Eden, Los Angeles
It was the hottest new club in LA. People said you could get anything you wanted there. Privacy? Drugs? You got it. Security was good if you wanted safely, and the food even better thanks to the Michelin class chef that could be seen at the pass.
It was early yet, but the seats were filling up though the dance floor was still scarce.
The Damselfly arrived on the back of a six-foot-tall woman, eyes dilated and full of admiring wonder.
Nat is immediately recognised as the famous Damselfly. A hostess with a thousand watt smile and a dress with a slit all the way to her hip welcomes you and Vin.
“Table for two, Mx Zygoptera?”
Nat gasped, delighted. “You used the right address, oh you’re wonderful. You’re so good. What’s your name? Um yes! Table for two, please,” Nat said, then whispered excitedly in eir date’s ear: “Vin, I’m a celebrity. How neat is that. Can we get food? I want some food. I hear it’s good here.”
The hostess grinned. “Yes, Mx Zygoptera, you certainly are. I’m Priscilla. Let me show you to your table.”“Priscilla, you are wonderful. You can totally call me Nat though.”
“And yes, food can certainly be ordered. Chef Nerone is famous for his risotto.”
Pandora grinned widely as she examined the club with wide-eyed wonder. She was completely out of it at this point, her mind having wandered far-afield whilst her legs had carried the pair of drugged-out buddies to this bright and colorful location. At the mention of food from the Damselfly on her back, the tall woman nodded eagerly and licked her lips as her stomach grumbled.
There’s a woman lounging near the booths. It’s hard to miss her – even though she’s only about five feet two, and maybe a hundred and ten pounds soaking wet, she’s dyed her asymmetrical haircut neon green and bright pink. Her hands shuffle a deck of cards in a practiced motion. She’s not here to dance — she’s scanning the other patrons, looking for something else. When she sees Vin and Nat, she tilts her head to one side and gives them a long, considering look.
“Holy shit, risotto,” the Damselfly whispered reverently. “I can’t remember the last time I ordered that. My sister made super good risotto back in the day, and whenever I got it at restaurants it was disappointing. Just… yeah.”
Ey dislodged from Vin’s shoulders and waved to a few staring fans with a cheerful “hiiii!” before settling down onto the chair.
[Risotto… Risotto…] Vin watched her hands with clear interest as she signed, seemingly shocked that she could understand what they were ‘saying.’ [Have you noticed that when I move my hands like this it is almost like I am saying words? But then, when I do this…] Vin waved her hands around randomly. [When I do that it does not make any sense. Isn’t that weird?] She took her own spot in the booth, a dreamy smile still upon her lips.
“Well it’s like,” Nat struggled to find the words, “when you have intent… that makes all the difference. Your intention infuses meaning into your… movements? It’s the same with spoken words. And symbols on paper. We shape the world around us… using intent and the force of will.”
[Yeah… Yeah… That makes so much fucking sense!]
Priscilla set menus down at table, still smiling that thousand watt smile. “Now, our specials of the day are lobster risotto, sea bass with an apple cider reduction, and I especially recommend the tiramisu for dessert. Matthew will be your waiter for the evening, and he’ll be by to take your orders.” She left them to their decisions. “Fuuuuuuck that all sounds so good”
Nat ogled the menu for a few moments, squinting and blinking to try to read the words that didn’t seem to want to stay still, then ey set the menu down and looked over to see that one of the people looking at them was kind of different. Somebody who looked more confused and intrigued than starstruck.
So of course Nat grinned and waved.
The obnoxiously haired girl seemed to take that as an invitation. She sliiid into the booth, wearing an audacious grin. “Mx. Damselfly,” she said. “Everyone’s buzzing about you. Who’s your friend?”
“It’s Pandora!” Nat volunteered loudly. “We’re dating!”
Pandora’s face was literally INSIDE of her menu as she tried to read through it. She gave up after a few moments and tossed her menu aside. [Who thought it would be a good idea to make the words on this menu move!? It makes it really hard to read!] It was then that she noticed the newcomer and blinked at them. [You have cool hair. Very colorful.]
