It took a few months, but Sandy realized that life at PegCorp had a rhythm. It wasn't the same as a normal law office, but there was a routine of sorts. Most days she worked the front desk, doing miscellaneous paperwork when the need arose. She even got to know the interns as more-than-passing acquaintances. They were good kids, once you got past the the oddities. There were a lot of oddities.
It was the little things, habits she probably wouldn't have noticed if she didn't see them five days a week (six, if you counted the random all-nighters). The conversations that shifted into an unfamiliar language when she walked into a room. The completely nonsensical questions about normal, everyday things. The fact that all of them could wipe the floor with her in the padded area of the gym; she'd had her black belt at 14, and earned her second degree at 17. The way they all stared at the crowds when they went to the Mall for the Fourth of July, expressions shifting from uneasy to enthralled to downright terrified by turns.
The interns weren't the only ones to be a touch unusual, but they were definitely the most noticeable. Compared to Carrie Cadman and Mike Lorne on an average day, Ms. Killani's wardrobe on casual Fridays didn't even merit a second glance. On the whole, life went on as it always had, which was remarkable enough in and of itself given that Sandy had been forced to sign a half-dozen confidentiality agreements before she started working reception.
* * *
They were scheduled for the original Star Wars trilogy. Sandy arrived early because she knew word had leaked out about the plans, and she wanted to get a good seat. Well, two, really, since she'd begged and pleaded until Joe had agreed to come as well. It had seemed like the perfect opportunity to let the others know about their relationship, or at least it had to her. Joe hadn't been too sure, another reason he'd tried to decline her offer. But she'd been persistent, and he was only human. Even men of extraordinary willpower conceded when threatened with celibacy for an unspecified period of time. And it wasn't like what they were doing was against the rules – they worked in different departments, and they kept their extracurriculars away from the office. She just hoped Carrie wouldn't be upset that she'd kept it quiet.
She'd had bad luck when it came to dating in college, and she'd learned to be careful. When things fell apart, things were never the same, and she hadn't wanted that to affect her relationship with her new friends. She'd have told her sister, at one time they'd told each other everything, but Wendy was too wrapped up in her own life to care, and couldn't be bothered to return Sandy's calls.
After three months, Sandy was beginning to realize that maybe Joe was an honestly nice guy who had actually fallen in love with her. Hence wanting to tell her friends; despite the fact that they were teenagers, their opinions still mattered to her. They were the closest thing she had to peers, any more; everyone else was too wrapped up in their own projects to do more than smile pleasantly at the new girl. Joe had been an unexpected surprise, although she'd long since learned that IT departments tended to play by their own rules.
She was pulled out of her musings by the sound of the door. “There you are!” She shifted, patting the space on next to her on the overstuffed couch. “I saved you a seat.”
Joe pushed a piece of his long, almost-platinum blond hair behind his ear in a nervous gesture, glancing at the couch and then back out into the hallway. “I'm still not sure this is a good idea, Sandy.”
She rolled her eyes, not caring if it made her look like a teenager. This was the third time they'd had the discussion, and she was getting sick of it. “They're not going to bite, silly.” She sighed at his sceptical look. “Look, if you really don't want to do this, I'm not going to force the issue. I just thought it would be nice to be able to leave together, once in a while, and not worry about being seen.”
Reluctantly, he straightened and crossed the room with long strides before falling heavily onto the couch beside her. “Happy?”
She grinned, and traced a finger gently down the side of his face. “Ecstatic.” She leaned in, pressing a light kiss to his lips. When she pulled away, he followed, unwilling to break the contact. They ended up overbalancing, and landed on the floor with a thud, her glasses getting lost in the tumble. She felt him tense, and cuffed him gently on the shoulder. “Get off, you. You're heavy.”
Joe didn't move. In fact, Sandy wasn't entirely sure he was breathing. She frowned, and tried to peer over his shoulder. Before she could clearly make out the figure visible in the doorway, it spoke. “Get away from her.”
Sandy blinked, because that sounded like Carrie. Only, she'd never heard Carrie use that kind of tone with anyone. “Carrie? What's going on?”
Sandy heard someone cocking a gun, and suddenly understood why Joe had frozen. “I said, get away from her. Now, Blondie! Don't think I don't know what you are, what you were.”
Joe eased away from Sandy slowly, hands clearly visible. Sandy gripped his shoulder, confused and scared. “What's going on?”
He shook his head faintly, but made no answer. Sandy groped around for her glasses, finally finding them and slipping them on. “Carrie? Mike? What the Hell is going on here??”
Mike looked vaguely uneasy, but Carrie's expression was unwavering. “Nothing for you to be worried about, Sandy. But I need you to come over here, out of the way.”
Sandy pushed herself to into a seated position, but shook her head. “No. Not until you tell me why you're threatening my boyfriend. Who as far as I'm aware, has done nothing to you.”
“Maybe it would be best if I go...” Joe stood slowly, keeping his hands visible with an air that spoke of more practice than Sandy cared to contemplate.
“Damn right it would be best if you go. You're not supposed to mix with our kind. Get out, before I report you.”
Sandy was on her feet before she knew what she was doing, suddenly not caring about the guns. “Now wait just a minute, here. 'Mix with our kind?' I thought you were more open-minded than that, Carrie. This is the twenty-first century, for God's sake!”
“It's not like that, Sandy.” Mike cut in, lowering whatever it was he'd been aiming. “It's complicated – there are laws. Laws that are in place for very good reasons.” Mike gestured to Joe, who had laced his fingers together behind his head and was staring at Carrie with an alarmingly blank expression. “He knows the laws, Sandy.”
“Wait, wait, you said boyfriend.” Carrie had been thinking something through during the exchange, and when it clicked, her expression grew disgusted. “Please, please tell me that you didn't have sex with that thing.”
Sandy's gaze darted over to Joe, but he didn't react to the insult. Her hands balled into fists. “That thing is my boyfriend. I love him. And yes, I've had sex with him.”
Carrie exhaled sharply. “Ancestors. Tell me you used protection? Please, Sandy. It's important.”
Sandy blinked at the unexpected question. “What?”
“Protection. Prophylactics. Condoms. Something. Did you?”
“Yes.” Joe answered before Sandy could. “You don't have to worry yourself about a potential hybrid.” He cocked his head to the side, and Sandy recognized his 'I know something you don't know' expression. “How is Michael these days? Hmm? Daddy must be so proud.”
If looks could kill, Joe would have been gone beyond hope of salvation. She had no idea what he'd meant, but she'd never seen Carrie so mad. “Give me a reason, Blondie. Just one.”
Sandy took three steps across the room, placing herself between her friends and her boyfriend. “I won't let you do this, Carrie. I don't know what this is about, and believe me when I say that one of you is going to explain things tonight with a little more detail than 'trust me', and I don't fucking care. Now, unless either of you is going to tell me that my boyfriend is a mass-murderer, it can wait until tomorrow.”
There was an awkward silence in which no one met her eyes. Finally, Joe cleared his throat, and she could hear him shifting his weight uncomfortably. “When you say mass-murderer...”
~ Finis? ~