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After the Ball

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“Bet you $10 he runs into the wall,” Bianca says, seconds before Cisco careens by screaming “Stooooop!”  The roomba shrieks and spins to a stop, but only just barely - the momentum sends Cisco flying into the concrete.


Edward winces.


“Got some speed on it,” Bianca notes with interest.  “Also-” she holds out her hand palm up. Bianca is kind of a bully (their bully, which counts for a lot), and Cisco and Edward fear and respect her, as is her due.  She started riding her shop vac without shoes five years ago, and neither of them has the guts to comment.


Edward pushes it away.  “I definitely did not take that bet.  Do you think he needs help?”


Cisco’s pushing himself up, gingerly.  The roomba spins itself in tight anxious circles.


“He’s fine,” Bianca says dismissively.  “I’ll take popcorn instead.”


Edward looks wounded, which seems ironic given the situation.  


“I’m okay!” Cisco stands.  He wobbles and lurches sideways but stays more or less upright.  He tries a couple of slow steps and picks up the roomba to keep it from… spiraling.


Edward hisses in sympathy.  “Maybe a helmet?” he calls back.  It’s a nice day but there’s almost always a little wind on the roof of Cisco’s building.


“Hmm,” Bianca doesn’t exactly agree.  “Make the popcorn when you grab it.”


“Hey!” Edward squawks.


Cisco is close enough to catch their conversation now.  “Did you guys bet on me?”


“No!” Edward denies.


Cisco turns to Bianca, “But you did,” he states.  “That is very lowering. Here I thought we were friends.”  He pauses dramatically. “Tell you what, because I am in a forgiving mood, I will let this incredible insult go and bet you triple whatever you tried to bet him that I’ll get this before I leave the roof today.”


“You’re on,” Bianca says, and they shake on it.


Edward throws up his hands.  “You keep your safety gear in that closet will all the sports stuff right.  You’ve still got it? Your Mom didn’t throw it out with the Dyson?”


“Hey, now,”  Cisco says. “Popcorn’s over the breadbox.  Make me some, too!”


“Try not to die while I’m gone,” Edward activates his much more staid ride, the J. Edgar (it was either that or name it after the Hoover Dam, which presented its own set of problems) and flips sulkily off the roof muttering something indecipherable about water wings.


“Strange boy,” Cisco comments.  “Ok, so I guess sitting didn’t work so well.  No points to Eddie-O for that suggestion”


“It could be worse,” Bianca says.  “It only went haywire when you blinded its laser with your feet.”


“Oooh, is that what happened?” Cisco pets the roomba.  “Sorry buddy.”


It whirrs and blinks it’s recharge light.


“Aw,” Cisco remarks.  “You’re pretty cute, aren’t you?”


“Go again,” Bianca says.  


“Give a man a minute to flatter his vacuum, will you?” but he does set the roomba to hovering and folds himself up, legs carefully out of the way, like he's riding a child-sized bumper car.


Bianca pulls out her phone because sometimes things just need to be recorded.


The roomba speeds off a little more slowly than before.  This time Cisco doesn't get flung away, but he does slide off in extremely undignified stages, the roomba making little “uh-oh” noises of distress.


Bianca shares the video to Edward, who replies, “!!!”






“Try kneeling next,” Bianca suggests.  She’s smiling a little sadistically and it’s probably a good thing Cisco’s got his own problems and is too occupied petting the roomba to notice.


“You think?” he says.


“Might be easier to brace yourself when you stop,” she says, serenely.


Cisco sets himself up with determination.  “Where am I supposed to hold on?”


“Sides,” Bianca says, assessing.


Cisco’s hands clamp the edge of the roomba.  “I’m definitely gonna go headfirst into something.  Where’s Edward with that helmet?”


“Making popcorn, remember?” Bianca says.  “Is this going to happen some time today?”  The anticipation might actually kill her.


Cisco sighs.  “This is pretty uncomfortable.”


“Keep your head up,” Bianca says cheerfully.


Cisco looks at her suspiciously, but sets off anyway.


He’s doing okay for a bit, learning how to shift his weight when the roomba nears walls or takes a spin, but then, all too soon, the kneeling position becomes unbearable and Cisco shifts too much at once to allow the blood to flow back into his legs.  The roomba flips out from under him and Cisco gets dumped like he just stood up in a boat.


Bianca stops recording and goes to give him a hand.


“I leave you alone for 10 minutes!” Edward exclaims, executing a sharp landing (Bianca is distantly proud) and dropping a bunch of padded equipment and--


“The popcorn!” Bianca snatches a bag before it touches the ground.


“Your priorities are a mess,” Edward chides.


Bianca shrugs and opens it, inhaling the salty, buttery steam.


“Cisco’s okay,” she waves in his direction.


Edward looks down to where Cisco’s crumpled on the ground, the roomba nudging him in the foot repeatedly.


“Ow,” he offers.


And alright, Cisco goes quiet when he’s in pain, so if he’s got the energy to complain Bianca’s probably right.


“Ow, ‘Gellan, stop it,” Cisco says, and oh yeah, Cisco’s fox familiar had been pacing unhappily through his apartment when Edward had rushed through, throwing popcorn in the microwave and gathering whatever padding he could find.  She must have hitched a ride.


