THE NEW GIRL
Summary: As Tavi works towards a cure for the virus, Max discovers that the new girl at work is one of her X5 'sisters' whom Max thought had died in the breakout.
Rating: PG-13 for Tavi/Cindy closeness (which doesn't bother me but some people are touchy so be warned if you are) and some dark moments.
Disclaimer: I don't own, Max, Cindy, Logan, et al. I just enjoy getting inside of their heads from time to time.
Note: Tavi is an ex-Manticore doctor who first appears in "Saints and Demons". It's not necessary to read that one to understand this one, however.
The New Girl
Chapter 1 -- Jinx
"Excuse, me, sir?"
Normal looked up at the pretty young woman. Blue jeans and a black turtleneck, both very form-fitting. Black hair that probably reached her waist. Enormous gray eyes. He noted but was unimpressed by these traits. The only thing that interested him was the respectful look in those enormous eyes. "Yeah?"
"Your sign, outside, it says that you need a new delivery rider, sir?"
"That's right. You know your way around the city?"
She nodded gravely. "Yes, sir. I believe so."
"You're hired. Follow someone around today until you get the hang of things, then you can start making solo-runs tomorrow."
"Yes, sir." She smiled brightly. "Thank you, sir."
"You can fill out your tax-forms after work." Normal returned his attention to the ledger. "Hot run!" he called.
"I'm on it!" Alec called. "Well, hello."
"Um... hello." She eyed Alec uncertainly.
"I'm Alec and you're new. How about if I show you around?"
"Hey, Alec, isn't that the reason we need new people?" Max grinned at him. "I'll take care of her, Normal."
"No problem. Package?"
"Here." Normal tossed her one without looking up from the ledger.
"Everything okay, Normal?"
Max frowned uncertainly for a minute before turning her attention to the new girl. She seemed very young. "Hi, I'm Max. What's your name?"
Max raised an eyebrow. The name, although she could not immediately place it, sounded familiar. "Cool name. Bikes are over here. You ever ride before?"
She shook her head hesitantly. "But I'm a fast learner."
"Well, don't let Normal know that you can't ride until you already can." Max smiled at her and pulled down a pair of bikes. "I think this one'll work for you."
"Thank you, ma'am."
Max stared steadily at her. "It's Max."
She blushed and bowed her head. "Max. Right."
"Here, wheel your bike outside."
She nodded and began to. "I really do know my way around quite well..." she began softly. "I'm sure I'll be quite useful to Mister Normal."
Max sniggered at the phrase 'Mister Normal' but still smiled at Jinx. "The guy who was hitting on you inside is Alec. Stay away from him. He's bad news."
"Max, you wound me!" Alec laid a dramatic hand on his chest. "And just when I thought we were beginning to understand each other..." He shook his head sadly.
"Oh, she understands you perfectly well, Sugar. That's why she feels compelled to warn the young lady about you."
Max grinned. "Jinx, this is Cindy and Alec."
"It's very nice to meet both of you." She smiled at them.
It was, Alec observed, the kind of smile that could light up an entire room. "It's nice to meet you, too... Jinx." He grinned at her.
She eyed him suspiciously for a second, but nodded. "Thank you, sir."
Cindy smiled gently at her. "Boo, ain't no 'sirs' and 'ma'ams' around here."
She smiled shyly. "I'll do my best to remember that, Cindy."
"Good girl." Cindy smiled at her. "You from around here?"
"Not originally, but my family moved here when I was very young."
"Cool." Cindy smiled at her and patted her shoulder.
"Anyone notice anything strange about Normal?" Max asked suddenly frowning at him.
"No, what?" Cindy asked.
"We've been standing around talking for five minutes and he hasn't even yelled at us."
Alec nodded. "Maybe he's sick."
"I wonder..." Max frowned.
"Max!" Alec said in disgust. "Just once, can't you stop worrying about everyone but yourself?"
"Maybe later. Right now, I've got a new kid to train. Come on, Jinx."
"See you, Jinx."
Max shook her head and took Jinx by the shoulder. "Come on."
"Why does he do that?" Jinx asked softly as they left the building.
"What was he doing?"
"He kept looking at me strange."
"He thinks you're cute."
"Oh." She frowned. "Do you think if I tell him that I'm only a kid he'll leave me alone?"
"Depends on if you're legal or not."
