Note is on other fics, but repeating for those who only read this:
As those who read White Sheep and Relic will know, I had to rush my mother into hospital after she suffered a heart attack. She is still in there being tested and they're unsure when (or if) she will be able to come home. As such, I am spending time at the hospital every day with her and my writing has and will be impacted until things settle down.
Rather than not update chapters, I'm going to take to writing some slightly shorter ones. Hopefully, this will only impact for a week or so, but it will depend on many things. She may be released come Tuesday or Wednesday, but she may not be.
This is a note to let you all know.
I could take time off writing, but right now I need the distraction it gives. If thing get worse, deteriorate or she dies, I may need a week or two off to recover. I shall let people know if such occurs.
Secondly, as some have noticed there is a silly little troll trying his luck in the reviews. He posts as "anonymous reviews" but types in someone else's name as the reviewer, hoping to incriminate them. Mostly, he seems to be lashing out at a Mr Grimjaw and Canuck72, but he has also imitated other reviewers, mostly posting half-assed racist comments or trying to provoke arguments. Just ignore it, but also keep in mind that it is NOT the fault of those he pretends to be.
They are innocent, and the troll likes to imagine his childish comments will lead to them receiving hate PMs or being banned or something.
Update: The operation did not happen Monday and will not happen today, but she is booked in for Wednesday. It is my hope that all will go well, and I'll be spending Thursday helping to get her discharged if she is able to be.
This will mean that White Sheep will be a short chapter, but Relic and onwards may be back to normal length. It depends on if everything goes well or not.
Cover Art: Jack Wayne
Mercury tapped his fingers on the table and pondered as to whether he cared if Vale fell or not.
His first instinct was to say no, and not for any real reasons. Vale just wasn't a place he cared about, and he was casual enough to lump however many people lived here into that same field. Sure, he intellectually knew it would be a shame for all of them to die, if they all died or not, but he wouldn't pretend it bothered him when it didn't.
Did that make him a sociopath? Maybe. Emerald certainly felt so.
Mercury wasn't quite so sure. A sociopath was someone who couldn't understand the feelings of others, or so the definition went. He wasn't sure if that applied here or not. He could understand why the people of Vale might not want to die by Grimm, terrorists or bombs under the streets. It didn't take a freaking genius to grasp the "why" on that one.
He just didn't care.
Sociopathic? Maybe. Mercury figured it just made him honest.
How could you expect someone to care about something that didn't affect them? He had no family here, no friends, while a whole lot of other people did. It was totally understandable they'd hate him for what he was involved in, but where had they been when he was being tortured by his own father? Nowhere, that was where.
To be fair, Cinder hadn't been anywhere at the time, either. He'd dragged himself out of that mess, and only agreed to go with Cinder and Emerald because they found him exhausted and spent outside the Black home.
It wasn't really a good time to turn down her offer.
So, here he was, working for Cinder – the benefits were good, and both she and Emerald were smoking hot – planning to blow up Vale and fuck off a load of people. Why? Gods knew. It was above his pay to ask. He just did what he was told to.
Still, he hadn't expected to find something he actually liked in Vale.
"Here you go~" the girl before him smiled prettily and put a caramel cappuccino down in front of him, along with a small bowl of marshmallows and chocolate chunks. The heart-attack in a cup was enticing, though not quite as enticing as her pretty brown eyes and svelte figure.
Mercury grinned back up at her, "Thanks, babe."
Her cheeks flushed, and she huffed, unimpressed with the term of endearment. That was fine. He liked the way her irritation flashed in her eyes, turning demure and delicate rabbit girl to dangerous and annoyed, right before she turned and flounced away.
He wasn't sure if Velvet realised it, but she swung her hips when she flounced. Mercury certainly noticed.
"Ah. Coffee and a show. Perfect."
"You're a pain in the ass," Emerald grumbled from beside him. "Not to mention a chauvinist pig. Try that again and I'll do her a favour and stab you myself."
"Now, Em. There's no need to be jealous."
"Just try it, Merc. Keep digging that hole."
Normally, he would have, but doing so would have required more talking and let his sugar rush cool down. Instead, he looked around surreptitiously, to make sure no one important was watching, and then dumped the entire contents of the chocolate and marshmallows into his mug. Some coffee seeped over the edges.
"Ugh. I can feel my arteries clog just looking at that thing."
"No one's asking you to drink it." And to be honest, he'd fight her if she tried. Mercury took a long sip, then nibbled a soaked and chocolate-covered marshmallow as he drew back. "Hmm. Delicious."
"You're fucked up, Merc."
Not as fucked up as you, he thought. At least he was only doing this because he didn't see much other choice. Emerald wanted to kill all these people. Or she didn't, but she saw it as the best way to get what she did want. Mostly, Cinder's respect, though Mercury wouldn't have put it past Emerald to want a little more. Heh, he'd pay to see those two go at it.
