Notes: Inspired by The Behind Every Good Woman Rare-Het Challenge which gave me the idea for this back last spring and dedicated to Roseveare who requested "Asha fic. Any Asha fic." for her fandomwishlist, which made the idea nag at me some more. With thanks to FridayAngel for betaing – all idiocies would be my fault.
Time-line: Set after "Borrowed Time."
Disclaimer: Not mine, I make no profit.
Pairing: Scroll down to end of fic.
Definition: The act of spinning. A swift whirling motion. A state of mental confusion.
More than a little spun:
She's the kind of girl who asks if she can stash a cache of guns at his place, the one who asks for a new identity, well, a new sector pass at least, every few weeks. She knows that they aren't great moves, in fact, they're slightly pathetic, and working more on the nice girl angle hasn't done anything except cemented her position as a good listener, the one who knows when to drift into the background to allow meaningful looks to take place between other people.
She's getting tired of this self-evaluation she goes through every time she leaves his place.
But whatever she comes up with, Max is always going to have her beat. Sure, Asha fights next to Logan for Eyes Only or SW1's causes too, for justice in this broken world, but they only call her people terrorists in the same breath as the Unabomber fan club. These days they save the word monsters for Max's kind.
So she walks out of Fogle Towers, breathes in the cold night air and tries to argue herself out of this. Walks out down the relatively quiet street, and her mind still isn't on any of the plans or the info that was exchanged upstairs, but on what she said and did and what Logan didn't.
"Hey you, got a nickel to spare?" a beggar yells at her, seated on the doorstep of another apartment building. She looks over, assesses him, not sure if she wants to be amused or offended. Shouldn't he be huddled in the doorway, looking pitiful? But then, why bother, he'd mix in too easily. Got to do something different to get the attention of the penthouse classes.
He gets a few notes from her, and she realizes she's got plenty of change left for herself in her wallet, and the sensible plans that were going to last her the week are dropped. She decides not to go home like she told Logan she would. The appeal of an early night dissipates here, outside, now. She was just making her exit before he completely ignored her for a new medical database he'd been trying to hack all day.
Because she has her pride.
Even when she's held on for months to the memory of touching him, hand resting on his chest, a second away from a kiss. Even when she tries to tell herself it might as well have been something she dreamed up. Because Max has got her beat. Had her beat back then, only it was easier to deceive herself that she had a chance when the rival was presumed dead.
"Step it up," she mutters, "where are you going, Asha?"
There's only one answer.
She approaches the building, hearing the music overwhelm the rest of the city's sound and watches a Jeep pull up outside, dropping off two girls. They dive into one of the entrances. Moths? Asha's going to be one soon.
'Course Crash was Max's first too. Sure, Asha's enough of a regular to successfully weave around elbows and bikes to get her drink, and the bartenders smile at her, mostly. But she's not one of the gang, and that matters.
Her gang – such as it is – meets in backrooms in arcades, launderettes and warehouses, and they don't trust each other enough any more for it to be anything but work. Sometimes she's happy to just come here and sit alone, but tonight, Asha wants people talking over and to her. Around her. So she's going to have to deal with the fact that most of the people she's expecting to see tonight knew Max first, and Max came back to them.
People don't grow old so much these days. Asha figured that she'd probably end up gone at the wrong end of a gun a while back, and every time she sees her face reflected in a police visor, she wonders if this is it, if she's going to end up in the fair and humane penal system they've got going and if it'll be a beating or what that'll finish her. When she dies, she doesn't believe she'll get resurrected.
Nobody will give up their heart for her. Her gang's trained to split now.
Back when she started coming here, she tried to work the conversations around the grumbling about the status quo, tried to raise their political awareness. She used to get so frustrated – there'd be an Eyes Only cable hack breaking up the drag bike races and people would listen as he exposed crooks and their cover ups, but the next day they'd still be talking 'bout the same things. Which had been very earnest of her, but the best response she'd got were conspiracy theories. And now all she wants is to be able to care more 'bout her own job, her own circle than the bigger picture. But she knows too much, far too much, to pretend for very long.
She doesn't remember when the buzz of doing something about the way her world was set up stopped. Maybe when she realized how little it was, after all. When upping SW1's profile became about fighting too much misinformation and every action they took barely made a dent. When Logan and Eyes Only started putting the freaks first, she couldn't blame him.
Because for every crooked leader you take down, someone else takes their place to play the system. The sector cops and the gangs have it all worked out, and…maybe the revolutionary activist is still lurking inside her. Things have just got harder, is all. And she's been naïve – hopeful.
Alec sees her first, or maybe he spotted the pitcher.
"Great timing," he smiles. No "great to see you," not any more. She ought to be glad that she managed to dissuade him from getting into her pants, that they've moved on to being friends and there's no embarrassment.
Vanity aside, she wonders if she does care. He always came on too strong for her to believe it was genuine, like it was automatic for him to thank her for cleaning up his bullet wound by offering her his phone number. Like he'd decided that he wanted her because he should. Charmer, but not her type. So it shouldn't matter if she's not his.
