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Summer 2018 

Outside the foundry. 

 

Anna hesitated a moment before knocking, picked up her commlink, and spoke into it all of a sudden - "You ain't back there watchin' me go about my business, are ya?" 

 

After a moment's pause, her sidekick's voice came back, sounding amused. "Business?

 

"Ah...damn kids!" Anna muttered before she tucked the commlink back into the pocket of her black skirt and knocked on Nicola's front door. It had been a couple of months since Anna and Esperanza had permanently moved out of Nicola's headquarters, out to the facility at Belcher College that the two of them had renovated into a headquarters for Lady Horus and her sidekick Wadjet. They hadn't seen much of each other since. Anna shifted where she stood, running her hand up through her short blonde hair, and then knocked again. 

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The door inward a little, and then a little further once Nicola saw who was on the other side.  "Oh, hey," she said, squinting her grey eyes against the days light.  Her dark hair was mussed, like she had just woken up, which considering that her only visible garment was an oversized t-shirt and it was still very early in the day for the vampire (which broadly includes anything before dusk) was probably the case.

 

She pulled the door open further and gestured to Anna to come in.

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"Ah jeez, did I-" murmured Anna, before cutting herself off as she stepped inside. She made sure the door was firmly shut behind her, conscious of her heart beating rapidly in her chest as it closed. She wondered suddenly if Nicola could hear it. They hadn't spent a lot of time discussing their respective powers; back when they were still here. "Guess it is before ten. Hey listen, if this is a bad time, I can come back," she said, clutching a paper-wrapped package to her chest. "But I've been thinking about, uh, all the time you gave Espy'n me, letting us live in your place and all, and I wanted to give you something. You know, for yer trouble..." 

 

Inside the package was a book, a well-used hardback missing its dust jacket that said Babyloniaca of Iamblichus. "I read, uh, all the books in the library, and that was one of the better ones. Guy wrote about some interesting stuff." She squeezed Nicola's hand as she handed it over, maybe holding it a little longer than necessary. Inside the book was a bookmark, marking a section that read "And Berenice ruled as queen of Egypt, and took Mesopotamia for her bride." 

 

"Sooo," said Anna, having moved away while Nicola was looking inside the book. "You still...livin' here, huh? Saw what you did to those Yardie boys down by the shipyard; good work with that." 

 

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"What?  No, you're fine.. it's.. fine," Nicola murmured as her brain lurched towards wakefulness.  She skimmed through the section of the book Anna had marked, cheeks flushing slightly from the fleeting contact of the older blond's hand.  She closed the book, reseating the bookmark back where she found it, and bent to set it down on the coffee table.

 

"Yeah, still 'living' here," she said, finding some amusement in that particular phrase.  Then she sobered, and cleared her throat,  "It's been.. different with you gone.  I was starting to get used to the company."

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Ah, jeez, look at her go. "...the new place is nice," said Anna after a moment's hesitation. What did you think she was gonna do, just go for ya like a starving dog? "Yer always welcome there, y'know." She took a moment to refamiliarize herself with the foundry at top speed, the better to make sure there weren't any surprises (or sidekicks) lurking around. When she was back in the "living room" with Nicola, she ran her fingers through her hair and said, "I know things got awkward before, because Esperanza was around, and I didn't want no more untoward influences on my girl. She's got her GED now, you know? She's really gonna make something of herself once we take down you-know-who." She hesitated an instant, then decided she didn't want Hammer of Justice getting in the midst of all this. "...you been okay otherwise?" 

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"Yeah," the vampire said, flashing Anna a smile, "otherwise I've been fine."  She settled down on the couch, tucking one leg under her, before gesturing at the spot next to her with an eyebrow raised in invitation.  Now that she was more awake she was also more aware of Anna.  It wasn't that she could hear the blood rushing through the older woman, but she could smell it.  How close it was to the surface, how warm it was.

 

So Nicola's smile turned a little impish.  "I wonder if that counts as inviting me in," she teased.  "But I would love to visit your new place sometime.  With or without Esperanza there, which good for her by the way."

