Never be a drama queen to an AI. They don't take it well. One teensy little rant about throwing myself off a cliff, and Strife did a suicide intervention involving some obnoxious therapist with her own LINK program. Only my mad skillz had kept Dee's dumping me off the Jenny Jenkins show, but I wasn't even a suspect. After her crack about how "As a wire wizard, you must be used to rejection"--the only part of the show I made damn sure survived--every wizard on the LINK wanted a piece of her.
Since the intervention, Strife had avoided letting me out of his sight for long periods of time, and I'd look up and find him anxiously hovering at random moments. Fucking annoying, but kind of sweet, too. I mean, at least someone loved me, you know?
Strife shouldn't have worried, because I could think of something much better in every way than dramatic death: Fanfic. Because everything was better fictional.
"I'm sorry, Mouse," Dee said. "It's not you, it's me. Can we still be friends?"
"I don't understand! What does he have that I don't have?"
Dee sighed. "You know what really turns me on in a man? What really gets me hot and bothered?"
"Stupidity." Dee smiled, a fond, indulgent smile. "I like a really stupid man that I can control. And just look at him."
Mouse looked over at Michael. Michael pulled his thumb out of his mouth and beamed up at Dee. "Tastes like coffee."
"Use a spoon, honey," Dee said.
Michael picked up a spoon and frowned at it. "For what?"
"I'm surprised you can control yourself," Mouse said.
Yesssssss. I laughed out loud, and Strife gave me a strange look. I grinned and waved at him, and he smiled and went back to whatever the fuck it was he was doing.
This time, no holds barred. Last time I couldn't even bring myself to write Dee some bad sex, you know? This time? This time there would be bad sex on an epic scale, followed by Michael's tragic yet properly epic demise. After all, Michael was an archangel. The Prince of Heaven. Surely, only the largest and heaviest objects were worthy of being dropped on his pretty head.
The Deirdre McMannus fanfic archive was dark and quiet, and the hedge was overgrown. I sent Natasha's avatar--an image of Natasha Fatale from the old Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons--to walk along the dusty shelves. I sneezed.
Someone stuck her head out from behind a shelf. Dark hair piled up in combs and a flamenco dress clashed with horn-rimmed glasses and a sweater.
"Carlotta!" my Natasha avatar said. "Dollink!"
"Tasha?" Carlotta scowled at me. "Where the fuck have you been for the last twenty years? Do you know how worried I was?"
I tried to make up something, but the truth was better than any lie. "Prison."
"Oh my God!" Carlotta said. "Really?"
I nodded. "No lie. And then I was offline. Do you have copies of those stories you wrote? I lost them when I was fried out."
"Oh, honey!" Carlotta rushed forward and hugged me, pressing a handful of dusty pages into my hands. She felt good. "You work for him, don't you? Mouse."
"It's okay. You disappeared around the time he went to prison. And no one writes Mouse like you do, girlfriend. It's like you have inside info." Carlotta patted my back, comforting. "Oh, Tasha. Are you hardlining it?"
"Mouse.net," I said.
"How the... no, don't tell me," Carlotta said. "I know you work for him. I guess I've always known."
I put my head on her shoulder and let her hold me.
"What brings you back to the archive after all this time?" Carlotta asked, petting my hair. "Looking for me? Oh! Do you have more fic for me? I have more fic for you. I can hook you up, girlfriend." Carlotta pulled away and started pulling more pages off the shelves. "How about our girl? Do you have any info on her?"
"You should see the moron Deirdre is dating now. Ugh!" I looked both ways, which was probably a silly affectation considering that we were alone in an abandoned fic archive. "I have it on good authority that she jilted Mouse for this lug."
"I hate him already," Carlotta said.
Oh, Carlotta, how you warmed my heart! "Are you still in Moscow?" I asked.
"New York," she said. "Russian Embassy." I could feel Carlotta doing a traceroute on me--shit!--and then she perked up. "Oh my God! We should meet."
I started shaking my head.
"Oh, come on! You and me, on the loose in the Big Apple! Just think of all the trouble we could get into!" Carlotta grinned at me over a growing pile of stories.
"That's what I'm afraid of," I said.
"If you need the Embassy, we're here for you. We can get you out of the country like that. Just say the word." Carlotta's eyes were surprisingly earnest--her avatar was really good. I didn't remember her being this tech-savvy. I supposed she'd been studying up while I'd rotted away in jail.
I shook my head. "I'm not what you're expecting, Carlotta."
Carlotta put her hands on her hips and frowned at me. Her hips broadened, became softer. Her her hair became streaked with gray. Carlotta was a short, round, graying little woman with a big gap between her front teeth. She grinned at me, flirtatious. "Galina Rodchenko." She held out her hand, and I shook it. "Come on, girl, show me your stuff."
"You won't like it," I said.
Carlotta--Galina?--rolled her eyes and said, "Oh, please. I don't look much like a porn star myself." She winked. "I may not look like much, but I'm all go."
Any woman who compared herself to the Millennium Falcon was all right by me. I switched to my standard Mouse avatar, the one that's cooler and better looking than I am. Carlotta blinked. Then I tweaked it a little to look more like me, making myself skinnier, with burn marks on my fingers from my soldering iron.