"What's up, foxy lady?" Sketchy hails her from Alec's side, and Asha smiles - there's one guy who doesn't have a type, and can't quite hide his desperation. The smile tightens as she faces Max and O.C. and their fake welcomes. Girls, please.
Instead of tackling Max's issues with her and raising the fact there's no substance to them, dammit, Asha puts the pitcher on the table and tries sending out mostly harmless vibes. If she's down to offering bribery for companionship, then she's going to do it right.
"So what's the latest?" she asks, not caring if it's work, the guys' latest scam, or the price of kumkwat. Determined to relax. She thinks she can mostly trust these people, she knows Max and Alec's secret – and that Sketchy doesn't. And they know hers, and again, the wannabe reporter doesn't. O.C. is smart enough to play an ostrich when she has to. Besides all this is low-level compared to the stress of being with S1W, and she thinks she's got a hold of all the Logan angst, or she will, thanks to the beer. She fills her glass with as much as it can hold, which she doesn't normally do. But this isn't a night for caution or a clear head.
"I don't get Normal," Max is saying.
"Day that you do, I'll be looking out for the four horsemen," Sketchy says, and the others roll their eyes in a half-nodding way.
"What did he do this time?" Alec asks, bringing another pitcher to the table, as if he thinks they're stocking up for a drinking game.
"If what Normal did deserves a smackdown, you gonna take him to the side and lay it out for him?" O.C. smirks, and Alec mock-glares at her as he swings into his seat. Asha's never met this asshole boss of theirs, but they talk about him enough for her to know the drill. He likes order and cleanliness and respects anything in a uniform. Which must be a nice way to live your life, although she knows that none of his attitudes sit well with the staff. And given that most of the regulars at Crash are Jam Pony staff, she doesn't see how they sit well with this Normal.
"Made me go back and get a signature for all the packages I'd delivered this guy over by the harbor even though he did a squiggle covering all four first time round. 'Course, guy wasn't there."
"Ahh, come on, Maxie, like you didn't forge it."
"Well yeah, but still, he's so pernickety."
"Maybe 'cause you rolled in at eleven today," Alec said.
"Of course you'd take his side."
"And of course you're pissed, because it didn't occur to you to forge the signature until after you knocked the door down and found out that the customer had bailed."
Asha watches the back and forth a little mesmerized, and she's not that drunk, yet, but the feeling that there's something she's missing out on is pinging her and she hates that.
"You should make him scared of you again, Max," Sketchy suggests. "That look there, that would work."
"Not if he's got his nose in the clipboard, man's lost to the world then," O.C. murmurs.
"Yeah well, he suspects me of— wanting to destabilize the world order or something, so there's no chance of him ignoring me, right now. It's not like I'm the only one who gets in a little late."
"You just don't work him properly, Max." Alec says. "Try not acting like you want to destabilize his world order— it'll work wonders."
"Oh, that's what you call what you do, huh?"
Another impasse of glowering and Asha giggles suddenly as something clicks for her. It figures.
"So you got any bitching about your place of employment you wanna get off your chest, Asha?" Sketchy asks.
She shakes her head, the giggle gone, guardedness creeping into her posture despite her best efforts.
"Nah, it's pretty boring, really."
"Nothing about you could be boring," he says, and she snickers involuntarily.
"He did not just say that," Alec grins.
"Did," Max says solemnly.
"It's really, really boring, I swear," she tells him. "I'm just trying to get on by," and Asha knows that she's a taker, listening to their stories, unable to say that she only takes odd jobs when she can so that she can put S1W's needs first. So she's glad that she doesn't have to trot out the limp cover story, because the others are still laughing and she'd start joining them, but Sketchy's face, his eyes actually, stops her.
"Well if you need any boost in the cash flow department, I've always got some deal going on," Alec suggests.
"Oh yeah, the kind of deal that ends up with everyone poorer, in deep shit and oh, you needing someone to help you out. Pyramid schemes've got nothing on you."
And Asha breathes a little easier as Max and Alec take the attention away from her again, and mentally toasts them for it.
"I don't have a bike," she admits. "Did for a while, before I got to Seattle, never learned tricks on it, though."
"Not even when you were a kid?" Sketchy's face makes her crack up, as if she should apologize for this omission.
He changed places with Alec sometime after there was a pool match challenge, and O.C. ditched them all for a honey who seemed to appreciate her ass. Asha doesn't mind the new set up, so long as Sketchy doesn't ask her about work, even the fact that he thinks he's flirting is a little endearing, and she pays him the courtesy of talking instead of drinking.
"Nah. We pulled dumb stunts, but more climbing places where we weren't meant to, stealing stuff, not bikes. Remember? Before the Pulse, when, nearly everyone had two cars? Wasn't allowed one."
"You were a shady character back then, huh?"