“Thanks.” Elise grinned. “I like your hair too. And you’re dating, eh? Good shit. Good shit. Elise Atlas, by the way.”
Dr. Atlas was one of the Infinity Legion’s premiere scientists, explorers, and researchers. He was known for his affairs and his womanizing as much as he was his work with the Legion. He adopted the name ‘Atlas’ after joining the Legion as a way to signify his allegiance with the Legion’s mission of one Earth. He has been missing for over two decades, but his legacy remains in statues and museums and university wings around the world.
The significance of the name sailed right over the Damselfly’s head. “Oh dang you understand ASL? Now you have to hang out with us!”
“I know a lot of things.” Elise said. “I’m pretty great like that.”
Vin’s eyes narrowed and she looked into Elise’s eyes in a challenging fashion. [So… You could understand that… But can you understand… THIS!?] The drugged-out superheroine waved her arms about wildly for a few moments and then stopped. [Got you there! There is no way that you could understand THAT.]
[We are extremely high on drugs,] Nat signed to Elise. [Want some?]
[I’m not THAT high, Nat.] Vin signed back with a sigh despite most certainly being ‘that high.’
Matthew the waiter, handsome in a rough around the edges way, approached the table with an orders pad and a pen. He had a tattoo on his neck, and polite brown eyes. “Would you ladies like some drinks to start the night?”
Folding eir hands, Nat waited for the ladies to order, since apparently enbies weren’t first in line.
Pandora looked to Nat as she suddenly realized something, eyes wide in horror.
[Oh shit, Nat… I think I might be totally fucking broke.]
“Oh whatever, I got you, I brought my card,” Nat waved that sentiment away. “Get whatever you want! Both of ya.”
Pandora squealed with delight and then turned to the waiter with a semi-serious expression. [What is the most amazing drink you have on the menu? Which one will blow my goddamn mind with flavor?]
Matthew smiled apologetically, looking around. “Sorry, honey. I don’t know sign. Could you ladies help her out?”
“There’s a third?” Genuinely confused.
Vin blinked and looked around for this mysterious third lady.
“Ladies?” Elise raised an eyebrow. “I’m… technically a lady, although I don’t know that it’s the most accurate description, what with all the fuckin’ and cursin’ and drinkin’ and –” Elise grins, clearly unashamed with that long resume of debauchery. “And this is the Damselfly.” She says that as though its explanation enough, and then leans into Nat. “And I would absolutely love those drugs.” wink.
“Oh, I can help! With what Vin– um. She just wants your most amazing drink. Something that’ll blow her mind. And I’ll wait for the ladies to finish ordering like you asked but I want a drink too.” Nat looked around for the third lady again.
Matthew gave Nat a confused look. “Er….what would you like to have?” He clearly had no idea who Nat was.
“I want! The fruitiest and sugariest and most colorful drink you’ve got.” Ey grinned. And the risotto. Wait, are we not ordering food yet? I want the risotto.”
“I want that drink too!” Elise chimed in, equally as exuberant. “The fruity and sugar one. Thank you. You know what, I’ll just have what The Damselfly’s having.”
“I like you, Elise Atlas.” [I like her too. She’s got panache. That’s a word, right? Panache?]
“So! Three Bubblegum Explosions? A risotto…and?” Matthew risked smiling at the other two not as yet confirmed ladies.
“A risotto aaaaaand a garlic bread aaaaaaand a cheese n’ crab dip.”
Nat turned eir eyes to Vin, ready to translate.
Pandora’s stomach grumbled loudly as she once again attempted to read the menu in front of her, eyes going a bit cross-eyed before she wound up giving up again and ordering the first thing that popped into her head. [I want a mac-n-cheeseburger, buffalo fries, onion rings, and chipotle mayonnaise on it. Could I also get potato skins and a salad on the side?]
Nat translated in real time, rattling off the order to Matthew, being asked to repeat it, asking Vin to repeat it, and translating some more.