Carlotta made a little squeaking noise and disappeared in a puff of pages.
I picked up her stories and left a copy of my own, the one with Michael stirring coffee with his thumb before a large church organ dropped on his head in the middle of the Hallelujah chorus. Divine.
"You know what really turns me on?" Dee asked.
Mouse shook his head.
Dee moved closer. "A man with brains. I'm a sucker for the smart ones." Dee shook her head and laughed. "I shouldn't tell you this, but I'd probably do anything you want."
Mouse gave Dee a long, appraising look. "Anything?"
Dee shivered a little. She wondered what shocking thing that brilliant mind would come up with.
Oh, Carlotta. I only wished I were such a stud.
There was a time, twenty years ago, when I could have read this sort of thing completely without irony. Oh, it was flattering, but I was older and wiser, and had a lot of Dee-related baggage. The smut was still hot, though.
"These stories make me kind of sad," Strife said. "Maybe you shouldn't read them. You might get depressed."
Ugh. Reading porn in front of Strife ooged me out. "Do me a favor?"
"Of course, Father."
I really wished he'd stop calling me that. "Galina Rodchenko. Russian Embassy. Everything you can find on her."
"Sure," he said, and smiled, which made me glad he'd gotten rid of the metallic effect. That had been really fucking creepy.
"And, um... Stay gone for an hour or so?"
Strife sighed. "It's not good for you to be alone with your grief. But I'll respect your wishes."
Yeah. That was totally it. I wanted to be alone with my grief, not my right hand. "Thanks."
Strife vanished at the speed of thought. He was right about the stories being a little sad. Maybe I'd have to write another large heavy object falling on Michael's head to cheer up afterwards, you know?
Or I could just skip ahead to the... Merciful Allah! ...skip ahead to the crazy, up against the headboard sex. I had no idea you could use an external hard drive like that.
I was watching the Jenny Jenkins show--a wire-wizard named Wombat had renamed it "Jenny Jenkins is a Ho!" and had a scrolling message underneath offering the various sexual acts Jenny would allegedly perform and their prices, and I wanted to know how long it would take them to figure out they'd been owned--when a message appeared in Natasha's inbox.
Meet me at Lu Chi's at noon tomorrow for lunch. Must make plans to get Moose and Squirrel!
I smiled. Yes. Get Moose and Squirrel. That could be our codename for Michael and Deirdre.
"She's in charge of information security," Strife said.
"Galina Rodchenko." Strife sent me a file. Divorced more than once, two children, perfectly respectable. Did information security for the Russian Embassy. Nowhere did it say anything about hot porn. "Who is she?"
"Someone I'm going to have lunch with tomorrow," I said.
"Really?" Strife looked thrilled. "You mean, like a date?"
I shrugged, because I honestly didn't know if lunch with a friend you swapped porn with counted as a date or not. Especially considering Galina thought I was a Russian woman until twenty-four hours ago. Definite point in the not-date column if you asked me, dig? But what the fuck, it made Strife happy. "Maybe."
See you then, dollink. Make plans to get Moose and Squirrel!
Love and Kisses,
I turned my attention back to Jenny Jenkins, whose microphone had somehow morphed into a giant, sparkly, purple dildo. Nice on-the-fly editing from Wombat! I'd give it a 9.5 at least.
I spotted Car... Galina in a booth near a window, under a large paper lantern. I slid into the seat across from her.
We stared at each other for a moment.
Galina grinned at me. "I read your story. I like it. It has a certain... je ne sais quoi."
"Tish! That's French!" I said, and kissed the back of her hand.
"You're not mad at me?"
"Oh, shaddup your mouth, Natasha," she said. "We're here to get Moose and Squirrel!" She sighed. "It's a little embarrassing to know that I've been writing porn about some hottie and sending it to said hottie, but what the hell. I've wanted you two to get together for twenty-five years. No sense in letting a little shame get in my way." She sighed and fidgeted with her glass of water. "Besides, I've missed you."
"I missed you, too," I said, and refrained from questioning her about my being a hottie. Maybe she had a thing for underfed, underwashed little nerdboys. Stranger things have happened.
She reached out and took my hand. Her hand was cold from the water glass. I rubbed it a little to warm it up. We held hands and smiled for a moment.
"Is he hot? I could seduce him," she said. She grinned, showing the cute little gap between her front teeth.
"I bet you could, girlfriend," I said. "But would you really want to? He's pretty, if you're in to that sort of thing, but no brains at all."
"Our girl has no taste," Galina said, shaking her head. "Tragic, really. This clearly calls for drinks with umbrellas."
"I don't drink," I said.
"Yeah," she said. "Okay, this clearly calls for fried eggplant and bean curd. And evil plans."
"We could collaborate on a story about them having really bad sex."
Galina snickered. "Selfish, or just utterly inept?"
"I like you," I said.
Her grin widened.
"Both," I said. "There's no reason he can't be both."
I'd never written anything with a coauthor before, nor had I ever written in public before. Galina was really bringing out the firsts. I munched on an egg roll, and added to the story.
