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Magnetic Interference

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“Kettlefish again?” Genevieve sighs and slides her tray down the air tracks, pausing it to grab a bottle of Caff. She looks back at the trays of food hovering under the glow-stones, hoping she'll see something new. She perks up as one of the burly Enuri cafeteria workers brings out a new tray of … more mashed Quorn. She sighs again and grabs a Pom from the basket next to the utensils.

 

“It's better than the re-con burritos,” Jared says brightly, nudging his tray against hers and reaching for a Cocoa Bar.

 

“I've made alloys that taste better than the re-con burritos, Jay.” Genevieve wrinkles her nose and grabs her tray with both hands, pulling it off the air track to carry it to her table. Jared ambles behind her, stopping to smile at a cute guy from his lab. Genevieve turns back to look, arching an eyebrow at the slender boy with his big, dimpled grin. He's a chromosome or two off from Genevieve's usual type but she can still appreciate pretty when it sashays up next to her. He's smiling up at Jared with a face somewhere between “Jared hung the twin suns in the sky” and “Jared single-handedly liberated the Alliance.” It's a familiar face; just about everyone who works in the propulsions lab with Jared adores him.

 

“Thanks, Oz, I'll look that over later.” Jared pats a quick hand on the kid's shoulder, making him blush so sweetly Genevieve feels herself reddening in sympathy. Poor kid. Jared only has eyes for one man, and he's sitting at their table with a lap-full of Danneel Harris giggling at him and kissing him on the forehead. It's complicated.

 

“Don't even bother going up there.” Genevieve sets her tray down and perches on her stool, frowning at the coral-colored mass on her plate. She's not sure if knowing that they dye the fish that color makes it more or less disgusting.

 

“As if.” Danneel rolls her eyes and reaches down, squirming on Jensen's lap as she sets her bento box on the table. She peels the lid off to reveal a mass of greens and grains that suddenly makes Genevieve's mashed Quorn look a lot more appealing.

 

“Always with the rabbit food for my little bunny,” Jared teases, sliding his stool next to Jensen. He plants his palm on the small of Jensen's back, letting it rest on the belt of his uniform as he leans in to kiss Danneel. She wrinkles her nose and pulls her lip back, and only Danneel would still look beautiful with a fake hare-lip. Jensen snorts and holds two fingers up behind her ears as he leans over for a kiss of his own from Jared.

 

Genevieve makes the requisite barfing noises at how goddamn cute the three of them are before digging her spork into the yellow mountain of Quorn. It hasn't improved by the third bite, so she shoves it aside and grabs her Pom. She's just about to bite into the dark blue flesh when she hears a laugh behind her.

 

Jensen's face should tell her not to turn around, but Genevieve can't help herself. Her Pom lays forgotten in her hand, held in mid-air as Genevieve peeks a glance out from the curtain of her hair.

 

Lauren Cohan strides across the cafeteria like she owns it, head held high as the sunslight from the atrium gleams off her hair. She's wearing a cadet's uniform today, the drab gray looking impossibly chic on her perfect figure. She's got the front-zip a good two inches below Alliance regulation, showing just enough cleavage to make Genevieve angle her head to try and see a little more.

 

Genevieve is about 63% sure that Lauren knows who she is, although the odds get significantly less favorable that Lauren might know her by name. They'd gone through orientation together, but so had 1,500 other cadets, 1,135 of whom were taller and generally more memorable than Genevieve. Lauren had placed into the admiralty track almost immediately, meaning she had never been in any of Genevieve's classes.

 

Katie Cassidy and Mark Pellegrino flank her on either side, noses up in the air as they all stop at the Jav station. Genevieve watches as Lauren swipes her hand across the screen, laughing at some joke of Katie's before handing each of them a tall, steaming cup of genuine cloned Arabica. Genevieve thinks of her own can of Caff and sighs. A cup of Jav runs 10 credits, minimum, more than Genevieve's entire meal. It isn't enough that Lauren is gorgeous, popular, and completely oblivious to Genevieve's crush. She's also rich.

 

The three of them head to their table, Katie tossing her hair over the shoulder of her uniform and smiling while Lauren sips her rich brew. Mark rests his cup in front of his mouthpiece, the slits clicking open as he inhales his beverage. Watching a Taurii vaporize his food hadn't gotten any less weird in Genevieve's two years at the Citadel.

 

Mark turns his head to say something to Lauren, making a turn towards their table and almost tripping over a maintenance worker's foot. He's crouched on his hands and knees under a wobbly table, the yellow leg of his support staff uniform sticking out from under it. Mark stumbles and barely manages to avoid spilling his drink.

