Title: Dishpig and Snowball, Matchstick and Book Monger

Author: grayglube

Pairing/Character: Icegirl/Warren

Rating: M

Summary: Life turns out to be more than busing tables and thesis statements, more than dysfunctional behavior and cigarettes on school property, more than superheroes and villains. It's life like microwaved leftovers; a hot skin, a cold center, and a soggy aftertaste.

Spoilers/Warnings: None. Post-Movie by two years.

Chapter: 7: The Mode and the Method

A/N: This is a continuation of the last chapter mainly because it takes place on the same night as the last chapter. The parts of the prologue will pick up with chapter 9. Since last chapter was so Lo heavy this chapter has ample amounts of Warren and the last of the flashbacks to the night at the Paper Lantern after Magenta ditches Lo.


September 11th (Friday)

9:08pm

(Lo's House)

"Where is it?"

"Where's what?"

"Seriously, give it."

"Give what?"

"I swear to god I will slaughter you, Magenta, give me my phone."

"I don't have it."

"Shit."

"What?"

The blonde groaned.

"Never mind you don't have it. No powers."

"No powers what?"

"No powers brawling."

"Now? Why? What did I do?"

"I know where my phone is."

"Where?"

"The Paper Lantern."

Magenta grimaced.

"Okay, wait! Not my fault."

"Yes, it is. No powers, now. Call it."

The blonde took off her glasses.

"Uhhhh, fine. No powers…but! Still, not my fault that you left your phone, and sooooo not fair that we have to do this again."

She took off her earrings and rings.

"It is sooooo fair, plus I'm still slightly pissed about Wednesday and very pissed about the last hour. Ready?"

Magenta put out her cigarette and pushed the coffee table out of the way with her foot.

"Yeah. But no biting, scratching, hair pulling, hits to the tits."

The blonde raised an eyebrow.

"Fine. But no kidney shots or Vulcan crotch kicks."

The other girl nodded once.

Lo sprang from off the couch and delivered a kick to the shin. Magenta tackled.

Layla watched from the living room's archway as the two wrestled and threw punches, one hit Lo in the arm, one hit Magenta in the ribs, Lo grappled Magenta down to the carpet and in return got a slide across the carpet on her back when Magenta bared down and forced her up across the floor.

There was a haphazard kick and a few elbows, someone banged their head against the wall, one ended up on the receiving end of a head-butt, rug-burn formed on unprotected knees and elbows, a heel-kick to a hip, a roll, a slam, a grunt when a palm struck sternum, a yelp when hair got stuck under a hand, and seven minutes later…Layla knew because she watched the minutes go by on the green fluorescent LED of the DVD player under the television, the fight ended with panting and sweaty faces.

The two scrapping girls fell away from each other and gave half-hearted nudging kicks to each other shins and unswelled fresh bruises as they gasped and hacked up at the ceiling.

"You're an asshole," Lo coughed.

"You hit like a girl," Magenta rasped.

Lo punched the other girl under the ribs and laughed and chocked when Magenta screeched and rolled away from her.

"Bitch."

"Oh suck my dick."

Layla rolled her eyes and sat on the couch.

She picked up the remote. The television came to life with a flash and across the room on the floor both girls looked at each other and let out dramatic sighs.

"What! It's after nine, my show is on!"

"I hate this show." Magenta rolled over weakly and groaned.

"I hate you." Lo glanced over at the show playing in her living room.

Antique's Road Show. She'd laugh if her ribs didn't hurt so much.

"I hate you more; you totally kicked me in the boob on purpose."

"Finished yet, children?" Layla eyed them from the couch, relaxed and unscathed.

"Yeah. I guess. Magenta get up and get the books," Lo replied making it a point not to look at the girl next to her on the carpet.

"Uh, fine. But I'm not a dog you know."

She groaned as she picked herself up from the floor.

"No, you're not. But you are my girl-slave until I have no longer have a lingering urge to kill you for that picture."

Lo took sick satisfaction at the limp that was there when Magenta walked, not that she was feeling any better herself.

The other girl's response wasn't bad either; begrudging consent to get beat on for the after effects of bullshit.

"I've got to go bring the scraps from dinner out," she announced raising herself up onto her elbows to eye Layla.

"Out where?" The redhead asked taking her eyes off the television for a moment.

"To the deer. It's what we do in this house."

Lo got up and walked out into the kitchen. Soft shuffling and the slam of the screen backdoor shook the quiet of the house.

Clicking the television to mute Layla waited for Magenta to return, when she did it was with a textbook stuffed with papers, she let it boom onto the carpet, shaking the floor, with a flip of her wrist.

"I brought the book."

"Classy," the redhead commented giving a furtive look over her shoulder.

Magenta shoved the book with her foot and dropped a notebook on top of it with a slap.

Heart hammering and with suddenly sweaty palms that she rubbed against her jeans Layla sprung into the question that had been on her mind ever since the topic had been brought up hours earlier.

"So, was that whole thing about her mom and her dad and Miranda the truth or…well…," Layla couldn't finish her sentence before Magenta turned to her and gave her a half-lidded look, or as much of one as her swelled eye could accommodate since it couldn't lift up nearly that far for an even effect.

"Well, what?"

Layla found her voice.

"Do you think I'm that naïve? I mean really? I mean…," Magenta cut her off.

"You mean you don't want to ask Lo because you know it's a sensitive topic, so instead you're asking me something I have no right to tell you, and don't give me that look because she never even told me any of what I know herself, I just kind of figured it out."

Retracting back into the couch Magenta rubbed a hand over the unbruised side of her face and leaned forward with her elbows on her rug-burned knees and her fringe falling over her face.

"Know what?" Layla pressed.

"It's just, jeez Lay, I mean Lo told me about her mom being lesbo and her dad not being around and all that but everything else I just don't ask about, but I can say that, yeah, her mom is 'sick' and I wouldn't ask about it because there's just some shit that isn't kosher."

"What about Miranda, what does she do? Because I doubt she's Lo's aunt."

