Stella was contemplating the pain au chocolat with some trepidation. Her semester in France had left her, not with disdain, but with a profound disappointment in American supermarket croissants. And she was pretty sure that the Void got their pastry direct from Ralph's.
"The scones aren't bad, actually," came an English drawl from behind her.
Stella turned around slowly. She couldn't place the voice, but as soon as she saw the tiny little blonde, she recognized London. "Not a big scone fan, actually." She shrugged and turned back to the barista, Darren. "Chocolate cupcake," she said.
She took her tea and her cupcake back to the corner table where her sketchbook was waiting for her. She wasn't surprised when London followed her back and sat down without asking. "I'm not meeting Smith," she said cautiously.
London's half-smile was a little twisty. "I don't want to talk to him."
This actually had the effect of making Stella more nervous, and she felt her smile go all sardonic. "We never talked when you were sleeping with him. What would I say to you now?"
"'Nice shoes. Wanna fuck?'"
Stella relaxed, sat back, cocked her head, and looked London over. "There's a girlfriend complication."
London beamed. "I like girlfriends."
"Only Smith would sleep with his sister and save the world from nuclear holocaust with his freaky mind powers," said Alison.
"No, Oliver used Smith's freaky mind powers to save the world from nuclear holocaust." Stella softly circled the spot on Alison's stomach which was playing Oliver in the bodypaint diagram of an averted Armageddon.
'Oliver' was right over a hot spot on Alison's stomach, and she purred a little before asking, "But it is Smith's sister/ex who wants to sleep with you?"
Stella shrugged. "Yes."
"And you want to sleep with her?"
Stella nodded. "She's adorable and bitchy. You know I can't pass that up."
"But you didn't bring her home with you?"
Stella flopped on her back next to Alison, but she kept rubbing her fingers over the diagram on Alison's stomach. "You react badly to Smith things sometimes."
"Hating New Order is not the same as hating Smith." Alison turned on her side, put a hand on Stella's shoulder. "She's not also one of Smith's stoner worshippers, is she?"
Stella snorted. "No."
"Then bring her over." Alison leaned down and kissed Stella's forehead. "You know," a kiss to Stella's right cheek, "that I," left cheek, "like to watch." She kissed Stella's mouth and worked from there.
Stella ran into London because she was envisioning the mid-term for her recycled glass course, not looking where she was going.
They did the dance of sorry; sorry; let me pick that up for you; no, I've got it. And then they were sorted out, and Stella said, "There aren't any political science classes in this building."
"Distribution requirements," said London; she grimaced. "I thought a course on jewelry-making would be fun, but it's," she shrugged, "sausages!"
Stella was going to ask what she meant, and then she remembered American Popular and Political Culture, and The Jungle, the book that had turned her into a vegetarian, and she just nodded.
"Also, I'm stalking you until you let me know about your girlfriend situation."
"Alison says I should bring you home sometime."
London bounced up on her toes a little, as if it was only the number of books she was carrying that prevented her from really taking off. "A sometime that she's there? Is she there now? I'm free."
Stella raised an eyebrow. "We have a house rule against gleefulness. Also good cheer, and most of the rest of the happiness family."
London raised an eyebrow in return. "You don't want me to be excited at the thought of going down on you?"
"Oh, well, when you put it that way…."
The lights were on when Stella opened the door, and she could smell five spice powder and onions. "Do we have enough for three?" she called out, waving London in ahead of her.
Alison stuck her head around the corner; the strap from her red heart apron clashed violently with her short, pink curls. "Do they eat eggs? I can make tortas instead of stir fry." Then she blinked and smiled. "Are you London? You are adorable, so you must also be quite bitchy." She came around the corner. "Er, that is to say, Stella said that she wants to sleep with you because you're adorable and bitchy, not that I think adorable people are bitchy by nature. Or that you look bitchy." Alison closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She blew it out and opened her eyes. "Stella's with me because I have no filter, so…."
"Yes," said London slowly. "To all of it: eggs, adorable, bitchy. And your apparent lack of filter."
Dinner was easy after that. London talked about taking off for a semester and doing shit work in Toronto. ("You can process a lot of emotional bullshit when you're the night watch at the morgue.") Alison talked about the apocalyptic diorama series that had brought her to New Order's (and Stella's) attention. ("So, it was sleep with Stella or be de-brained," Alison finished.) Stella rolled her eyes, then pulled them over to the living room table and her laptop to show them the zombie webcomic she and her first girlfriend, Kelly, had drawn in the eighth grade. ("That was some damn fine de-braining.")
When Alison asked if anyone wanted tea or something, though, London laughed until she fell off the couch. Standing up and rubbing her head, she said, "I actually did want to fuck Stella and get back to 20th Century Indian Politics tonight. So, do I pass the test?"
Alison nodded and said, "I get to watch, though." She stood up and held out both hands. "And you have to use gloves and dams."
London made a face, but she nodded her agreement and took Alison's hand to rise.
Stella stepped in between the two of them, kissed Alison and then London. She pulled back from London in surprise. "You smell like chocolate. You used to smell like smoke."
"I used to need to be dangerous," said London. "Now," she shrugged, "edible is good enough."