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Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?


Heritage

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She'd done all the cleaning early in the day, so she would have time to head on over to the Y, grab a shower and get back in plenty of time; Lynn had spent much of the day on her knees in sweats, scrubbing the floorboards until they shone, and it was dirty work. She'd also hauled most of the broken furniture into the disused bedroom, dusted the curtains and chairs and polished the coffee table. Unused to this much activity on their mistress's part, the cats had holed up in the closet or under the bed as much as possible, only daring to tiptoe out when she was as close to being finished as time would allow.

Lynn stood in the middle of the bedroom (basically the only room she really used), with her hands on her hips, shaking her head in dismay.

"All this work and it's still a dump; oh well, it is what it is, right babies? Okay, Momma has to head out and make herself all clean and gorgeous; I won't be gone too long."

By the time it was getting close to seven on this Friday night in early April, she was as ready as she would ever be; Lynn had chosen her outfit with great care, she had lit the dozen bayberry candles throughout the room, and the napkins, plastic utensils and Chinette were laid out on the coffee table. New throw pillows were placed on either side of the low table, and she’d picked the best of the salvaged hotel art to hang on the walls.

Lynn checks the time on her Go Phone for hundredth time, then scampers into the spare room to check out her reflection in the standing mirror. “I dunno, babies, what do you think about the look? Too much, too little? Gah, stop worrying so much!†Rolling her eyes, she returns to the bedroom and begins pacing by the window; her three cats lie in a warm pile on top of her bed, and DB is sleepily watching her through slitted eyes.

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By now, Ren had been through the terrors of time travel, evil mirror duplicates, a bank heist gone disastrously awry, and most horrifying of all, the dread first date. By now, he’d faced down the worst life had to throw at him, and frankly, he felt he’d weathered it well. Going to your girlfriend’s house, though… that was a little bit different. All the other dates had been conducted on neutral ground, granting the advantage to neither of them. But now, he dared beard the lioness in her own den; challenge the dragon for her treasure; fight the wizard for her knowledge…

Ren commented to himself mentally.

It took him a while to hike out of Southside this time of night. He had to be sure he kept his head down and didn’t tick off anybody looking to jack an easy mark. In the short six months he’d been in Freedom City, Ren was still continually amazed at how well he’d adapted from life in Japan. Part of it had to do with his confidence that none of the jokers in his neighborhood could actually hurt him, and people tended to pick up on that. There were exceptions, of course. Every so often, he had to remind people of why you don’t try to mug the harmless-looking Japanese guy in the corner apartment.

The other part had to do with the girl he was now going to visit. Over the past couple of months, Lynn and he had deepened their connection with each other, something for which Ren was deeply grateful. Without her, he long ago would have slid into full-blown villainy. Although… every now and then he did still get the urge to do something against the public good - just for kicks. Whether it was the thought of Lynn being angry with him or something more tangible, like prison time, he’d held off so far.

But if those guys down the street didn’t stop playing their stereo so late at night, he was going to have to do something drastic. Not needing to sleep didn’t mean that he didn’t occasionally need some quiet time.

By the time Ren had made the hike from Southside to anywhere important, it had gotten late. Being late for his first date was bad enough, but there was no way he’d repeat the performance tonight. He ducked into a nearby alley and walked quickly towards the nearby parking lot of a grocery store. One short transformation later, Nanowire buzzed the skyline of Freedom City, closing in on his girlfriend’s place at a disgusting rate of speed.

Before he knew it, Ren was there. He ditched his armor on a nearby rooftop and started down to street level so he could climb up the fire escape to her apartment. As Lynn's building had no interior access to any floors higher than the fifth, he knew it would be something of a climb in order to get up there. But as approached the roof edge, he found himself staring directly into Lynn's bedroom. The building upon he now stood just so happened to be level with her apartment.

Just as he prepared to call across to her to make her aware of that fact, she started shifting through various outfits, most likely in preparation for their date. Normally, that wouldn't have been a problem, but as she entered her "neutral" form, almost nothing about her was left to the imagination. There Ren stood, transfixed and paralyzed by his girlfriend's beauty, a deep red blush working it's way across his face.

Internally, his conscience and libido warred for control of his body. Although mostly inorganic, and a big believer in proper behavior towards women (women who were trying to kill him notwithstanding), he was still a 19 year old man. His conscience was quickly battered into submission and stuffed into a closet as his libido forced him to keep watching. To pacify any lingering doubts, his hormones even constructed a flimsy excuse for him: They'd been dating for some time, and so far, they hadn't done anything that could be construed as improper. Surely Lynn couldn’t fault him for wanting to see more of her? Perhaps this would take their relationship to the next level?

All too quickly, Lynn's outfit had been chosen, and the guilt he felt for spying on her crashed down. he chastised himself.

A big grin split his face as he appeared in her window and tapped lightly.

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Lynn smiles warmly when she sees Ren perched outside, and she quickly opens the window to let him in, allowing the heady scent of bayberry to rush out to greet him.

"Hi, you!" She gives him a quick kiss on the cheek; the effect is not impersonal, but rather suggests how occupied Lynn is with her hosting duties. "I can take you coat, if you like; you don't really get cold either, right?"

Not waiting for a reply, she easily slips it off him and takes it into another room, calling back over her shoulder as she briskly marches out.