Matthew, to his credit, recited their order accurately. “Thanks again, ladies!” He said as he walked off.
[Wow… I cannot believe he actually accepted my order.] Vin burst into a fit of silent giggles. [I really like this place, Nat. We need to come here more often.]
“Yeah, whoever runs this place knows their shit,” Nat squinted, trying to turn an appraising eye to the decor. After a moment, ey thought of something. “Oh! Yes. You wanted drugs. How’s your metabolism, Elise? Baseline or Para?”
“I’m a Para.” she said. “But not the laser-from-the-eyes type.”
[Holy shit! Really!? ME TOO! We’re like… Sisters or something!]
“Right but like. Are you, like… super metabolism or whatever. Dazzlefly will kinda mess you up if your constitution isn’t super. I have something else for baselines.”
“Give me the regular stuff.” Elise gave a crooked grin. “It’s for the best, anyways. I don’t want to make an ass out of myself around you two rad as fuck individuals.”
“I like you very much, Elise Atlas,” Nat said, sliding a folded paper packet across the table, “and this is for you. It’s called Fly Dancer, and you should only take it if you don’t have anything super important to do tomorrow. It doesn’t taste too good, but dissolves in liquid.”
[It’s 100% safe though!] Vin signed with a grin. [I would know. I was the… The… Ummmm… What was my title again? It was some kind of an animal…]
“Lab rat?” Nat pondered. “Guinea pig! Guinea pig.”
[That was it! Thank you, beautiful~!] Vin blew a kiss across the table to em.
“I always have something important to do, and I never do.” Elise sprinkled her Fly Dancer into water and chugged it in one go. “I’m a gambler, darlings, and a nomad. I don’t really do the whole 9 to 5 thing.”
Leaning over and draping an arm around Elise’s shoulder, Vin began to sign once more. [Elise, you’re pretty fucking awesome, you know that? Like… Damn… Do you like dancing?]
“Right? I feel like. We’ve stumbled over a… a kindred spirit. Also she’s cute? She’s cute. You’re cute.”
[She is totally cute. Hot too. Hot and cute. Both. At the same time. Kind of like you, Nat.]
Elise beamed at the attention, clearly enjoying it. “I like to dance, but I don’t think I got much in the way of ability.”
“Once we’re all high as proverbial kites,” Nat smiled, “who cares? It’ll be three hot people dancing, two of whom are pro-level, but which two? Who knows? Can anyone ever really know?”
“A mystery for the ages.”
“Aaaand here are three bubblegum explosions for three explosively charming girls,” Matthew smiled, setting them on the table.
Vin held up two fingers. [Two girls. There are two girls. I looked and I could not find a third.] She then picked up her drink and immediately began to drink it down as if it were water.
“I… still don’t understand sign, sorry.”
“She said there are two girls here. One. Two. Count ends there. No third girl. That getting through to you yet?”
Sudden realization dawned on Nat’s face. “Ohhhh, I’m being misgendered,” ey marveled, “I thought there was a third woman here! I was really confused!”
Vin nodded as she continued to drink down her Bubblegum Explosion. It was just sweet enough that it made it difficult for her to stop drinking until it was almost all gone. With a long exhalation, Vin grinned at her two companions for the night. [Are you going to drink those?]
“I’ll get to it,” Nat assured.
Baffled, Matthew stammered, “uh, would you like… another? Or something else?”
The mute belched in a distinctly unladylike fashion and then burst into another fit of giggles before giving Matthew a thumbs-up and nodding.
He toddled off, still looking distinctly off-kilter.
Elise propped her hand on her chin and grinned off after him. “I think we shake him.” she said. “I think he’s used to people who fit nicely in their little boxes. Not that I haven’t fit in a few boxes in my day.”
“Shouldn’t be that weird,” Nat began, “with this place’s, um… I’m sure he… but I guess.” Ey nodded, as if a coherent thought had successfully been conveyed.
Vin blinked. [What?]