The moon shone down on them, full and bright, as they spread the blanket on the ground.
"Let's... you know," Michael said.
"That's why I brought you here, sweetie," Dee said. She pulled off her shirt, and then wondered what that did to her hair. She reached up to check. It was standing on end. She dropped her shirt onto the blanket and tried to smooth down her hair. She glanced over to see if Michael noticed.
Michael smiled rakishly and tossed his shirt over his head, where it became caught in a branch.
Galina edited, Michael smiled in a way that was probably intended to be rakish, but merely made him look like he had gas. He tossed his shirt...
I giggled and continued.
Dee pulled off her sneakers and socks. The ground was cold, wet, and clammy. She shivered and stepped onto the blanket, and pulled off her jeans. Her nipples hardened in the cold, and she hoped they would harden from the sexy instead soon.
She glanced over at Michael. Michael seemed to be having a little trouble getting out of his jeans. Perhaps he wore them a little too tight. He swayed alarmingly, then toppled over. "Help!"
Dee rushed over. "What should I do, honey?"
"Grab the bottoms and pull!"
Dee grabbed his jeans and tugged to no avail. She tightened her grip, and pretended she was on the police force's tug of war team. She threw her entire body weight backwards and pushed hard with her heels. The jeans moved a little, slowly, then gave way abruptly, leaving Dee sitting in the cold, soggy grass in her undies holding Michael's jeans.
"Stop goofing around," Michael said. "I wanna do it."
By this point we were both giggling.
"Oh, let me," Galina said.
I gave her full control over the file and sat back to watch.
Michael tossed the jeans over his shoulder. They landed in a puddle with a gentle splat. He reached down and pulled Dee into a kiss, then led her over to the blanket. He reached behind her and started fumbling with her bra clasp.
"You want me to...?" Dee said.
"I've got it," Michael said. Which was clearly a lie, because Dee found herself watching his face screw up with his tongue sticking out as he tried to get her bra unclasped. He finally succeeded, and tossed it over his shoulder. It landed in a bush.
Michael put his hands on Dee's breasts. His hands were cold. He gave her breasts a squeeze, and said, "Mmm, boobies!"
I laughed out loud, causing the waiter to stare at me. "'Boobies'?"
"Trust me," she said.
He reached down and pulled off her panties. He tossed them over his shoulder. They landed in the cold, soggy grass several feet away. Dee sighed.
Michael pulled off his own underwear. He tossed them over his shoulder, but Dee no longer gave a fuck where they landed. She just wanted to get on with it. They lay down on the blanket, which by now was kind of cold but much better than the damp grass.
He reached roughly between her legs. "Where's...? Okay."
Dee felt itching along her left leg. She looked down and squinted in the moonlight.
Michael pressed into her and started to move, his face lit up with a beatific smile. "Oh, Dee!"
The itching became worse. She looked down and saw ants. Hundreds of them. "Oh, no, honey! We're on an anthill!"
"Oh, yeah!" Michael said, and came.
Dee thought about putting on her chilly underwear and sighed.
I was laughing so hard that tears were running down my face. Galina picked up a napkin and dried my eyes.
I looked up and saw Dee and Michael staring at us from across the restaurant. "Uh oh," I said. "Moose and squirrel at three o'clock."
Galina looked up at them, and started giggling harder.
Dee smiled and waved. She took Michael's hand and tried to lead him towards us. He resisted, and said something I didn't hear that made Dee roll her eyes and say something that looked suspiciously like, "Don't embarrass me." I smirked.
Dee and Michael walked over to our table. Dee smiled quizzically at me. Michael looked down at us with a martyred sigh. He really did look a little like a moose, although moose were cuter. And Dee would make an adorable squirrel.
Dee looked really good, damn her. Her hair was just tousled enough that I wanted to mess it up a bit more, and the gray in it just made her hotter somehow. Her jeans and sweater were just tight enough that I wanted to take them off and lick her from head to toe like a lollipop.
"Dee, this is my friend Galina," I said. "Galina, Dee."
"You know Michael, Mouse," Dee said.
"He's your friend, not mine," I said.
Dee sighed. Michael rolled his eyes.
"You should join us," Galina said. "But only if I get to sit next to Mouse."
"Boris, dollink! You should sit next to me!" I said.
"Yes, Natasha," Galina said. "We have plans to make." She grabbed her drink and moved to my side of the table. "I need another drink," she told the waiter standing behind Dee and Michael.
Dee and Michael slid awkwardly into the booth, and the waiter handed them menus.
"Don't you think you've had enough?" Michael asked, looking at the two of us with a disapproving frown.
"Oh, hardly," Galina said. "I'm Russian, and I'm drinking for two."
"Drinking for two?" Dee asked.
"Yes," Galina said. "Since Mouse doesn't drink, I'm hoping to get him contact drunk enough to come home with me tonight for some red hot monkey love."
My cheeks burned. I picked up the water glass and took a big sip to cover my embarrassment.