"If you want something to drink, there's a full cooler just there in the bathroom; I've got soda, beer, and hard cider, but don't touch the champagne, that's for later. Plastic cups are in a plastic bag next to the cooler."

It's fairly obvious the room has been vigorously cleaned, but there's still a certain damp mustiness that is largely overcome by the many scented candles, but not quite. Suddenly there is a growling from the bed, as all three felines begin to voice their obvious displeasure towards the newcomer.

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Ren leaned into the kiss that, at first, seemed to be coming for his lips, but when Lynn switched over to his cheek, he was somewhat taken aback. What was with the lukewarm greeting? What was he, her father? "Jacket. Right," he mumbled as she took the article of clothing.

Dissapointed by the lack of feeling in her welcome, Ren none the less looked foreard to tonight. It was the first time he'd been in her apartment, after all. Though the place wasn't exactly new, she'd done some good work in keeping it up.

He was about to make his way into the kitchen and pick himself out a drink (though the alcohol would have absolutely no effect on him), when he noticed, or rather heard, the felines on Lynn's bed. "Oh hey! You have cats," he said, pleasently surprised. Though he wasn't much of a cat person, the three seemed to be pretty cute. "What are their name- " the last part of his query was cut off in a flurry of Japanese as two of the three jumped at him, clawing his shirt and bearing him down to the ground. "Halp! They're tryina' kill me!"

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"What are their name- " the last part of his query was cut off in a flurry of Japanese as two of the three jumped at him, clawing his shirt and bearing him down to the ground. "Halp! They're tryina' kill me!"

Lynn's concerned voice calls out from the other room. 'Wait, what?" She comes running back in (an impressive feat in the heels she's wearing), screaming. "Oh my god! Babies, no! No!" She pries DB and Plaque off of Ren (Mafia has hidden herself under the bed in the fracas), and takes the hissing balls of fur and claws and puts them in the other room, slamming the door shut on them. "You stay in there!"

She then turns her attention back to Ren. "Oh honey, are you okay?" In an instant, Lynn is on the floor beside him, checking him for injuries as she kisses him all over his face, including the lips. "Oh baby, I'm so...mmm...so sorry! They just...mmm....they're just not used to me...mmm...having people over! Are you hurt?"

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The cats couldn't actually hurt him, of course. His skin was so near bulletproof that it really didn't matter. But getting pounced on surprised him, and that in turn had provided the impetus for his rather emasculating outburst. "" he muttered in Japanese as Lynn tossed her "babies" into the next room.

But the next part - the kissing part - that was very nice. As she moved up to his lips, Ren suddenly wrapped his arms around the girl and pulled her in for a long, lingering kiss. "I'm much better now," he said with a wolfish grin after he'd broken it off.

"But you didn't say you had attack cats. Any other hazards I should be aware of?"

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But the next part - the kissing part - that was very nice. As she moved up to his lips, Ren suddenly wrapped his arms around the girl and pulled her in for a long, lingering kiss. "I'm much better now," he said with a wolfish grin after he'd broken it off.

Lynn smiles when she comes up for air. “You big baby, you’re totally fine. Not a scratch on you, just like me.†She holds out her right forearm for his scrutiny. “See? I should have bloody gashes all over me from that, but my skin’s changed in the last few months.†She pinches herself hard, but there’s no welting. “So weird; but, good when you’re out fighting crime, I guess.â€Â

"But you didn't say you had attack cats. Any other hazards I should be aware of?"

Still lying on top of Ren, she strokes her chin thoughtfully. "Well, the cats are the first line of defense, but yeah, there are other dangers." Lynn looks over her shoulder and indicates the general direction of the rest of the hotel with a toss of her head. "Two entrances into this suite, both booby-trapped." She turns back to Ren and grins devilishly before giving him another quick kiss on the lips. "Deadfalls in the ceiling if you open the doors, fifty pounds each. Carmine from down on six rigged them up for me; you'd like him, he's a giant insect. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to start dinner."

She kisses him again (a nice one), and with surprising ease wriggles her way out of his arms, stands and poses dramatically. "The Amazing Grim-Kazar's most astounding escape!" With a laugh, she darts into the bathroom, and shortly can be heard dragging something fairly heavy back into the bedroom. "I don't have a kitchen or stove, so I have to get more creative."

Soon she hauls a large cardboard box into room, having temporarily shifted her party dress into a pair of coveralls for the job. “Whew! Okay, you have a choice of entrées-†The box is marked ‘Meals, Ready-To-Eat, Kosher’ in modern military stenciling; Lynn pulls out several smaller boxes from inside and sets them aside “I recommend the Chicken Mediterranean and Cheese Tortellini, but the Old World Stew is also good. They all come with chemical heaters, napkins and a plastic spoon, and a few snacks. And the hot cocoa is amazing.â€Â

Lynn pulls out a Florentine Lasagna and starts unpacking it, her coveralls shifting back to her dress as she occupies herself. “I’ll get mine started, then start on yours.†With a proud little smile, she sits on the cushions near the coffee table and gets to work.

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Ren quirked an eyebrow as Lynn demonstrated her unique physiology. It wasn't as if he hadn't seen stranger things, but the fact that the girl had somehow changed over the past few months was pretty interesting. "Wow, I bet that comes in handy. And not just in leveraging cats off of your houseguests."