The redhead didn't move her eyes from the muted screen, someone was getting a vase appraised and on the other part of the couch Magenta glared.

"I don't really know, listen Layla I'm not being a dick here it's just that half the shit I know is because my mom knew Lo's mom, or met her, or whatever and she talked about it once, I just sort of put two and two together from the last name and everything. It's nothing. Drop it."

Something angry boiled up and spilled over into Layla's mouth at the 'drop it,' she let her feelings on the matter be known with an accusing glance at the other girl and a harsher tone shading her words.

"Oh, I get it. It's just one of those things everybody knows about but nobody asks about because it's rude right? Fine."

She unmuted the television.

Magenta got up.

"That is not what I meant. Don't think I'm keeping you out of the loop, but it's her business and if you want me to be real clear then I will. Right now the situation is like when Zach was pressing Will for all the info on Warren's dad and Will wouldn't indulge him, that's you and me right now."

She took a breath and brushed her bangs back.

"And you don't even know it because the majority of the kids still have active parents, or, better yet, both of them around, or parents that aren't supers, but people like Lo have had bad shit go down, same with Warren and you can't just go pry like, no matter how well you mean it, or why, because it just stirs the pot and brings everything to the surface. Okay?"

The explanation sobered Layla. She felt embarrassed and skeevy for asking in the first place. She decided to never bring it up again, partly because Magenta was right and partly because she'd been called on her actions. It also brought into light the aspect of why Magenta was suddenly so angry.

Layla pushed thoughts of Magenta's parents out of her mind and felt worse. But at least Magenta was upfront about her family history and didn't throw it under the rug for everyone to trip around like Lo.

"Yeah, I ge…-"

The back door slapped into the jam. Wood floor boards creaking and signaling Dolores' return. Glad that the blonde was too busy putting her hair into a ponytail to look at her, Layla stared at the splayed textbook on the floor.

Magenta pointedly ignored everything around her by pretending to be entranced by the etchings appraised at fifteen-hundred dollars on the television set.

"Stop talking shit about me and let's get to work, huh ladies? But not before someone kisses and band-aids my boo boos."

Shooting over the couch with a cheerfully oblivious and real smile the blonde stole a handful of pretzels from the bag on the coffee table.

Falling into Layla's shoulder she chewed and picked at the sliver of skin pulling away from her torn up elbow, she peeled it and flicked it onto the carpet.

Magenta and Layla caught eyes over the small distance of space between them, making a silent pact to leave and let be the topic just under discussion.


10:16pm

(The Paper Lantern)

It was better than sweeping, were his thoughts on folding silverware into cheap red linen napkins. It was therapeutic to go about the mind-numbing repetitive movements in the same pattern over and over again. When he first sat down to do his 'closing time task' it was a painful sort of boredom but after folding silverware for forty-five minutes straight he entered what Magenta might have, or rather had at some time or another, the folding silverware 'zone.'

He hadn't noticed it at first, it was only after he sat down and set up with carefully organized piles of scalding hot, right out of the dishwasher, utensils and squares of fabric did he see the gold and red good luck cat statuette reflect orange and black at him that he even saw it.

Not knowing exactly what to do with it he left it, and folded silverware for forty-five minutes. With only four sets left to do he came to the conclusion that he ought to do something about her phone sitting there next to him next to the proned-paw, good-luck cat.

Flicking at the paw that had stopped waving and throwing the last four sets of knives, forks, and spoons into the grey plastic dish bucket, making sure to afterwards hide them under the already made sets, he snatched at the object of his fixation, dropped it into the inside pocket of his jacket behind his cigarettes and got up.

He grabbed his jacket and the bucket, dropped it off next to the only still occupied dish station, A-mystery's, and called out to the other boy's back as he faced the bulletin cork board to clock him out.

"Gotta get out early?"

"Something like that," He didn't look back as he replied.

It took seven long-legged strides across the parking lot to get to his truck, the ding signaling that the driver's door had been opened went off, he didn't bother swinging all the way inside and shutting the door just then.

He opted, instead to in one movement yank both cigarettes and phone from jacket pocket.

On a whim he pressed a thumb to the truck lighter, pushed it in and waited for it to pop out, palm domed softly over the nub to catch it when it popped out.

"Hey! Warren!"

A-Mystery tore out the back door, doing a jog half-way to the truck. Warren clenched the items in his hand a bit tighter in reaction.

"Yeah, what's up?" He asked in between the motions of placing a fresh cigarette between his teeth.

The single back light of the Paper Lantern cast a piss-poor sodium yellow gleam on everything in the parking lot. Warren couldn't see the other boy's face well enough to gather an expression.

"I just was wondering if you wanted to switch a swift with me, I need next Thursday off and I saw you were off so I wanted to know if you'd switch Thursday off to, like…I don't know li…-"

"Sunday, seven to two. That's all I go…-"

The lighter shot out.

"Shit!"

Turning to look over for it before it burned the carpet in his truck he found it glowing hot under the passenger seat, the phone in his hand fell from his grasp and he banged his head on the window roller on his way back up from the floor of his truck.

The scent of burning upholstery wafted into his nostrils.

He cursed eloquently for the fourth time in as many seconds.

"You alright?"

Rolling his eyes he set himself back in the driver's seat, legs swinging against metal underbody. His head hurt, the dinging of the truck was getting on his nerves, he'd dropped the phone somewhere in the darkness of under the seats and his cigarette had come much too close to breaking.

"Fine. Sunday, seven to two. For Thursday…"

"Okay good."

Warren waited.

"Oh! Yeah, Thursday. Four to nine. Thanks. Why are you using your truck lighter to smoke?"

With a smirk he answered, "Why wouldn't I?"

"Whatever…and you're still wearing your apron."

Looking down he noticed that he was in fact still wearing his apron, slung across his jeans like a limp thing. He tore at the knot one handed and dragged it off; he tossed it across the parking lot.

A-Mystery caught it mid-air.

"Good night, thanks again."

Warren gave a nod and put the now dying orange coils against the end of his cigarette. He swung his legs into the truck and unrolled his window.