“What was Magellan doing cooped up inside, anyway?” Edward wants to know.  “Familiars help with magic control. Don’t you think she should be here?”


“Aw, yeah, about that.”  Cisco grabs Magellan by the scruff.  “These two haven’t been getting on so well.  She’s been stalking and pouncing this poor guy all week while it’s been trying to work, haven’t you?”


The fox yips, and Edward and Bianca note the roomba keeping Cisco firmly between them.


“Yeah, Mom, totally grounded you,” he says.  Magellan bares her teeth.


“Do you have video?” Bianca wants to know.


“Of ‘Fox hunts Roomba?’, yes of course,” Cisco says.  “It’s hilarious.”


The roomba butts into the back of his foot.


“And very upsetting, and Magellan is no longer allowed to be in the room with you while you’re working,” Cisco soothes.  “Touchy,” he mouths at Edward and Bianca.


“Anyway,” he says.  “I thought it might be better to work on the flying and then try re-introductions.  I figure Magellan’s going to have to sit on me, and I’m not exactly the most stable ride right now - no sense us both getting thrown around.”


“Fine,” Bianca says.  She offers up a piece of popcorn to Magellan, which the fox takes delicately and then chews with great relish and much smacking of lips.  “She can sit with us.”


“Don’t feed her popcorn,” Cisco says.  He picks up the roomba with an unholy glint in his eye.  “What do you think, bud? You want to try body surfing?” It whirs uncertainly.


The rest of Cisco’s practice gives Edward a lot of appreciation for movie training montages, which at least condenses all the pain and misery into one music backed minute.  He can’t remember another time where he’s cringed this much in sympathy.


Cisco tries:


  • Body surfing (disaster, and a firm reminder to work on developing core strength)
  • Sitting (again)
  • Standing like he’s on a surfboard.
  • Kneeling (again, still hard on the legs)
  • Curling around it in the foetal position.
  • Hanging on like Mary Poppins to her umbrella.
  • Hanging on like he’s on a zip line, because one arm is not enough.  It just isn’t.
  • Standing one footed and using the other for balance like a tightrope walker (Core Strength!!!)


It ends abruptly at 12pm.  The roomba beeps, lifts high enough to clear the roof wall and dives off the side.  For better or worse, Cisco decided to try running, using the roomba as a stepping stone and his two friends as spotters and Magellan yipping encouragement from the side.  When the roomba is suddenly not where it’s supposed to be, Cisco falls heavily into Edward, and they go down, the wind knocked out of them.


Bianca lunges for her shop-vac like an action hero and dives after the roomba.  


“You’re squashing me,” Edward says, wheezily.


“Sorry,” Cisco says and makes the attempt to get up.


“Ugh,” says Edward.  Magellan yips meaningfully at them from the Hoover.


“I guess we should go after them,” Edward says.  “Do you know where they stopped?” Part of the modded broom-animation spell is that you can tell where you left your vacuum.  Should be particularly easy with the roomba, which has GPS built in.


Cisco tilts his head listening for the signal.


“It went home…,” he says, confused.


“That’s… good?” Edward says, unsure.


“OH!” Cisco says.  “Mom programmed it to clean at 12.  I’m an idiot.”


“Oh, that’s all,” Edward says, relieved.  “At least it didn’t go rogue - nothing worse than a vacuum gone wrong.”


They share a look, in memory of the Dirt Devil, Bianca’s house vac, and first ride.  It was fine for flying, at least for Bianca, but it was also not fit for polite company as it liked to greedily suck up everything in the vicinity, particularly clothes.  There had been an… incident. It was retired now, but if the roomba didn’t work out, the Devil was unfortunately the back-up plan. Cisco really missed the Dyson.


“You know, you might be going about this the wrong way,” Edward muses, “trying to muscle your way through this.”


“Well that’s the nicest way anyone’s told me I’m a pathetic weakling,” Cisco says.


“You need a way to balance, a way to counter inertia when you stop and a way to stick yourself to a small surface so you don’t fall off when you don’t want to,” Edward continues, ignoring him.  “And you’re a witch - you could be doing all of these things with magic.”


“I am a witch,” Cisco says, his brain ticking.  “Maybe a cane and a sticking spell? It could be like a Segway.”


“Or like, a mind meld so your robot only stops when you want it to.”


“Huh,” Cisco says.


“A joke!” Edward looks worried.  “Haha. Good time to stop for lunch anyway,” he says.  “You want a ride down?”


“I’ll take the stairs,” Cisco says.  “J. Edgar’s not really built for two.”


Edward gathers up the padding they didn’t manage to wrap around Cisco.  He climbs the Hoover and Magellan jumps up into his lap, where he yips and clings to his cardigan.


“Hey, Eddie,” Cisco calls, his hand on stairwell door.  “You think I can make this work?”


“Yeah, you’ll get it.”  Edward says. He smiles and disappears over the side of the building.  The things Edward believes in enough tend to come true. Sometimes, it’s a comforting thought.