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Anna took the seat alongside Nicola, her knee-length dress riding up a little. She suddenly thought of sitting in the big backseats of 1950s Fords with boys, neither of them paying attention to whatever flick was playing on the drive-in screen. "We'll...take you working sometime. She's really makin' something of herself. And yer always welcome at our place; any time - but maybe a little later in the evening next time." She looked over at Nicola and said, "Listen, Nicky, you...this is probably real easy for you modern girls." She paused almost imperceptibly and edited her words, suddenly deciding that the former nun wouldn't want to hear her say Seems like everybody's queer these days. "I ain't lookin' for no long-term romance, and I...I like men." She laid her hand on Nicola's and said, her words coming in a rush,"But if you...wanna start what we had before again, just maybe a little slower this time - I...I want to do that." 

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Nicola chuckled quietly to herself and slid across the couch until she and Anna were sitting thigh to thigh.  She reached a hand out and brushed it through Anna's hair and grinned impishly, "Anna, last time you checked I wasn't a man."

 

"But I get your meaning."  She hesitated a moment, and her expression changed from playful to serious, with a hint of a frown as a disturbing thought entered her mind.  The vampire opened her mouth to speak, paused, and then carefully asked, "This is something you want, right?  And not because of the little, um, love bite from back then?"

 

"Also," She said, raising an eyebrow, "Can you even do slow?"

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"I can do all sorts of things," said Anna, smiling at Nicola. "Last time you checked." Her cheeks colored slightly at her own words, but she pressed on. "Let's...go out somewhere tonight. You know, just us girls. I found this nice Polish place in Stark Hill where the owner's not too mobbed up; I'll teach you about pierogie and kielbasa." It occurred to her that it was at least decently possible that Nicola would be mistaken for her daughter,  but saying those words out loud was absolutely nothing she was interested in doing - especially since if she really thought about it, Nicola was old enough to be her great-granddaughter. Well screw that, she thought. If I was a man, people would think I was a lucky bastard. "We can talk, and decide what we want to do after that." 

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"Anna, I would absolutely love to go out with you and learn all about pierogi and kielbasa," Nicola said, then sighed,  "But I can't really eat normal food, and keep it down, without... you know."  Nicola was, by now, practically cuddled up against Anna with one of her legs now overtop the blond's.  "We could always stay in..." she murmured, "... and 'talk'."

 

Not that Nicola wouldn't terribly mind going out for Anna to eat, but at some point they were going to have to address Nicola's dietary needs and truth be told that was a conversation that she was dreading.

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Anna reached up and twirled the hair by her ear, taking a moment to inhale deeply - of course, with Nicola this close, that didn't help much. "I...gotta call Esperanza and tell her everything's okay. She's sorta, ah, watchin' my back." She considered disentangling herself from Nicola for the call, then decided she didn't quite want to do that. Pulling out her fliptop phone, she dialed quickly. "Hey. Yeah, it's me, you don't need to keep watchin'-" An interruption, and then, "...yeah, I'm workin' on it! We're just talkin' now, so you should hit the library. Yeah, yer a real arm of support."

 

She hung up the phone, blushing, and admitted, "She, uh, she said she thought it was real cute how I was discoverin' my real self at my advanced age, and said she's gonna make us a rainbow costume." She sighed softly, her hand resting on Nicola's thigh, then said, "I don't think I'm discoverin' anything new. All my life, I got what I wanted, and I wanted what I got. I just...I don't want you to think I'm some cheap whore," she added. "I got called a lot of things - because I wasn't married to the father of my boy, and because I did what I wanted with other men after that. And most of the time I don't give a damn what people think; unless..." She locked eyes with Nicola and went on, "I give a damn what they think." 

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"Anna," Nicola said, smiling at the older woman.  "You know I'm the last person to judge someone on their life choices, right?"  She extended one of her legs displaying the ink that traced up her skin and disappearing under her long shirt.  There were similar tattoos down her bare arms, an artistic display of her own criminal past written right into her flesh.

 

"I should be warning you away from me," the vampire whispered, sounding a little sad.  "You know what I am, but I am not sure if you really understand what I am."  Should be warning Anna away, but she wasn't, for a number of entirely selfish reasons.

 

The melancholy vanished with a chuckle.  "Rainbow would really ruin my aesthetic," Nicola opined.  "The abandoned steel mill, the dark leather clothing, and religious iconography is a very specific and cultivated image.  A bit over the top, sure but.." she paused, eyes twinkling.

 

"... I'd be OK with some rainbow socks.  Just socks."

