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New World Order (In Us We Trust Jamcore Breakdown)

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Original Cindy doesn't really believe in the concept of "normal." Even before she was Original, she was a sister who was into chicks, two facts of her existence that would have made her stand out in anyplace she's ever heard of. For a while, she did her best to at least not stand out, but then she met Diamond. Of all the things she loved about the woman, one of the strongest was Diamond's fearlessness in being who she was.

"We all original, baby," Diamond told her, rocking her close in the smoky darkness of one of the clubs she'd never dared go to before. "You fight it, you die. Embrace it, you shine."

A lot of people would say Diamond was no role model, herself included on bad days, but there's no denying her girl opened her eyes to her own light. She was shining too bright to stuff it back down when Diamond disappeared for what she assumed was the last time, so she decided it was going to be her something good out of the experience.

Besides, Original Cindy has herself a good crew now, other people who aren't afraid to be who they are and make no apologies. Diamond introduced her to Herbal Thought, and Herbal Thought hooked her up with Jam Pony. Jam Pony introduced her to a whole new crowd, including Druid, Elisa, Spinner, and Sketchy, who really should make apologies for the dumb shit he pulls, but he is who he is and he's come through for her a few times.

Then Jam Pony introduces her to Max, and that's when life starts to get real interesting.

~~~~

Max can't guarantee anything about Manticore not coming after her, and Original Cindy's certain she knows it. Cindy knows it too, but she still agrees to move in, because Max is her boo and they've got each other's backs. Plus, it sure didn't do her any good to be living somewhere else the last time someone decided they wanted a piece of Max. If that happens again, Original Cindy would just as soon be somewhere she can keep an eye on her girl. Max may be able to kick the collective asses of three men twice her size, but she's still got her tender spots, and Original Cindy's one of the few bodies who knows how to soothe them.

Like now, after the second postponement of Max and Logan's "not a date." Original Cindy doesn't know what's up with Logan, and she doesn't really care except for how it's affecting her boo. Max has always had her moods, but her angry ones are usually loud, which is how Original Cindy knows they'll blow over. Max's quiet moods linger, brooding and sad, and she usually withdraws from their crew, for reasons Original Cindy understands a whole lot better now. The mood Logan's been provoking, though, can only be described as fuming; quiet, but pissed.

Original Cindy doesn't even ask what happened when Max walks through the door with Indian takeout, just leaves off arranging her new bedroom, makes a pass by the kitchen for silverware, and plops down on the couch next to her boo. Max silently passes her a container that turns out to hold vegetarian biryani; Max is one of the few people Original Cindy knows who'll risk meat when they eat out. Bioengineered digestion is good for some things, apparently. Original Cindy's only got plain old standard issue digestion, so she picks carefully through her food, on guard against anything unidentifiable, and waits.

"You know," Max says at last, stabbing viciously at her chicken tikka masala, "guys always complain about how women have mood swings, but they're the ones who can't seem to decide if they want us around or not."

"Preaching to the choir, boo. I take it this has something to do with why you're home early?"

"I mean, I didn't even say anything about turning on the oven this time, and I thought he was going to use one of his newly mobile feet to kick me out the door!"

"Maybe said feet got sore. You know all men are just little boys when it comes to pain, fussing and pouting."

Original Cindy doesn't really believe that's the problem, but it gets her a reluctant smile out of Max, who says, "You do speak truth, my sister."

"'Course I do. Original Cindy knows what's up." She waits a minute, then asks, "You want to talk about it?"

Max leans her head on Original Cindy's shoulder, sighing, but Original Cindy can feel her relaxing a little at last. "Not really."

"Ai'ight. But you know where I am if you ever do."

Max tilts her head and smiles that way Original Cindy doesn't think even Logan has seen. "Yeah, boo. I do."

"Yeah." Original Cindy returns the smile, then holds out her hand and makes a gimme gesture. "Now pass over the samosas. Original Cindy knows you're holding out."

~~~~

Max talks about being normal like it's some kind of goal to be reached with enough hard work. Original Cindy tries to point out that it doesn't really work like that from what she's seen, but there's a kind of desperation to Max's insistence that makes a body think she needs to figure that out for herself, and make peace with it.

Of course, the first time she talks Max into coming to Crash with their crew and getting a little buzzed after a cold, windy, sleeting day, she can't help saying, "You ain't normal, boo, but there's nothing wrong with that. You've met Normal. You don't want to be him."

Max rolls her eyes at the pun, but says, "How do you know I'm not normal?"

"For one thing, you're too fine to be normal." That gets another eyeroll, but also a short laugh, and a kind of shy, pleased smile. Original Cindy feels a tingle under her skin that has nothing to do with her second beer. "And Original Cindy don't like anybody this much if they're normal."

Max's smile widens, then falls away as she leans across the table, closer to Original Cindy. "But I want to be," she says softly, like a confession. Original Cindy wants to kiss her, but a girl who wants to be normal isn't going to be into that.

"Then you might have to change the definition of the word, boo." She means it to be teasing, but it comes out sounding mostly serious, and Max nods solemnly.

"Maybe I will," she says, lifting her chin. For just a moment, Original Cindy gets a glimpse of a force that just might be equal to the task of changingg how the world defines a word. Then Max is kissing her, quick and a little too hard, but it's sweet, and Original Cindy thinks, yeah. Yeah. Someday, maybe not too far in the future at all, Max'll get there.

And maybe she'll drag the world with her. Original Cindy just hopes she's there to see it.

~~~~

"So," Original Cindy says, looking around at the organized chaos of what's become the de facto command center of Terminal City. There are transgenics everywhere, human-looking ones hauling machinery around with superhuman strength or balancing on the steel beams holding up the roof, animal-looking ones checking equipment output and inventorying weapons. Alec's having a loud conversation with a creature Max introduced as Mole, and Joshua's doing some kind of interpretive dance with a group of kids wearing the sort of motley you get when you start with a military uniform and add on what you can find being sold on the streets of Seattle. "This is your definition of normal."

Max makes a face, but she's got that thrumming, pleased energy she gets when things are going a way she approves. "You always said I had a pretty poor grasp of the concept."

"Original Cindy also said it wasn't a concept worth grasping. You'd ruin your manicure for nothing."

Max holds up her hands to illustrate how ruined her manicure already is, and that was some of Original Cindy's best work! But what Max says makes up for it. "I prefer to ruin my manicure for good causes. A wise woman once told me maybe I'd have to change the definition of normal. Now I'm doing just that."