"Oops," Galina said. "Maybe I shouldn't have spilled my evil plans. Guess I just struck out, huh?" She gave Michael an appraising look. "How about you, big boy? Have plans for tonight?"
Michael made a choking noise. Dee scowled. I considered proposing to Galina.
"The fried eggplant is really good," I said.
"Thanks," Dee said.
Did you know that you could carry on a conversation entirely in text messages and inside jokes?
Oh. My. God, Galina sent. You weren't joking about him being an idiot.
"So, how long have you two known each other?" Dee asked.
"Twenty-five years," Galina said.
"Really?" Dee said. "He's never mentioned you."
What a bitch! "Jealous?" I asked.
"Hardly." Dee rolled her eyes at me.
Ouch. The cliff was suddenly looking a lot better. I wondered what I did to make Allah hate me so much.
"That's just because you don't know what you're missing," Galina said.
Ha, take that, Dee! I started kissing a trail up Galina's arm. "Cara mia!"
"Mon cher," Galina said.
"Tish! You spoke French!"
"Oui." The little gap between her teeth made her wicked smile look even more wicked, or maybe it was just the fact that I'd jerked off to this woman's porn, you know? Fuck me, did she know? Had she done the same to mine? Maybe it wasn't that much of a stretch to imply we were lovers.
So I kissed Galina. She tasted like fruit-flavored alcohol. Considering my body mass and complete inexperience with liquor, I'd probably end up completely trashed if I kept this up. Was it still haram if instead of drinking it I kissed it off someone's mouth?
"Maybe I'm a little jealous," Dee said.
Galina and I stopped kissing and looked at her.
"Well, you know. He and I were almost..." Dee smiled at me, a smile that made my heart leap like a goldfish leaping out of his bowl to die on the cold, dry floor.
Michael scowled. "Well, this has been... an experience, but I need to get back to work." He stood. "Dee, come on."
Dee looked up at him without moving. "Why do I need to go? You just said you're going back to work."
"I need your help with something," he said.
"Really?" she said. "What?"
"Police stuff," he said. "That I don't want to discuss in front of the convicted felon, if you don't mind." He headed for the door.
Dee gave us an apologetic little smile and stormed after him, accidentally stiffing us with their share of the bill. I could have stopped her, but I didn't want to interrupt her giving him the what for he so obviously deserved.
"Maybe we can drop something large and heavy on him," I said.
"I think he's earned it," Galina said. "What did you have in mind?"
"A cathedral, perhaps," I said. "Or the Empire State building. The Great Pyramid of Giza!"
Dee shivered as she pulled on her cold, clammy underwear and bra. She gathered up her jeans and shirt, and shook them out to get the ants off them. Great, a perfect end to this romantic interlude--literal ants in her pants.
I snickered. "Nice touch!"
Dee and Michael walked home hand in hand, almost like it had been a real romantic encounter instead of a complete disaster. Maybe it had been romantic for him. Dee pulled her hand away and stuffed it into her pants pockets. "I'm cold," she said.
Michael stepped out into the street without looking and was promptly flattened by an armored car.
Galina and I posted "Sex in the Park" to the Deirdre McMannus fanfic archive, but that didn't really have the zing I was after. I mean, seriously, the Dee archive didn't get as many hits as it used to. Sad but true.
So I created a site called "Michael Angelucci is a lousy lay" and posted "Sex in the Park" there. It wasn't like Michael would notice his sexual prowess being slandered by Natasha and Carlotta; he was offline. In fact, I went ahead and posted "Coffee Chorale" there, too.
I looked up from tweaking the site to see Strife giving me a disapproving look.
"Oh, shut up," I said.
"I didn't say a word," he said.
"Good." I logged off and pulled a pillow over my face, cruelly ignoring the fact that Strife was probably hovering in the walls expecting me to smother myself or something.
I must have dozed off, because I was awakened by loud pounding on the door. I considered not answering, but then whatever asshole it was would probably just keep pounding. No, better to answer and tell whomever it was to fuck off.
I opened the door. Michael charged into my apartment, grabbed me, and shoved me into the wall.
I called Strife and asked him to record my imminent demise for Dee, and said, "You didn't like my story? Everyone's a critic."
That surprised him enough that he loosened his grip. "Imagine, for a moment. I'm sitting at my desk at the police station, minding my own business, when someone comes in and asks me if I have an angry ex-wife."
I laughed. I knew I shouldn't, I couldn't help myself. His grip tightened again.
"It's not funny! I had to tell them that no, Deirdre jilted a wire-wizard for me." He scowled at me. "And then I couldn't tell them which one, because if I got you sent back to prison Dee'd never forgive me. You'd better hope they don't figure it out."
I rolled my eyes. People are so sensitive when your sockpuppet runs for President. "They won't."
Michael's watch buzzed. He let go of me. "I don't know what Dee sees in you."
"The feeling is very mutual."
We glared at each other for a moment, then he flipped the go ahead. I crossed my arms.
"Forgive the interruption," Strife's voice said over Michael's watch.
"Strife," I said, "mind your own fucking business."
"I know that you're the injured party here, but I must ask you to stop. My father is in a very fragile emotional state."