By the time Cisco arrives back on the fourth floor, he finds the Hoover and the Shop-vac parked in the kitchen under the big windows and the roomba cleaning diligently around them.  In a very recent development, it has also somehow figured out that if it makes a band-saw like scream and heads in Magellan’s direction, it can chase her off. Cisco doesn’t know how that came about, but he definitely blames Bianca.  Edward’s in the bathroom, anyway, Cisco can tell by the fan sound.


Bianca’s eating another bag of popcorn, occasionally dropping kernels to the ground for the roomba to snack on.  Once or twice Magellan gets brave enough to steal them for herself.


“It’s got a lot of pre-programming for a vacuum,” she comments.


Cisco grabs a dish towel and an icepack out of the freezer.  He kind of knocked into his left cheekbone pretty hard that one time with the body-surfing.  Again, terrible idea, do not try at home.


“What are you saying?” he asks.


“Hm,” she wonders.  “Most vacuums are like brooms - you point them in the right direction and they go that way.  The roomba’s got another layer of stuff to think through, though. You’re not the one directing its movements.”


Cisco whistles.  “And you think that’s going to mean more problems with flying.  Got any suggestions what to do about it?”


“I don’t know, that’s your problem.  Tell me about your neighbor’s dragon, again?”


“Your neighbor has a dragon?” Edward exclaims, back from the bathroom.


“Yeah, it doesn’t really come in here, but if you need your change to get home, you should probably keep it hidden.”




Edward and Bianca have to take the L-train to get back home (vacuums are short-distance fliers, unless you’re working a good portable battery system - you’ve got to store up enough magic to fly for longer and it’s kind of a pain), so they climb aboard their respective appliances to go.


“Oh, and you owe me $30,” Bianca says.


“I, what---?”  Cisco sputters.


“You definitely did not work out how to fly by the time you left the roof,” Edward points out, ever the annoying pedant.


“Ok, ok,” Cisco says.  “I’ll pay up next weekend.  I don’t have it on me.”


“Great, have a good week,” Bianca says like a threat, and folds herself carefully through the window.


“See you!” Edward says, and copies the movement.  “Good thing your windows are so big!”


Magellan yips.


Cisco watches them go, and then turns to the roomba.  “You’re busy right now, but later, when you’re done working, we need to talk.”


The roomba blinks.




Edward’s at home writing an essay when he gets an email with the subject Throwback Thursday.  There’s a video attachment of one of Cisco’s first flights on the Dyson. He thinks Cisco’s dad took it, back when they used to live in the same subdivision as Edward and Bianca.  They all look really happy.


“Everything ok?” he texts.


He gets back a thumbs up.


“Heard from Cisco?” he texts Bianca.


“Sad nostalgia video?” she answers.


Edward sighs.




On Friday Edward gets another video attachment, no subject, and opens it with trepidation.


He’s treated to a 1st person shaky-cam flight around Cisco’s block.  It’s fast .  He can just barely hear the roomba screaming “EeeeeEEEE” and Cisco’s whoop of joy over the white noise of the air as they pass.


“Yes!!!” Edward pumps his fist in the air.




Cisco’s there to meet them at the train station Saturday morning.  He’s gone with Edward’s cane idea, but that’s all Edward can tell before he and Bianca have to walk their vacuums off the train - always slightly awkward.


“Well, let’s see it,” Bianca says, but she can’t hide her excitement.


“I presume you wish to see us fly,” Cisco says.  Magellan peers down at them from his shoulder. “Perhaps we can go outside where there are fewer human obstacles.”


“What are you doing,” Bianca says.


“I am going outside so I may demonstrate my flying capabilities,” Cisco answers smoothly.


“Is this a bit,” she asks, unimpressed.


“You are referring to our speech patterns?” Cisco asks.


“Yes, your weird robot double act,” Bianca says.  “Nerd.”


“It seems,” Cisco says, “that as part of our training, our minds became very close and now we are not entirely separate.”


“You what???” Edward yells.  “I told you I was joking .  That was a joke !  Is it reversible?”


“We are not aware of any process through which we might attempt separation,” Cisco says.  His shoulders are shaking, though. Magellan digs her claws into his shoulder and he yelps.


“Oh my god, your face, Edward,” Cisco cackles.


“You want me to punch him?” Bianca asks.


“Kind of,” Edward mumbles, embarrassed.


“Have to catch me first,” he says, and slices through the remaining crowd.  The cane moves like a joystick for direction, a counter-weight for cornering, and fixes into place as a balance support.  Edward takes a moment to admire it before taking off after Cisco and Bianca. She’s having a harder time maneuvering in the crowded space, but she’s doing an excellent job of clearing the way for Edward.


They end up catching Cisco in the park where he lets Magellan off and then graciously allows them to have their vengeance.  Bianca holds him in an armlock while Edward socks him playfully in the shoulder. Bianca noogies his head before releasing him.


“Alright, I think that’s enough, guys,” Cisco says.  “Besides,” he gestures, “I gotta get Cinderella here home by 12 so she can clean.


Edward laughs.


“Sure thing, pumpkin,” Bianca smirks.  “Race you,” she says, already taking off.