"Then you might have a chance." Max stopped and stared. "How old are you?"
"Oh. You look a little older."
"I get that sometimes." She smiled apologetically. "It's useful."
"Yeah?" Max asked.
She nodded. "Like when you need a job or whatever. They won't hire a kid, but if they think you're in your twenties, they probably will."
Max smiled. "Neat."
She nodded. "I think so. So, how do you work one of these?"
"Put your leg around it like this... You've really never ridden on a bike before?"
"No. When I need to get somewhere I walk."
"What about when you need to get somewhere fast?"
"Then I run."
Max grinned at her. "I guess that makes sense. Here, just pull yourself up onto the seat. Just like me. That's good."
"Max?" a skinny woman called, walking towards them. She smiled at Max. "Good morning, lovely."
"Oh, hi, Tavi!" Max grinned at her. "Jinx, this is Tavi. Tavi, Jinx."
"Jinx? That's interesting. Is it short for something?"
She nodded gravely. "Jinee. Jinee Xavier."
Tavi smiled. "It's pretty either way. It's good to meet you, Jinx. Oh, Max..."
"If you're looking for Cindy, she's inside."
"Actually, I was hoping that..." Tavi lowered her voice, "I need a little blood."
Max rolled her eyes. "Not again, Tavi!" she protested with a groan. "Can it at least wait until tonight?"
"I'm afraid not, Max. Not if I can possibly get it sooner."
"Okay. Come back over my lunch hour and you can stick me all you want."
"Thank you, Max, and I'm sorry." Tavi smiled gently at her. "And you said that Cindy is inside?"
Max nodded. "You feeling okay? You look like you're losing weight, and that would be a bad thing for you."
Tavi bowed her head. "Maybe I haven't been sleeping enough, lovely. I've been spending most of my free time getting a crash-course in immunology."
"That sounds fascinating!" Jinx said, and she meant it.
"Do you know anything about it?" Tavi asked hopefully.
"My parents kind of are into virology and stuff. Were."
"Were?" Tavi and Max asked at the same time.
She nodded. "Before they died."
"Oh, honey, I'm sorry." Tavi smiled sadly at her.
"So, you're all alone?" Max asked.
Jinx nodded. "But I do okay."
"Well, I want you to get to know Tavi, and Cindy, and I very well. We'll take care of you."
She smiled, but said, "I can look after myself okay."
"Well, then, can we just be friends?" Max asked.
"I'd like that."
"Good." Tavi patted her shoulder and started into Jam Pony. "It was nice to meet you, Jinx."
"You as well, ma'am."
"Hey, are you coming over tonight?" Max asked.
"You bet." Tavi grinned at her. "I'll even cook."
"Mind if I invite Jinx?"
"Not in the least. Chao!" Tavi waved once and left the street.
"So, you want to come?" Max asked. "Tavi's cooking has to be tasted to be believed."
"I'd like that." Jinx smiled.
"Great. I've got an errand or two to run after work, so if you don't mind going home with Cindy..."
"That's fine." She nodded.
"Great. Come on."
"Um... you still haven't shown me how to make it go forward."
Max grinned. "Right, pedaling."
"Hey, kids." Tavi waved at Cindy and Alec as she entered.
"Well, if it isn't the good doctor." Alec grinned at her.
"If you're looking for Max, baby, she just left."
"I know. I ran into her outside. I've got to do some blood-work later on." Tavi smiled. "So, I thought as long as I was in the neighborhood, I'd stop by and say hi."
"'Say hi', huh?" Alec grinned. "Is that what they call it now? And can I watch?"
Tavi rolled her eyes. "Ray looks distracted."
Cindy nodded. "Max was mentioning that."
"I hope everything's okay. He seems like a nice enough guy."
Cindy snorted. "Are we talking about the same Normal?"
"The one who thinks that Max is a member of S1W?" Alec added.
"When everyone knows that you have much closer ties to Asha than Max does."
"Yeah, well, I'd thank you not to mention that around my boss." Alec patted her on the shoulder and wandered off.
"So, how's it going?"
Cindy rolled her eyes. "Okay, let's try that again. How are you?"
"A little tired..." Tavi admitted. "But otherwise fine."
Cindy smiled and shook her head. "And how's your search for a cure going?"
Tavi sighed. "Not as well as I would have hoped. Basically, Cindy, I've got nothing but a freezer full of dead rats to show for my efforts."