 

“Pardon me, officer.” The maintenance guy crawls out from under the table, setting his wrench down and looking over his shoulder at the glowering Mark. “Didn't see you coming down here.”

 

His uniform conceals most of it, but Genevieve can just catch the flash of alloy under his collar. Apparently Mark notices it too, and if she could see his mouth she's sure he'd be sneering.

 

“Watch it, mech.” Mark takes a dramatic step back, looking back and forth at his companions. “Someone had better check this table to make sure it's safe.”

 

Katie snickers as the mech tries to ignore Mark's teasing. Genevieve winces a little as the mech grabs for his wrench, just to have Mark nudge it out of the way with his cloven-toed boots.

 

“This is tedious,” Lauren interjects in her languid Capitol City accent, glaring at Mark and continuing toward their table. She takes a mincing step over the wrench while Mark and Katie follow her.

 

“Assholes,” Jared snorts, pulling a face at Mark's back. Genevieve watches Lauren sink down onto her stool, long legs folding under her and stretching her uniform tight across her thighs. She leans forward to rest on her elbows and curl her hands around her steaming cup of Jav, flashing a generous amount of cleavage.

 

Genevieve starts as Danneel smacks the Pom out of her hand. The fruit rolls across the table, stopping in front of Jensen and his concerned look.

 

“Sweetie, this is just getting embarrassing.” Jensen rolls the fruit back to her, a sympathetic smile on his face as Genevieve catches it with one hand.

 

“Seriously, Gen, we have got to find you a distraction. Watching you eye-fuck Lauren Cohan every day is getting really old.” Danneel wriggles off of Jensen's lap, settling between her boyfriends and resting her chin on her hands. “She's so straight it's almost painful. And this is coming from someone on a two-dick-a-day diet.”

 

Genevieve laughs in spite of herself, slumping her head down against the table. She knows Danneel is right, but Danneel is also a red-headed bundle of long legs and effortless confidence. It isn't always easy taking romantic advice from someone with two ridiculously gorgeous boyfriends.

 

“Besides, her friends seem like total vapes.” Jared wrinkles his nose and spears another piece of Kettlefish with his spork. “That's fucked up to pick on a mech like that, it's not the guy's fault.”

 

“Of course it's not,” Danneel agrees, laying her hand over Jared's and patting it. “And we all deeply appreciate your forward-thinking sentiments on the injustice of mech discrimination after the Aggression, but right now we need to get Gen laid.”

 

Jared reins in his political tirade and pouts as Danneel levels a look at Genevieve.

 

“There are what, 4 million people in the Citadel?”

 

“Some of us prefer sentient beings,” Jensen says sharply, making a prim face while Jared rolls his eyes. Danneel turns to him, indulgently stroking a prism-lacquered nail over the violet speckles on his neck. Jensen's eyes roll back contentedly.

 

“There are 4 million sentient, imminently fuckable beings roaming around this little satellite,” Danneel continues, snaking her free hand into Jared's hair. She scritches at the base of his neck until his eyes slit closed.

 

“I know you're the math whiz here, Gen, but 4 million divided by you're totally fucking adorable does not equal pining over bitchy straight girls.”

 

Genevieve opens her mouth to argue, but quickly decides that she's already lost this argument. She takes a big bite of her Pom instead, narrowing her eyes at Danneel and the two blissed-out men flanking her.

 

“And that is why,” Danneel plants her hands on the table, earning her matching groans from Jared and Jensen. “We are going out for a girl's night.”

 

“Girl's night?” Genevieve mumbles around her mouthful of Pom, crunching the flesh between her teeth as she arches a sardonic eyebrow at her best friend. The last girl's night had ended with Danneel amassing enough port numbers to fill a Fleet directory while Genevieve had scored exactly one. The girl had been thrilled when Genevieve called, because her boyfriend hadn't taken Post-Quantum Physics yet and she really needed help with her paper.

 

All-girl's night,” Danneel emphasizes, drumming her fingers against the table. “We're going to the Pearl Diver.”

 

Genevieve has a vaguely academic understanding of the ocean, having seen the old two-dimensional pictures of the water masses on Old Earth. She's never quite understood what pearls have to do with girl on girl action, but she's come across the expression before.

 

“Wait, is that a gay bar?”

 

“It opened, like, two months ago.” Danneel rolls her eyes and delicately picks up a sprout from her bento. “I love you, Gen, but you kind of suck at being a lezzie.”

