by Yuite Dio (神莠射手) (mirrors http://s2b2.livejournal.com/253164.html)
by neomeruru (mirrors http://s2b2.livejournal.com/253231.html)
The three broken ribs and the black eye she could live with; what really had Ginger upset was how they’d taken her lipstick. She had a little split at the corner of her lip that she couldn’t stop herself from poking with her teeth and tongue; without her face on, she had nothing to keep her from bothering at it. Just another indignity on top of all the others today. Getting thrown down the stairs by a Turkish opium dealer had really been the highlight of the day.
She heard some noise outside of her hospital room and pulled the thin, scratchy blanket up over as much of her as she could. She had had enough of doctors for the day, thank you very much. The sound she heard coming through the door didn’t sound like any of the doctors who’d been poking and prodding and interrogating her; it sounded like a very familiar little hurricane.
“I know for a fact that Miss Snapps was admitted to this hospital and you are going to show me to her room before I buy this whole ward and turn it into a bowling alley,” she heard, and closed her eyes as she both smiled and felt a little bit of tears prick at her eyes. “And I don’t even like bowling!” The doctor’s voice was lower and softer, and Ginger couldn’t quite make out what he said, but she sure heard the response. “I didn’t get hit on the head hard enough not to know who my own secretary is. Ginger! Virginia Eudora Snapps, six feet tall, redhead, killer blue eyes, can punch a Frenchman through a church door, and makes a hell of a Manhattan. She came into this hospital with me and you’re going to tell me where you’ve put her.”
Maqrudh Brik sat motionless, his elbows propped on his knees, and stared vacantly into the distance. By the wall in front of him three large paintings were drying up – a commission from the city hall. Maqrudh didn’t like to do commissions. Residents of Ni’irqe, on the other hand, loved Maqrudh to do commissions. ‘You won’t make money on personal projects,’ the clear-headed M’Oire would tell him. ‘Not enough to earn a living, anyway.’ But Maqrudh needed personal projects. They had the individuality that commissions sorely lacked. In personal projects, he could let off his creative steam and show what he wanted to show, as opposed to what people wanted to see. He could experiment with style and technique; he could ignore conventional canons of beauty; he didn’t have to worry about propriety or listen to his clients’ absurd remarks (‘I don’t want my receding hairline to show and I’m not paying until you correct that’; ‘How could you, sir, you have shown all grandmamma’s wrinkles!’; ‘I don’t want that drapery in the background after all, please make it a waterfall instead’). Commissioned paintings were all the same: smooth, static, made-up lies. How sick he was of them!
Unfortunately, in the last couple of months he hadn’t even had a moment to devote to personal projects, for apart from a few portraits (portraits were always in demand), he got this gigantic commission from the city hall. A new plenary hall was due to be opened soon, and the mayor requested for one of the walls to be adorned with a monumental triptych, full of pompous allegories and various Ni’irqean bigwigs in pretensional, bombastic poses. The mayor, of course, had put it a little differently.
The massive stone doors crashed shut with the ponderous thud of a young girl’s fate being sealed. Mitsuo took a few slow, calming breaths, attempting to slow her racing heart. To think, of all the young maidens in the village, she was the one chosen for the ritual. It had been going on for centuries, a dark and secret rite never spoken of with outsiders. It was true that harvests were bountiful, that the village was safe, that natural disaster never befell… but in exchange…
The young shrine maiden shivered and gathered her white and red vestments more closely about her heaving bosom. In the dim light of the sacrificial chamber, she could catch just a hint of movement beyond her vision, and her ears picked up a sort of sound… a deep, unsteady breathing, like the panting of a madman slowed down and played back.
“H-h… hello? I… I…” Her voice quavered and broke just a little, a flush coming to her cheeks. “I come to offer myself as sacrifice!”
The words rang off the stone walls in piping alto tones, and were quickly answered by a vaguely aquatic-sounding growl.
The bedsheets moved and then slid aside to reveal a mess of tousled long brown hair and, sliding further down, a pale naked arm. The owner of the arm made a sleepy grunt and pulled the sheet back over himself. After a moment he rolled over to his stomach, slowly propped himself on both elbows, hair falling all over his face, and looked around.
He was alone in bed. Near the window, illuminated by pale morning light filtered through thin curtains, a tall wiry man was sitting naked at the piano, fingering the keys lightly in order not to make a sound. Once in a while he would write something down in the score while humming very quietly. After a short moment he glanced in the direction of the bed; his face showed surprise when he realised his companion was awake.
“Ah, sorry, Naisa, did I wake you up?”
“I woke myself up.” Naisa sat up, wrapping bedsheets tightly over his arms and surveying the other man from behind the curtain of his hair. “Aren’t you cold?”
The first time I kissed Frank was the night Joe Cornish died.
I knew his was the finger on the other end of the button as soon as I heard the doorbell sound, so I dried my eyes and buzzed him right in. I heard him coming up the stairs to my fourth-floor rathole of a studio, each step weary and sodden, while the downpour outside echoed through the concrete stairwell. He rose into my view like a ship coming in over some far horizon, one dark, wet degree at a time, until he was there at my harbor in his tight brown pants and white summer sneakers, his moustache made sad by the rain.
“Joe,” I said, because there wasn’t anything else to say about it. Not even a year in, and we’d long passed the point of questions beyond ‘when’.
He put a hand to his face. “Jesus, I didn’t want you hearing from someone else.”
Soon had decided earlier that day that the only way to truly get used to his new legs after the procedure was to find someplace he could dance like an idiot, since at the very worst people would think he was slightly drunk instead of recovering from extensive physical therapy, and so after coaxing Gemma into clearing him for potentially being moshed into he found himself surrounded by happy people who didn’t notice he was still figuring out which way his ankles were supposed to bend. Colored panels in the walls and floor cycled through dozens of glowing hues while holographic images–their colors synched with the floor panels and currently shaped like jellyfish–floated serenely through the air. The thumping music, some of which he vaguely recognized from the radio, pushed gently against his skin in time with the bass. Soon was just one reveler in a sea of unfamiliar faces. It was actually rather pleasant, he decided, especially since for the first time in quite a while he felt like he could mingle with people and be seen for who he was instead of some poor soul with a large and ghastly prosthesis.
Soon’s HUD chirped and he mentally flailed for the processes required to bring up whatever it was trying to tell him this time. The HUD was yet another newfangled upgrade they’d installed as part of the procedure. He’d known the transfer to Lammeter would expose him to a lot more tech and, more importantly, more culture than he’d known back in Cygnus Point, but the idea of most citizens having access to scoping tools was the sort of thing they’d never dreamed of back on his home colony. Once he collected his thoughts enough to move the code around the way Gemma had showed him, the notice turned out to be a message from someone else in the club.
Hi, Soon, said whoever it was over Soon’s personal band. I read your pub-access stats and you look like someone I think I’d like to talk to more. May I buy you a drink?