Rising into his field of view like a dark star, Magnolia settled herself on his stomach, thick thighs gripping his side, one hand lightly tapping against the T-shirt that always stayed on, no matter how intimate they got.
Curt smiled up at her. ‘I know your feelings on the subject, but the afterglow is allowed to last more than a few seconds, Mags.’
Strong fingers that had been wrapped around his cock just a few minutes ago tapped his stomach. ‘Not when there’s work to do. We just get to move forward with our moods elevated.’ She shifted one of her legs and slipped her hand under the hem of his shirt, just high enough to touch the trailing ends of one of his tattoos. ‘When the fuck are you going to get rid of these?’ Her voice was quiet, but the tone was steel, not a question she was going to let him wriggle out of, no matter how much fun wriggling might be right now.
He wanted to touch her hand, to curl his fingers around hers, or to pull it away, but as close as they got, he tried to avoid small gestures like that. Everything he did with her was calculated to make sure that she didn’t feel like he was being too familiar, to let her remember that he remembered his place.
Even as he laid there, looking up at her, equally appreciative of her breasts filling her cami and the muscles on her arms, he was sure she didn’t see it like that, that she’d long ago stopped seeing him as a danger, as just a pathetic participant in the Agency’s enemy-rehabilitation program.
But…But so much in his life still felt so fragile – might always feel fragile – that he didn’t want anyone around him to feel like he was taking them for granted.
He didn’t treat Carmichel like a bank, no matter how much his friend lavished him with presents and favours and offered more. He showed up with ice cream and sympathy when Raz broke up with one of his boyfriends. And he wanted to convey with every breath and action that he was glad that the warrior princess sitting on him was benevolent enough to look in his direction with friendship, and occasionally, a libido in need.
‘Not yet,’ he said. ‘I get enough lectures from Two on it, so let him fight that good fight, and tell me what you need from me.’
‘I would like to fuck you with your shirt off again,’ she said. ‘And I would prefer not to drag you somewhere dangerous to do it.’
She pouted, sighed and let her weight settle onto him a little more. ‘Are you going to be sticking around-’ She pushed a finger to his lips to keep him quiet. ‘Not now. I know you’re sticking around for the moment, I haven’t dismissed you yet, Recruit.’ She scraped her fingers along his chin, then sat back. ‘You’ve got the aide job, but I know you- I know you’ve got complicated feelings about the Agency.’
He lifted his hips, needing space from her body if they were going to have this calibre of serious conversation.
She slipped off and moved to lie beside him, head propped up against the pile of three pillows on her side of the bed. ‘And it’s probably not fair for me to ask you while your dick’s out, but I need to know. Our jobs, being what they are, nothing is guaranteed, either one of us could have a bullet in our heads by the end of the day, and I think Mimosa has probably sucked up all the get-another-life luck we’re going to have around here for a long time.’
Maybe. Maybe not. Newbie’s “luck” and its ongoing status was going to be…complicated going forward.
There was an odd tendency to…almost meme Taylor. Something about how so seemingly primal and simple he was allowed recruits – especially those that didn’t interact with him a lot – to treat him like a cartoon character. You could take any hypothetical “Superman vs. Goku”-style argument and people would argue that their resident ginger agent would come out on top.
It was equal parts hero worship and fear, and well-earned, even if he still did get taken aback by the occasional use of chibi Taylor emotes and stickers in certain Tech chats he’d seen.
And if you followed that line of thinking, of making Taylor a caricature of himself, it was easy enough to imagine him walking up to Stef, pushing his hand into her chest, and ripping out enough mirror to wish his partner back to life.
Mags and Taylor were a unit, that was something that had been clear from his earliest days as a recruit here. They worked together almost as well, almost as seamlessly, as the twins, and the twins were so far into each others’ heads that sometimes they ended up “pole switching” and temporarily swapping what body they inhabited.
But in the year and a half he’d been there, it had been a purely…he wasn’t sure “professional” was the word as they were too entrenched in each other’s lives for that. Even being in the circle of awareness and intimacy that he was with Mags, which was close to her inner circle – and she’d made it clear that there was a door open to that space, but he had to be the one to step through it, but…he couldn’t yet, couldn’t feel that comfortable, couldn’t forgive himself enough to-
Even from his position, he knew her Duty – the kind of capital-D Duty that agents spoke of – was to Taylor, not to the Agency itself, and that there likely wasn’t a request of his she wouldn’t kill or die for.
And to that, in the last few days, they’d…added romance. As new as it was, it was something only a few people knew about, and he’d been included in that group.
If he’d had to lay a bet, he would have been sure that just-colleagues Taylor would have heart-ripped for Mags; now that love was in the air, he was doubly sure of it.
So with the presence of mirror, it was going to be very interesting the first time something bad happened, and how Newbie was going to react to that.
In a way that probably meant that therapy would be a good idea – not that he was anyone to make that call – Newbie had, a few nights before, dropped some information he was still processing. It had made sense, it did make sense, but her attitude towards it, and her method of conveying it was…just pure Steffishness.
Amongst paperwork, and after failing to bargain for her break to last another five minutes so she could play some more Pokemon, she’d told him that she was a failsafe for the end of the world. That part of the reason the Agency allowed people like her – those recruits, aides and agents with extant mirror – were emergency “avoid the apocalypse” buttons.
That as soon as the right situation arose, some algorithm would pick whoever seemingly had the right amount of mirror, and they’d be shifted for some director, enforcer, or someone higher up the “corporate” ladder of the Agency would crack them open and wish for the safety of the world, with barely enough time to apologise, and-slash-or thank them for their sacrifice.