Still lying on top of Ren, she strokes her chin thoughtfully. "Well, the cats are the first line of defense, but yeah, there are other dangers." Lynn looks over her shoulder and indicates the general direction of the rest of the hotel with a toss of her head. "Two entrances into this suite, both booby-trapped." She turns back to Ren and grins devilishly before giving him another quick kiss on the lips. "Deadfalls in the ceiling if you open the doors, fifty pounds each. Carmine from down on six rigged them up for me; you'd like him, he's a giant insect. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to start dinner."

"A giant... wait, why would I like him?" Ren lifted himself up off the floor and started to follow her out to the other room when she dragged in the box of food. He'd never had any of what she was offering, of course. That... tortellini stuff looked good, though. Somewhat like the soba noodles he was used to. Plus, the packaging was nothing new to Ren. Cup noodles were just as much a staple of the over-worked high school student in Japan as they were here. He scooped up the tortellini package and pulled the string to start it heating. "Smells good."

Ren turned the package a few times to keep the heat constant while he poked through the other snacks she had provided. Food might not be a necessary, or even a priority to him anymore, but she'd obviously gone out of her way to pull all this together. "So, you have some interesting people living in your building too, eh? Kavor, the guy that lives down the hall from me, he fixes electronics for a living. I'm pretty sure he's not human. Something about his eyes... Not my business, though. But he really did a good job on my PS3. I swear, the thing runs faster than ever now." The pleasant smell emanating from the box told him his food was ready, so he opened it up to let the steam out. "Plays Xbox games now, too."

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"A giant... wait, why would I like him?"

Lynn shrugs as she continues opening the many boxes-within-boxes of the MREs.

"I dunno, he's into guy stuff, building stuff with his many arms; I mean, he looks totally gross and everything, but he's funny and smart. Y'know, cool."

"So, you have some interesting people living in your building too, eh? Kavor, the guy that lives down the hall from me, he fixes electronics for a living. I'm pretty sure he's not human. Something about his eyes... Not my business, though. But he really did a good job on my PS3. I swear, the thing runs faster than ever now." The pleasant smell emanating from the box told him his food was ready, so he opened it up to let the steam out. "Plays Xbox games now, too."

Her eyes go a bit wide at the mention of the game consoles. "Wow, really? Before I left home, the best thing we had was an N64, and we played the heck out of that thing, mostly Gauntlet Legends and Super Smash Brothers." She smiles at the memory. "Fun times."

After a moment, she stands with a hand on her hip, waving a pouch of sunflower seeds at him. "Of course, you know you have to invite me over now, just to play games if nothing else; you can't dangle that in front of me and just walk away, right?"

Then she gets silent and very thoughtful, chewing on her thumbnail as she studies Ren; at length she tosses the pouch on the coffee table and steps over to him and grabs his hands.

"Actually there's something I wanted to talk to you about, why I invited you here." She smiles coyly. "First of all, I got a job; it's really cool, and I love it, but..." She stops and looks into his eyes. "Do you know if there are any open units in your building, or even just nearby? I spend more time on the Southside now than I do up here, and I would really like to own a working shower."

Lynn peers up at him through her lashes and gives him a little half-smile.

"I could be...your little Southside girl."

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After a moment, she stands with a hand on her hip, waving a pouch of sunflower seeds at him. "Of course, you know you have to invite me over now, just to play games if nothing else; you can't dangle that in front of me and just walk away, right?"

Ren chuckled; it just figured that Lynn would be into video games. "Heh. Well, in light of that, I guess you have a standing invitation to pop in. I wouldn't want to deprive you, after all." He grinned over at the table at the girl. "I have to warn you, I play a mean game of Super Smash Brothers Brawl. It's the new one, y'see."

"I could be...your little Southside girl."

And there it was. She was asking about moving in closer, but Ren, as inexperienced in relationships as he was, knew what she was really asking about. It would start out as being in the same building, yes, but with the two of them being that close, one of them would invariably be over at the other's place, and it would dawn on them that they should eliminate those last few walls that held them apart. It's not even like he didn't want that; hell, he'd suggested it himself months ago. But ever since then and now, he'd been thinking about all the things that could go wrong with that kind of arrangement. Would they be able to live together, hero and villain, under the same roof? It was true he hadn't exactly gone out of his way to do the villain thing in some time, but the urges were still there.

Then there was just one more... problem.

Ren's smile throughout Lynn's proposal became strained all of a sudden, and he put his food down. He'd need all his nerve for this. "It's just as well you brought that up, Lynn. Because there's something else you need to know... about me."

He took one deep breath, then dove in head first.

"Lynn, I'm not human."

"And I don't mean in that I'm some kind of alien. I mean I'm not organic, like everyone else. Ever since I became... well, able to use my armor, all the stuff I've absorbed, it's all inside me." He tapped his chest. "This might look real, but it's all wires and plastic and metal inside. I don't need to breathe, or eat, or drink. I can do it, and it gives me the same sensations I had back when I was human, but..."