"Get an owl!" Alec suggested.
"Shut up!" Tavi returned.
Normal looked up, apparently a little startled by the sound of an un-familiar voice in his place. He looked around and his face sank as he saw Tavi. He walked up to her. "I know you. You're that CDC doctor who was sniffing around a few months ago."
"I am." She smiled and shook his hand. "It's good to see you again, Ray. Everything well, I hope?"
"Well, Max hasn't taken a sick-day since she got better if that's--"
"Oh, no, not at all." She smiled to reassure him. "It's just a routine follow-up. I've been tracking the sick patients and drawing their blood every couple of weeks just to be sure."
"Oh, and did you ever..."
Tavi said quickly, "No. We never did. Thus the repeated blood-draws."
"You aren't, um... planning..."
"To close you down?" Tavi smiled reassuringly and took his arm, steering him back towards the desk. "No, of course not. Logan was, of course, quite correct. No one else at your place of business got sick when Max did, so there's no real reason to assume that it's endemic to this location. Naturally, a bike-messenger would be at greater risk..."
Normal looked relieved. "That's comforting."
Tavi smiled at him. "You seem stressed."
"Oh, just... busy. We recently lost two of our couriers. They quit!" he added hastily.
Tavi laughed gently. "Forgive me. I know it's not funny that two of your people quit. Just your... your face when you said it..."She shook her head.
"Sorry." Normal grinned at her. "I know that I'm acting... the way I am. It's just been a long month."
"And the month is early still. Forgive me for troubling you. I'll just wait around for Max if you don't mind."
"By all means."
"Thank you, Ray. Have a nice day." She watched him return to his ledger and quickly become as absorbed in it as before.
"Did you see the look on his face?" Cindy chuckled.
"It's not funny." Tavi shook her head, smiling at Cindy. "Poor guy. We have so successfully screwed with the man's head that he actually gets nervous around little old me..."
"Sounds like his head's screwed on straight to me..." Alec observed.
"No one asked you." Tavi rolled her eyes. "Cindy, how does Max get rid of him?"
"Usually she just insults him until he gets bored and goes."
"That sounds... inefficient." Tavi frowned. "Oh, I know! A threat..."
"A threat?" Alec rolled his eyes at her. "There is no threat that you could make that would scare me."
"Really? How about this one? 'Alec, go away or I will tell Sketchy that you are a transgenic'? Does that work for you?"
Alec laughed. "You're a funny woman, doc." Shaking his head, he wandered off.
"Damn, he knew I was bluffing." Tavi shook her head.
"He still left." Cindy grinned. "Which means that it's just the two of us..."
"Oh, the possibilities." Tavi smiled at her. "Anywhere... private in this place?"
Cindy nodded. "Thought you'd never ask."
"This is fun!" Jinx announced with a smile.
"Yeah, it gets old after a while..." Max grumbled, although she could not help but smile at the young girl's eagerness. "I can't believe you never had a bike!"
"Bikes are dangerous."
"That's what helmets are for."
"I could still break a wrist."
"Oh, so your parents were..."
"Pretty touchy about my personal safety. I haven't done a lot of the things that I would like to."
"Don't worry, you will." Max smiled at her. "You ever been on top of the Space Needle?"
"That thing?" Jinx pointed in awe. "Have you? What's it like?"
"Nice. Peaceful. If you remind me some time, I'll show you how to get up there."
Jinx smiled. "Oh, I'd like that..."
"Good. We'd better go back, now."
"Aw, do we have to?"
"This is a job, Jinx."
"Right." She nodded. "Then I guess we'd better go back."
Max smiled at her and nodded. "Come on. Remember how to do u-turns?"
"Uh-huh. Like this."
"No! Not like--" Max trailed off as Jinx flipped the bike and landed face-down on the pavement. She jumped off of her bike and knelt next to the girl. "Hold still. I just want to make sure you didn't break anything."
"I'm okay. Leave me alone!" Jinx groaned. She tried to wave Max's hands away.
"Just hold still!" Max snapped. "I won't hurt you."
"Please..." Jinx stopped as she felt Max's fingers on the back of her neck. Her bare neck. "Stop! Don't!"
"X5-805. Jinx..." Max breathed. No wonder the name had seemed familiar.
Jinx recoiled and looked ready to start running. "Please..." she breathed, rising slowly.