"Somehow, I know you're thinking something that's going to piss me off."
"Yep," he admitted, no shame at all. His eyes followed Velvet's derriere a little further. He really didn't get why some people disliked faunus. Some of those purity types would literally jerk off over a girl in a bunny outfit but give them a literal bunny girl and they'd hurl abuse. Hypocrites. "You think she's up for a round or two?"
"In the ring, maybe. If her boyfriend doesn't get you first." Emerald nodded toward the other waiter, the one with the mohawk, who was watching Mercury carefully.
"He's not her boyfriend."
Emerald sighed. "It disturbs me that you've stalked her enough to notice that."
"Hey, not my fault if you don't pay attention. Besides, it's a little rich for you to accuse me of looking at some prime ass. Your eyes are practically glued to Cinder's-" Mercury cut off as a spoon tickled the underside of his chin. "Seriously? What are you going to do with that? Scoop me to death?"
"I'll give it my best shot." Emerald's face was red. "And shut the fuck up. I've no idea why I'm out here with you."
"I said I was coming here, and you love the place."
Emerald sighed. "Yes, that would be it…"
"To be fair, Cinder likes it too," he said. "First time I've ever seen her treat someone with actual respect, and not because they have something we need. I'd say she had the hots for Jaune but, well, kinda obvious she doesn't."
"She finds it… relaxing, I guess. Ever since I've known her, she's never really been relaxed. She's always moving, always doing something."
If he were honest, he didn't really care. Again, Emerald would call him a sociopath for it, but why should he care about Cinder, Emerald or anything else? He was in this for himself and only loyal to them because he had to be. Cinder hardly care about him, so why should he for her? He doubted Cinder cared for Emerald either, other than as a useful tool.
Still, Mercury wasn't sure if he cared about Vale.
It was 99% no, but the 1%, the diner, the people in it, even the hot waitress…
Well, he cared about them more than he did destroying the city. Not a hard thing, considering how uninvested he was in Cinder's plan anyway. A hot piece of ass and a friendly smile was all it took to get him chafing. Coffee with chocolate and marshmallows enough to tempt him to defect entirely.
Was that a bad thing? Probably. It certainly was if Cinder or Emerald caught wind, but Mercury had been raised – if one could call what his father did raising – by an assassin, a killer for hire. That was someone who was loyal only to money.
And, well, Cinder wasn't exactly paying him…
Adam had his ideology, which Mercury personally thought was stupid, but which he could at least understand. Hell, he'd killed his Dad for treating him like a punching bag, so he could get behind faunus wanting to do the same. The logistics were a bit harder, sure, but Mercury could at least appreciate why the guy was motivated.
He understood Roman, too. Money, self-interest and survival. All nice, understandable things to focus on. The bigger problem was, Mercury wasn't sure what he wanted, nor why he'd never put any thought into it before.
He'd just sort of… drifted along previously.
"Don't hurt yourself thinking too hard," Emerald teased. "Or is it that your brain has been overwritten by sugar? It was bound to happen sooner or later."
"I'll have you know I'm nothing but sugar, spice and all things nice." He ignored Emerald's snort. "But I was just thinking how it'll be a shame to lose all this when we move on." He was subtle, but Emerald got the gist of it.
"Yeah, it's a shame. Not much we can do about it, though."
Mercury personally thought there was a lot they could do about it. He just wasn't sure if he wanted, ought or should do something. He also wasn't sure why he suddenly cared when he never had before. Nowhere was home, everywhere was alien.
And yet something about Vale, or just this diner, had become familiar.
From the drinks to the table, to the regulars and even the cute waitress who would scrunch her nose up at his flirtations. Silly, he knew, but it was what it was, and he wasn't sure he was all that thrilled at the prospect of giving it all up.
Not for no discernible reward.
"Yeah," Mercury said, evading the topic. "Real shame…"
"Miltia!" Melanie slammed a fist on her sister's door.
"Fuck off!" Miltia's voice came back. "I'm busy."
"You've been locked in there all day. What's gotten into you?"
Melanie sighed dramatically and looked toward the ceiling. As if she couldn't hear the lie in that simple word. "You've been acting strange all week, Mil. You've barely come out, barely worked and not even visited Jaune's once. Something is up, and I'm going to find out what." Melanie hooked out a hairpin and knelt by the door, jimmying the lock open. "I'm coming in."
Melanie didn't. The second the lock was forced, the pushed her way in, wary for a claw across the eyes as she did. There was no need. Miltia's weapons were on the dresser, unusual since it was gone noon and she always kept her weapons close.