Ren shook his head ruefully. "I don't even sleep now, you know? For the past year, I haven't gone to sleep; haven't dreamed at all. And it's not because I don't want to - I'd give anything to be able to do it again - but I'm physically incapable of doing it. The chemicals in the brain that tell it to switch off for a while so it can rest just aren't there anymore. Everything unnecessary to make myself appear human has been cut away; deemed 'obsolete' by whatever part of my powers that made me like this."

"And... that includes children." He shrugged, then sagged back against her bed. "I haven't tested it, of course, but all the glands required are gone. I've seen the X-rays. I'm still anatomically correct, and everything works, but nothing..." Ren ran a hand through his styled hair." ...well, I just can't do it. I know you're probably not even thinking about kids yet, and neither am I, but it's something you need to know."

"There is... one more thing..." Ren leaned forwards once again and took one of Lynn's hands in his. She was surprisingly warm. His hands duplicated that warmth. Another feature of his body. Another counterfeited biological function. "I don't age anymore. At least, I don't think I do. Metal and plastic take a lot longer to wear out than flesh and bone, and since it seems that I 'repair' myself automatically, I have to assume I'm effectively immortal. And unless there's something I don't know about your powers..." His eyes flashed with a sudden bust of repressed pain.

"You aren't."

Ren's eyes clouded over, and it became obvious he was having trouble continuing. "I'm sorry to dump all this on you at once. I thought I'd have more time, but with you asking about moving... close... I thought you deserved to know. I didn't mean to deceive you, and I really want you in my life."

"I just want you to make sure you want me in yours."

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"Heh. Well, in light of that, I guess you have a standing invitation to pop in. I wouldn't want to deprive you, after all." He grinned over at the table at the girl. "I have to warn you, I play a mean game of Super Smash Brothers Brawl. It's the new one, y'see."

Lynn grins as she starts tucking into her MRE. “Oh is that right, Mr. Technology Man? I hear a lot talkin’ and haven’t seen any walkin’, so we’ll have to settle this in the ring.â€Â

However, her genial tone soon evaporates as Ren broaches several very sensitive subjects that hit uncomfortably close to home; as he speaks, her face first goes slack, and then crumples up with grief.

"I just want you to make sure you want me in yours."

The plastic fork snaps in her hand as Lynn’s eyes well up with angry tears.

“Is that what you think I want, to bring kids into this crappy world? A world where kids are beaten, starving and filled with disease?â€Â

She slams her Chinette plate off the coffee table, sending it spinning across the floor trailing noodles and peas.

“Why would I want to bring anything into this horrible world?!â€Â

The small girl collapses on the floor, sobbing uncontrollably for almost a minute, but gradually the volume decreases until she’s just sniffling.

“Okay.†Lynn sits up, her eyes red from crying, and wipes her nose with the back of her hand. “I’m not gonna lie; I have thought about it. I wasn’t even trying to; it’s this…like this insidious force we’re born with, or maybe we get programmed with it from when we’re little kids.â€Â

She smiles, but it almost makes her cry again.

“I remember the first time my mom gave me my own dolly, y’know, not one my sister had already busted? I held it so tight I nearly broke the darn thing; I loved it so much, and it was rubber and plastic, but it was my baby, and I would bite anyone who tried to take it away from me.â€Â

She runs a hand through her hair and actually laughs.

“Yeah, I was a biter. So yeah, I’ve thought about it. It’s like when you look at a boy you like, and there’s this…little computer in your head that starts running all these scenarios. You know it’s crazy, but you can’t switch it off because it’s like bundled software; it comes with the package. And all that crazy girl software starts doing the math pretty early, but you get pretty good at ignoring it.â€Â

Lynn has been sounding very reasonable up until this point, but now she gets this face like she just swallowed something disgusting, and she gets up, shaking her head vehemently.

“But y’know what, no - I don’t believe in impossible, not any more; we traveled back in time, for Pete’s sake, saw a world that never should have even existed! I don’t care if we have to build them from a kit or plant ‘em in the ground like spuds, I am not gonna let something silly like ‘impossible’ get in the way of having a family. If, y’know, we ever…â€Â

She stops when she realizes just how scary she sounds, and laughs with just a hint of sadness.

“Look, I don’t want you to think I’m some obsessed baby-making machine, I don’t want to put that kind of pressure on you. But I do want you to know my feelings for you are strong enough to make me have these thoughts, and that’s all that means. The fact that you said what you said, and the fact that it hurt so much when you said it – not that I’m mad or upset, but it hurt, like having to get a shot or something. The things we are saying and feeling mean a lot, to both of us, I think, and that’s…good.â€Â

The beautiful young woman, her tear-filled eyes filled with love, steps over to Ren and gently caresses his face.

“For however long it lasts.â€Â

Lynn offers a lopsided grin and playfully punches Ren in the arm.

“So let’s agree to put the robo-tater babies up on a shelf for now, okay, and enjoy this for what it is; I’m crazy about you and I think about you all the time, and that’s what makes the world go ‘round, right? It doesn’t matter what we’re made of or who made us, or whether or not we eat or sleep.â€Â

She gives him one of her killer smiles.

“And I know you dream about me, even though you’re always awake.†:love:

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The small girl collapses on the floor, sobbing uncontrollably for almost a minute, but gradually the volume decreases until she’s just sniffling.