Michael gave me a disbelieving look. My head started to ache. I rubbed my forehead and said, "Excuse me a moment." I flopped into a chair, then did a trace on Strife.
I found him in the building's security system, just as he was saying, "In fact, I've already had to do a suicide intervention once."
I climbed onto Strife's shoulder in my mouse avatar form. "That was just a misunderstanding," I told Michael.
Strife scooped my avatar off his shoulder and kissed the top of its tiny head, then petted it. Which was... sweet, really, in a vaguely disturbing sort of way. "If it makes you feel any better, I'm quite certain the site was intended to get Deirdre's attention, not yours. You're offline."
I put my avatar's paws over his face. "Merciful Allah, Strife. Will you shut up?"
"So, what you're saying is that I should get Dee to ask the suicidal nutjob to take the site down for me," Michael said. Bastard.
Strife petted me some more. "He's not a suicidal nutjob. He's in a fragile emotional state, and acting out. There's a big difference." He smiled at Michael, reassuring. "I'm sure he'll take it down for Deirdre."
I groaned, but it came out kind of high-pitched and cute from my mouse avatar. Damn it.
Michael sighed. "He's lucky to have you."
"No, I'm lucky to have him," Strife said. "I'd never fully considered that my father will cease to exist someday, and I don't know how I'll bear it when it happens." His voice cracked, and he looked like he might burst into tears.
I switched to my human avatar and hugged him.
"I'll, um..." Michael said. "Goodbye."
"You can find your own way out, right?" I asked. "I kind of have my hands full at the moment." Then I disconnected Strife's call, which was rude but really satisfying.
My interface crashed when Michael shook me.
"Fuck, will you stop?" I threw my arm up against the ones and zeros. They cleared up after a moment.
"Another thing," he said. "Stay the hell away from my daughter."
"What the fuck?" I stood, but he was almost a foot taller than I was. I suspected he was tall on purpose, just so he could be an even bigger prick. "I haven't seen Rye since I moved out of the commune."
"Good," he said. "Keep it that way. You're a bad influence."
I crossed my arms and raised an eyebrow at him.
"'Mouse would let me drop out of school.' 'Mouse could fraud me a diploma.' 'I bet Mouse would let me have boys over!'"
"Jealous?" I asked.
Michael scowled at me. "Is everything in your apartment legal?"
I examined my fingernails. "If you arrest me, I can't take the site down. In fact, if you piss me off enough I might redirect the NYPD site there."
"You would not," he said, his voice low and ominous. His eyes flashed, and for a moment I could really believe he was Mik'al.
So I did what I usually did when someone tried to intimidate me. I got up in his face, which involved standing on my toes. "Try me."
"Jesus," he said, and headed for the door. "Stay the hell away from my daughter, and stay away from Dee."
"Make me!" I yelled after him.
He slammed the door. I made a rude gesture in his direction. Then I imagined smashing him with a giant hammer, which was really gross. I made a mental note not to imagine that again.
Two hours and twenty-one minutes. That's how long it took Dee to show up and give me big, tragic eyes. I'd been forced to watch another episode of Jenny Jenkins... sort of. A wire-wizard going by the oh-so-original handle "Lucifer" had replaced it with "Jenny Jenkins, wire-wizard groupie." A Jenny lookalike was tearfully confessing her insatiable hunger for geekboys, and had just broken down sobbing about my completely fictitious rejection of her when Dee knocked.
"You have to take that site down."
"No, I don't."
"Michael is not a lousy lay! 'Boobies'? What the hell, Mouse!"
"I'm sorry, is he a leg man?"
Dee opened her mouth to retort, but nothing came out. I smirked at her. Score one for the rodent.
She sighed. "Your stories were very hurtful. Did you ever stop and think about how that story makes me look? I'm turned on by stupidity?"
"You know what's hurtful?" I said. "When I tell someone things I haven't told anyone in my life, and twenty-four hours later I'm kicked to the curb like a bag of trash."
Dee sat heavily on my futon. For a moment I thought she wasn't going to have an answer for that, but then she said, "If you're mad at me, why are you punishing Michael?"
"Because I'm fucked in the head," I said. "Seriously, I don't even blame you. I figure you're about him the way I'm about you. All you do is hurt me and ruin my life, and I can't get enough of you. It's the same with you and Pinocchio. All he does is fuck up your life, and look at you."
"Jesus, Mouse." She rubbed her head, like I was giving her a headache. "It's not like that, I swear."
"This is going to end badly for you, because he has no clue how to be a real live boy, and by the time you figure that out you'll have wasted years you could have spent with me."
Dee gave me an exasperated smile. "Way to convince me I've made a mistake."
"Oh, I won't convince you," I said. "You don't love me. I think it's because Allah hates me."
"I do love you," Dee said. "I just love him more."
I lay down on the futon next to her and stared up at the ceiling. "Cliff."
"No cliff," she said.
Strife buzzed me. URGENT MESSAGE.
I groaned and threw my arm over my eyes. "I'm suddenly feeling literarily inspired."
"Let me take my will to live where it comes," I said. "Right now, it's coming from the thought of the Great Pyramid of Giza dropping onto his head from a great height."
