Quickly. I was… I was /good/ at it. And…they were fostering my… my science too. I developed weapons for them. Biochemical weapons. Firearms. Explosives. You name it, I probably developed something for it. In my spare time, I guess. It was like… when you're not on assignment, you have to do something to aid the organization. It could be grunt-work, or filing. I chose weapon development."

Rusty-Gears frowns and nods, tilting an ear. "Oh. Oh, wow." She doesn't look… horrified. Maybe a little upset… mostly just surprised. She nods again, letting out a slow breath. "Well, you do what you're good at… it's not our fault science can make a lot of… dangerous stuff."

Blackbird gives a humorless snort. "Yeah, well. That's the part I'm almost okay with. Science is science, and if not me then someone else would have done it all." He takes a deep breath, and a sip of tea. "Well…anyway. Under
the Black Rose, we were sent on assignments, like I said, to kill ponies. At first, they were dangerous ponies. Ponies who were hurting others. We were doing good work. But as time went on… we went after political rivals not because they were genuinely nasty ponies, but because they were simply rivals. But we didn't question. Never question."

The stallion shakes his head. "And from there, it just got progressively worse, until… I just— There was an assignment." His mouth twitches, and he looks down at his tea again, unable to meet her eyes as he takes a moment to rally.

Rusty-Gears blinks, hesitating a moment before leaning over to nuzzle him gently. "It's okay…"

Blackbird flinches away for a moment, reflexively, perhaps expecting the worst. But the nuzzle is belatedly returned, if half-heartedly. The poor stallion's starting to tremble. "I was supposed to go to a location, and kill any living ponies inside. It was a house. A two-story brick house. Three windows on the front. A blue door. I went inside… I shot them all. A mother, a father. Three kids. Little kids, Rusty. One was barely old enough to talk."

The tremble is turning into a shake. "I went— I went back to my sargeant. I told him, no more. No more children. That's all I ask. And he— We fought. When I got out of the hospital, I… I was— I tried to leave. I couldn't. My next assignment. Pair of orphans. And… I just… I did it. I shut down."

Rusty-Gears winces, laying her ears back. "Oh, Blackbird…" Again, horror is outweighed by something else. Sympathy this time. She certainly isn't looking at him as though she blames him, though no one could really say she looks terribly pleased at this new information.

"No— you have to hear it all before you—" Blackbird cuts off and shakes his head, gritting his teeth before he goes on. "A year. I gave in. I murdered whoever they wanted me to murder. Kids, elderly, women, teenagers. You name it, I did it. Without remorse. Without feeling. I killed a lot of ponies, Rusty. In very cold blood.

"At some point… at some point, I realized I was enjoying it. And I…I don't know. I went to see my sergeant. All of it just bubbled over. The murders. The emotional shut down. I'd been— I think I kept it all inside, and it just came out, in a rage that boiled out of me. It came out in a tempest and I just— When I killed, I did it methodically, with planning and care. This time, I went berzerk. I beat him to death with my hooves. I killed him with my /teeth/. It all just— it poured out of me. The anger, the resentment. The utter bone-deep /horror/ at what I'd done, what he'd made me do. And I didn't stop. I didn't stop until—" He cuts off, squeezing his eyes shut, taking a few staying breaths.

Rusty-Gears winces and bites her lip, silent for a long moment. She finally sighs heavily, gets up… and circles the table to plop down beside him. Thumph. "…It's not your fault, Blackbird."

"It sure bloody feels like my fault," Blackbird breathes, still staring hard at the floorboards. Still, trembling as he is, the story is exhausting, and he flops over a little to lean on her, just a bit. Testing, maybe. "I ran. I ran, and I came here. I hid. I didn't talk to anyone, didn't invent or even leave my house, for over a year. But eventually… I don't know. Salty became mayor and she randomly appointed me school-teacher, and I just…did it. And I've tried very hard to forget it, but…" He trails off, and halfheartedly nudges his teacup with a hoof. "Nights like this, I wish I hadn't quit drinking."

Rusty-Gears nuzzles him lightly, eventually shifting to drape her neck over his. "You did what you had to… You tried to get out. You couldn't." She tilted an ear. "…I'm not… /entirely/ saying that it makes it all… okay. But you… that's… that's not who you are. Not anymore. If it were… if it were, it wouldn't bother you, would it?"

Blackbird finally gives in and curls up closer to Rusty, pressing tightly against her side. "It worries me. When I saw what Mad did to Sadaka, I was going to do it again. And I wasn't going to feel bad about it, not even a little. And— and now Mad is saying— She knows. She knows about all of this. And if I don't keep out of her business, she's going to tell the whole town. If I leave here, they'll kill me. And maybe I'll deserve it, but I don't want… I don't know what to do."

Rusty-Gears gives a small snort. "If you hadn't gone after that crazy mare /I/ would have. I just mighta done it with explosives. …And then we'd /all/ be sunk." She nuzzles him gently, draping a foreleg around him. "Blackbird… you said it yourself. No one comes here without some sort of history. So she knows… you know, if I'd heard it from her I wouldn't've believed a word of it even if she showed me pictures."

She sighs softly, shaking her head. "It's… it's a mess, I get that. But you… don't have to deal with this all on your own, you know?"

"It's pretty easy to believe when she starts reciting this kind of crap back at you," Blackbird mumbles, curling a little closer and nuzzling against her. "I've just been alone for a long time and…" He trails off, then lifts his head to kiss her. A few times even! "Thank you," he murmurs. "I didn't mean to just dump this all on you. Just— she threatened, and I panicked, and… what if you heard about it all, and…"

Rusty-Gears blushes but returns the kiss(es!), smiling a bit. "Eh, that's what I'm here for. Shoulder to lean on and all that. The past is the past… we all have them. What matters is who you are now. A great teacher, a brilliant inventor, a darn good dad…" she nudged him lightly. "You're Blackbird. And I love you for it."

She glances down shyly. "Just… don't go hiding from me like that again, okay? I want to be around to help you with stuff. Not sitting around wondering what I managed to screw up this time."

Now it's Blackbird's turn to blush. "I'm not sure I'm all that," he mumbles in embarrassment, but he still smiles slightly. "But… thank you. And I promise. Thank you for not…I don't know. Running. Screaming. I— I understand if you need time to process all that. I wouldn't blame you. But you're… you're wonderful. And I love /you/ for /that/. And…y'know. Everything else. Like the explosions." At last, the teacher musters a bit of a cheesy, but ultimately charming, grin.

Rusty-Gears blinks and giggles lightly, tilting an ear sheepishly. "Well, you'd be the first to love me for that. But I guess someone's got to, right? …Don't worry. I'm not going anywhere. Screaming or otherwise."

Another softer kiss is planted on her muzzle. "I do love you for that. I think it's awesome." And then some more kisses. There's gonna be some crazy cuddling all up in this workshop yo.

Fo reals.