“Yeah, probably!” Nat agreed.
[Ohhhhh! Okay.] She nodded. [I get ya.]
Elise just shrugged and took a loooooong sip on her bubblegum explosion. “Maybe it’s his first day on the job.”
“Yeah, probably!” Nat rotated in the booth and changed eir floating position a bit so that ey could flirt with both Vin and Elise effectively. “Elise Atlas. Mysterious gambler, stylish and cool. We know so little about you! Tell us more.”
Arm still draped across Elise’s shoulders, Pandora nodded in agreement. [Yeah! What is your story, Elise? What do you do? What brought you to this neck of the world?]
“My dad was Legion, my mom was a nurse.” Elise grinned at both of her new companions, soaking up the attention. “Well, she’s still a nurse, but she’s like… President Nurse, or whatever, relatively cushy job at the moment. Anyways, she wanted me to go to school, I wanted to chase my passion – which is playing cards… I bounce up and down the coast, up here, then Rock City, the Bay… No real commitments, nothing tying me down but a platonic lifemate and a van.”
“That’s so fuckin romantic,” Nat breathed.
[So you’re a professional gambler? That is fucking awesome.] She picked up her glass, tried to take a drink from it, and frowned deeply when she realized it was empty. Her smile returned moments later, however, as she turned to Elise again. [So who is this platonic lifemate? Are they as hot as you are?]
“I dunno, they’re a man, and I’m weapons grade gay.“that’s a familiar turn of phrase…” He draws attention from the ladies, so I guess? He’s a dude named Jericho. Allergic to shirts.”
Nat squinted. “Are yoouuuuu. Monosexual tho.”
Vin’s grin widened a little at the direction this conversation was going as she once again attempted to drink from her empty glass with the same result. [Fucking Hell… Someone needs to invent bottomless booze already.] She looked to Elise, waiting for her answer to Nat’s question.
“I used to think I was, when I was nineteen and dumb and still figuring things out. Now I just know I’m not into masculine dudes.” Elise said, clearly being a bit careful in her choice of words. “If that makes sense? I just try to… go with the flow, these days.”
“That was a good answer,” Nat grinned. “That was the answer I wanted you to do.”
Pandora turned to look at Nat, catching eir eye and flashing a wry grin before blowing em a kiss across the table.
Elise considered that for a moment. “Y’know, when I saw the Damselfly roll in, I was hoping for like… an autograph. I mean, I thought a free dinner and drinks was the best case. But hey, like I said. I’ll just… go with the flow.”
Her stomach gurgles.
“After that risotto gets here.”
“Yeah for real,” Nat leaned eir head back against Vin’s shoulder. “I’m starving. This risotto probably is gonna disappoint but I like. I just had to know. Anyway.
Ey turned to face Elise, catching her blue eyes with eir green. “I’m not– Elise. Elise I’m, please understand, I’m not going to fuck you tonight? Because I’m not sober, and I don’t fuck people for the first time when I’m not sober. But if you want to make out a lot? We should do that?”
[Oh yeah! I had forgotten that you have that rule…] Vin chuckled lightly as she nuzzled her cheek against Nat’s. [I don’t know if I follow that one very well. Haven’t in the past, at least.]
Elise shot a thumbs up, grinning. “Sure, fine by me. Ain’t goin’ to push on a ground rule like that, especially not an ethical one.”
“Elise Atlas, I really like you and I think we should all have sex at the next available sober opportunity.” Sage nod.
[So long as I get some hugs and kisses tonight as well, I am down for that.]“Well you I can fuck tonight.” The superheroine looked to Elise and grinned wryly. [I like you as well. You’re fucking rad.]
“I am fucking rad.” Elise leaned back, luxuriating in the attention. “I should try to swing by LA a little more. Maybe even make the trip to… where’s the place you dance? The Glen?”
“Hell yes. You’d love it. Top of the line theatre tech, good food, good booze, and wall-to-wall gorgeous queers who don’t blink an eye at paranormals needing to chill out and have a good time.”
