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Chapter Text

When Will tells Riley what Whispers said, the corner of her mouth twists wryly. It looks wrong on her soft face. Its an familiar expression though, he thinks maybe she learned it from Sun or from Wolfgang.

"He's wrong." Riley says, and he knows she's right.

Angelica had still seen the world as lovely when Whispers dragged her down.


Riley though. Riley has already seen the worst of it. She's already broken, watched her husband and child be dragged away before her eyes, wished that she could join them. She picked the scab that it left with needles and pills and the worst of humanity. When their cluster was born, it had finally scarred over for good, a protection and a reminder.


That night, after they push the needle into Will's skin, after she has kissed him goodnight as he slips away, Riley walks over to the window, pushes back the curtains, opens the pane and shoves it open wide. The wind rushes at her, and she lifts her chin.

"I dare you." She says out loud. "I dare you."

The wind howls back, and she closes the glass and the fabric.

If the world wants more from her, it will be disappointed. She will give nothing.

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The guilt of it stays with her, no matter how the boys seem to have let it go. Daniela is no stranger to hiding things-knowledge of her father's business connections, bruises from Joquain-her makeup is her disguise and her warpaint. Her secrets add mystery to her brightly colored smiles and pouts, hide in the depths of her smokey eyes. But she couldn't keep this one.

Lito's jobs don't dry up too much, if anything, the notoriety gets even more directors interested. The cost, of course, is the gossip rags, getting more and more vicious with each photo that leaks.

Her name isn't anywhere, she still gets her small roles.

Hernando, though, Hernando is put on leave from the University, and Dani gets home one day to see him on the couch, flipping through a book of Diego Rivera's art. His shoulders are shaking-just a little.

"I'm sorry," she wants to say. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry."

But she doesn't. She's said it before, they said it was ok. They are not responsible for the demons in her own head. They have done too much for her already, but they still have to clean up the mess that she made, and she has to help them. In that task, there is no place for her self pity.

And if she puts another layer of foundation on to hide the bags under her eyes, that's no one's business but her own.

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"Those are disgusting." Lito says, as Riley puts a cigarette to her lips. "Too dry, too much menthol."

Riley shrugs and takes another drag. Cigarettes are cigarettes as far as she is concerned. She didn't smoke until she started DJing, and then, it was whatever she was given by someone who admired her work. She may not be in demand in London's hottest clubs anymore, but she couldn't kick the habit. Now that she's paying for them herself, cheap is the way to go.

"They are fine." Wolfgang agrees firmly.

They're not, they're too close to the ones his dad liked, but he understands the feeling of just needing the smoke in your lungs. He lights his own, a Turkish blend from the corner store, and inhales deeply. The nicotine still smells like his father, but the taste is something the man never would have chosen.

"Better. But still, don't be ridiculous." Lito protests, lighting up with a shiny gold zippo. "Try this."

Lito's choice very, very smooth, with an underlying sweetness.

"Oooh, these are good," Riley agrees.

Wolfgang makes a face.

"Girlie cigarettes."

Riley and Lito wrinkle their noses at him.

"These are the best cigarettes in Mexico." Lito declares.

"All the actors smoke them. I started when I got my first role, and I didn't want to be alone on set when the others took their breaks."

Sun snorts a little as she materializes next to Wolfgang.

"I agree with him." She declares, nodding at the German.

"What do you prefer then?" Riley asks. She's starting her second by now, lights it straight off of the first.

Sun pulls out a small silver case.

"Hand rolled." She says. "There is a man who makes them in my old neighborhood."

She lights her cigarette off of Wolfgang's and puts it to her lips. It is mellow, smoky, with a hint of spice at the end. Sun had never intended to be a smoker, Joong-ki had started first, and she figured it was part of being Older Sister to set a good example and not start. But a man had offered one at a conference, and she had taken it to be polite, discovered how comforting the up-breath-down-exhale repetition was. The taste had been awful though, so she set off to find a better option.

"That is good." Wolfgang admits, grudgingly. Lito and Riley nod in agreement.

"But still, I like mine." Lito declares, a little defensive.

Riley and Sun laugh a little, Wolfgang rolls his eyes.

Together, they all inhale.

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Wolfgang, perhaps, would make sense as Kala's protector, but for her, he is a lover not a fighter, despite all the bullets she has seen him discharge. And besides, Wolfgang for Lito is an even match, a thief for a liar.

