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This story arc has been published as a novel!

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Table Scraps

"Why," Jet said plaintively, inspecting the rags that had, until an hour before, been the shirt of his costume, "do we deal with idiots like The Menagerie, while the Gold Stars get people like The Planetcrusher and Huxton Enterprises?" He, of course, looked fabulous with his dark skin and his well-earned musculature showing picturesquely through the rents and holes.

"God, I know," Vector said, looking down at her brown-splattered purple jumpsuit. "I have got to get out of this thing and get it into the laundry." Despite the additions, she still looked model-perfect with her short blonde hair and tiny body.

"Ye-ah," Mercury said, inspecting her with a grimace. His hair was always ideally rumpled despite his high-velocity combat style, and he flaunted it. "I think Macaque was aiming at you purposely."

Nereid kept putting one foot in front of the other. She'd been beat on by villains before, but this outing was particularly unpleasant. She felt like someone had taken a baseball bat to her legs and shoulders, which, she supposed, was a close enough equivalent to the Onager's hooves. There was still a lingering pain in her back where the Sloth had crept up on her and dragged her claws in a long, deep, downward blow. Tilt, Mercury's alien boyfriend and not actually a member of the team, had healed her, but she could feel the cool air against her bare skin there. She just hoped her underwear wasn't showing. She couldn't remember which pair she'd put on this morning. Surely not the grannies. Please not the grannies. Especially not the ones with the little flowers on.

She was painfully aware that she did not, in fact, look picturesque, fabulous, or perfect. She never did, but right now, she felt like she looked like a rat that had an unfortunate encounter with a steamroller.

Vector growled and glowered and stomped off into the building. Mercury followed her, manfully choking down his giggles as he whispered to Tilt. Jet rolled his eyes and trooped in too.

Wire rubbed her face tiredly. Her blue forelock was still weirdly bouyant and she'd kept her costume pristine. She and Brainchild had been quarreling since they'd received the call about the Menagerie. Wire and Mercury had decided to take the team out despite their missing heavy-hitter, Citizen Pain, who'd gone out an hour earlier and was out of touch. Brainchild had argued that the Menagerie was tough, if stupid, and going without Pay was dangerous. She'd been right, in a way, but also wrong (the Menagerie's heavy hitters were also absent), which made her temper flare. Wire was striding along as fast as she could to stay well ahead of Brainchild. She said, over her shoulder, "Sophie, no coming into the building until you get de-The-Skunk-ed."

Brainchild lifted her goggles and peered through bleary and streaming eyes at her vice-commander. "Yes, sir," she snarled. "Will you kindly provide me with the materials to build a shower out here, or do I slink into my doghouse and wait until it wears off?"

Wire sighed and looked skyward. "The 'bots can bring you your stuff. I'm off to have a soak. Getting trampled and gnawed on by the Capybara is always kind of traumatic." She didn't even look back as she nearly ran into the building after the others.

Brainchild was left standing in the courtyard, staring down at her feet, her mouth moving in some sort of internal conversation.

Nereid slowed her steps and watched for a moment. Finally, she took a deep breath and said, a little timidly, "Can I help?"

The resident inventor genius looked up, face changing from miserable to surprised to her habitual scornful expression in a matter of a second. "Well, I guess you can take the place of a water hose," Brainchild said, though it didn't really sound like her heart was in it.

"Sure," Nereid said, hoping she didn't sound too puppylike. "Can I get stuff for you?"

Brainchild stared at her hard. Finally, Brainchild wiped her eyes absently and said, "Yes, please," which startled Nereid. "I can order the 'bots to bring me the structural bits, but could you bring a couple of opaque shower curtains out?"

Nereid smiled, still hesitant. "Sure! I'll be right back!"

It was harder than she thought to find wherever the butler kept replacement shower curtains, and harder than usual to find the butler. She finally went to her own room and detached the inner plastic curtain and the outer decorative canvas curtain from her shower stall, looped them over her arm, grabbed the more tattered of her two bathrobes, and trotted back outside.

Brainchild was surrounded by a half dozen small 'bots and had already constructed most of the frame of a small, cylindrical shower stall, complete with hose and sprayer head and a square of linoleum for the floor. One 'bot with a cargo area that looked like the bed of a red child's wagon followed her around with several gallons of white vinegar in plastic jugs. Brainchild looked up when Nereid approached. "Oh. Thanks. I hadn't even thought about clothes yet."

Nereid shrugged and handed over the curtains, and Brainchild efficiently hung them on the circular pipe that was the top of her shower stall.