[Their music is also top of the line. Probably has some of the best in-house sets I have ever experienced and I go to A LOT of shows. The Glen is pretty much my fave club.]
“I definitely have to try it. This place is… okay. I have a deal with the owner, he lets me gamble, I get some perks, and I don’t take too much money from the house.”
“Oh yeah? Who’s the owner? Maybe we should meet ‘im.”
Vin’s attention had fallen upon a spotlight which now danced around the room, watching it with the interest of only someone as high as she was could possibly manage.
If anybody was looking in the direction of the front of the club, they’d see Priscilla the hostess talking to Matthew. She appeared to be hiding a smile behind a menu held up to her face while Matthew talked.
“Some guy named Blake? I dunno. Hey, what is our waiter doing?” Elise propped her chin on her hand, scowling. “I’m starving. And I want another drink.”
“Blake,” Nat nodded, a little dreamily. If ey had been sober, it would have dawned on em right away. Luckily, ey was not even remotely sober. “That rings a bell. Anyway. Yeah I want the food too! And–” ey drained eir drink, “another drink!”
Pandora blinked and turned her eyes to their waiter and the hostess, squinting her eyes as if she desperately needed glasses. [I dunno. Kinda looks like he’s doing the worm standing. That is actually kind of impressive. Belly dancing is not as easy as you would think.]
Matthew and Priscilla finished their conversation, with the former wandering to the kitchen pass with an enlightened look on his face. He soon came back with another waitstaff, both of whom were laden with plates of delicious food.
“Ladies, enby, your dinner!” He directed where the dishes went.
“More Bubblegum Explosions?” Matthew collected the empty glasses.
“Oh, he learned! Yay Matthew!” Nat smiled and clapped both hands. “And um! I will have… your finest cosmo, please!”
[Oh my gosh! A mac and cheeseburger! How did he know I wanted one?] Vin seemed to have Andrew Jackson, he did all that, but he still adopted two American Indian boys. what. forgotten ordering the dish and immediately scooped the odd dish up before tearing a large chunk out of it with her teeth. [Can I get a beer? The shittiest one you have, please.]
After translating, Nat added: “She’ll also have a water, and she’s not allowed to have another drink until she’s finished it.” [Awwwww! Come on, Nat! Don’t be a party pooper!] “I’m not. You just need water.“
“One water, one Bubblegum Explosion,and one Cosmo. Coming right up!”
Elise immediately begins to tear into her food like a starving woman. It’s a wonder that someone so small can put that much away so quickly.
Nat leaned over and sniffed at the rice dish, then blinked in pleasant surprise. Ey cautiously picked up a forkful of the food and tasted it, and eir eyebrows shot up. Ey shoveled in another forkful.
“Either the drugs have an effect I’ve never had before,” there was genuine awe in eir voice, “or this is the best risotto I’ve ever tasted. It’s… just like Susie used to make, but… but better, somehow!”
Pandora had not heard her friend, far too busy stuffing her face full of delicious burgery-goodness. A wide smile spread across her lips as she ate, the food on her plate disappearing at a remarkable pace.
“The staff here are pretty great.” Elise bragged once she inhaled the garlic bread, spooning crab dip onto a chip. “I’ve uh, fooled around with a couple of the bartenders and regulars. Everyone’s super nice. Not surprised the cook’s a boss.”
“I would fuck someone who made me risotto like this in a second.” Ey made a face. “Unless it actually was my sister. Not going there. Didn’t go there with Buster, and she’s pretty hot.”
Pandora’s food seemed to have vanished as quickly as it had appeared, the mute woman leaning back with her hands resting upon her stomach with a satisfied expression upon her lips. [That… Was so fucking good. Like… Holy fucking shit.]
Matthew came back with a tray of drinks. “How’s the food? Can I get you ladies and enby anything else?” He seemed pleased that he was getting the terms right.
