Sierra likes painting. It's relaxing, after doing laps in the pool. She tries to do more and more each day; she has to be her best. Sometimes it's hard to remember what number she left off on (her memory is fuzzy, sometimes), but that's okay. It's just like Echo says: as long as she's trying, then that's being her best.
So every day, after she swims, she goes to the painting room. She notices, after a while, that Victor has begun to come there at the same time. Sierra smiles at him when he walks in. Sometimes Victor isn't there, and she asks the attendant where he is. It worries her, that he isn't there. What if something had happened to him? But Dr. Saunders could fix him; she always does.
"He's getting a treatment," the attendant says. "Don't worry. That's a nice painting, Sierra."
It's important to thank people when they give you a compliment. It's impolite if you don't.
Victor is here today, though. Sierra is glad. She feels safe when Victor is around. Of course, she is always safe here, but she likes him to be there all the same. Sierra is drawing a picture of the pool she just swam thirty laps in, but instead of a swimmer, it's filled with fish. She looks over at Victor, to see what he's making.
He isn't drawing fish. It takes a moment, but then she realizes that he's drawing her. He looks up, and smiles at her when he notices her looking.
"You're very beautiful," he says. "I like to paint beautiful things."
"Thank you," Sierra says, and the feeling she gets in her stomach is nothing at all like the feeling she had when the attendant complemented her painting.
"Hey there," Taffy says, sliding into the seat next to him in one, fluid movement. He fits the description she was given for her partner. Oddly, something about him seems familiar, like she knows him. Maybe they'd worked on a job together before. Whatevs, Taffy thinks. Getting distracted while she's working is stupid, so she puts it out of her mind.
The man eyes her, looking nervous and jittery. When he speaks, it's with a thick Russian accent. "You the one they sent to help me?" he asks.
"That's right," she says. "You're a lucky man. Name's Taffy." She shakes her hair out of her face, to get a better look at him. Handsome, but not ridiculously so. Well, that's not really true, but this is L.A. Nothing that will make him too noticeable.
"Lubov," he tells her, offering his hand for her to shake. When she ignores it, he just pulls it back with a shrug. Taffy's got no problem with handshakes on principle, but she gets a better read off people by refusing handshakes than by accepting them. Grips are easy to alter; reactions are harder.
When they call the bartender over for drinks, there's no sign of recognition on his face. Good. So this guy's not dumb enough to meet up at a bar where people know him, that's a good sign. Taffy's worked with her fair share of partners before, and getting stuck babysitting some amateur is a pain in the ass. Her client had set up this job, and yeah, always trust your client, but some of the people she worked for could be real idiots when it came to picking the people they hired. They were always smart enough to hire her, of course.
She downs her shot in one gulp, and slams it down onto the bar. "Okay," she says. "So let's get started."
The job goes perfectly, easy and smooth as anything. They get the goods from the abandoned warehouse, and Lubov was right: no guards, no security, no nothing. It would almost be too easy, except for the rush she gets when she thinks about the fact that she's stealing from the goddamned mafia. There's always a high when she finishes a job, but not like this.
She's supposed to meet someone and get ride to her treatment after she's done, but she decides to give it a miss. Surely he'll understand.
"So, want to go get a drink? To celebrate our great success," Lubov says, slinging an arm companionably across her should.
"Sounds good to me."
She slips in the showers, once. Sierra doesn't know why; she's always so graceful.
Victor catches her before she hits the floor. That's good. Falling on things makes you get hurt. He smiles at her, and she smiles back. She's not sure why she does that, either.
"Are you all right?" he asks. His hand comes up, and brushes a piece of her hair out of her face. It stays on her cheek afterwards. The hand, not the hair. Sierra leans her face into it, feeling comfortable and warm. A different kind of warm than the kind she feels from the steam. She's not sure how to describe it, but it's very nice.
"Hey!" she hears, turning around to see who's shouting. It's Topher. He looks slightly flustered. Sierra wonders why.
"Hello," she says. Victor tilts his head at him, questioningly.
"Both of you, " he says, voice jittery, flying all over the place. Like birds. "Break it up. Go back to, you know, showering. Don't-- I don't want to. Send anyone else to the Attic."