 

Genevieve takes another bite of her Pom and looks over at Lauren. She's laughing at something Mark is saying, his hands splaying in front of his face mask. Katie flips her hair over her shoulder, revealing a sinuous curve of purple dots that disappear beneath her collar. She catches Genevieve's gaze and scowls at her, pointing her nose in the air and turning to Mark with a catty smile on her face.

 

“Gen, anyone who calls Katie her friend is not someone you want to spend time with, trust me.” Jensen frowns as Katie and Mark lean their heads together. “I knew her when we were kids on Lyra, and she was as nasty then as she is now.”

 

“I thought all the Lyrans were as sweet as you,” Jared jokes, ruffling Jensen's hair. Jensen rolls his eyes but accepts a conciliatory kiss from both his partners. None of them are strangers to Jensen's moods, some of which were just Jensen and most of which were the result of his elevated and constantly fluctuating hormone levels. It's in poor taste to openly call Lyra “Planet PMS” but everyone does. When Jensen says someone is a huge bitch, he's not joking.

 

“As your wing-woman, I solemnly swear to deter you from any raging Lyrans. Or straight girls. Or gender-ambiguous beings who need help with their physics homework.” Danneel arches an eyebrow as Genevieve cringes at the low blow. She'd still helped that girl with her paper, to Danneel's righteous outrage.

 

“Fine,” Genevieve sighs, tossing the core of her Pom onto her tray. It lands on top of her barely-eaten Kettlefish, rolling into the remnants of her Quorn. “When do you want to go?”

 

Jensen and Jared give her approving smiles. There isn't a single person at this table who has ever been able to resist the force of Danneel's will.

 

“I'm picking you up at 21:00 tonight. And you're wearing,” Danneel digs around in her purse, pulling out a set of crystals and a small case of her acupuncture needles before she hooks a slim bracelet. “This.”

 

Genevieve accepts the bracelet, tilting it under the atrium light. As an AI specialist, Genevieve is pretty good at identifying strange metals. She's made enough microbots from scratch to recognize most of the elements that are available on the Citadel. The purple gleam of it reminds her of Atrochs Silver, one of the skin-compatible metals used for cosmetic surgery. It didn't have many other purposes Genevieve could think of.

 

“It's a magnet,” Danneel explains, shaking her arm forward to show Genevieve the matching one around her wrist. “It balances out your chi lines and resonates with your manipuri chakra.”

 

Genevieve slides the bracelet on, holding it up for everyone to inspect.

 

“It's beautiful, Danny, thank you.” She keeps her comments about manipuri chakras to herself. Genevieve tolerated Danneel's penchant for new health trends for the most part, although she'd put her foot down when Danneel had tried to get her to eat nothing but kelp shakes for a week. Danneel's in the Healer's College, after all, so Genevieve supposes it's sort of Danneel's job to embrace every new health craze. She never got too preachy about it, limiting herself to the occasional plea for Genevieve to eat more of whatever leafy thing she's favoring. If left to her own devices Genevieve would survive on Cocoa Bars and fried Quorn sticks.

 

“It'll help boost your confidence tonight. Although I'm also going to do your makeup, so you won't need much help.” Danneel winks at her and tosses her stray healing supplies into her purse. “I have to run, we're doing Reiki for Non-Human Bipeds today and I really need to prep my hands.” She kisses Jared and Jensen before throwing a big hug around Genevieve's shoulders.

 

“We are going to have so much fun tonight!” Danneel trounces off to Reiki class, leaving Genevieve smiling in spite of herself. She spins the bracelet around her wrist, watching it catch the light as she wonders what she should wear with it.

 

*

 

“Hang on, just another sec, little buddy,” Genevieve mutters under her breath, her eyes squinted in concentration as she holds the microtweezers steady in her hands. “Almost there.”

 

She grasps the bright green filament between the tines of her tweezer, holding it steady as she touches the welding torch to the small chip. The wire reattaches perfectly as she sinks it into the dual-headed chip. She lays down her tools and smiles at the tiny form curled up on her desk.

 

“Who's my little terror?” she coos, sealing up the body cavity with a swipe of her pulse laser. She rolls the little body over to its belly, pressing a finger between its shoulders. It comes to with a quick shake, the palladium alloy of its skin rolling into a wrinkled ball before stretching out. Huge eyes blink up at Genevieve, tiny eyelashes batting up and down before it wrinkles its nose and hops to its tiny feet. It takes a few wobbly steps along the desk before squaring its little shoulders and charging forward.