“Matthew, I want to personally hug whoever made this risotto,” Nat told him with a fierce intensity. “Chef, sous-chef, whoever was involved. I want to hug them for reminding me that there was anything good about my childhood. That was too much information. Can I do that? Can I hug them? I’ll hug them with money later also.”
Matthew beamed. “I’m sure we can arrange something like that. Will that be all?”
“Drinks! Oh.” Nat saw the drink. “No, that’s it, thanks Matthew.”
Picking up the glass of water set in front of her, Vin grumbled as she began to drink it down. It tasted soooooo bland in comparison to her usual orders and thus found it harder to drink than it really should have been.
“Attagirl! Oh huh, I forgot to order water for myself. Oops.” Vin grumbled and pouted.
Matthew nodded and made his way through the swinging kitchen doors.
“Hey.” Elise said, quietly. “Uh, I don’t really talk to – I have siblings somewhere out there, too. I just think you’re really cool, and I hope you know that, no matter what family is or isn’t in your life. That’s about as mushy as I’m ever gonna get, okay?”
Nat blinked, surprised by the sudden sentimentality, but in a moment ey grinned and wrapped both arms around Elise. “You’re really cool!!” Ey insisted. “Elise Atlas, you can very much stay.”
Noticing the hugs happening beside her, Vin grinned and wrapped both of her friends up in a hug of her own. She nuzzled her cheeks against theirs affectionately as she gave them both a squeeze with her long arms.
There was a bustling from the direction of the kitchen and Chef Nerone burst forth through the swinging doors. He sailed forward like a man of war vessel, dragging Matthew and someone else in his wake.
“I had heard that the Damselfly was here and that she wanted to hug the creator of her spectacular dinner!”
“Er, Chef, the Damselfly prefers ey, em, and eir…” Matthew consulted the penned noted on his wrist.
Chef Nerone ignored the opinion of a lowly waitstaff. “The Damselfly honors my kitchen with her offers of hugs! But I cannot take all the credit for myself. This is my apprentice, Susanna. She, too, deserves your tribute as she slaved over the stirring of the risotto!” He reached out behind him without looking and dragged a freckled and blonde woman to stand before him.
Susanna blinked, overwhelmed.
It didn’t dawn on em, not right away. Ey gave an enthusiastic, sweet-scented hug to Chef Nerone first, and then hovered backward and turned to face Susanna.
“Thank you so much! It was just amazing, I haven’t had risotto that good since I lived with my sis–“
There was the lightbulb. Eir eyes widened, staring at Susanna’s face. “–ter…”
[Hey… Nat… That lady who made the same kind of risotto as your sister and shares her name has your freckles.] The still-drugged woman chuckled a little. [Isn’t that wild? What a weird coincidence, huh? It’s like… Fate or something.]
Susanna stared back at Nat. Her jaw was slack and she appeared to be working out a word.
Matthew looked back and forth, his waiter senses picking up drama.
Elise could tell that something was up, but she knew this wasn’t her place. She downed what was left of her drink and just watched.
“Um–” Nat’s eyes, still dilated wide, darted back and forth. Ey twisted in midair to check and make sure that eir friends hadn’t also transformed into family members. “This is. Is this actually happening? This all seems extremely improbable. You’re — are you– Susie?”
“Su-Susanna. Yes. I’m Susie.” She continued staring at Nat, her hands twisting in her apron. “Petey? Is that you?”
“My name’s Nat now,” eir voice was still a bit disbelieving, “Nat… Zygoptera. The Damselfly.”
“I…what’s going on?” Baffled, Susie looked around, perhaps trying to spot a hidden camera crew or such like.
Chef Nerone looked overjoyed. “I have brought together two sisters who have lost contact with each other!” He boomed, hugging both Susie and Nat to his generous torso. “Susanna, stay with your sister and her friends, you have the night off! I will send you the finest patisseries from the kitchen!” He let them go, like doves into the wind, and marched back into his domain.
“I– I’m not–” Nat looked utterly discombobulated, hanging in midair next to eir equally baffled-looking long-lost sister. Ey looked to Vin and Elise with pleading eyes. “Is this happening?”