Ren's heart dropped into his stomach at the sight of Lynn's violent reaction to his mention of children. From the stories she'd told, he knew she had it rough, but this... this was on a completely different level than what he'd expected. Compared to her - compared to damn near everyone he knew - Ren had led an idyllic life. He just wasn't prepared to deal with her pain from a position of experience. All he could do was crawl over next to the girl and hold her as she cried. At least he could still comfort, even if he couldn't understand.

“And I know you dream about me, even though you’re always awake.†:love:

"You know me too well," Ren said, squeezing the girl lightly as she came out of her funk completely. Normally, one would have to pay admission to get onto a roller coaster ride like that. She'd gone from furiously angry to out of control sobbing to patiently explaining to ardently optimistic to charmingly arrogant in the space of a few minutes. Each change in her attitude brought out a corresponding deep, pressing need to support her in her venting, no matter where it might lead. And by the end, Ren knew that he'd made the right choice by telling Lynn everything.

"It's good to know that you're on board with this. I... I was a little worried, but then, when am I not worried?" Ren chuckled and rubbed Lynn's back a little, right around the shoulders. "But I think I like that idea you had about literally making a baby. It reminds me of that one CG movie a while back - Robots? Was that it? Anyway, I really remember the part" the chuckling started getting more insistent "when *heh* when the parents pulled out the *hehe* the boy/girl adaptor! *hahaha!*" At that point, Ren broke down into peels of laughter. After a while, he pulled himself back together and got to his feet.

"C'mon, we'd better clean this place up before the kitties start wondering if we're leaving food out for them," he said, pointing to the area where Lynn's temper tantrum had deposited her meal.

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Lynn smiles as Ren recalls the animated film. "Yeah, that was a good one - not even Robin Williams could screw it up, and that's saying something."

"C'mon, we'd better clean this place up before the kitties start wondering if we're leaving food out for them."

The young woman nods in agreement, and she shifts her dress into a set of baggy New Jersey Devils sweats as she helps clean up; as she does so, she looks thoughtful, until she finally speaks up.

"So you're like...a robot with a soul, I guess, which makes a weird kind of sense; it's like you evolved from organic to inorganic, while remaining the same person. Weird." She shakes her head as she finishes the last of the tidying up, then turns to Ren on her heel.

"Hey, you never answered my question; you dodged it by making my cry like a girly-girl." She chuckles and wipes her eyes self-consciously. "How would you feel about me, y'know, getting a place closer to you, now that I know your deep dark secret?"

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"Well, you realize it's not going to stop there, Lynn," Ren replied conversationally. "Moving into the building, even if there are places open, is just one step away from moving in with me. I've thought a lot about this, and it just doesn't make sense for you to do it." He shrugged without looking back at the girl.

Then he glanced over his shoulder, a grand smirk on his face.

"So I guess you'll just have to move in with me."

His expression turned hopeful as he slid in next to Lynn and started laying out his plan in an exited tone. "The place I have used to be a flat of some kind, way too big for me and my stuff alone, and I don't have much. I've got most of the big stuff, too: washer, dryer, dish washer, oven, microwave. It's all left over stuff from the last tenant. Guy had to leave in a hurry, you understand." He winked Lynn mischievously. "It'll be an adjustment, no doubt, but as long as you can keep your cats from attempting to claw my eyes out while I'm around, I think it'll work."

"So what do you think?"

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"So what do you think?"

For several seconds, Lynn just stares at Ren, mouth agape as he describes the possible living arrangements; finally she shakes her head, her eyes glittering with just a hint of tears.

"I can't. I'm sorry, this is just way too fast; I wanted to be closer to you, so I could spend, y'know, spend the night maybe once in a while, like on the couch! At least, y'know, for now."

She sits down on the bed and looks up at her boyfriend, her loving gaze tinged with both joy and sadness.

"It means a lot that you asked me, it really does; I've never been asked to move in with anyone before, and in some ways it sounds wonderful, but-"

Lynn struggles to find the words and pull them out of the air with her anxious hands.

"We don't even know each other yet; we know we have this thing, these feelings for each other, but it's...it's fragile, y'know? Like a, like a newborn baby."

She holds her hands in front of her, palms upturned as she gazes down at this small invisible little thing.

"We know we love the baby, it's new and wonderful and different, but we have to protect it, right? We have to give it a chance to grow. We can't just, y'know, put the baby on a tricycle before it can walk; that's crazy!"

She pats the bed beside her.

"C'mere, sit; let's talk about this."

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"On the couch?"

Ren blinked at Lynn's stated intentions, then...

"On the couch?!" he shouted indignantly.

"C'mere, sit; let's talk about this."

"No, Lynn, I don't think I will," he said, visibly agitated. In the back of his mind, a little voice told Ren that he was quickly heading down a road he should be treading upon carefully, but everything he'd come to dislike about their relationship came bubbling to the surface all at once.

"Two and half months, Lynn. Two and half months! I admit, I don't know how fast relationships normally go in America, but we're moving at a snail's pace here!" Ren paced around the room like a caged beast, gesticulating wildly as he spoke. "We haven't even slept together and you think we need to slow down?! If we were moving any slower, we'd be back where we first started!"

He finally stopped and stabbed an angry finger at Lynn. "You're going to be sleeping on my couch? What is this? Middle school? Are we having a sleep over? Do I need to bring my freaking pajamas?!"