Sun sees too much of herself in Kala, or, rather, too much of what she could have been. If Kala's mother had died, she too would have grown up too fast. When Sanyam Dandekar speaks to Manendra Rasal, Sun hears the steel that drove her own father in life. Kala's soft heart is what Sun has covered in black eyes and underground brawls. If Sun tried to fight for her, she would get caught on the broken pieces of what could have been. Easier, then, to fight Capheus' wars. There was never a chance that she would be that naive.

Nomi's wars are mostly fought behind keyboards, and Riley's are in her own head.

So that leaves Will. From that first time at the temple, Will was her protector.The both have steady hands, him with a gun and her with a needle. His calm, assured threats- "I will show you what violence looks like"-rise naturally to her lips. She would not have made it through pharmaceutical school, one of four women in her class and the only one working her way through, without some steel in her spine.

In the market one day, she is chatting with a shopkeeper and her hand, without her permission, grabs the wrist of a small child attempting to grab her wallet from her purse.

"Do not steal." Their voices say together, before letting the child go.

He fights for what is right, their common moral compass allows him to slip easily into her skin. Neither of them have a desire to wound, but she, they, make no apologies for the fact that they could. He does not generally fight quite as ruthlessly as Sun or Wolfgang, but he is just as capable of bringing a a man or two to his knees, and this suits her just fine. Neither of them shudder at the sight of blood.

When they plot to save Wolfgang, Will leads, because it is what he does, but in many ways she is is second in command. It is Kala who makes the blockers, it is Will who murmurs, quiet and menacing, to an orderly who notices her taking ingredients. It is Will who knocks Whispers out, it is he who fights the BPO agents in the hallway. It is he who, even with the blockers, knows her rage is simmering, and when they get back to the base, starts teaching her to her to fight and shoot under her own power. 

He is the cop who picks handcuffs and orchestrates break-ins, she is the pharmacist who can build a bomb in the kitchen. He is her protector, her guide, and her teacher, his quiet strength is a complement to her own.

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Sometimes, Nomi looks in the mirror and still sees Michael. Her hands are too big her shoulders too wide she is tall for a woman she should have chosen more delicate frames for her glasses her voice is too deep she didn't shave her legs this she week she was two days late picking up her new dose of hormones her breasts are small her...

It all comes up in her throat and she gags, chokes, feels hot water on her skin, sits down hard on the floor but can't look away from her reflection. She is desperate to look away from her reflection.

The first time it happens, post-rebirth, is between her sister's wedding and Wolfgang's kidnapping. She feels her panic shake through the rest of the cluster. They each appear in turn, trying in their own ways to help, but she sees too much of her old body in the men, and longs for what Kala and Sun and Riley never had to work for. When they try to stand between her and the mirror, she sees right through them.

Amanita comes home.

Amanita sees, right away, what is happening.

"Please go away," says Amanita, to the people she knows are there.

(It's Will and Kala, at that moment. They vanish.)

Amanita is solid, and when she blocks the reflection, Nomi can't look past her.

She curls her arms around Nomi, holding her tight, making sure to block the mirror's image.

They sit like that for a long while.

Nomi's breathing evens back out.

"Nomi." She says, out loud. "My name is Nomi. I am a woman. I am a lesbian. I have a girlfriend, Amanita. I have a sister, Tegan." She takes a deep breath and adds two more things, for the first time.  "I have seven people in my head who have never called me 'he'. My father loves both his daughters." She finishes with a second, "I am a woman."

"You are Nomi." Amanita repeats back. "You are a woman. You are a lesbian. I am your girlfriend, Amanita. You have a sister, Tegan. You have seven people in your head who have never called you 'he'. Your father loves both his daughters. You are a woman."

"You are Nomi." Lito's voice comes through, startling her a little bit. "You are a woman. You are a lesbian. You have a girlfriend, Amanita. You have a sister, Tegan. I am Lito, one of the seven people in your head who have never called you 'he". Your father loves both his daughters. You are a woman."

One by one, the others recite the words, substituting in their own names.

When Nomi looks in the mirror, there are nine people.

"Thank you." she says aloud.

Seven of them vanish.

"Thank you," she says again, this time turning to meet her girlfriend's eyes.

Amanita holds her close.