Putting the lighter back he weighed the option of opening the door again to look for the phone he'd dropped somewhere, deciding, finally that it could wait until after he got home.

He slapped the steering wheel with the heel of his hand, the truck jolted lightly in place.

"Fuck." He scowled around the smoke that clouded out of his mouth. He rubbed at his jaw and wiped across his mouth.

Leaning his head on the edge of the window jam he saw something whip against his tire, stuck underneath. It was hard to make out the color in the dark but he knew it was purple and black; he smiled at the idea of it blowing back.

He laughed wryly and coughed with an inhale.


7:04pm

September 9th (past Wednesday)

The Paper lantern

"Your friend just walked in."

Warren looked up from setting the dishwasher to A-mystery, the other boy sat on the edge of the sink trying to untie a small and tight knot from the back of a waitresses black half-apron.

"Who is it?" He went back to stacking the dishes into the white metal shelves.

"Dolores. I think she's mad at you, she called you a jerk in class today when I was talking to her."

His head snapped up as he half-heartedly slammed the door to the dishwasher up.

A-mystery did nothing but continue to work at the knot.

"What?"

"Yeah, no I asked her to be my partner for genetics and she goes: 'only if you bring me lunch every day,' and so I go: 'why don't you get Warren to do it,' and then she said 'because he's a jerk,' you guys fighting or something?"

Warren had no idea, he didn't think so.

He wasn't sure if A-mystery was joking or not. From the way he said it though, the objectiveness of his statement he decided that he wasn't joking, which made him more confused.

Only partly because of the subject matter.

The other bit was something on the edge of his mind telling him A-mystery was not as objective to the situation as he wanted him to think.

"No, we aren't," he said finally, confident in his delivery but unsure in his meaning.

"She was probably joking then, you know like the way you joke, when you do joke that is, which is, like, neveeeer…," the other boy let the word drag on while he yanked at the knot, he stopped to look at it and continued talking a long moment later.

"Yeah, so she just came in. She looks angry. But since you two aren't fighting I'm thinking that's someone else's fault." He looked up to Warren and waited for an answer that Warren didn't have.

"Who else is with her?"

Disappointed with the answer A-mystery went back to work on the apron, already bored with the conversation.

"No one, just her."

Realization hit. He smiled.

"That would be why."

"Why what?"

"Why she's angry," Warren left the kitchen and scoped the dining floor until he saw blonde and glasses.

He found it, sitting at a table away from everyone else, tucked in the corner of the restaurant, around the side of the small sushi bar.

She was yanking off her jacket and looking predatory.

Taking a utensil set from behind the hostess's post and grabbing a water pitcher and a glass from the serving counter he made his way over.

"The jerk is here."

She looked surprised and her anger, for a moment, dissipated. He smiled down at her.

"What?"

Filling the water glass for her and tossing the utensils down gently, he raised an eyebrow.

"The kid in your genetics class."

Realization clouded her features for a second.

"Oh yeah, I was joking. Ha, sorry about that. Everyone is just a jerk in my book today," She looked at him then and grinned.

"Jeez sit down, I feel bad making you just stand there whenever we have a conversation when I'm here."

He sat.

"I'm supposed to stand it's my job to stand and perform back breaking labor."

But he was sitting and she smiled and he smiled back.

"Magenta ditch you?"

Lo gnawed at the inside of her mouth and puffed out her cheeks before answering.

"No, her dad called and she had to run home. I was hungry and she's supposed to be coming back," she reached around the table and stole a straw from his apron pocket, unwrapped it and threw the crumpled ball of paper at him. It missed.

"…eventually."

She took a sip of water and he looked to the brown paper bag sitting on the table next to her pack of cigarettes.

"Perusing the liquor stores?"

She laughed and slid the bag over to him. She nodded when he gave her a look that asked if he could look.

He was surprised to find that inside was a glass statue of a nurse. He examined it carefully as she opened a stick of strawberry laffy taffy.

Looking up to catch her snap of a piece of the pink candy with her jaw strongly clenched and a pull of her arm he laughed.

"Want some?"

He hated strawberry.

Taking the proffered stick her bit at the end only a small distance down from where her teeth marks marred the candy.

Giving it back she spun it over her fingers and yanked the wrapper down further, pointed it at him and grinned.

"Now go make my food. Table boy."

Rolling his eyes he slid out of the booth.

"Table boy my ass."

As he walked away he heard her call out at him, "Yeah walk that fine ass away to the kitchen, I'm starving over here!"

Heads turned towards her, she was too busy gnawing off another piece of candy to pay too much attention.


10:16pm

She was still sitting at the same table.

He'd visited sporadically throughout his shift to see how she was doing, refilling her water, talking, going about his routine tasks from behind the sushi counter so he wouldn't get yelled at for sitting at the same table of a customer.

It had taken her an hour to eat; she was the last customer to pay for the night. No one else had come in for an hour and she'd been talking to A-mystery ever since his shift had ended at the same table she'd sat for the past three hours.

Warren went over once he'd finished cleaning up the last table and stacking the chairs on top of it.

"I mean I like 'advanced detective skills' and all, but he's just so dry as a teacher and really as of right now I'm really diggin' 'escapes,' we've got a project assigned right now that I like."

"What project?"

"Oh, well first we had to do this survey-ish thing where we made a facility and based on what everyone in the class did for that and what type of location we actually choose for our project she gave us one of the survey ones."

"What did you choose?"

"I was stuck between two; densely populated inside area or subterranean area, in the end I choose subterranean though. Even got what I wanted too. Desert area. Good stuff."

"Sounds fun all we got in 'disguise' wa…-"

His presence was noted with a full glance and a grin.

"Hey, hot pants. Take a load off, converse, shift's over," she smiled up at him.

He tilted his head to the side and let out a breath with closed eyes.

"Shift is almost over; we're kicking you out in fifteen minutes. Is Magenta coming, or do you need a ride?"

Lo stretched and got an angry look on her face at the mere mention of the other girl's name.

"Yeah, I need a ride. I tell you what happened later."

As if to remind her that he was still there A-mystery chimed in.