"But I'm a good girl now," she says and he smiles at her, and she realizes she flirted and it worked and there isn't someone else in the foreground, just her and him. It's been a while since she's basked in anyone's attention. So for a second, she basks.
"Did you get to ride a bike back then?" she asks wistfully, dreaming up a goofy image of Sketchy aged seven with a face-splitting grin at having pulled off some fancy move.
"All my life," he replies and he's way too earnest about it.
"They give you a little tricycle the day you first left the hospital, huh?"
"No, they did not," he concedes with a certain amount of grace, and she guesses he's used to doing that. He's not as stupid as he seems sometimes, it's just he throws himself headlong into dumbness.
"So do you think I'll be banned from here?"
"If the management of Crash finds out I don't have a bike," she's not sure why she's whispering, leaning in close enough for her breath to disturb his flyaway hair.
"Ohhh," and then he turns to look at the other end of the table, where it looks like Max and Alec are competing in some attempt to flick peanuts into beer bottles. "Guys, do you think we should let the management of this fine establishment know we're harboring a reactionary?"
He must be the only one who doesn't sense the temperature drop steeply around the table, or feel their eyes narrowing.
"I don't own a bike, total anarchist," Asha says quickly, to defuse whatever it is the trannies are tensing up to do.
Max over-shoots a peanut and it drops onto another table entirely. She acts like it never happened.
"If you want to get one, I know where you can score a few."
"What, Alec, you're gonna get one from Normal? Pretend you got a scratch on yours?"
"Oh, now that was snide."
"They used to let us ride our bikes on the bar," Sketchy says, tuning out the bickering. "It was a beautiful thing."
"They did?" Alec puts baiting Max on hold for that, and then Asha remembers he's newer than she is, so she takes another sip and absorbs the fact and the beer.
"Yeah, until there was one brawl too many here," Sketchy nods too dramatically towards Max who makes an innocent face that nobody buys. "The cops started hanging around, looking for a way to make a ton, that's what they picked on. Said it was a danger to public safety."
"Either the owner paid up or the bikes had to go," Asha agrees, remembering it coming up once in a discussion about police corruption over wine with Logan. Drunk kids being forced out of riding bikes on bars wasn't quite oppressive enough for Eyes Only to step in, they'd agreed. She remembers it as being one of those times she – or the wine – had got Logan to laugh.
Sketchy is waving his glass a little wildly in assent and facing Alec.
"Before your time. You shoulda seen it, my man. You saw?" he turns to Asha who nods.
"Yeah – you always seemed to be pretty into it."
"Facilitating the good times," he smiles.
"And trying to impress the female of the species," Max says.
Sketchy thinks Asha can't see him frowning at Max then. As if he hasn't made it big and clear that he's trying to impress her tonight and Max has spoiled all his plans. And Asha wants to frown for other reasons entirely. Because, for once, it's nice to be with someone who can't make his motives ulterior, however hard he tries. He's too busy sharing whatever's occurred to him to manage it, and his openness is endearing, nice for her ego. Why should he be knocked down for facilitating the good times, because she believes him when he says that that's what he was trying to do.
"There are worse things he could do."
She's tipsier than she thought, because that came out loud, and it's the first sign of hostility she's shown Max, ever.
And it was over Sketchy. And he's going to misread it.
And Asha doesn't even look at Max.
"Well, whatever rotates your wheels, I say," Alec interrupts. "And some chicks are very into their bikes."
And there it is, Max's anger deflected thataway, and Asha's almost disappointed, but Sketchy's decided that now's the time to be smooth:
"So if you don't have a bike, how do you get about town? What is your method of vehicular transportation, Miss Asha?"
"Walk, get rides, drive when I've got gas for the car."
"You've got a car?" Asha's dimly aware that there's an argument going on at the other end of the table, but all Sketchy's concentrating on is this news, and whatever else it is, the intensity is something to bask in.
"Only when I can pay to run it, so, for a week a month, yeah."
She wonders if he's going to go all green crusader and lecture her drunkenly about pollution, but he's smiling again.
"Cool – it must be useful for emergencies."
"So now I'm on your list of useful people to know, huh?"
He nods. "You were on the cool and interesting list already."
She wants to laugh, his eyes are too shiny and the lines are too corny, but what she's thinking is, if he just stays away from politics, Sketchy's going to get some tonight.
And maybe she wishes his kisses weren't so wet, but as his lips draw patterns on her bare stomach, and she relaxes back into the mattress, she isn't pretending he's anyone else, or that this is the start of something between them. It just is, and it ain't half bad.
Making a gift of her every move, she pushes Sketchy up to take off his shirt, smiling confidently at him, so that he knows she's sure what she's doing, and will remember that in the morning, then she leans in, her kissing him this time. She senses the gratitude in his reaction, and for this night, with this guy, that's enough.
- diwedd -
Feedback is always welcomed.
Pairing: Asha/Sketchy (also Asha/Logan, Logan/Max, Alec/Max, Asha/Alec implied.)