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This story arc has been published as a novel!

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Nice Work If You Can Keep It

Nereid finally found Wire alone in the workout room. It was dinner time, and the rest of the Young Cosmics were, presumably, off doing other things. Wire was in a t-shirt and shorts, and rather than working out, she was cleaning the room. A mop and bucket of grey water stood in one corner, and the wood of the floor still shone wetly in a few places. Nereid watched her as she bent over one of the machines with a rag and a bottle of cleaner.

Finally, Wire straightened up, flipped the blue forelock out of her face, and looked at Nereid with an intense hatred that made Nereid back up a step. Wire held Nereid in her gaze like an irritated cobra for a few long moments, then said, "What do you want?"

Nereid cleared her throat and blinked. "I wanted to talk," she said, and cursed her voice for starting out so squeaky.

"About what?" Wire said, still not looking away.

Nereid fiddled with the cuff of her uniform and forced herself to keep looking at Wire. "Brainchild."

Wire looked away first, a small victory for Nereid. "What about her?" Wire said, her voice gone dull.

"I didn't know that... you and she hadn't, you know, talked." Nereid bit her lip. Ivy had told her to keep the pleading and apology out of her voice.

"Would it have really made any difference?" Wire said, polishing the chrome on the elliptical. She sounded very tired.

Nereid straightened her spine. "I don't know. I would like to think that it would have. To me, I mean."

Wire gave her an opaque look. "At least you're trying not to lie."

Nereid kept herself from rolling her eyes. "I also wanted to apologize for the way you found out."

Wire waved the rag. "That wasn't your fault. That was Sophie's. And mine. And... well, thanks, anyway."

A silence fell and dragged on for a few moments as Wire sprayed the bench press bench and wiped it down.

Nereid cleared her throat again. "Well, that's what I wanted to say. So I'll stop bugging you." She turned to leave.

"Nereid," Wire said quietly.

Nereid looked back. "Yes?"

"Your provisional membership period is up in January."

"I know."

"Start packing now."

Nereid felt the shock like the too-hard punch to the gut Wire had "accidentally" given her in training a few days ago. "What?"

Wire smiled, a twisted little smile. "The team's already met and sent our recommendation to our sponsor."

"But I never got my review or anything," Nereid protested. "You didn't tell me you were meeting." Nothing she said altered that strange smile on Wire's face. "It's in the bylaws!"

Wire spread her hands as if to indicate that she was helpless in this matter. "We didn't think the review would be helpful since you are, after all, useless." She turned her back on Nereid. "Later."

Nereid staggered out into the hall and walked blindly through the complex for a while, trying desperately not to cry. Simon had been right. Simon had been right.

She collided with X, who was just coming around a corner. X caught and steadied her with a, "Whoa!"

"I'm so sorry!" Nereid said, blushing fiercely as soon as she realized who held her by the shoulders because it was impossible not to remember Sophie's, Are you planning to fuck X?

"It's all right," X said. Today, X was wearing a burgundy velvet tailcoat over a black shirt and trousers, with knee-high black boots. After a moment, X released Nereid and took a step back, surreptitiously wiping a hand over a trouser leg. "You okay?"

Nereid realized that water had soaked through her shirt in places. She raised a hand and watched as water dripped off her fingertips. "I... I'm sorry. Did I get it on you? I'm sorry."

"You're upset." X said it without the question mark.

Nereid shook her head, trying not to shake violently enough to scatter the water she could feel running down her scalp. "It's okay. It's just, you know, Young Cosmics stuff."

X examined her for a long moment, then appeared to decide to let it go. "I wanted to talk to you anyway."

"You did?" Nereid met X's gaze for the first time, and realized that X looked worried. Really worried.

X nodded and glanced around. "Look, I can't say much, and I know you really can't do much about it, but... keep an eye on Sophie for the next few weeks, okay?"

Nereid nodded slowly.

X shrugged. "It's not much, I don't have any details, but there's something... anyway. Just, you know, be there for her?"

"If she'll let me," Nereid said, giving a shaky smile, aimlessly trying to wring out the front of her shirt.

X returned the smile. "If she'll let you." X started to pat Nereid on the shoulder, thought better of it, and gave Nereid a jaunty little salute instead. "I'm off then."

As X went into the entryway of the Young Cosmics building, X produced a burgundy circle from inside the coat and, with a flick of the wrist, expanded it into a top hat. X donned it on the way out. Nereid shook her head and half-smiled, then turned soddenly toward the room that wouldn't be hers for much longer.




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Date: 2012-05-09 09:40 pm (UTC)
the_leaky_pen: (Default)
From: [personal profile] the_leaky_pen
EXPANDABLE TOP HAT. HOW DID I NOT NOTICE THAT ON THE FIRST READ THROUGH?

Okay that settles it, I am in love with X.

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