Then again, nothing was `usual`, it seemed. Not when she saw Miltia, rude, rough and quick to fight Miltia, in a bright pink dress, skirt coming down to below her knees, white stockings and a bow in her hair, which had been curled into ringlets.
Melanie's mouth fell open. "T-The hell…?"
Miltia's face went bright red. "Get out!"
"What the… Miltia, what are you doing?" Melanie pinched her arm, just to make sure she wasn't hallucinating. Nope, the pain was there. "Is that… Are you wearing a petticoat under that? Is that tulle!? Uh, the last century called, Miltia. They want to know what you're wearing."
"S-Shut up, you bitch." The voice, if not the general appearance, was the same, but somehow the insult lacked its usual vigour. Probably because Miltia looked like a dweeb. The innocent, cherub-like outfit did not go with the angry green eyes and fearsome scowl. On the other hand, Miltia had even lost her red eyeliner, replacing it with a darker tone.
With a sigh, Melanie moved forward and pushed her sister down on the bed, running her fingers through Miltia's curly hair. "What have you done to this? You didn't even curl it properly, not to ask why you did it in the first place. Is this why you've been hiding away in here? I can fix this in fifteen minutes, you know."
"Not that…" Miltia grumbled.
"Shorter hair," her sister whispered. "I read it looks softer if short hair is curled."
"You read…?" Melanie's eyes swept over the crimson bedding, easily spotting the fashion magazines strewn across it, open at certain pages. She couldn't make out the text, but they were the worst of the `girly mags`, the ones so patronising that grown women wouldn't bother, more designed for schoolgirls with crushes and the like.
Not that Miltia would have known.
"Why are you so worried about looking softer?" Melanie asked, smoothing the other girl's hair out. "You've never had a problem with being like you are before. Besides, I thought you liked having short hair. You always said it was easier to deal with." Melanie had kept hers longer, the differences in length being one of the easiest ways to differentiate them.
"It's not as feminine…"
Melanie raised an eyebrow. "And since when is that an issue?"
Miltia's voice fell to a murmur. "Pyrrha has long hair…"
"Oh my… Is this about Jaune!?"
Miltia's silence was telling.
"It is! Oh, Miltia…" Melanie swept down to hug her sister from behind. "What's gotten into you? Curling your hair, dressing like… like some country girl who has only heard of fashion as a word thrown around in ancient legend. And you're doing all this for a boy…?"
"Shut up!" Miltia stammered, cheeks red.
"Yeah, real convincing. So, why do you think you need to be more feminine? You look like me which, I might add, means that you're hot as hell. You know it, I know it, and the guys who constantly ask us out know it."
"Is it? The Miltia I know wouldn't have hidden away in her room for a week solid. I wondered why you kept sending Junior's goons out for the order. Don't tell me you've been hiding from Jaune, too. What's he supposed to think?" Melanie's eyes trailed down her sister's arms. "Where are your gloves?"
"On the side…"
Melanie spotted them quickly, next to what had to be an entire collection of moisturisers, skin creams and more. "Reverse signs of ageing?" she read. "Miltia, you're not even twenty. You don't have signs of ageing."
"It's for the calluses…"
Another roll of the eyes followed by Melanie snatching up her sister's left hand. The skin was smooth and soft, but her fingertips were marked, as were Melanie's. They weren't huntresses, but they got their hands dirty and it showed. Some of Miltia's nails were chipped as well, though she'd cut them down and smoothed them out as best she could.
"You realise Pyrrha's hands will be no different, right? You're not exactly competing with a supermodel here. She's a huntress."
"Yeah, but she's feminine," Miltia groaned. "She's tall, full figured and… and nice! I'm a bitch."
"I am! And I don't fucking care, but he's not going to pick someone like me over here, is he? Short hair, constantly swearing, look like I'm about to shank someone if they piss me off. Take these away and you could mistake me for a guy," she added, gesturing to her breasts. "I'm not feminine, ladylike or graceful. Even you've got that more than me. Fuck, I fight with claws, Mel. I'm more like a wild animal than a woman."
"Those aren't necessarily unattractive traits. Guys like women who can be animals, especially in bed."
"Yeah well, I'm not sleeping with him, am I?"
Melanie sat down, leaning against her sister's shoulder. "What makes you say that? Because you're not ladylike enough?"
"Too outgoing? Too quick to joke, take the piss or even insult someone? Not demure or sensitive?"
Miltia's eye twitched. "Yeah."
"An absolute bitch who doesn't take any shit and won't change for anyone? Who would sooner kick a man in the nuts, stand over him and tell him how you want things to be?"
"Yes, Melanie. I get it."
"Someone who would, if she were invited to a party, get drunk, cause a ruckus, get into a fight and then drag a guy she likes off to the corner to make out with?"