"I must love you more than I thought I did," Dee said. "I can tell by the way I'm not strangling you right now."
"Of course you love me," I said. "It's because I'm so handsome and charming and brilliant, and full of literary genius."
"Jesus, Mouse." Dee laughed. "Please stop."
I kissed the back of her hand. "Never." I put my arm back over my eyes.
I love you, Father. @}---,-----
Fuck me, it was an ascii intervention. I [heart] you, too. This is a private conversation. Go away.
"Are you Natasha or Carlotta, by the way?"
"You're the detective," I said. "You tell me."
"I think you're Natasha and that Russian woman is Carlotta. I heard her call you 'Natasha' at lunch."
"That was a Rocky and Bullwinkle thing," I said.
"Yeah," Dee said, sounding unconvinced. "Either way, I read your stories at the Deirdre McMannus fanfic archive."
I suddenly wished I could vanish in a flurry of pages like Carlotta had. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"Sure you don't," Dee said. "I'm sure you would never frequent anywhere so tacky, let alone post fifty-six stories there. Funny how Natasha stopped posting around the time you went to prison, but Carlotta kept writing."
Before I could come up with a good retort, she kissed me. Then she pulled away and sat up. I sat up, too. I leaned my forehead against hers. We sat like that for a moment, silent. She smelled so fucking good, like coffee and shampoo.
"Those stories that clearly weren't yours?" Dee said. "I thought they were..."
"Perverted and tawdry?"
Dee laughed. "Sweet, in a stalkery kind of way."
"And surprisingly sexy," she said.
I was pretty sure she could feel me blushing, but I didn't care. She was breathing like she was getting turned on, so I kissed her on the nose. I wasn't going to offer; I thought it might kill me if she said no.
Dee licked her lips. "Please take the site down," she said.
I was a little distracted by her tongue, so I said, "Okay."
Dee straddled my lap and kissed me. My hands reached up to fondle her breasts--I somehow resisted the urge to say "Boobies!"--then slid down and cupped her ass, pulling her even closer.
She pulled away and scrambled off the futon, and I let out a string of profanity that would have probably melted her ears if she spoke Arabic.
"I have to go," Dee said.
"If I don't go now, I'm going to do something we're both going to regret."
"What do you mean, 'we'?" I said. "I won't regret it!"
"I'm sorry," she said, and practically ran out the door.
I changed the name of the site to "Die, Michael! Die die die!" and replaced all instances of "Dee" with "Rocky." Then, in a fit of genius, replaced all instances of "Michael" with "Bullwinkle."
Bullwinkle pulled off his own underwear. He tossed them over his shoulder, but Rocky no longer gave a fuck where they landed.
I liked it. It had a certain je ne sais quoi. So I changed the name of the site again, to "The Rocky and Bullwinkle Hardcore Hour."
Strife was giving me a disapproving look again. I scowled at him.
"I didn't say a word," he said.
"You and I need to have a talk," I said. "About private conversations, and how they're not as private if you're listening in on them."
Strife's brow furrowed. "I'm sorry, Father. I'm just worried about you."
I really wanted to tell him to cut it the fuck out because his concern was fucking annoying, but I didn't have the heart to do it.
Bucolic symphony music played in the background as Michael picked flowers to give Dee. Cute little birds flew past, singing unusually melodic songs that went surprisingly well with the symphony music. Adorable little woodland creatures watched him pick flowers--darling little bunnies, sweet little fawns, skunks, weasels, mice...
Suddenly, the animals all fled. Michael looked around. He didn't see anything that might startle them. He scratched his head and wondered why the music was swelling.
The Great Pyramid of Giza landed on his head with an earth-shattering kaboom.
"I like it," Galina said, dipping her egg roll in mustard sauce. "So, what happened to the site?"
"I renamed it," I said, and sent her a link.
Galina started laughing. "What the fuck?"
"I told Dee I'd take it down when I was distracted by her tongue."
Galina raised an eyebrow at me.
"Not that way."
"Damn," Galina said. "I had a nice mental image going there for a moment, and you just ruined it for me."
I moved my plate and put my head down on the table.
"Please," she said. "Like you haven't read worse from me."
"She kissed me." I didn't lift my head off the table.
Galina got up and sat next to me. "Details, man. I want details!"
"She found the archive. She said my stories were sweet."
"There, there," Galina said, patting me on the back. Her patting stopped abruptly, and I looked up just as Dee slid into the seat across the booth.
"Thank you for taking the site down."
I shrugged and looked away. "Where's Michael?"
"Work," Dee said.
There was an awkward silence.
"I read your story about Rocky and Bullwinkle," Dee said. "Have you considered therapy?"
"I'm glad you liked it," I said.
Dee shook her head at me and laughed.
Galina put her arm around me and I put my head on her shoulder.
"Oh, Boris, dollink. I've had a very hard week. All of my evil plans gone awry!"
"I know, Natasha." She kissed me on the top of my head. "It just so happens that I know what cheers you up, dollink."
"Stories about death and destruction?"
"Dirty stories with handcuffs."
