Warning/Spoiler: Highly AU, TrisBriar, rarely mentions other characters (sadly, no Chime. I know. Sob sob). That's about it.

Disclaimer: The wonderful Tamora Pierce owns this, not me. (And I don't own Trust Me by the Fray. Sadly. And the stuff on supernovas came from National Geographic.)

a cup full of comets


The café isn't crowded, even though it's the middle of the afternoon in a university town, so she steps inside, considering her options as she searches her pockets for five-dollar bills. As she waits her turn, juggling her textbooks and looking over the menu, she considers what she's doing that night.

Sandry said Lark was throwing some sort of party or something for everyone who passed an exam, and Daja's going, so I guess that I'd better go too—

Her train of thought is interrupted by a lazy drawling voice: "So Coppercurls, what'll it be?"

She glares immediately at the offender, a young man about her age, with brown hair and bright green eyes, as she takes out her bill and smoothes it on the counter. "Grande drip."

"Straight espresso?" Her gaze ices over a little more as he grins lopsidedly. "You sure you can handle that, Coppercurls?"

"Quite sure, thank you." As her tone freezes, his grin broadens as he ambles off to make her coffee, looking as if he has all the time in the world. When he hands her the cup, he winks and she frowns.

She doesn't leave a tip.


"What're you readin', Coppercurls?"

"Don't call me that." She looks up from her textbook, which he's sure has words that are no shorter than four syllables in length just by seeing how thick it is, and glares (she calls it a glare, he calls it a look, but nobody knows who's right).

"Comets and Showers: How Astronomy Has Affected Our Culture. Getting intellectual, are we?"

She goes back to the page she left, her glasses reflecting the light as she rolls her eyes at him. "And what would you know about being intellectual, kid?"

He grins, it's just like her to throw some of his slang back at him. "Well, let's see." He leans on the counter, an over-exaggerated expression of contemplation on his face. "I'm a major in botany and horticulture at the age of sixteen and working on my doctorate, with about seven professors trying to get me to work on their various arboretums and gardens and such because they think I'm some sort of agricultural genius. Plus, I've gotten summons to various governments, been asked to be a professor at several major universities, and am apparently second only to my teacher. That do?"

She glances at him. "And yet, you're working in a café serving espresso for seven dollars an hour, plus tips."

"Not always. Some days I deliver pizza, for which I get eight dollars an hour, plus tips." He says it with a straight face, which just makes it harder for her to keep her own still.

"How comforting, to know how genius is appreciated." Her braids fall into her face as she turns back to her reading.

"Very, isn't it, Coppercurls?"

She ignores him, goes back to her page again as she tries to take in more information on meteor showers. As he turns back to his work, she places a quarter on the counter.


"So how do you know Lark?"

She's actually paying attention to him for once, watching him as he busies himself making her coffee while she pulls out another textbook as large and wordy as the last. (He never asks why she has so many of them, on subjects as diverse as plate tectonics to astronomy, but he's always wondered about it, because really, how many majors can one person have, even such an obvious prodigy?)

"Actually, my teacher, Rosethorn, knows her. They teach right next door to each other at the university."

She nods, her curiosity assuaged for the time being, and he asks, "So how do you know her?"

"My teacher, Niko, knows Lark, and I'm friends with Sandry and Daja."

"Niko? As in Niklaren Goldeye, the famous professor?"

He leans over on the counter, pushing her drink to her. She takes it, swallows the bitter coffee as easily as water. "That would be him." Her highlighter pauses over a few words as she tries to decide which ones are the most important.

"Really. Because apparently, you have to be a genius to even be considered for his classes." He watches for a reaction, but she doesn't even look up from the textbook, instead choosing to highlight a passage.

"Is that so." She passes a dollar over onto the counter; he shoves it into the tip jar and looks out the window, out at a grey, overblown sky. Lightning plays at the edges of the cloud cover.

He knows she can feel how stormy it is without even glancing up from her assorted literature to look out the window facing the street.

He also knows how much she loves it when the weather's like this.

