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Of a Mingled Yarn

Nereid found a trio of women sitting in the garden at Zoltan's house, despite the chilly November air. She recognized two of them -- Megan and G -- and was introduced to the third, mousier woman, whose name was Watson. G and Watson were smoking. "Do you know if Simon's home?" she asked them.

Megan snorted. "He's home, but if you can get him to talk to you, you're doing better than any of us."

G said, "I think his date last Friday went badly."

"Oh," Nereid said. "Oh, maybe I should come back later."

Megan gestured her toward the house. "Nah. You're old friends. He'll talk to you."

Nereid continued to feel uncertain. "I... kind of wanted to talk to him about... you know... a relationship."

"With him?" Watson said, eyebrows rising precipitously.

"No!" Nereid said, alarmed. "No, no, I'm in a relationship and it's... confusing. But it probably wouldn't be good to talk to him about..."

Megan reached over and gave her a little shove toward the front door. "Go. He'll tell you if he doesn't want to hear about it. And it might do him good to hear about someone else's woes."

"You think so...?" Nereid said, casting her gaze to the two older women.

G nodded. "Go on," she said.

So Nereid went into the house, walking softly up the stairs to the landing where two apartment doors faced each other. She listened a moment at Simon's door, then tapped at it.

He wrenched the door open. Simon was shirtless, with a small white towel around his neck, and was wearing baggy, knee-length nylon athletic pants in the Wonder City U colors. The stereo was booming a woman's voice singing some opera thing that Nereid vaguely recognized. Carmen? Or something like that. Simon mopped beads of sweat off his forehead with the towel and said, "Pacifica."

Nereid said, "You're busy," and prepared to bolt.

Simon's smile didn't reach his eyes. "Nah, come on in."

His apartment was neater than she'd ever seen it. Everything was picked up off the floor, the laundry was in its hamper, the books were neatly arranged on the shelves, the bed was made. There was a strangely open spot that took her a few moments to puzzle out -- an old wooden table was missing.

"Soooo," Nereid said, looking around and trying not to touch anything, "how are you doing?"

Simon shrugged violently and balled up his towel. "About the usual." He threw the towel into the hamper hard enough to make it rock from side to side.

"I... a little bird told me you'd had a... a date problem," Nereid said.

Simon's mouth curled into a snarl, then relaxed. "You could say that."

"What happened?"

Simon cut his eyes at her and pursed his lips. "What do you think happened?" He reached out to a remote control on an occasional table. Next to it was a CD titled And the Fat Lady Sings!. He punched a button and the Fat Lady's voice ceased to course through the apartment.

Nereid looked away and cleared her throat. "The, um, Down There problem?"

"The inadequate supply of junk issue, yes." Simon thumped the side of a large wooden cabinet that Nereid remembered him building last year in Professor Canis's garage. "Prosthetic replacements not helpful." For a moment, she vividly remembered watching him work on it, lovingly shaping the individual shelves and racks for his extensive, embarrassing collection with a jig saw and sander. The garage had smelled of sawed wood and varnish. "I didn't try the 'it was shot off in the war' line this time. I didn't think she'd laugh." He turned his back on Nereid and started rifling through a dresser drawer.

Nereid watched his back for a few moments, abstractedly admiring his muscles, then noticed that he'd stopped moving and his shoulders had sagged. "I'm sorry, Simon," she said quietly. "I... have you ever re-thought asking your mom...?"

Simon back stiffened and he scowled at her. "I told you before. Anything Mom makes for me will be just for me. The government will take it away and lock it up and no other trans person in the country will be able to use it until the powers that be decide it can't be weaponized. And never will, if they decide it can be a weapon. I mean, shit, look at the potential for demoralizing the enemy soldiers by giving them boobs and making their dicks vanish!" He slapped his hand down on the top of the dresser and he turned his scowl down into the drawer. "I'm not using it unless everyone can use it."

Nereid thought, and never, ever said, that Simon was being a martyr to his own cause, and if she had his problem, she'd ask her mom to invent the sex-switcher the second she was sure. Not that her mom was an inventor. But anyway.

Instead, she said, "I'm sorry."

Simon shrugged and pulled a t-shirt out of the drawer. "It's okay. I didn't mean to snap. What's up with you?"

Nereid considered how to put it. "I'm... okay," she said.

Simon pulled the t-shirt over his head and looked at her again. "You don't sound okay."

Nereid flapped her hands uselessly, losing her mental grip on Simon's troubles. "I should be happy," she said. "I've got a... I've got a... Simon, I'm a..." Her words, starting in a rush, ended up a trickle.