"Fuck, Melanie. Yes. Yes, yes yes, I'm a fucking stupid shit. I get it." Miltia growled. "You don't have to spell it out for me, okay? I know what I'm like and I know Jaune isn't like that. Mister innocent virgin doing his best, honest businessman and all-around `nice guy` who wouldn't be seen dead with a bitch like me. I get it. Thanks for spelling it out, skank."
Melanie laughed and poked her sister in the cheek. "I don't think you do."
"You're all of those things and more," Melanie admitted with a shrug. "You're also pretty cantankerous, critical and high maintenance, which is hilarious because you think you're not. You have a shitty sense of humour and you get angry at the littlest thing. And talk about having no patience whatsoever."
Miltia growled. "Yeah? Well, fuck you, too."
"But Jaune already knows all those things," she continued, ignoring Miltia's bile. "He knows it, has gotten to know it, and has put up with it for weeks now. He knows Miltia – bitch – Malachite, and better still, he likes Miltia – bitch – Malachite."
"Yeah," Miltia grunted, "As a friend…"
"You think there's that much difference between friends and lovers? He was `friend` enough to make out with you, and `friend` enough to blush every time you brushed up against him when you were dancing. Trust me, you've got a load of problems, but being in the friend-zone? That's not one of them." Melanie laughed. "And what do you think will happen if you show up like this? Pretty princess Miltia with curled hair, a stammer and a pair of shoes that twelve-year-old schoolgirls would call conservative? He'll think you've been kidnapped and brainwashed!"
Miltia smoothed her hair down self-consciously and hid her shoes under her knees. "Oh, fuck off…"
"I'll tell you what, though. You will lose if you hide away from him," Melanie said, deathly serious. "He's going to think you hate him, or that he did something to annoy you. Worse, Pyrrha isn't going to give up just because you do."
"Yeah well, maybe she's better for him…"
"Honestly… she probably is."
Miltia flinched and looked down, no tears, but lips pulled into a painful grimace.
"She's kinder, nicer and more likely to put up with his boring job," Melanie went on. "She's also got funds, resources and the kind of fame that can help him do well. It's no lie to say she'd make a better wife or mother if things went that far, either. No offence, but you're not exactly settling down material."
"But fuck that," Melanie snapped, surprising her sister. "People don't make the best decisions and life isn't about making the optimal choice. You want to give it a shot, go for it. He'll pick whomever he likes more, whoever excites him more. And I don't know about Pyrrha being nice and feminine where you're not, but you've got things she doesn't, either."
Melanie poked her sister's shoulder. "You've got that edge. The sense of danger. You're the adventurous type, the one who teases, the passionate one. She's nice, sure, but nice is boring – you know that. You're the bad girl, and guys dig that."
Miltia's eyes narrowed. "Yeah…"
"And since when do you give a shit about what's right or wrong? You're Miltia Malachite. You take what you want."
"You're not feminine. So what? You think Jaune would know what to do with a woman? He's going to need someone to show him the ropes. And these aren't the dark ages; women can be just as dominant as men. You want him, don't you?"
"Then go get him!"
Miltia surged to her feet. "YEAH! Fuck this shit, he wants to get me in the mood and do nothing abou it? He can damn well handle it." Her eyes burned. "Shit, Pyrrha's got the edge. You think she's made out with him since our night out? Nah, that's not her. I'm going to walk in, grab him by the collar and push him up against a wall while everyone watches." She licked her lips. "I need lipstick. And perfume. I want to leave a mark."
Her sister was already nearly at the door before Melanie could snag her arm, halting her. "Wait!"
"What? Isn't this what you said I should do?"
"Not that," Melanie said, nearly laughing. "Your hair, your clothes. Let me at least straighten those curls out first. And maybe you should go in something that doesn't make you look like Little Bo Peep."
Miltia looked down at herself, gasped, and immediately started tearing the frilly pink dress off her body, ripping it badly in the process. She lost the battle – and what little patience she had – halfway through, lunged for her claws and cut the thing to ribbons around herself, growing the whole time. The shoes went out the window, the petticoat into the bin. Miltia marched to the dresser naked but for black lingerie, and instantly pulled out a pair of thigh-high boots with giant heels.
Melanie couldn't stop grinning.
Finally, her sister was back.
Some background from what's been going on with Miltia – she was supposed to be absent while she deals with something of an identity crisis, but there never seemed a good time to have a scene from her PoV. Meanwhile, Mercury offers some of his thoughts on things.
Not much else to say.
I'll be visiting my mother early Thursday, so I should know by the release of the White Sheep chapter whether she is okay to leave or not, and what the long-term diagnosis is. White Sheep will be another short chapter as a result, but I'll be able to say for certain in it whether this will continue or not.
Next Chapter: 27th November
P a treon . com (slash) Coeur