“Yeah.” Elise said, squeezing Nat’s hand in an attempt to be comforting. “It kind of is, yeah.”
Suddenly realizing what was happening, Vin blinked and pulled Nat into even more of a comforting and supportive hug against her. She watched Susanna as if she were some kind of a mythical beast which she had never seen before.
All alone, Susanna looked increasingly uncomfortable by the stares of onlookers from the other tables. She twisted her apron in her hands. “I…excuse me.” She backed away and retreated towards the staffrooms in the back.
“W-wait!” Nat held out a hand. “I– I’m–“
Forgotten, Matthew had taken refuge at the bar where he and the barkeeper observed with wide eyed fascination.
“I’ll– be right back!” Nat stammered to eir friends and swooped in the direction Susanna had gone, flying over the heads of diners and deftly sailing around elaborate chandeliers.
Vin turned to Elise and blinked a few times, now alone with her new friend. She opened her mouth, closed it, opened it again, and then finally closed it with a sigh. The shock of what was going on seemed to have shaken her out of her drug-addled state for the time being as she took Elise’s hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze. Whether she was reassuring the woman or herself was another question entirely.
“Do you… think ey’ll be okay?” Elise asked, slightly nervous.
[Yeah. Yeah, I think Nat will be fine. Eir one tough cookie.] The mute gave Elise a small and reassuring smile, squeezing her hand. [I would know. Ey have punched me in the face many a time during training. Can dish out one heck of a whooping.]
Elise burst out laughing. “Are you kidding me? I can’t picture em punching anybody.”
[I am totally fucking serious!] Vin replied with a silent chuckle of her own. [To be fair though, ey generally uses grappling instead of straight-up punches. Don’t know how many people out there can say they have been both beaten up and slept with the one and only Damselfly.]
The green and purple haired girl grins. “I don’t intend to join that club. But one out of two ain’t bad.”
[Totally! That one is pretty spectacular as well.] Vin grinned back and wrapped her arm around Elise’s waist to pull her close. [Like… Wow is it a good club.]
The gambler griiiiinned. “Y’know, if ey’re not here, we can get more drinks. Ey won’t make us drink water.”
[Holy shit! You’re totally right! I should kiss you for coming up with that!] Vin snatched up her second drink, putting aside the water as she chugged it down with a grin. [That’s the ticket!]
“Should? You totally can.” Elise half-jokingly puckers up and winks.
With a wry grin, Vin pulled Elise close to lock lips with her. The kiss is small at first, just a peck, but then the mute took a breath in through her nose and deepened it just a little bit.
Elise returns the kiss with enthusiasm, then waves to Matthew. “Hey! We need more drinks over here!”
Susanna had only been in the staff area for a few seconds when she heard the Damselfly’s quavering voice call into the room.
Susanna came out from the women’s toilets, holding a towel to her face. She lowered the damp cloth. “P-. Nat. Hi.” She stood, staring at Nat, looking for her little brother in Nat’s features.
“Hi,” Nat floated a little further into the room, looking around. There didn’t seem to be anyone else on break here at the moment. “Um. I’m sorry for… look, I. Uh. How… have you been?”
Susie sat down heavily. “Been..okay. Yeah. Okay is a word. Got married to Zachary Gilford. You’re an uncle? By the way. He left us, and now I’m here. How’ve you been? I see you fly now.” She appeared wide eyed still.
“I… I’m not an uncle cuz I’m not a boy, but, um. Yeah. I fly. I’m, uhm. A Legionnaire. I’m sorry to hear about Zachary. He never, um. Deserved you.”
Susanna nodded. “It makes sense you’re not a boy, seeing as you kept stealing my hairclips and ribbons.” She paused, worried. “This…isn’t because I used to play dress up with you? Paul and Dad always got mad at that.”
Nat laughed a little shakily. “Other way around. No I um. Yeah. I’m genderqueer. I go by ‘ey’ instead of ‘he’ or ‘she’. Outside of Glenwood Springs, people are um. Actually pretty chill about it.”