Simon turned to face her. His white t-shirt was fronted by multicolored triangles -- pink, blue, and black -- arranged with overlapping corners to resemble a Venn diagram, and a tiny, white, "me," at their dark purple intersection. "You have a girlfriend," he said, his voice a little flat, almost bored, "and you have no idea how to tell your parents."

Nereid's eyes widened and she felt her face flush scarlet. "How did you know?" she whispered.

Simon barked a laugh. "Girlfriend, your eyes used to be locked on Ivy's cleavage when you thought she wasn't looking."

Nereid covered her face with her hands. Had everyone known? Everyone but her, that is?

"It's all right, you know," Simon said, his voice gentler. "Your mom and dad are cool people, and they know plenty of queer folks. They'll be all right after they get used to it. And if they don't, just ask Megan to get her mom to talk to them."

"Her mom is scary," Nereid said in a small voice, peeking at him between her fingers.

"Yeah," Simon said. "Megan doesn't believe that, though, which means she's going to turn into just as terrifying a person as her mom without knowing it."

"She's well on her way," Nereid said, dropping her hands to her sides.

"I won't tell her you said that," he said. "What else is wrong?"

Nereid gave him her best Why do you think anything else is wrong? look, and he just put his hands on his hips and glowered back at her.

She shrugged helplessly and said, "It's just... my g... girlfriend is... well, she didn't exactly break up nicely with her last girlfriend, and her last girlfriend kinda... walked in on us. And she looked really hurt and stuff."

Simon frowned and gestured for Nereid to have a seat on the blazing orange striped couch. She thumped down on it and he folded himself down more gracefully. "All right," Simon said. "Spill. Who's your girlfriend?"

Nereid looked down at her hands and said in a tiny voice, "Brainchild."

When Simon didn't immediately say anything, she looked up carefully. She expected him to be grinning, if not outright laughing at her. Instead, he was still frowning, but looking away. After a moment, he said, "I thought I heard that she and the deputy commander of the Young Cosmics were a thing."

"Um. Yeah. They were."

Simon's gaze slewed around to her and he looked at her over his tinted lenses, pinning her like a butterfly. "Are you prepared to be bounced off the team, then?"

Nereid blinked. This had never occurred to her. "But why...?"

Simon tilted his head, raised his eyebrows, and let his glasses slip down his nose further. "Because that's how this game is played. Come on, Pacifica. Teen mob mentality runs later than high school. Wire is going to kick you in the ass the only way she can, and her buds will back her up because she's the alpha bitch and you're the omega, and you came in and took her girl away."

"But I didn't!" Nereid said, not liking the high, strained pitch of her voice. "I... Sophie kissed me first."

"That won't matter to Wire," Simon said, then he rubbed his forehead with his fingertips. "Pacifica, look, why don't you call Ivy? She'd love to hear from you, and I think she'd have... she'd be better for you to talk to. She has a girl perspective on this, you know?"

Nereid stopped herself from saying something like, But you did too, once, didn't you?, and congratulated herself on catching herself before something like that came out. Maybe she did have a better learning curve than the kitten her mother always compared her to. "Sure," she said. "Sure, I'll give her a call." She stood up. "Thanks for listening."

Simon stood up too. "Pacifica, just be careful, okay? The Young Cosmics are mostly jerks. Talk to Pay -- from what you've said, he's got some perspective on things."

Nereid didn't quite wince, but pasted a bigger smile on her face. "Sure, I'll talk to him."

At the door, Nereid turned and smiled more tentatively at him. "Thanks, Simon. You're a real nice guy."

Simon smiled, tightlipped but pleased, she thought. They hesitated a moment more, and he reached out and hugged her with one arm. "Thanks," he said. "You're pretty nice too. Stay that way, huh?"

Watson was the only one still in the yard when Nereid left. She blew smoke rings over the yard and waved languidly at Nereid. Nereid paused, then headed over to her.

She had her mouth open to ask a question, but something else caught her attention: around the side of the house, near the trash cans, there was a little heap of splintered wood. One of the legs of the table she had missed in Simon's apartment stuck out of the pile.

Watson followed her gaze, then turned back and smiled up at Nereid. "Yes," she said. "Our Simon has some anger issues, doesn't he?"

Nereid, remembering something Ivy had said to her, said vaguely, "It's the testosterone."

Watson gave her a look over the gold rim of her glasses, just as Simon had earlier, but her eyes were hazel and rather kind. "No, dear," she said. "It's just life."

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Everyone's a critic

Date: 2010-04-08 02:09 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Everyone's a music critic.
- The Fat Lady


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