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The Girly Arts

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After a long, hard week of delivering packages in the chilly winter rain, there's nothing Original Cindy likes better than a hot, sweet-smelling soak in the bathtub.

She trades favors with her fellow Jam Pony wage slaves for jasmine-scented bubble bath and pays cash at the black market for ginger-scented powder that sparkles in the sunlight. She hoards small bottles of lotion that make her skin soft and luminous, pockets them sometimes when she sneaks into the bathrooms of fancy apartments on deliveries (and once or twice from friends of Logan's when Max isn't looking). She's not the cat burglar Max is, but she has a nice collection of nail polish (and remover) for her troubles, and her stash of hair care product is unparalleled in the post-Pulse world.

Original Cindy understands better than most that looking good can make a sister feel good, and that time for the girly arts is the first thing that disappears when the world comes down on a girl's shoulders.

Max is the perfect example. She doesn't look bad--Cindy don't think it's possible for Max to look bad--but she looks worn and pale, her hair lank and her skin dull when she makes it out of Terminal City for the first time after three months behind the barricades.

It's late when Max arrives, but Cindy's ready--she's got pots of water heating on the stove, a new loofah and an unopened bottle of cherry blossom shower gel waiting by the tub, and Max's old fluffy robe hanging behind the door.

Max sighs as she sinks beneath the foamy water, tension easing from her face and shoulders. Cindy doesn't press, and after a long silence, Max opens up about everything that's happened since the last time they talked. Most of it's not good, and Cindy wishes she could do more to help.

Max lets Cindy trim her hair when Cindy offers, and laughs when Cindy sucks her teeth in reproach and says, "So you supersoldiers never heard of conditioner?"

"I'll mention it to Alec for his next supply run." She rolls her eyes

"I can do you one better, boo." Cindy sends her back to Terminal City with a care package full of moisturizing soap and sweet-smelling shampoo. "You can't take care of everybody else 'less you take care of yourself first," she says, giving Max a tight hug. "'Specially since Original Cindy ain't there to do it for you."

Max squeezes her back, and while she's still thinner than Cindy would like, there's a soft glow to her skin now that's only partially attributable to the glittery powder she dusted on after her bath, and her nails are painted a metallic burgundy called "Because I Said So."

"Promise me you will," Cindy insists when Max pulls back.

Max crosses her heart and gives Cindy another quick, fierce hug. "I promise."

Cindy watches her go with a sigh. It's a small promise, but one she hopes Max keeps.

~*~