"Looks like it's going to rain, Coppercurls. Want me to walk you home?"

Her braids swing as she looks at him, almost smiling (and inwardly he grins, because an almost-smile is good enough for him) while she shoves the book and highlighter into her bag. "No, I'll be fine."

She pauses on her way out the door, and he turns on his way back to the register.

"But thanks for the offer."


The day he gets back from his exchange trip to China, she heads to the café and finds him there, serving espresso as if he never left.

But there's something wrong, as he hands her the cup of coffee and as she stirs in a little sugar, something that isn't right, and she ponders over it while pulling out her books and pencils.

"So Coppercurls, did you read anything interesting while I was gone?" His drawl is a little more measured, a little less carefree and she worries as she cracks open another textbook, cleaner and in better condition than the last.

"I did." She starts to read the new book, this one on supernovas, and skims over the words in the first chapter. He leans over the counter, looks at the cover and the stately print marching across the pages.

So she begins to tell him about supernovas and dying stars and how when they go, it's not fading, but in a big bang (kaboom she thinks as she reads the words, kaboom goes the world for some poor soul, kaboom), an explosion of light and sound eradicating that corner of the universe. And in between cosmic explosions and radiation, he pieces together his story, and her worry intensifies.

He tells her how he picked up a kid, Evvy, near Tibet, and how he and the kid and his teacher were going across the country to get away from an army. He tells her about the bodies and the blood and the smell. He tells her how he still sees it, still thinks that it's there, sometimes.

(Post-traumatic stress disorder she thinks, nothing to worry about he thinks, and she wonders how to reassure someone when they don't think anything's wrong.)

So the minutes pass as she reads about dying stars and as he takes orders and leans on the counter with harder eyes. It's windy outside, and she knows that it's tearing through the trees and shrieking while whipping around corners and that this is generally considered horrible weather to walk through.

She stands up to leave, but no sound comes from his corner of the counter.

She turns around and looks at him, and he raises an eyebrow, waiting.

"I was wondering if you might want… want to walk me home." She trips over the last few words, but they burst out and somewhere, she hopes.

He smiles, surprised, and his eyes get softer and taken aback as he comes around the counter (and really, it was worth giving him ideas and giving him prime grounds to become absolutely insufferable if it got him smiling) and takes her arm and leads her out the door.

And for the first time in a while (because even the most dedicated scholars are capable of lightening up), she smiles.


It's only been two months, but it seems like two years, and even though she's just gotten home, the first place she frequents is the café.

She thinks it might mean something that he barely looks up before pouring her coffee, but decides not to dwell on it.

"So how did you fancy Greece, Coppercurls?" He slides her coffee to her and she takes it, handing him his dollar.

"It was… nice." He rolls his eyes and mentally translates it into gorgeous, beautiful, a brilliant trip and worth her time. She pulls out a book, sits herself down in a chair and begins to read. He leans on the counter, sliding himself into place. It's a natural phenomenon, for him to be here and her to be there. They don't even think about it anymore, just like how they don't think about it when they begin a conversation on comets.

It's just how it is, for them, and it would take far to much effort to try and change it, so it stays like this, with them just so.

Because really, it's only the little things (like the cups of coffee and the conversations anything and everything and spare change) that define something, even something as strange and clashing (but somehow so, so right) as them.

(She sips her espresso and he reads over her shoulder as they discuss her comets and constellations and his bonsai and vines, and later—and always—he takes her arm and she lets him walk her home.)


"Apparently, a dying star explodes in stages—first it sheds its outer layers, then its core collapses inward and it explodes, resulting in a supernova. Kind of funny, isn't it?"

"No, not really, Coppercurls."

"Might you care to explain?"

"Well, things tend to go through stages. Life's like that."

(it's how it's always been)


(when you're older, you will understand)

A/N: I thought of UW and Starbucks the entire time I was writing this. Anyways, Tris and Briar are my favorite characters, and if I had to ship Circle I would ship them, they don't get enough fandom, therefore, this came into being. Savvy?

Review, because… because I want you to.