"I can give you a lift."

She looked at him.

Before she could answer Warren jumped on the question.

"It's fine, and me and her have to talk anyway, about our 'soon to be deceased' friend Magenta. Right?"

He grinned when she nodded.

"Affirmative. That and we have to engage in mortal combat in the parking lot, we don't want witnesses, or accidental bystander maimings."

Warren rolled his eyes.

Not at her.

At the other boy's too wide smile for her.

"Alright, I'll see you tomorrow then, night."

Removing himself from the booth A-mystery made his way out of the Paper Lantern through the kitchen.

"I'm going to go clock out, you can wait by my truck if you want. I'll be out in a minute."

Pulling on her jacket and grabbing the paper bag to her side she shifted out of the booth.

A car honked outside happily, it was A-mystery saying goodnight in his own way before he drove off.

Warren scowled and let his eyes roll widely in their sockets.

"Almost forgot about this," she gestured to the bag.

"Where are you pa…-"

"In the back."

"Alright see you 'in the back.'" The ring of the bell over the door accompanied her exit as he made his way into the kitchen.

The dragon lady's husband let him off without any chastisement about clocking out early and bid him goodnight as Warren folded his apron up and clocked out.

He twirled his keys around his finger and made his way out into the parking lot. He nodded at his fellow employees smoking with a group of other teenagers slung over the handlebars of their bikes in the corner of the parking lot.

She sat on the folded down tail-gate of his truck, unlit cigarette hanging from her lips, waiting for him.

Making sure no one was watching too closely and turning his back he lit up a finger and offered it to her.

"Thanks."

"No problem."

She lit another cigarette off the end of the first as he jumped up next to her.

"Here," she gave him the one he'd lit up.

It had the indent of her teeth on the filter.

Idly he wondered if everything she put her mouth on ended up with the tiny crenulations. Or bruises.

He savored the thought and filed it away.

In the corner of the parking lot someone's mother drove up to pick them up and with the slam of a car door and fading radio pop music the crowd of teens thinned.

"So what happened with Magenta?"

"She left me here."

"You piss her off?"

"More like she has an unrich fantasy life so she has to make do with making everyone else's life awkward and altogether hell-like, no wait...hellish? Yeah, hellish is the word ."

"What does that have to do with anything?"

He watched a plastic grocery bag roll across the asphalt like a suburban tumbleweed.

"Just popped into my head, it was too good of a thought not to say. I meant that she just likes to be a pain, we're just her source of amusement."

"You mean everyone, right? Not just 'us' exclusively, right?"

"Yes. But right now it doesn't seem like it does it? Maybe it's because we're like the only ones that can be singled out. You know what I mean?"

He did.

"Yeah, like Layla and Will are doing their thing and aren't as fun to her anymore and Zach is just not with her but still with her in a different sense, just not in the obvious sense, and Ethan doesn't play into her bullshit. I know."

She blew out a puff of smoke and her eyes creased, she looked thoughtful.

"So when she asks we're going to have to tell her that we had hot wild sex on top of a dishwasher tonight, okay?"

He laughed loudly.

"They're too hot to have sex on."

She took a drag and seemed to mull the statement over in her head for a moment and then grinned widely, shaking her head to something funny.

"What?" He asked.

"Sorry, just thought of something and I shouldn't even say it. Seriously."

He waited.

"But you will say it, you always say it."

"Yeah, okay. So what I was going to say was, the dishwasher really can't ever be too hot because it's just like…frosty cheeks," she laughed.

"And then I thought 'wow, if I ever became a stripper that would be my stripper name,'" she looked to him and laughed harder than she was already.

"'Frosty Cheeks,' that's funny. You should go for your dreams. The sky's the limit. Work for your singles," he laughed with her.

"I can't believe she left me here."

Her face turned puggish under her frustration and he watched her bite down hard on her cigarette's filter. Propping an elbow up onto the edge of the truck bed she stewed silently for a moment.

"You wanna go?"

Warren saw her expression fall and her shoulders sag in a kind of defeat. He couldn't decipher what those types of looks meant, or were for; he wondered if he was the only one that got them.

"Yeah, sure. I gotta get some sleep."

He hopped off the tailgate, shaking the truck a bit and looked to her as she suddenly became spotlighted by headlights.

A car door opened with the engine still on and heels clunked dully on the asphalt.

"Yo. Get in, ho."

Magenta had never had worse timing.

The wind kicked up and surprisingly he noted that the blonde's features had, if anything softened.

Throwing her cigarette over the edge of the truck bed she held out her arms.

"Come get me sugar sweetness," her voice was casually amused. But her eyes, and he could see them even though Magenta couldn't from behind the glare of the headlights, were vicious.

Tsking and rolling her eyes Magenta tottled forward, shaky in high-heels on the cracked and uneven pavement.

"I can still take you home you know, if you two are going to claw each other's eyes out and all."

"Oh shut up, Warren!"

Magenta pushed him roughly to the side. It was playful but it still sent him reaching for the edge of the truck to catch himself.

"You're an ass you know that?"

"Yeah, I know. Whatcha gonna do 'bout it?

They spoke to each other as if they'd forgotten he was there a foot away.

And he watched her reach out with a smile that betrayed nothing but amiable intentions and twirl the ends of Magenta's black and purple stripped gauzy scarf.

For a second Magenta just smiled.

"What you gonna kiss me or something?"

The blonde reached out her legs straight from where they had been hanging limp under the tail-gate and wrapped them loosely around the other girl's waist.

"You wish, Rat-girl."

Warren suddenly felt like he had missed something or skewed something or dreamed something up because he was sure he didn't understand what had happened or what was suddenly going on between the two girls.

"I dare ya, Snowball." It was a joke but when said that way it could have been taken seriously.

And for a second he did think that's exactly how Lo took it.

He actually believed she was going to kiss Magenta.

And there was nothing sexual behind it; it was just too weird for it to become sexual.

But he'd be a liar if he said he didn't feel his jeans get pulled a bit tighter in a choice spot when she gripped the center of the other girl's scarf and pulled her in closer, legs still around skirted hips.