"Okay," they both say, amiably. Sierra goes back to her shower, and Victor does the same. Out of the corner of her eye, she can see Topher tip his head back, hand over his face. Something must be wrong. She hopes it gets better. Maybe Dr. Saunders can help.
Dr. Saunders and Topher watch the tapes together, later.
"See?" he says. "Look at that!"
"And last month," Dr. Saunders says. "Their Handlers had to chase them down, because they were out having drinks together."
"This, this thing. It's going past their imprints. That can't happen. This can't be happening."
"You should tell DeWitt, you know."
"Yeah, and we both know where that will lead. No. I can't-- not so soon." Topher runs a hand through his hair, and shakes his head. "I know what you think of me, but they don't deserve that. The Attic, and for what? It's not dangerous, it can't hurt anyone, and hey, maybe this will be my karmic good deed for the month! I could use some of that."
"They shouldn't be punished for being in love," Dr. Saunders says.
"Yeah. I guess not. Can you delete this footage, set up a loop of some of the old stuff in its place?"
"Done. Good thing I have all these technical skills. Very useful."
Topher bites the inside of his cheek, and leaves.
The music inside the club is pounding, and she can barely hear her own thoughts. Jaye's not even sure why she's here. It isn't the kind of place she usually goes to, but today she was feeling a little adventurous, a little wild. She had just gotten the news that she'd been accepted for her dream job, so hell, why shouldn't she celebrate? She doesn't have to be a good girl all the time.
And since she's got her job all settled, she kind of wants to meet someone. She'd never admit it, if anyone had asked. Georgia had recommended this place to her, and now here she is!
Jaye thinks about maybe going to get a drink, but she's never been good at navigating dance floors, so she stays, and dances, and looks. There'll be a spark when she sees him, she just knows it. Georgia would call her a romantic, but what does she know? Most of her relationships in the past year have been a long string of one-night stands.
She sees someone, far on the other side of the club, and for some reason her heart is pounding and she's thinking follow him, follow him. That must be it, she figures, so she tries her best to maneuver her way to where she saw him. On her way, another guy steps in front of her, asking if she wants to dance-- and he looks like a nice enough guy, and normally she would have said yes, but she's got someone else on her mind now. "Sorry," she says, smiling politely, "I'm meeting a friend."
The man looks slightly stunned as she walks away (and what's up with that, has he got an ego the size of Canada or something?). But she can see him again, leaning against a wall. She's not usually very bold, but this is important. Jaye taps him on the shoulder, and says, "Excuse me?" loud enough to be heard over the music.
He looks over at her, tilting his head to the side. "Hey, do I know you from somewhere?" he asks.
"Dunno," she says. "Would you like to?" She barely keeps herself from clapping her hands over her mouth. Did she really just say that?
He offers her a sort of half-smile that is incredibly endearing, and makes her stomach tie itself into odd shapes. "Yeah, I think I would. What's your name?"
"Jaye," she tells him.
"I'm Eliot. So, Jaye. May I have this dance?"
Jaye grins at him and nods, and he pulls her onto the dance floor. She can see the guy from before glaring in Eliot's direction (seriously, what is his problem, anyway?), out of the corner of her eye, but she ignores it. Her mouth is starting to hurt a little, but somehow, she just can't make herself stop smiling.
She can't wait to tell Georgia and watch the look on her face. It's going to be priceless.
Priya grins at him, and slides the tie around his neck. "I think it looks very fetching on you," she says, trying to keep the smile off her lips.
"Are you sure this is really a good use of our time?" Brandon asked, shifting a bit on his feet.
"It really does suit you."
They're in the clothing room, Priya digging through the racks, and making up progressively more ridiculous outfits as time goes on. She wishes she had a camera, but they used up most of the film taking pictures for the memory wall. It's more important, anyway.
"Everyone else is in Circle right now," she says, giving her handiwork a once-over. "If you'd like to go join them, be my guest."
"I look like a clown," he tells her.
"That was the point."
"Remind me why I put up with you?"
Priya just grins at him, before she leans in to kiss him.
They all file into the room, just like every night. It's very quiet, Sierra thinks. Peaceful.
As she settles into her pod, making herself comfortable for the night (she needs to sleep well to be her best the next day), she doesn't see him watching her.
Victor waits to lie down until he sees that she's okay. When his eyes fall shut, he's smiling.