 

“Look at you, Ptero,” Genevieve cheers, laughing as its little body barrels for the edge of her desk. “No more dizzies for you, huh?”

 

Ptero dismounts the desk with a graceful leap, spreading its arms and legs out to catch the air with its gliding skin. It sails to the floor, turning to land right in front of one of Genevieve's Fleet boots. It prods at the boot tongue with its forepaw, creasing it just the right way before hopping onto the toe. It gingerly climbs to the depression beneath her laces and pads around in three quick circles, stamping its hindleg twice before it curls up into a ball and purrs.

 

“You know exactly how cute you are, don't you?” Genevieve clicks her tongue and turns back to her desk, slipping her tools back into their respective cases as Ptero chirps back at her.

 

Ptero had been one of Genevieve's first AI projects, occupying months of her free time when she'd first arrived at the Citadel. It's based on an old picture from one of Genevieve's favorite childhood books, Curious Creatures of Old Earth. Genevieve had modified the Japanese Flying Squirrel body, keeping the oversized eyes but adding longer ears and a thicker tail to counterbalance the weight of its pudgy belly. It had been quite a challenge, and Ptero had gotten her a great deal of praise from her professors, especially when they had seen it deftly glide across a room with the aerodynamic webbing between its limbs.

 

Genevieve starts as she hears the doorchime ring. She glances at the clock and cringes, looking down at her smudged work smock and baggy trousers. Danneel is going to kill her.

 

“I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry,” Genevieve chants as she opens the door, cutting off Danneel's raised eyebrow and pouting red lips. “Ptero was having trouble with its balance mechanism and I just had to fix it.”

 

Danneel crosses her arms over her chest, smiling as she rolls her eyes. “I swear, I should get Citadel Volunteerism credit for taking you out. You are impossible.” She shakes her head fondly and saunters into Genevieve's quarters, tossing her purse onto a bench. Her floor-length dress flutters around her feet, the fabric dyed increasingly lighter shades of pink as it reaches her bare shoulders.

 

“We'll just be fashionably late.” She marches straight for Genevieve's closet, swiping the door open and rifling through Genevieve's modest assortment of clothes. What little spare income Genevieve had went straight to supplies and tools for her latest projects.

 

“I'm sure someone wants to say hello.” Genevieve bends down to scoop Ptero out of its makeshift shoe-nest. It hops into her hand and scrambles up her arm, coming to rest on her shoulder. One of its tiny paws combs through the messy strands of her bun as she comes to stand beside Danneel.

 

“Who's my cute little pudgeball?” Danneel scrunches her nose up and nuzzles it affectionately against Ptero's. “I'm glad you're feeling better.” Ptero blinks its eyes and wiggles its nose, making its synthetic whiskers tickle Genevieve's chin. It's adorable and Genevieve feels a moment of pride. She'd managed to invent something with an even cuter nose than Danneel Harris, which was no easy task.

 

“This is what you're wearing.” Danneel pulls out an old cadet's dress, navy blue with the white piping of her lower-level academy back home.

 

“That might be a little tight,” Genevieve points out, tilting her head at the long-sleeved dress. She hadn't worn it since she was 19, and while she'd stopped holding out hope for a last-minute growth spurt, she had at least seen her boobs get bigger.

 

“Perfect,” Danneel beams at her and tosses the dress over Genevieve's shoulder. “Go put it on, and then I'm gonna make a few adjustments.” Danneel whisks her away to get dressed and picks her purse up from the bench.

 

Genevieve strips out of her work clothes and shimmies into the dress, grimacing as it barely makes it over her hips. The zip-pull gives a good struggle but manages to seal closed despite the tight fit across her chest.

 

“Danny, I don't know...” Genevieve turns around, frowning as Danneel claps her hands.

 

“Shut your face, you look amazing!” She dumps her purse out onto Genevieve's bed, spilling crystals and packs of herbal lozenges and a dozen other things. Danneel never went anywhere without a huge bag full of random crap.

 

“I don't know why you hide all that under those baggy clothes,” she tsks, grinning brightly as she pulls up a small cylinder.

 

“Because I like being comfortable,” Genevieve groans, letting Danneel position her in front of the small mirror next to her desk. “I feel like I'm gonna split a seam if I sneeze.”

 

“You're gonna split some seams, alright.” Danneel raises her eyebrows and crouches down on the floor, holding the cylinder in her teeth as she hikes Genevieve's skirt up way past its original knee-length.