So maybe it had been a bit sexual in that moment, but in a dream sort of way.

Sexual without logic or reason behind it.

Crack

And their foreheads collided with a slam forward and a yank on the scarf.

Another pull and the scarf came free.

Reaching a hand up and letting it fly off into the parking lot was deliberate and artful in a swirl of gauzy purple and black spinning out of sight.

"OWWWW, my fucking head!"

"You deserved that. Now get in the car."

The blonde uncrossed her legs from the other girl's waist and slid to the side and off the tail-gate. She bounded away into the running vehicle.

Magenta looked to him when she finally stopped shaking against the edge of his truck from the pain rattling inside her skull.

It had probably hurt Lo just as much, but that wasn't the point.

The point was that she had made her point.

Point by pain.

The look Magenta gave him was a probing one, one of confirmation that asked 'that really just happened, right?'

"You did leave her here for four hours, don't look at me."

She scowled and flipped him off with a grimace while still rubbing her head with her other hand. She got in the car, slammed the door and drove off in so calm a manner that it shocked him.

Where he had been expecting screeching tires and a whip out there were softly rotating tires and a smooth curve across the asphalt and out of the parking lot.

From the second long gaze he got at the passenger window he knew, from the look the blonde gave him as she pressed her head tight against the window for the added chill and from the wide louping smile she offered that it had been worth the skull-cracking on her end.

That night he dreamed of her defrosting a dishwasher with a block of ice inside it by stabbing it with cigarette after cigarette.


12:36am

Lo's House

They for the most part ignored each other while at their respective tasks that coalesced into an orchestra of quiet sounds.

The flip and swick of paper jostled back and forth.

The metal chink of scissors as it snipped at remnants of poster-board.

The peel of sticky notes away from the little yellow pad.

Lo looked through the schematics of her given project location and marked off points of interest with a pencil that when not in use found itself perched between lips and gums. She remained transfixed and squinty eyed over the large piece of trace paper blueprints.

Layla cut out complimentary shapes and colored them in with different shades of green for her Woundcare class; it was a project on the different types of pastes and balms that could be made out of plants. Needless to say she was pleased.

Magenta let her breath spill out in accented huffs and puffs while trying to find the blurb in the textbook that explained how exactly to manipulate the air suction control system inside the turbines of a dehumidifier. She tried to stick to the clues and hints Lo had given her in order to at least be finished with the instructional portion of her project.

"Uggggh why did I have to get the shit-tay lo-caaaaaaay-tion!"

Magenta as it turned out was not an attractive whiner, she cringed and cried and clenched. It was at best distracting and at worst horrific.

Layla never taking her eyes off of the leaf she was making out of oak-tag responded with dull interest.

"Karma."

"Do you need another hint?" Lo flipped a page in her scrap notebook to review the bullet-points she had haphazardly scribbled down.

"Yeeeeeees," Magenta intoned dramatically.

Lo looked up from her key points.

"Okay, so like I said before you have a few choices, can I see the schematics and the blueprint key for a sec?"

The other girl handed off the references.

"Alright, so you're given all this information. You have to find what looks suspect. Like, yeah there's the front entrance but what else is there? Since you have an underwater location which is basically a sub-category of subterranean,"

She paused and looked up to see if Magenta was following. She seemed to be and sat rapt biting at her cuticle with one knee bent up out of her oversized tee-shirt and the rest pooled over her lap. Her eyes met the other girl's and Magenta smiled sheepishly, like a little kid.

"So let's go down the line: How else can you get in?"

Lo waited.

Magenta sat dumbly.

Layla piped up while layering her leaf cut-outs on top of one another. While uncapping a green marker and going around the leaf on the bottom she supplied the answer Magenta couldn't find.

"Where the air comes in, the port or the supply bay that's left open for underwater seafaring vehicles, etcetera."

"Thanks, Layla. Also if there was a lab you could put the lab port to the water."

"But there isn't a lab."

Lo smiled ready to correct the other girl.

"But there is a research dock, here," she pointed to a spot on the blueprint.

"But how would I get in there? Ahhhh, gawd this is sooo hard!"

Magenta put her head on her knee and stared intently at the papers.

Lo sympathized.

"It's not asking how you would get in, it's just asking for a viable option on how to get in and get to the checkpoint with minimal or controllable interference from the villains slash civilians. So tell me how to get in Magenta."

"Well…you could go in through here," she pressed a nail to the transportation port.

"Good, you have a point of 'origin,' so to speak. Now what? How will you deal with the people inside?"

Magenta looked stumped.

"No fucking clue, like I said I need help."

Layla had finished coloring one multi-layered leaf and was gluing it to her poster.

"You would manipulate the oxygen levels and disable the back-up pump. It's probably somewhere towards the edges of the schematic."

She went back to her gluing and pasting and cutting and coloring.

Magenta looked over to the redhead and nodded with apprehension.

"Oh, I get it. So with the oxygen cut off for long enough everyone will pass out. But what if they die?"

"You would have to do some equations to figure out how much air fits into that many cubic feet and see how many people are there and the ratio of men to women since they breathe at different rates and the ages for the same reason and then apply that to how many cubic inches of oxygen each consume in a given time frame, I would use a minute myself, it's more specific."

Lo paused and looked over to Layla who remained passive and in her scrap-book like decoration mode.

"And then that's your ceiling limit, you go over that by whatever the point of passing out is by about no more than ten minutes, into which you should estimate travel time and how long it will take to get port access. Then you go in with supplemental oxygen and get to the place you need to get to, and then you get out and restart the oxygen supply."

Magenta looked dumbfounded.

She took a moment to drag over a couch cushion to sit on and retrieve her cigarettes from the coffee table.

Lighting up and letting out the first drag she smiled and said, "I want to lick your brain. Your project is probably amazing and mine is shit. Your's is going to end up being done and look like a conspiracy wrapped in a plot inside a government agenda with area 51 being explained and the Lindenburg baby being found."