After his blow up, Ren's voice took on a more conciliatory tone. "Okay, I might have been going a bit overboard with the moving in thing, but I'm a guy. That comes with certain urges; certain needs. I might be inorganic, but you wouldn't know it if you were in my body. My sex drive could currently power a medium-sized city, Lynn! And it's not going to go away, no matter how close you are!"

"I'm just... I'm tired of the rollercoster," Ren said wanly, massaging the bridge of his nose. "I feel like I'm the only one moving this relationship forward, and you're constantly putting on the brakes."

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"I'm just... I'm tired of the rollercoster," Ren said wanly, massaging the bridge of his nose. "I feel like I'm the only one moving this relationship forward, and you're constantly putting on the brakes."

Lynn sits on the edge of the bed, looking like she's been stabbed; there is hurt on her face, and no small amount of anger. When she speaks, her voice is clenched and barely controlled.

"Oh I'm sorry, I didn't realize we were on a tight schedule; should we put a timeclock up on the wall in the apartment?"

She gets up and gets right in his face, poking his chest hard.

"I told you I was messed up, that I had some issues with guys, but I guess everything would be okay if I just put out, huh?"

Suddenly she does a backflip and lands on the bed, bouncing up and down like it's a trampoline.

"Because sex makes everything better! Everything's better with sex!"

In midair, she becomes a blonde, blue-eyed cheerleader, complete with pom-poms and red jersey with ‘T&A’ in varsity letters across the chest. A maniacal grin is plastered across her face.

“Whoo-ee, we’re having fun now! Thank goodness we had sex in a timely manner, otherwise I don’t know what would happen!â€Â

She finally stops jumping, the ridiculous outfit melting back into her sweats as she flops back onto the bed. She sighs, rubs her face and just lies there for a bit staring up at the flaking stucco ceiling.

“I’m sorry, that was mean and unnecessary. And yes, I admit the couch thing was stupid.â€Â

She sits up, and so many emotions are flitting across her face it’s almost possible to pin down one.

“The thing is-" She stops herself, winces, and switches gears. “I’m sorry if I’m driving you crazy; just be glad you’re not a telepath, because I’m sure reading my mind would make you dizzy.†She laughs ruefully, then vigorously rubs her hair.

“Gah! Look, all I can tell you is I drive me crazy too, not that it’s any comfort to you. I have the same impulses and needs you do...though my sex drive is less likely to crash than yours.†She scrunches up her face and shakes her head. “Sorry, bad robot joke, I couldn’t help myself.â€Â

She climbs off the bed and starts pacing. “The point is, yes, I want to take this to the next level too, but my gut tells me to go slow, maybe slower than is healthy. We’re both freaking ourselves out here, and it’s going so good, and I’d hate to lose that, and I know me being moody makes that difficult either way.â€Â

She approaches Ren and takes his hands into her own, and she looks up at him with pleading eyes. “I want you to spend the night; I’m not gonna lie to you, you’re not getting more than sharing a bed and snuggling, but it’s what I can handle right now.â€Â

Lynn’s eyes get a little wet, and wipes then with the heel of her hand. “I’m sorry I’m such a basket case, and I know you’re ready and I’m not, and that sucks, but can you wait just a little while longer? Not long, I swear; soon.â€Â

She smiles through the tears, knowing she’s asking a lot here.

“Can you do that for me, please? I swear I will so make it up to you; I can do the cheerleader thing and everything.â€Â

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“Whoo-ee, we’re having fun now! Thank goodness we had sex in a timely manner, otherwise I don’t know what would happen!â€Â

"Are you done?" Ren grumbled, unmoved by Lynn's display. "Because this isn't helping."

“I’m sorry, that was mean and unnecessary. And yes, I admit the couch thing was stupid.â€Â


“Can you do that for me, please? I swear I will so make it up to you; I can do the cheerleader thing and everything.â€Â

Ren sighed and nodded slowly. "Yeah, yeah I can. And for the record, I knew you had issues with guys - it's why I didn't bring it up before now. But when you all of sudden said the thing about the couch, that little demon in the back of my head started jabbing me right in the wrong place," he said, smiling faintly and pointing to the side of his head. "Every guy's got one, you see, but my demon is metal, flies around and lifts buildings, so he's a bit harder to ignore."

"It's just that I got worried that I was in a relationship that wasn't going to move forward." Ren shrugged helplessly, and sat down on the bed. "We've gotten a lot closer, but there's some things that I still feel like you're keeping from me; and I don't just mean the physical things. That's something I can live with that as long as we're going ahead, not backwards. You've got a right to your own life outside of what we share when we're together."

Ren patted the bed next to him, the same way how Lynn had done when she wanted him to sit down. "You're just lucky that you've got the boyfriend you do. Because unlike everyone else," he waggled his eyebrows suggestively, "it's not like I'm getting any older."

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Ren patted the bed next to him, the same way how Lynn had done when she wanted him to sit down. "You're just lucky that you've got the boyfriend you do. Because unlike everyone else," he waggled his eyebrows suggestively, "it's not like I'm getting any older."

Lynn smiles nervously and sits beside him, twisting her hands in her lap. "I want to tell you something that might help, or might not, I dunno..." She looks away, then down at her hands as she gnaws on her lower lip.