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"Honey, everybody's got a gimmick," said Anna with a little shrug. "My old friend from back in the day, he used to wear a big snake on his head, and now he's roomies with a lady who turns into a big cat. You ain't gonna show me nothin' I ain't seen before." She paused, considered that metaphor, "Well, in an operational sense, anyhow." Her eyes followed Nicola's movements, tracing those tattoos all the way back up. "I been around a lot longer than you, and I've been with worse people for worse reasons. I mean, I used to run with people who tried to blow up the Moon or poison the Centurion with radioactive meteorites, so you ain't gonna say anything that'll shock me." 

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Nicola pulled back a little, gave Anna a thoughtful look, and then shook her head.

 

"You're sweet," she said.  "But you know I'm not talking about villainous or criminal acts."  She frowned slightly, and then shrugged.  "Not in the traditional sense, anyway.  But more that, fundamentally, humanity is food to my kind.  And involving yourself with me opens you up to significant risk."

 

"Not from me," she added quickly, "I won't, um, bite unless you want me to."

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Anna was silent at that for a moment, thinking. "The first vampire I ever met was a girl named Lenore. Well she called herself Lenore, but you know," Anna's mouth quirked in a smile. "She ran this little place where people could go and have some fun and nobody would ask too many questions. That's actually where I saw women kiss for the first time, but never mind that." She leaned back, her voice losing some of its animation - and though her face didn't change, she sounded older. "She loved the Raven, but he didn't love her back, not really. She was just...a bad girl he could play with when he wanted to. They did this dance for years...but eventually he settled down and got married to some Chinese woman and they had a baby." Anna exhaled and said, "Lenore went out in the sunlight after that and she burned away to ash. I knew other vampires, but she was the one who could be a normal person's friend." She sighed and turned to Nicola. "So you ain't gonna shock me by being a vampire, Nicky. Lots of people get power from the blood of other people. You just do it nicer than most of 'em." And if that kills the mood, so be it, she thought, a little unhappily. I ain't no normal person neither. 

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The vampire looked thoughtful, and then gave Anna a faint smile.  In a quick (though nowhere near as quick as Anna) and fluid motion, she straddled the older woman's waist, pinning her back against the couch, her shirt riding up and gathering around her hips.

 

"Hey," Nicola quietly murmured, then leaned into to briefly kiss Anna.  She took hold of the blond woman's arms and put them around her, settling them at the small of her back.  "I can be addictive," she said after she broke the kiss.  "I'm just being careful, for your sake."

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Anna's heart beat rapidly in her chest, her blood swished vigorously in her veins. She put her arms around Nicola, feeling as giddy as a teenager with her first crush. "...I'll show you addictive, honey," she said before leaning in to kiss Nicola on the lips. She paused, though, and added, "I want to do all the things normal people do when they go steady. But I want to do this, too..." 

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Nicola grinned then pulled her shirt up and over her head, casually tossed it aside, and then leaned in to continue the this that Anna wanted to do.

 

...

 

The sun had reached its peak hours ago, and the vampire watched the afternoon shadows slowly cross the ground over the shoulder of Anna.  She was snuggled up against the blond, at some point they made it to her bedroom, and just luxuriated in the warmth of Anna's skin.  I could get used to this, she thought.

 

"So," she breathed into Anna's neck.  "What do normal people do when they go... steady?"

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Anna answered by lightly murmuring and throwing her arm around her girlfriend, still almost entirely asleep. This close, Nicola could see the grey at the roots of Anna's light blonde hair - but on the other hand, she'd seen a hell of a lot of Anna just a little earlier. Stirring a little at her girlfriend's words, Anna blinked sleepily. "Mmm? Sorry, baby, that was a lot..." Once she was actually awake, Anna took in the situation quickly once she had an explanation. She sat up, brushing the hair out of her eyes, and spoke, "I ain't been with anyone seriously in a long time." That wasn't to say her bed had been empty, but that was definitely not a conversation she was ready to have with Nicola right now. "But, you know. If we're gonna have a thing, I don't want it to be all sneaking glances and screwing around when nobody's watching. This ain't 1960. I want to take you out places, show you off, maybe go sit in the park and feed the ducks...And maybe people will think I'm yer mom, but screw 'em if they do." 

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