Lo went back to detailing in her essay outline how exactly one would scale up the side of the desert facility as it came up from underground to purge its carbon dioxide supply and suck up oxygen from the outside and then manage to get into the facility by shimmying across the bridge one pillar made to another as the ventilation system expanded to move air throughout the facility.

She'd already finished her graphic representation of the project. All that was left was the status report and the explanation of how the infiltration and escape plans would work.

Although the project had originally called for an "escape plan" her, Magenta, and several other had received the task of "entrance" plans because of the locations having multiple people doing plans on them.

"Soooo can I ask you a question and not have you get pissed? Since you never even acknowledged me buttering you up by all that lick your brain stuff." Magenta asked quizzical of what Lo's response would be.

Knowing already that nothing good would come of it and being drastically bored from the past two hours being spent doing the class assignment the blonde nodded.

"I'm already pissed but you're going to say it anyway, so just ask."

"Did Warren say anything about the picture?"

"He said he'd delete it." Layla was the one to answer.

Instantly Lo found herself replaying her own conversation with Warren and found she couldn't remember even asking him herself to delete the picture.

She could have kicked herself in retrospect.

Magenta pointed her cigarette and waved it in Layla's direction.

"Not my point, not what I meant, but while we're on that he said what?"

Layla huffed and pushed her bangs off her eyes.

"He said he would delete it. That was it."

"That's it?"

"Yes, Magenta. Now you're pissing me off. I'm the one with scissors here you know. Maybe not the best idea to keep annoying me."

"Ugh, fine. But that's way weird. And don't stab me here but I have to ask did you tell him to delete the picture or did he offer that up himself?"

Layla looked away from her paper leaves, knowing that she would not be able to concentrate on them and on Magenta at the same time and answered with a tick in her voice.

"He offered it up without me asking him."

"Wow," Magenta looked away and puffed on her cigarette.

"Wow, what?" Layla asked looking to Lo with a look that conveyed sympathy for the topic that Magenta was so ready to cover.

"I'll get to that. What did he say to you about the picture?"

She looked at Lo, cigarette smoke now wafting in her direction.

The blonde shrugged and made a face, she looked down at her writing and jotted down a note next to one of her key-points and put a checkmark by another.

"Nothing, he just said in revenge I should get a picture of you naked and send it to Zack. That was about it."

"He didn't say, 'nice tits,' or, 'I like your panties,' or, 'you look hot'?"

"Nope."

"Truly, he is complex. Like this algebra I'm about to have to do for oxygen and carbon dioxide and lung volume."

Lo was confused.

"How is he complex?"

"You're the one who talked to him; you should know this already and why."

"Oh, I'm sorry. It's an everyday occurrence to have pictures of my barely concealed tits sent out in a text mes…-"

"If you two don't stop I will stab you both with these scissors. We've established that Magenta is an asshole and that you can beat the shit out of someone. So let's just stop and take a break because I'm not getting anything done now that Magenta has brought this up."

Silence fell when Layla had finished and they all looked at each other with Magenta finally flopping back onto the pile of couch cushions on the floor behind her with, "Sorry Lay, sometimes there are no tracks for the runaway train of my mind. And I am sorry about the pic, I was an asshole. I deserved to be beaten. I concede to that, but I still think you and Warren need to work out whatever it is that you two have got going on."

Lo took a cigarette out of Magenta's pack and inhaled the menthol flavor of it. She rubbed at her tired eyes, sick at the turn the topic had taken.

"There's nothing going on Magenta. At this point I just want a guy who I can walk in and hit in the face with a textbook first period and then get a back massage from. That's all I'm looking for, alright. I don't need a boyfriend or someone to fuck around with. I just want to sit home and read and do my work and relax. Right now I'm lucky to get four hours to sleep at night, six when the universe aligns perfectly. So where exactly would I, if I wanted to, which I don't, fit a penis into that equation?"

"It's not like you guys couldn't get together in a few years or whatever, it's not like it'd be a stretch of the imagination. Fire and ice and all that. It'd be cute. Ya know?"

Magenta didn't look at her as she explicitly brought up the point of a topic she'd only ever danced around before. Lo wondered if it was because Magenta knew how dumb it sounded.

"Oooooh how original. Fire and ice. Jeez like I don't hear that every day from some asshole. And do what in the mean time? Carry him around in my pocket and go, 'sorry, not right now but remain celibate and doe-eyed over me for five or so years and I'll get to you,' which is something he wouldn't do anyway, and this is neglecting the fact that it's self-obsessed and selfish to expect things like that."

"I think it's cute. You're like mortal enemies. They say mortal enemies make the best lovers." Magenta smirked whimsically at her own fake coyness on the subject. Now Lo knew Magenta knew how dumb what she was saying was.

Layla's face scrunched up in a look that spelled 'ewwwww.'

"Too bad neither of us have a penis, Magenta. We'd be causing domestic disturbances all over the place with our wild monkey-like fornicative activities going on all over the place, upside down and in children's playgrounds."

"I'm going to go make popcorn. You guys handle this dirty talk without me sitting right here."

The redhead made her way to the kitchen with Magenta shouting 'prude' after her.

"Are you still angry at me?"

"Yep."

"Sorry."

"I know."

"But I'm still an asshole?"

"Yep."

"For the picture?"

"And the topic that was just under discussion."

"Dually noted."

They both reclined across from each other on makeshift posts of cushions and pillows and blankets, smoking and taking in each other's bruised eye sockets and broken lips.


1:14am

Sitting down at the kitchen table in the dim lighting she wondered how much longer it would take for the other two girls to finally be down for the night. No sooner than they had declared work on their projects fruitless at such a late hour Magenta proclaimed it the perfect time to teach Layla the delicate art of Egyptian Rat Screw.

The redhead wasn't bad at the game but eventually once the blonde left the room the game switched to Kentucky Rummy and now the odd girl out found herself in the kitchen poking at bruises and peeling half-formed scabs in abstract boredom.

She'd been itching to sit down with glitter glue and tape and stickers every since watching Layla work on her woundcare project.

Clearing the kitchen table she set everything up for her half-involved hobby of scrapbooking.