A few more minutes, during which Nereid shifted subtly upwind of the lemony-sharp eye-watering reek of Brainchild, finished the stall. Brainchild immediately stepped inside. "I can't stand the stink of myself any more."

Nereid blushed helplessly when she saw the pieces of Brainchild's costume tossed over the curtain onto the ground: the fingerless gloves, the faux-leather bomber jacket, the tight-fitting dark blue shirt with its sci-fi metal fastenings, the battered grey sports bra, the complicated black stompy boots, the spandex-and-pleather black pants...

She turned away before the final items came over the wall because she was afraid the blush would make her pass out by pulling all the blood from her brain.

"Okay," said Brainchild. "Screw the first gallon jug to the input valve, hold the jug upside-down, and start dumping water into the hose."

Nereid threw the bathrobe over her shoulder and fumbled her way through this process, not helped by the little red wagon 'bot that kept nudging against her ankle whenever she did something wrong. She heard Brainchild sigh impatiently, but only once.

Finally, water started coursing through the hose from Nereid's hand, working in some arcane way to pull vinegar from the jug along with it. Brainchild exclaimed when the water hit her. "Oh, hey, I was expecting it to be cold. Thanks for that."

Nereid opted not to mention that the water always came out at body temperature.

The jug emptied. Brainchild leaned out to grab a bottle of liquid soap off a newly-arrived 'bot, and Nereid had to look away again. She fumbled the empty jug spectacularly, so that it ended up about fifteen feet away, and the little red wagon 'bot beeped irritably. She attached a full jug to the valve and the 'bot beeped again and went after the empty.

"All right," Brainchild said. "I'm soaped. Flush away."

There were several iterations of this as they worked their way through the bottles of vinegar.

"God, I hope this does it," Brainchild said. "I'm freezing, and all I want is dinner. Will you come have a sniff? I can't smell anything right now. My nose is a mess."

Nereid said, "Um, sure," and hesitantly approached the terrifying bastion of nudity. She stood just outside and sniffed loudly. "I can't smell anything."

Brainchild parted the curtains. "Come closer and check. I don't want snide comments when I get inside."

Nereid really did think she was going to pass out then. Before she managed to avert her eyes down to the safety of Brainchild's feet, she'd seen everything. Everything. And her brain had somehow managed to retain all of it, and was analyzing it, and...

Brainchild stepped closer and shoved her head under Nereid's nose. "Have I got it out of my hair?"

Nereid inhaled obediently, and felt her stomach go a little wobbly with proximity. "There's... I think it's pretty much all gone. But there's a little whiff still."

Brainchild stepped back. "Well, maybe Mommy will let me in the house, and I can take yet another shower with my shampoo and stuff."

Nereid hurriedly retreated a few steps, fixing her gaze on the red wagon 'bot. "I think so. I mean, I don't really smell much on you. Um. Here!" She pulled the bathrobe from her shoulder and thrust it at Brainchild.

She heard the rustle of cloth.

"You can look now," Brainchild said, her voice regaining more of its accustomed tone. "Guess I'm pretty hideous," she added.

"No!" Nereid exclaimed. "I mean, you're not! I mean! Augh!" She had turned to look, but Brainchild hadn't belted the robe, and the view sent Nereid into a panic and another blush.

"Sorry," Brainchild said, though there wasn't a lot of contrition there. "Wire does say I've got a mean streak. Come on, let's go inside and get warm. Looks like you could do with a change of clothes too."

Nereid opened to her mouth to speak and emitted a squeak instead of the cool, suave comment she'd vaguely planned. She turned and trailed after Brainchild.

The others, it turned out, had already had supper, prepared by the butler, and were relaxing in the hot tub, watching television and laughing uproariously at something. Nereid glanced at Brainchild's face, as was surprised by the bitterness there.

Brainchild said, "When you've changed, come on to my room. I'll order pizza."

Nereid's stomach did a small flip-flop. "Oh, sure!" she said, a little too eagerly. She dragged herself back into line. "Should I stop by the kitchen and grab some drinks?"

Brainchild had started down the hall. "No, don't bother. I've got beer."

Nereid fled to her room. Part of her knew that Brainchild was being nice to her out of spite for Wire, but she was grateful for what crumbs of kindness she could get.

Contact Form?

Date: 2009-12-15 02:51 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)

I was wondering if you had a contact form/public email where I could reach you, other than by spamming your comment boxes?


Date: 2012-05-09 08:07 pm (UTC)
the_leaky_pen: (Default)
From: [personal profile] the_leaky_pen
Gaw. Nereid. D: She requires all the hugs.


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