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The Rideable Art

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Kelly looks up from her tea and newspaper when she hears the door to their flat open and slam close. When Polly flies into the room, scowling fiercely, she immediately presses a hand to her mouth, trying desperately to hide her smile and knowing, instinctively, that she’s failing.

It isn’t that Polly is a particularly snappy dresser- like most Geeks, she dresses to fade into the background, all the better to shock and awe people later. But she is fussy about how she dresses, tugging her skirts just so every morning, practically using a ruler to make sure her argyle socks are even, polishing her shoes every Sunday. Her button downs and sweater vests are so prim that it pains Kelly to look at them most days.

Now though? Now, one argyle sock is slithering down Polly’s calf, and her leg is covered in mud. As is her skirt. She appears to be missing a shoe. Her shirt and sweater vest are rumpled, and her hair, which she now styles in a single bun, is sopping wet and falling down around her face.

Kelly moves her hand and opens her mouth.

Polly jerks a (soaking, mud-covered) hand in the air. “Don’t,” she says severely. “Don’t even.”

“I wasn’t,” Kelly lies.

Polly glares at her.

Kelly sighs. She used to be a spy. She used to steal people’s secrets and they didn’t even realize it. Now, she can’t even lie to her best friend. It’s sad, really, what she’s come to.

Polly squelches further into the room- squelches!- and tosses her messenger bag next to their dining table with a disgusted look. It immediately starts forming a puddle. Kelly eyes it with interest, but dismisses it. It isn’t nearly as interesting as the puddles forming underneath Polly.

“Problem with your bicycle?” Kelly asks idly, putting the kettle on the stove automatically.

“No,” Polly says icily. “Problem with the bloody road.”

Kelly raises an eyebrow.

“It ended,” Polly explains.

“Oh.”

“It’s cold,” Polly goes on, walking into their kitchenette, leaving little mud footprints wherever she goes, “and it’s raining and wet, and I knew that, I understood that, I was prepared for that. But the map didn’t say that the road bloody stopped, and so I had to ride three fucking miles on gravel in the rain and mud, and then a lorry came along and nearly ran me down, and then the map just was wrong, and so I rode for a mile out of my way before I realized that I needed to turn around, and by the time I reached the office it was bloody closed.”

Kelly bites the inside of her cheek to hold back her grin. Polly is clearly upset, and it’s really not funny, but oh God help her, it is. “And your shoe?”

“People need to keep their fucking dogs on fucking leashes,” Polly says shortly, and pours hot water into her favorite tea cup.

Kelly can’t help it. She bursts into laughter.

Polly turns and raises an eyebrow, which only makes Kelly laugh harder, because she has a streak of mud across her cheek, and she looks absolutely ridiculous, and maybe she had an awful day, but surely she must see the absurdity of it all?

Kelly hopes she does, because otherwise she’s going to wind up with a face full of scalding hot tea.

“It’s not funny,” Polly says, but there it is, the tiny quiver of laughter underneath her sulky voice.

“Oh, Polly,” Kelly says, and wraps a hand around Polly’s wrist, jiggling it gently. “It really, really is.”

“You ride fifteen miles in the rain and see how funny it is,” Polly says sourly, but her lips are twitching upwards.

Kelly wipes the streak of mud off her cheek. “Of course it wasn’t funny at the time, but now? Polly, look at yourself. It’s hysterical.”

Polly looks down at her sopping sweater vest, at her crooked socks, at her missing shoe, and lets out an undignified snort of laughter.

“It’s not funny,” Polly says, even as she starts giggling. “It isn’t. I could have died.”

“If seven years at St. Trinian’s didn’t kill you, I doubt a little lorry would.”

Polly giggles harder, and Kelly leans over and presses a kiss to the corner of her mouth, tasting mud and sweat and, underneath it all, stale adrenaline and annoyance and maybe some momentary fear. Polly hums and pushes her away, smiling lightly.

“Stop it; I’m disgusting.”

Kelly smiles at her and pushes some of her hair out of her face. Polly’s smile drops away slowly and she lets out a sigh.

“I’m going to shower. If you have a chance, could you look at my bicycle? I think one of the tires might be wonky.”

Polly starts to walk away and Kelly frowns, picking up her teacup and rinsing it in the sink. “Wonky?” she calls after her.

“Well, yes,” Polly shouts from the bathroom. “They tend to warp when you run them into a building.”

Kelly bursts into laughter all over again, letting the running water drown her out.