Truth be told, she'd only come up with the idea in junior year and had collected various items for it and then never found the time until the past summer to actually sit down and involve herself in the project that was beloved and longed for by bored housewives.

With a cigarette in hand and one foot perched on her chair she carefully taped a green hall-pass into the corner of an empty page.

A wrapper for sour-patch kids candy that she stole from Magenta last year followed it into the book.

Slowly she stopped flicking through her shoebox of paper keepsakes.

Underneath the edges of them, at the bottom of the box she found a slip of paper.

She took it out and finally when she found that she'd been staring at it for too much time decided to give it its page. The tape was wider than the tiny slip of paper and longer when she tore it off from the rest of the wheel.

It made the page curl up in the middle from the tension of the tape.

When she finished she slammed the book, angry at herself and unable to explain why.

Suppose you can get want you want

Lucky Numbers: 12, 9, 44, 35, 15

She snorted.


2:08am

Warren's House

He'd been home by midnight, with a paper bag from the gas station, Magenta's scarf, and Dolores's cellphone.

He'd spent an hour wandering through the house going about his small tasks as if they were the only thing in the world worth doing.

Making coffee, putting bowls of cat-food outside on the patio at the back of the house, throwing his ripe smelling shirt into the hamper and throwing his head under the bathtub facet for the chill of water over his neck, chest, and back.

When he went out onto the front porch he didn't bother with a shirt, only stooped to reach his cigarettes and plain paper bag from the twenty-four hour gas station that he'd thrown onto the living room couch when he walked into the house.

Out on the porch the night carried the smell of coming fall and the mulch of decomposing leaves.

He'd went to the tin box by the door after he'd set down the paper bag on the porch swing. Pulling out the bag of food and the bowl he poured out a portion and set it under the swing.

He sat down prepared to wait and thought about the weight in his pocket.

Thought about the way things had been before, he didn't know when the after the 'before' came about. He found it impossible to believe it to have just happened a few hours ago with the actions of Magenta.

The fact that he couldn't put a finger on the exact moment of time when the nature of their relationship had changed bothered him; it itched in his brain like a purulent splinter stick.

The structure, the foundation of it had shifted. Now the mutuality of whatever it was that was going on had changed.

He didn't think he understood her yet, and with that piece of knowledge he knew that something was wrong.

Something mewed at his bare foot, clawing happily at the side of it. He winced but only for a second before he picked the stray up by its scruff.

The small calico was not please and made an unpleasant sound at him.

"You know what's up."

He held the small animal in the space between elbow and arm and kept it against his chest as he shifted to reach the paper bag.

Ripping open one of the seven small square boxes he unfurled the roll of purple medicinal flea collar and put it on the cat. He cut it with the Swiss army knife on his key ring.

"There you go." When he let the kitten go it stayed close and swished it tail across his bare feet.

He wouldn't have been able to say what it was about him that the cats liked but he assumed it was the heat he put off.

When the cat stopped moving he lit a cigarette and pulled her phone out of his pocket, followed by his and set them down side by side.

The urge to call her struck him. It was after all a time of night that if anyone would be up it would be her for no other reason than the hours she kept, which were unpredictable and always odd.

When he thought of her he thought of ungodly hours of the early morning, the hours when the moon was too low and sun was just plumage.

Her schedule was one where she was only truly ever doing something when she wanted to do something. Warren didn't figure her for someone that did something just because there was nothing to do; somehow he knew she'd much rather doing nothing when there was nothing to do.

He thought of the coldest hours of the day during the summer and the warmest in the winter, suddenly knowing it was too dark to see the face of his watch but understanding he would get no sleep he grabbed her phone and turned it on.

What he was about to do he did only because it was so late and because he knew he'd thought himself into that certain state of mind where 'fuck it' became the method and mode of action of choice.

Turning the phone on, he read her messages.

All seventy-three of them.

Mostly they were from Magenta. He smiled to find that he was not the only one getting shit from their mutual friend. Most of it was about him, some of it wasn't.

When he finished snooping he wondered what he'd been looking for in the first place.

Confirmation.

Assuagement.

Fixation.

Suddenly very fed up with himself he wrote it off as a side-effect of too late a night.

The cat against his side clawed at his hip and studded belt.

He smiled at it and remembered something he'd read about cats. The only part of whatever story it was that the cat made a deal with something or someone and he would kill mice and be nice to babies that didn't pull his tail but when he was done with those things and when between those times and when the moon came up he would walk by himself and all places were the same to him and he would walk through the wild places waving his tale and be a wild cat.

Domestication and freedom.

He blew out smoke with a heavy breath and ran a hand through his damp hair.

"Shit."

The cat that was still more kitten than cat meowed and looked up at him. It gave a half-hearted attempt at picking the collar and then flicked its tail against his side and went about licking its paws.

The sounds of eating made him look over his shoulder at one of the other remaining six cats he had to collar. He repeated the same routine for the new arrival and no sooner had he cut the excess bit of collar off than the small creature settled across his thigh.

"Brat," the cat looked up at him.

Before five minutes had elapsed he'd gotten another one down and had it curled in the spot behind him on the porch.

His cigarette was long since finished by the time he turned her phone off and reached for his. The picture was still there.

It wasn't as if deleting it was any big event, as the image was already stamped behind his eyelids. The angry scowl on her face just before the yell she'd been sure to have thrown out was particularly fetching.

He snorted.

Everything else wasn't bad either.

It was suggestive sure, but it wasn't instant teenage boy erection worthy.

"What do you think?" He flashed the phone at the cat lounging languidly over his thigh. It looked at the source of the glow by its face and then turned away disinterested.

"Yeah, I know. Not your type."

He deleted it without pause.

While the thought of her like that was enough to get him off it wasn't exactly the only thing in his mind worth unzipping his jeans for.

It had gotten him riled up enough to engage in rather private actions not long after he'd gotten home but mostly as he laid down in bed, back pressed hard against wrinkled sheets, pants unzipped and sweating hard even with the fan blowing on high it had only been one of the many things his mind jumped too while he'd rubbed at a rather pesky piece of anatomy.