She had then stolen the last aole chip, told him the legend of the “hidden Mew under the truck”, and gone back to her paperwork, ending the five-minute microcosm of what it was like to spend any significant amount of time with her.
The end of the world might be an okay trade for Newbie’s life, anything less than that…and he’d gladly offer to play bouncer for anyone who tried to Mortal Kombat her heart out of her chest.
‘It is complicated,’ he said, saying words that still felt blasphemous and even dangerous to say within the walls of the Agency, ‘but I’m also not going anywhere anytime soon, excepting some time where the twins can’t sew me back together.’
There was empathy in her eyes. ‘You’ve got your shit, I’ve got mine, and there is a lot rotten in this organisation,’ the word “rotten” somehow managing to carry the vehemency of an entire string of cuss words, ‘from fundamental aspects of the organisation to individuals who I would set on fire if I could. But- That’s not my worry, that’s not my concern, this Agency is, these people are. Do I even give a shit about the state directors? No. Have I, or will I, ever be in a room with the continent staff? No, and why the fuck would I care to be? My life is going well when I see that things are calm enough for Taylor to follow his daily routines and that Jones has time to slip out and get a stupid bougie coffee. Ryan, well, and up until this point didn’t seem to have a hobby other than “staring out the window”, but now I guess it’s parenting that cute little gremlin thing who technically has authority over me.’
‘Not that she’d ever use it,’ he said.
Mags blessed him with a rare, relaxed smile. ‘I know, she said to my face multiple times during her testing phase that absolutely does not feel comfortable with the concept that she could give orders to me. I said she had sub energy, she asked what teaching had to do with anything.’
He smiled, then hissed in a breath as her nails ran in teasing lines over his hip. ‘I think I’m pretty much on board with you there? I care about these four walls and not much outside of them. So what are you actually asking?’
‘The better we are as an Agency, as a network, the safer we are. We’re nowhere near the bottom of the barrel, but we are thoroughly mediocre, I would like to pull us up to average, and I think for the first time in decades, there is actually a chance we can do that, and I’m hoping you can help me with that.’
‘You know how recent this promotion is for me, and you’ve probably taken that into account, so yeah, I’ll do what I can, but we’re still missing a lot of elements if you truly want to do something about it. Tech needs an aide, the – and I am picking my words carefully here – director needs an aide, the twins need nurses, and-’ He shook his. ‘You know all this. I just want you to know I’m aware it’s a hell of a job.’
‘It at least feels like change is possible now,’ she said, leaning in to lay a gentle kiss on his cheek, then lightly shoved his chest. ‘Now fuck off and take a shower.’
He let his hand brush over the one on her chest, nodded, and smirked. ‘Yes, ma’am.’
When he walked out of the bathroom, his hair a calculated amount of still-damp, as there was something about the just-showered look that Mags seemed to appreciate, he stopped short and wondered if the door had glitched, or-
Mags walked past him, just in her cami, though now also wearing a pair of boy shorts, smiled and waved. ‘Don’t worry, you’re not going crazy, I’m just…making some changes myself.’
Everything, except the bathroom behind him had changed.
When he’d stepped in for a shower, it had been the room he’d been used to – a slight variant to the usual recruit room that had the bed hidden by a half-wall to separate it a little from the living space.
Now, a long room extended from where he stood on the threshold of the bathroom, probably five or six metres long, her bed at the far end, haloed by strings of fairy lights and instant photos pegged to the wires.
Her dressmaking dummies and supplies for outfit creation now had their own little area to his right, and a desk sat next to the new sliding door in the centre of the room, leading off to the left.
‘Sleeping in the gym every night isn’t a viable, long-term solution,’ she said and slid the Japanese-style door of black framing and paper squares back to reveal the rest of the same. ‘I suggested we have a space together, and honestly, I’ve always been a little jealous of Sacha’s space, but have never had reason to do something so elaborate.’ She looked away from him. ‘Not until- I know I’m here until I die now.’ She looked back. ‘So I’m having a little fun.’
The space beyond her door was a little strange, not a layout of a house or apartment he’d ever seen – though something that was apparently easy enough to create with the Agency software and the tablet in her hand.
Lots of elements were still placeholders – to the point where some sections had spraypainted notes on the floor, representing the handwritten notes she’d made in the modelling software, but after looking through the space a couple of times, everything clicked.
Five…not rooms, as only the bedrooms – one for Mags, one for Taylor, so they could each have their own space, and fuck other people when the mood struck – had doors, but five sections, of equal size.
The bedrooms were on the far sides of the space. Down two steps from each side was…almost a mezzanine level. On Mags’ side, it was a dining table, and an empty display cabinet, on Taylor’s side, the spray-painted notes indicated it would be some kind of weapons gallery.
The central section, another two steps down, meaning the whole place had a very shallow v-shape to it, was a huge sectional couch, a dining table, and a wall for projecting movies.
‘This is only version one,’ she said, ‘you’ll just have to keep visiting to watch it evolve. And not just for when I want to make good use of your hands and mouth, you need to agree to hang out with my friends more, I’m going to scrape away this loner bullshit, even if it hurts a little.’
‘It’s hard, Mags.’
‘It’s easier when you let people help.’
An alarm on his Agency phone rang. ‘Ryan. Meeting. Domesticate me later?’
‘Sure, I can collar you whenever you want.’
He looked around, then slowly back at her. ‘Mags?’
‘O’Connor, we can-’
‘Mags, where’s the door gone?’
A flash of embarrassment, so cute that it was an image he would take to his deathbed, crossed her face before she pointed at the bare wall behind the couch, where a door materialised a moment later. ‘There, it’ll go through Taylor’s gym. He’s out, so don’t worry.’
‘Thanks,’ he said and knew that she would understand it was for far more than just the exit.