Dee spat out a mouthful of water. "Oh my God. You're writing him a story about... so he can..."
"I thought you said you found the archive," I said.
"I think that makes me more jealous than actual sex would," Dee said.
"I wouldn't mind having actual sex instead," Galina said.
"I take it back," Dee said.
"Eat your heart out, girlfriend," Galina said. "You snooze, you lose."
"I don't know if I even remember how to have actual sex," I said.
"Shaddup your mouth, Natasha," Galina said. "You remember just fine. I've seen literary proof!"
"Not since I left prison, you haven't."
"What about the bad sex story?"
I considered that, and shrugged. "I guess. I wasn't counting that. I mean, that's hardly something I'd want to emulate."
Dee just stared at us, looking scandalized.
"I don't think she thought this through," Galina said.
I leaned over and patted Dee's hand.
Should I point out that I was going to write you a story about you and her? Galina messaged.
"Maybe I could write you a story," Dee said.
"I'd like that," I said.
"So would I," Galina said. "You should post it to the archive."
"I, um... no," Dee said. "Just no."
"No fair!" Galina said.
"Shaddup your mouth, Boris!"
I fidgeted and wandered around online. Nothing from Dee, so I checked Natasha's inbox.
Hey! The Wombat--Mr. "Jenny Jenkins is a Ho" himself--read fan fiction? I opened his letter to Natasha.
Wow, your stories rock! I want to thank you for the work you're doing to help improve the image of wire wizards. It's really important in these difficult times, what with the whole situation with that skank Jenny Jenkins.
Mouse is a lucky man. I'm so jealous. I'm not gay, but I'd totally do him the way you write him. Please don't tell him I said that.
Sorry, Wombat. It kind of slipped out.
I hope you don't think this is too forward, but if there's anything I could do to inspire you to write more stories about wire wizards having hot sex, please let me know. I'd be happy to help you spiff up your archive, or whatever. And if you ever wrote a story about me, I would completely die of squee. Hell, I'll give you money if you want. Name your price. Of course, if you don't want to write about me, I completely understand--artists and their muses and all.
I called Galina and asked her if she got an email from Wombat, too.
"Such a lovely fan letter, dollink," she said. "I'm thinking of asking him out."
Galina definitely had a thing for nerdboys, which explained a lot. Sadly, I didn't know jack about Wombat, except that he had some mad video skillz and apparently harbored impure thoughts about me. "Make sure he knows that if he doesn't treat you right, I'm coming after him with Dee's cattle prod." I waggled my eyebrows ominously.
Galina cackled. "Will do."
When Dee's file arrived, I looked to see if she was online. She'd just logged off. I snorted, then looked around to see if Strife was hanging around. No sign of him. I lay back, closed my eyes, and opened the file.
"We should probably stay offline for awhile," Mouse said.
I gave him my best come-hither look through squinty, bloodshot eyes. "Any ideas what we should do in the meantime?"
"Yeah," he said, rubbing his head. "Nap."
"I have a better idea," I said, and dragged him into the guest bedroom.
He paled a little. "You would want to do it now, when I feel like I've been kicked in the head." But he kissed me anyway.
"Don't you think we've waited long enough?" I said, and that was apparently enough to convince him.
--Oh, God, Mouse, how the hell do you write these scenes? It's just too embarrassing. Pretend I wrote us some really incredible sex, okay?--
What a rip-off. Sheesh.
Afterwards, all I could think was how perfectly we fit together. We lay there and held each other and told each other that it had been completely worth the wait. He dozed off, his face nuzzled into my shoulder.
INCOMING CALL. My LINK buzzed. I worried for a moment that it might be the yakuza trying to track me down, so before answering it I sent out a trace. It came tagged for the New York Police Department, Michelangelo Angelucci, Lieutanant.
"Lieutenant," I said as I flipped the go-ahead. "What can I do for you?"
"I can't stay away," he said, his voice scratchy with longing. "I know I promised, but I just can't. Tell me we can meet somewhere. Now."
"I'm so sorry, Michael," I said, looking at Mouse's sleeping face. "You're too late."
I hung up on him, and Mouse curled up closer, almost like he knew.
--One of the many things I regret is that I'll probably never know what it's like to make love with you.
I took a moment to picture Michael randomly falling down a manhole. With flailing arms and a surprised expression.
Then I opened up a text file. After all, if Dee was curious, it was only right that I satisfy her curiosity the best way I could.
"Don't you think we've waited long enough?" you said. And you were right, we'd waited long enough, too long, and in that moment there was nothing more important than you, touching you, kissing you, oh, fuck you smelled and tasted so good. I couldn't believe it was happening at last. I took back everything I'd ever said about Allah hating me right then and there.
I thought that I should probably come up with some kind of suave, debonair way to get you out of your clothes, but instead we were doing some kind of awkward stripping thing. Only there ought to be a law against being as sexy as you are, Dee, because I kept getting the urge to kiss each bit of skin as it was revealed. Shoulders, perfect and worthy of adoration. Oh-so-kissable stomach. Thighs calling me from the other side of the room when I was trying to get my own jeans off. Even your toes are adorable.