It'd been a fixture but no more the main event than the jumble of flesh and sweat and movement of rhythm and scenario his mind melded together while his hand took up familiar motions.

Most of the scenarios involving blonde and taut cold skin had melted into the other ones of sweaty slapping hips and athletic female grunting and firm, soft thighs around his waist. He had been too tired to come up with an elaborate fantasy.

He emptied his pockets of the rest of their contents to distract himself from the flush of blood that washed lower in his body at the thought of sex.

Tips mostly came out, forty-three dollars in total. A pen with a chewed cap. A hall pass.

His thoughts moved onto school.

He'd done all his homework while on break but he was stuck on the day's events before he'd gone off to work.

She was in his driver's education class.

And while he was going for the insurance discount she was going to actually learn a skill that the majority of her peers had already mastered. The irony of it made him smile.

For someone so smart she certainly didn't pay much attention to activities beyond bookwork.


Dr.'s Education Class

(Maxville Recreational Center)

2:23pm

The large and for some reason angry seeming man in the colorful Hawaiian shirt that taught the driver's education lecture class was going over the course itinerary in brief to the few students on time for the class.

Warren sat top row, furthest corner from the door in the lecture hall that the town of Maxville rented out for various educational courses, weekly bingo, and town supervisor meetings while the main offices were being rebuilt after last week's Richter scale worthy shakes from 'Earth Boomer' destroyed numerous buildings uptown.

She sat polar opposite, bottom row closet to the door, three seats away from where the teacher sat organizing papers on the other side of the row.

He watched her write down dates and details and then stare off out the open door into the hallway.

She'd said hello and smiled vibrantly at him, smelling of fresh smoke, on her way into the room as he moved on to his own choice in seating.

The class droned on.

The teacher yelled half-heartedly at the students who came in much too late to get credit for the day and repeated the last few points he had been making, more so because he'd forgotten where he was in the lecture than for the benefit of the late comers.

When class was over they picked up the workbooks part of their three hundred and sixty dollar class cost went towards and everyone left; some quick , some dawdling along with friends, a handful staying behind to talk about payment for the class and the actual car portion of it with the teacher.

She'd been the first one out.

He'd been surprised to find her waiting outside the door leaning casually like a girl with nothing better to do than hold up a wall and look good doing it. From the small smirk he could have guessed she knew how she looked.

"Hey."

"Hey."

"Do you have a ride?"

She floundered and side-stepped a group of girls coming out of the room.

"I do have other friends that can drop my ass off, Warren."

He grinned.

She knew what he was going to say and rolled her eyes.

"Yeah, and who's picking you up?"

"…Magenta. Obviously."

"She's not pissed?"

They walked down the hall.

"We have an…odd…," she paused and hefted her bag higher onto her shoulder and stopped by a window and looked out before answering.

"…relationship. Besides she has no right to be pissed. We're even. Ya know?"

He nodded and leaned up against the window pane, sitting slightly. He had no where better to be, besides work but he had forty minutes to get there.

"So what are you doing tonight?"

"Hanging with the girls. We're going to work on our projects, and we'll see how that goes. I'm tired though. And I have to wait for Maj because she's picking up Layla from work and then coming here."

Warren was distracted from his response by the giggling two-some that passed loudly and clumsily.

"Hmph."

He turned back to her.

"What?"

"You've got admirers," she batted her eyelashes and held her hands to her cheeks in a parody of coyness.

He turned back to look at the girls who were eyeing him as they walked away. They cackled and stumbled off when he caught them looking.

"Ha!"

He laughed.

"Better watch yourself babe, they might try to round you up."

He gave no response besides an eye-roll of his own.

"So what are you doing tonight?"

"Working. The usual."

She got a look he couldn't find the category for.

"The usual? What's that consist of. Beer pong, wild parties, watching porn, rubbing one out, setting fire to the bed sheets, with raucous humping? I'm sure those girls wouldn't mind. But two, jeez. Shit even I'd be shot after that, even with my massive cock."

She laughed while he gaped unable to regain his mental balance.

"I think you're a boy."

She laughed.

"Glad you can look beyond my massive rack to the young stallion of male energy that lurks beneath my boyishly pretty features."

Unconsciously he looked at her chest.

They were anything but big.

"Hey!"

She slapped his arm and shook her head.

"It's not my fault they're small, ya know. Besides I like 'em like that, so stop staring at my tater tots."

He laughed and let himself get pulled along outside for a smoke.

Magenta came not long after with Layla in tow and Lo was forced to hand off her cigarette at the bequest of Layla who didn't like the smoke being trapped in the enclosed space of the car.

"See ya later."

"Yep."

He took a drag off her left behind cigarette and came away with the stick of her chap stick on his mouth.


2:29am

He decided to nut up.

The text was short and sent to Layla's phone.

U guys still up? [TO: Layla, 2:30am]

Blowing smoke onto the orange cat on his thigh he waited, not seriously expecting a reply and quickly growing agitated that he'd sent one to begin with.

His phone vibrated.

U have my phone…I hope, im up drop it off –Lo [FROM: Layla, 2:32am]

He replied.

Y r u on lay's phone? U want me 2 drop it off now? [TO: Layla, 2:33am]

BC she left it out, yes now u busy? [FROM: Layla, 2:33am]

No, not busy, b there in 15 ok? [TO: Layla, 2:34am]

Thx :) [FROM: Layla, 2:34am]

Np [TO: Layla, 2:34am]

Suddenly he wasn't quite as bored.

Suddenly he wondered how what had just happened had happened.

He chalked it up to the fact that it was past 2am.


A/N: It's been awhile, huh? Yeah sorry about the wait. Review if you find the time, I love to know what you all think. Sorry again for the wait but nursing school is a killer and even the summer is packed with work from power-points to case studies to med sheets life is hectic and dandy at the same time. Thanks for being patient, next chapter is a continuation of this one and then we're back to the prologue bits. Thanks for reading. Hope you enjoyed, and I'll try not to keep you waiting so long for the next one.