“Yeah, the “outside” is a lot more….varied than Glenwood Springs. Legionnaire, huh? That’s great. You must know the Oathkeeper.”
“Yeah, um, I’m in the video where she came out as bi and poly, actually. I was the flying kid who hugged her around the neck. She’s my, um.” Nat blushed a little. “General mom, I call her.”
“That’s…great. I’m happy for you.” She gave Nat a fragile smile. “So…what do I call you now? What would Isaac call you? That’s your nephew.”
“Oh. Um. Well, ‘unty’, I guess? But you can call me your sibling, or– Benny recently called me his ‘enster’, that was cute.”
Susie froze. “You’ve met Benny?”
Nat realized eir gaffe immediately, looking embarrassed. “Oh um. Yeeees? Only very recently but yes? Buster too. I mean… your sister who used to be named Bartholomew and is now named Beth, and goes by Buster.”
Ey screwed up eir face in thought, trying to make sure ey made any sense through the drug-induced haze. “Benny… is a barista. His identical twin, whom you used to know as Bartholomew, is actually a girl, and she’s named Beth now. She drives a tank for PHALANX, and they call her ‘Buster’ cuz it’s ‘Beth’ plus ‘Schuster’.”
“Bart is a girl?” Susie worked her mouth soundlessly. “What?”
“Umm. Here, I’ll–” Nat pulled out eir smartphone, tapping and swiping through the gallery app. Finally, ey turned the phone around and showed Susanna a photo. In it, three of the Schuster siblings posed, dressed in nice clothing, joy in their faces. Benny looked the same as he always had, but for the glitter in his eyes. Nat was in the center, dressed in garish but admittedly matching clothes. And on the other side… a muscular woman, her hair in a soft mohawk dyed in toothpaste colors, flexing for the camera and grinning wide. She bore almost no resemblance to the depressive, sullen brother that Susanna had known in her childhood, but she could see the features if she really looked for them.
“This is the night I met them again, a couple of months ago.” Nat said quietly.
Susie clutched the phone, staring at the happy faces. She gave the phone back to Nat, was quiet for a moment, then burst into tears.
“Why does God hate us? Why are we all such freaks?”
“Wh-what?” Nat had no idea how to react to that. “S-Susie, I– that’s– d… d’you i dunno want a hug..?”
Susie sobbed in her hands. “I just want to be normal.” It actually didn’t sound like that, but Nat got the gist of it.
“Wouldn’t you rather be… um. Happy?”
That increased the onslaught of tears. “I was happy. I was normal. I had a loving husband. I just couldn’t keep my freak to myself.”
“You’re a paranormal too,” Nat whispered. “We’re all Paranormals. Susanna, it’s not — it’s not a bad thing to have powers. It’s not bad.”
Susie looked up at Nat. She had always been hideous with blotchy eyes and nose after a crying bout, and she still was now. Ah, childhood memories.
“Then why do so many bad things happen to us?”
“Because our role models fucked up,” Nat’s voice was steel, suddenly. “Because we weren’t taught right. Because we had to fight to get out. But it doesn’t mean that we don’t get to be okay.”
Susie hiccuped. “Yeah. I know. I moved back in with mom and dad after Zach kicked us out. Why do you think I married him in the first place? He got me out of there.” She hiccuped again and wiped her face with her towel.
“He’s gone,” Nat offered, “and you’re still out. And you’re…finding siblings again.”
“Yeah.” She stared at her towel, then up at Nat. A small smile tugged at the corner of her mouth. “Get over here and hug me, you brat.”
And those spindly limbs were around her, lifting her into the air with shocking strength, a sweet natural scent like sugar and musk and flowers filling her nose, the only thing familiar about it was that hair, that silky orange hair that still looked and felt the same against her cheek.
Susie hugged her little sibling back, not even minding her feet dangled beneath her. This was okay. This was good. She had her own issues with Ben and Bart, but she’ll sort them out later.