And then there were your breasts, and my brain switched off. No, it shorted out--I heard the popping noise and saw sparks.
I yanked the rest of my clothes off, climbed onto the bed, and dragged you on to it with me. You giggled, and it was almost like I had a brain again for a moment. But only for a moment, because then I became distracted by getting your underwear off, and oh, Dee, I would have done anything for you. I would have killed or died for you, or even forsaken a life of crime. Lucky for me, you only wanted nookie.
I didn't want this story to end, so I closed the file there and sent it to Dee. I curled up and napped, dreaming of an alternate universe where Michael was too late.
I was awakened by pounding on the door. I rolled my eyes, wandered blearily over, and opened it.
"Where's the rest of it?" Dee asked.
I laughed. "You write the next bit."
Dee blushed, but her text message read, Come on, boy, show me what you've got. Right here, right now.
Fuck me. Dee was really going to put out, textually speaking. I stared at her, waiting for more.
Dee stared back. She looked a little freaked, actually. Maybe she needed some encouragement.
"That's a good start," I said. "A really good start. Keep going. What did I do next?"
Dee blinked, then looked like she was trying not to laugh. "That's not a story," she said. "It's an invitation."
Allah loved me.
I grabbed her, kissed her, my fingers running through her hair, sliding down her back.
"Yes," she breathed in between kisses. "Do it."
We staggered, giddy, crashing into the wall and leaving clothes in a trail until we were naked. I paused over a breast for a moment, kissing and licking, and...
"Later," she said, shoving me backwards onto the bed. I sprawled, the futon bouncing under me, and laughed. She climbed on top of me and kissed me. Some things were better real. Fuck, she was beautiful, and we were frantic, with a lot of rolling and thrashing. I told her I loved her, but I wasn't sure whether I said it in English or Arabic.
She pulled me closer. "I love you, too."
We lay like that for a long time. Eventually, we fell asleep.
When I woke up, Dee was gone.
I called Strife and asked, "Where's Dee?"
"She's offline, but last I saw she was talking to Michael." He bit his lip. "I'm so sorry, Father. Please don't do anything rash." He was tense, ready to intervene and save me from myself at a moment's notice.
I sighed. I pictured throwing myself off a cliff, but I knew better than to say anything. Besides, it wasn't particularly satisfying.
Then I cracked Michael's phone. I wish I could say it took some phearsome skillz, but no. He'd never run a single firmware update. A script kiddie could have done it. He totally deserved to get cracked, you know? He had a nice avatar that someone else must have made for him--Dee, maybe?--and I put a little pencil mustache and horns on it. Strife suggested that I add the caption "L.H.O.O.Q." I didn't get it, so I didn't. I left a couple of scripts I'd downloaded off the LINK lying around Michael's phone, though, just to make my point about security updates.
Then I lay down and pulled the pillow over my face.
"Father?" Strife said.
"Leave me alone," I said, and logged off.
I ignored him. I had very important sulking to do.
Deirdre is headed this way.
I logged back on and found Strife. He showed me the security camera in the elevator. Dee's eyes were red. She shuffled up the hall, shoulders sagging. If she thought I was going to take her back after Michael dumped her, she was... absolutely right.
I threw on clothes and opened the door. She came in, and I closed the door behind her.
"I'm moving back into the kibbutz." She sighed. "I knew he wasn't going to forgive me. I just didn't expect him to be so..." Her lower lip trembled.
"You want me to put the site back?"
Dee laughed. "No!"
"You don't have to move into the kibbutz, you know."
"Yes, I do," she said. "He's already on some tear about your being a bad influence on Rye. Ugh!"
I took a moment to imagine Godzilla stomping on Michael, which made me feel a little better. Then I kissed Dee. Her lips were salty.
"I should go," she said. "I wanted to finish moving out before he got off work."
"I can help," I said.
"No," she said. "It's better if I do this alone. You're too distracting, now that I know what I've been missing."
Dee kissed me. I slid my hand slid up under her shirt and into her bra.
Dee laughed, shook her head at me, and pulled my hand out of her shirt. "I should go. I'll be back with handcuffs, so behave."
Oh, fuck me. "Do I need to behave or misbehave to get the handcuffs?"
"Incorrigible." She smiled at me, but I noticed she didn't answer my question. What was up with that? "It may be tomorrow before I come back. I may have to fight with Michael some more tonight." She sighed and gave me a long look. "I don't want to go."
"Then don't," I said.
"I'll be back," she said. "I just want to get a little moving out of the way before Michael gets home." She left.
I added the caption "L.H.O.O.Q." to Michael's avatar. "What does that mean, anyway?" I asked Strife.
"It's a twentieth century art reference. And French. Elle a chaud au cul."
My French really sucked, so it took some effort to get She has a hot ass out of that. It didn't seem to be a Strife thing to say, so, you know, I looked it up. Some guy named Marcel Duchamp defaced a reproduction of the Mona Lisa with a beard, mustache, and those letters in 1919.
Sweet! The fact that it was a art history joke in French was bonus. Plausible deniability, dig?
Then I called Galina. We had some stories to write.