"No, don't!" Max held up her hands. "Look." She turned around and pulled up her hair. "Look."
Jinx stared. "X5-452? Max, of course..." She stared in awe. "But..."
"I thought you were dead..." Max breathed. "I saw you get shot. I saw you go through the ice."
"Falling through the ice saved me. The hypothermia and then the river swept me away from the base. I stumbled a few miles after I pulled myself from the river and then I collapsed, but the cold kept me from bleeding much, so when this nice old couple found me, they took me to the hospital and my life was saved."
"Where did you go? Even Zack didn't know you were alive."
"I hid. In Mexico for a while. I figured it would be as good a place as any to build an identity for myself. Once the Pulse hit, I had no desire to return to the cold for a long time. I did well for myself in Mexico. I did what I do best."
"Medicine? I remember." Max smiled. "I still have the scars, but I remember."
"Well, they taught me how to prevent death, not make pretty incisions." Jinx bowed her head. "Sorry about the scars, though. I don't leave them any more."
"What did you do in Mexico, exactly?"
"Well, before the Pulse, I mostly did veterinary work. Afterwards, there were the riots, and I spent a lot of time patching up cuts and bruises. Once the economy destabilized, I expanded into surgery and all kinds of things. I taught myself a fair bit about cardiology and neurology, too. And immunology, too, actually. I've learned all kinds of stuff they never let me learn on the inside."
"But... why are you here?"
"About a year ago, rumors started to reach me that Manticore had burned down and that it would be safe to go back. A business associate first brought the existence of Eyes Only to my knowledge. From what he said, I figured that there must be at least a few of my brothers and sisters here, so I came. I had no clue that looking for you would be so hard, though. I've been at it for months, and when I do find one of you, it's by chance." She shook her head.
"Well, that always was how your luck worked..." Max observed gently. "We should go back if you think you can ride."
"Did I hurt the bike?"
"No, it's fine."
She smiled at Max. "Then we should go back. And you must tell me everything."
"There. We all have names."
It was Max who pointed out what the others had forgotten. "805 still needs a name."
They stared at the girl, the youngest of them, the field-medic who had a habit of accidentally stabbing herself with the scalpel while trying to patch up their injuries.
"She's our field-medic. What about Patches?" Ben suggested, caressing the hair on his baby sister's head.
Zack shook her head. "No, I don't think that's quite right. What do you think, Max?"
"I think we should let 805 decide."
"No one picks their own name!" Krit protested.
"None of us have!" Syl added.
"I only mean she should get to say if she likes it. The way we've all decided that we like our new names." Max crossed her arms over her chest, daring them to talk back. She may have been almost as small as 805, but she was the best fighter of all, save only Zack. "Do you like Patches?"
She scratched absently at her black eye. She always had some injury or other, usually the result of some careless accident. "Zack is right. It's not appropriate."
"What then?" Zane asked.
Jondy smiled at her baby sister and touched her fingers to the black eye. "Jinx."
805 giggled and smiled lovingly at Jondy. "I like that."
"Me, too." Zack nodded.
"Then I guess it's settled?" Ben asked. "Does anyone not like it?"
Jinx smiled. "I think it's perfect."
Max nodded and hugged Jinx. "I agree." She looked up suddenly. "Someone's--"
"Kids?" It was Doctor Jericho. They gave a collective sigh of relief. At least it was not Colonel Lydecker. Doctor Jericho smiled at them. "What are you doing up so late? Lights out was twenty minutes ago."
"We were just playing a game!" Jinx said quickly.
Max squeezed her hand gently to quiet her. "We were just about to bunk down, Doctor Jericho, I promise."
Doctor Jericho smiled indulgently. "Very well, lovelies. Bunk down now, and, whatever you do, do not let the guards hear you talking." With that warning, she left.
"She doesn't care at all if we bunk down or not." Max smiled at the awareness.
"Of course she does!" Ben protested. "She told us to."
"She only cared if the guards could hear us..." Jinx smiled at Max. "She likes us."
Zack smiled and nodded. "If she likes us, we'd best do what she says and keep it that way."
In the dark barracks, the cluster of children on the exercise-mat huddled closer together and lowered their voices.
"Well, now that we all have names, what do we do?" Max asked in a whisper.
It was Jinx who answered. "Ben, tell us your story about the Blue Lady again."