"I was fifteen when I ran away from home. I'd never had a boyfriend when I was in school; well, I kissed a few boys, held hands and stuff, but that's it, nothing...real." She takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly. "I had this idea about riding the rails, like hobos in old movies, or Natty Gann, my videotape hero; I could go anywhere I wanted, for free. I was the cat who walked by herself, and no one would ever catch me."

She laughs and shakes her head at her childish naivete. "So I met this guy when I was out there; I don't even think I was sixteen yet. He was maybe seventeen or eighteen, and he was a runaway too. His name was Charlie, and I fell for him like a ton of bricks." She smiles a small sad smile and runs a thumbnail down the seam of her sweatpants.

"He said he would take care of me, that he would protect me; he told me I was the most beautiful girl he'd ever met, and he kissed me on the forehead every night before I went to sleep." Lynn laughs again, but it's more than half sob. "He made me feel safe, and I trusted him, and I loved him."

"Then one night, after we'd been together, I dunno, four or five months, we were out west, Montana I think; the boxcar door was open, and it was a warm summer night and the moon was out. It was magical." Her breathing becomes somewhat haggard. "He asked me...to do something, and I wasn't ready; I told him no, but he wouldn't listen. We were all alone in the middle of nowhere, and I was scared and he was stronger than me and he wouldn't let me go."

Her body wracked with sobs, Lynn does her best to continue. "So I took my knife and I sta-stabbed him, in the hand, and he hit me, and I cut him and he hit me again. And then...I kicked him in the knee, as hard as I could, and I felt it snap, and he fell." Her face twists up in anguish. "He fell off the train. We must have been doing close to fifty miles an hour, in the middle of nowhere, nothing but trees and rocks and nothing out there."

She covers her face in her hands and cries her eyes out for quite some time; when she finally recovers, her eyes are red with tears. "All the guys I was with since then, they never...they never knew me; I was always someone else. You're the first to see me, to see my face, to touch my skin...since that night. That's why it's so hard."

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Ren nodded, almost to himself, as he listened to Lynn's story. It was more or less what he'd expected. Being unfamiliar with the pain one went through actually experiencing such abuses didn't mean he wasn't familiar with the symptoms of someone who had.

For a few moments, he debated the wisdom of holding her close to comfort the distraught girl. She'd just unlimbered some heavy baggage, and he wasn't sure if having yet another guy invading her personal space would be what she needed right now.

Before Ren knew it, though, he had his arm around her, offering the support and comfort he knew she needed. As strong as she was - and she was so very strong - at moments like this, when she chose to let her guard down, she needed someone to lean on. The fact that Lynn still felt that he was someone in which she could confide made Ren feel a bit better about the situation.

"I'm sorry," he said quietly. "I should have been more sensitive to..." He sighed and took his arm off of her shoulders. "I'm sorry."

"But you have to know, there are villains... and then there are villains." Ren turned to face Lynn with the most serious she'd ever seen in his eyes. "You know I'd never, ever do something like that, right? I might have been a bad guy, but never that bad."

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"I'm sorry," he said quietly. "I should have been more sensitive to..." He sighed and took his arm off of her shoulders. "I'm sorry."

She tucks her head into the crook of his shoulder and sighs deeply as she closes her eyes.

"No, no, it's fine; I've had...an unusually colorful life for a girl my age." Lynn chuckles. "You didn't know what kind of minefield you'd wandered into, you poor shmuck."

"But you have to know, there are villains... and then there are villains." Ren turned to face Lynn with the most serious she'd ever seen in his eyes. "You know I'd never, ever do something like that, right? I might have been a bad guy, but never that bad."

She nods. "I know, or I guess I should say I believe you; soon I will feel it in my heart, and then in my body, and then I will know." She opens her eyes and looks up at him and smiles. "And then I will give myself to you, body, mind and soul. And it will be a great day."

Then she yawns and stretches. "Man, I am beat; these rollercoasters really do take it out of you." She sits up and kisses Ren softly on the lips. "I'm gonna have to turn in soon, even if it is pretty early."

Lynn stands and starts to clean up the meal. "I still want to have that glass of champagne, since I now have the the money to buy some nice things, but after that I needs me some sleep." She stops and puts a hand on her hip. "But now that I know you don't sleep, I feel kinda guilty about, y'know, not..."

The young heroine grabs a pile of books from beside the bed. "Do you want something to read in bed? I have some books out from the library, mostly research stuff on the Mob, but there's also some fun ones, too, since the true crime stuff can get so depressing and creepy."

She shudders and makes a face, then holds up a stack of brightly-colored novels. "Have you read any of the Oz books? Loved 'em as a kid, but they still hold up; I've got Land of Oz, Tin Woodman of Oz and Magic of Oz, all the ones they had in. They're a quick read and lots of fun."

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She nods. "I know, or I guess I should say I believe you; soon I will feel it in my heart, and then in my body, and then I will know." She opens her eyes and looks up at him and smiles. "And then I will give myself to you, body, mind and soul. And it will be a great day."

Ren managed not to blush at that, or at least, he managed to look away thoughtfully before he embarrassed himself. Pressuring her into sleeping with him was the last thing on his mind when he brought it up, but now that he had the time to think objectively on what happened, that was really the only way she could have taken his diatribe. Still and all, this was an adult relationship. There would be rocky parts, but if they were strong enough, they'd muddle through and emerge all the stronger for it.

"Don't worry about my sleeping patterns," he said after she'd brought it up. "I'll find some way to entertain myself." Maybe I should tell her about being able to access the Internet with my brain..., he thought as he helped her clean up the rest of the food and silverware.

He blinked as she pointed out the various books in her apartment. Perhaps he wouldn't have to scroll over the same message board for the hundredth time tonight. "No, I never have." He scanned the cover art, noting that it seemed to be fairly dated for this point in time. "They made a movie out of these, right? I heard something about flying monkeys..."

"Hey, what about the children?" He asked, pointing towards the door the cats were still presumably behind. "Don't they usually sleep in here? I don't mind, as long as the two that attempted to eviscerate me keep their claws sheathed."

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He blinked as she pointed out the various books in her apartment. Perhaps he wouldn't have to scroll over the same message board for the hundredth time tonight. "No, I never have." He scanned the cover art, noting that it seemed to be fairly dated for this point in time. "They made a movie out of these, right? I heard something about flying monkeys..."

Lynn nods. "Yeah, well two actually, if you count Return to Oz; that one scared me so bad I nearly peed my pants when I was a kid. Awesome movie though, both of them."

"Hey, what about the children?" He asked, pointing towards the door the cats were still presumably behind. "Don't they usually sleep in here? I don't mind, as long as the two that attempted to eviscerate me keep their claws sheathed."

She stops and looks with some guilt over to the shut door; faint scratching sounds can be heard from near the bottom. Lynn sighs and puts down the garbage she's carrying and approaches it.

"Alright babies, Momma's gonna let you out, but you're going to have to promise to be nice to my friend." The minute the door is open, the three cats scamper into the room and make a beeline for the bed, hiding under it all the way back in the farthest corner possible.

The young woman laughs and shrugs. "Maybe that's for the best, if they feel safest under there. I washed all the sheets and pillowcases at the laundromat, so it should be pretty darn comfortable."

As she continues getting ready, Lynn's mood changes subtlety to a mixture of shyness and excitement; she keeps adjusting the pillows and bed coverings just so, and then she picks up a bag lying on the floor nearby.

"So, any clothes I make, that I normally wear...are like an extension of me. It's not like they're made of skin or anything gross, but I do, y'know, make them from my...mass or whatever."

Her cheeks go delightfully pink as she pulls something wrapped in plastic out of the bag. "Which means they, um, kind of disappear...when I sleep." Lynn holds up the plastic package with a big goofy grin on her face. "So I bought some jammies!" She laughs nervously as she points towards the door to the bathroom. "I'm gonna go change, so...be right back!" She dashes out of the room and slams the door behind her. "And no peeking!"

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Her cheeks go delightfully pink as she pulls something wrapped in plastic out of the bag. "Which means they, um, kind of disappear...when I sleep." Lynn holds up the plastic package with a big goofy grin on her face. "So I bought some jammies!" She laughs nervously as she points towards the door to the bathroom. "I'm gonna go change, so...be right back!" She dashes out of the room and slams the door behind her. "And no peeking!"

Ren regarded the door separating him and his girlfriend for a couple moments, then sighed pitiably. "Of all the superpowers I have, why couldn't X-ray vision be one of them?" he muttered to himself half-jokingly, then started preparing himself for bed. He stripped off his shoes and pants, leaving him in just his shirt and boxers. Anything less might not go over well with Lynn, and she was still mostly running the show here.

Stacking his clothing neatly at the foot of the bed, Ren happened to look under it and see the "children" huddled in the corner by the wall. He felt bad. It was their place, after all; their "mother" he was stealing. "Hey, guys," he said in a soothing tone. "Sorry about horning in on your territory here. It's... it's not really like I'm taking her anywhere, though." He stopped and considered his words for a moment. "Okay, I did ask her to move in, but she said no. And it's not like you wouldn't be going with her even if she did go somewhere. I really think you'd like it there. Lots of room, places for you climb... I think one of my neighbors has cats too, but that might not be a bonus for you guys, huh?""

The cats still seemed wary of him, but one had started ambling towards the edge of the bed where Ren was crouched down. With glacial slowness borne of not having organic muscles, he reached out and offered his hand for examination. The curious one sniffed at the proffered limb, backed up slightly, then approached from a different angle and repeated the process. This is why I like dogs, Ren thought You never have to go out of your way to get a dog to show affection.

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Finally Lynn opens the door and steps out; she's wearing a lilac Tinkerbell baby-T with matching sleepy pants and is brushing her teeth. "Almost done, just gotta finish this and wash my face.' She smiles and goes back into the non-working bathroom, this time leaving the door open. After a few more moments of banging around, she reenters the room, wiping her face with a disposable baby towelette, which she then drops in a garbage bag with the rest of the evenings trash. She ties the bag up and tucks it onto the top shelf of the closet, out of the cats' reach, and then quietly moves about the room, blowing out all the candles.

Once she's blown out out the last of them, leaving the whole room in near darkness (which bothers none of its current inhabitants), she pads over to the bed, climbs under the sheets and beckons Ren to join her.

"Alright, Mr X-Ray Vision, come to bed." ;)

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