 

“Hey!” Genevieve protests as Danneel folds the skirt and smoothes it. It's about two inches short of indecent exposure. Danneel drags the cylinder across the folded hem, sealing it before Genevieve can stop her.

 

“Tell me that doesn't look better.” Danneel smacks her hand away from her newly-shortened dress and points at the mirror. Genevieve looks reluctantly, pouting as she takes in her reflection. She doesn't really look like herself, but she does look pretty hot.

 

“Fine,” Genevieve concedes. She lets Danneel style her hair and do her makeup without complaint. She ends up with a high, sleek ponytail and winged eyeliner. It's a testament to Danneel's steady hand that it's so straight despite Genevieve's flinching.

 

“Don't forget your bracelet,” Danneel adds, plucking it from Genevieve's bedside table.

 

“Oh, shit.” Despite Danneel's deft hands the pile of manuals and assorted junk piled next to Genevieve's bed falls to the floor in a clattering avalanche. Genevieve dives for the half-eaten bag of candy before it can scatter everywhere, while Danneel catches two handfuls of assorted papers and shiny things.

 

“Sorry, you know it's always a mess in here,” Genevieve apologizes, adding the candy to a separate pile of stuff on her dresser. “You ready to-”

 

“Uh, Gen?” Danneel says carefully, her arm held out in front of her with both hands clutched around Genevieve's stuff. Her eyes are fixed on the metallic ball rolling its way slowly up her arm. Fuck.

 

“Fuck, fuck,” Genevieve mutters, rushing over to knock the junk out of Danneel's hands. The ball continues its slow traverse up Danneel's shoulder, rolling into the hollow of her collarbone. At least it's headed up.

 

“What the fuck is that?” Danneel asks, her breath shaky as the metal molds to her skin and runs up her neck. It glides back and forth under her jaw, curling into the hollow of her ear.

 

“Where's the electrode?” Genevieve asks in panic, turning Danneel's hands over in her own. It had to be on her somewhere.

 

“The wh-aaaaaaaaah...” Danneel's eyes rolls back as the metal starts to move faster, rolling in soft waves at the tender spot under her ear.

 

“Got it!” Genevieve spies the glint of white on Danneel's ankle and rips the electrode off triumphantly. The metal massaging Danneel's ear instantly falls off, hitting the bed with a bounce and settling into a small square.

 

“Holy fuck.” Danneel rubs her fingers over her neck, staring down at the nondescript square before looking at Genevieve. “Tell me exactly what that is, and where I can buy one right now.”

 

Genevieve smiles, feeling herself blush a little. “Well, you can't buy it. Yet.”

 

“Gen, is this your new project that you've been all cagey about?” Danneel picks up the square and peers at it, turning it back and forth between her fingers.

 

“Yes?” Genevieve bites her lip and looks sheepish. “I was gonna show it to you but it still has some glitches and I don't know, it seemed a little … personal. Like, hey, Danny, how was your Reiki class, wanna test-drive my new AI sex toy?”

 

“Well, yeah, considering your little toy just sucked my neck I figured that much out.” Danneel tosses it to Genevieve and arches an eyebrow. “Does it do that in other places?”

 

“Yes, yes it does,” Genevieve stammers, wishing she weren't such an inveterate blusher. She's sure her cheeks are bright red as Danneel laughs gleefully.

 

“Oh my God, your sentient vibrator just gave me a hickey!” Danneel bursts out in peals of laughter that Genevieve can't help but copy. These aren't the sorts of situations most people found themselves in and she's grateful that Danneel is giggling instead of running in the opposite direction.

 

“Seriously, whenever you iron out the kinks, I need three of them. Immediately.” Danneel gives her an exaggerated thumbs up before she scoots off the bed, knocking over a hastily-assembled pile of clean clothes.

 

“I'm counting on your boys to be my externally-genitaled test subjects.” Genevieve smirks and slips her bracelet on. She slides her Fleet card into the small pocket at her hip.

 

“Finally,” Danneel sighs, gathering her things and slinging her bag over her shoulder. “A science experiment I have some use for.”

 

They take Danneel's scooter to the club. As they sail over the milling crowds of the Citadel Danneel turns back to her.

 

“So how does it work?”

 

“Well, the electrode scans your biofeedback output for pleasure-induced brain waves. The device is programmed with a staggered algorithm that fine-tunes the shape and sensation-”

 

“You lost me at algorithm,” Danneel laughs, turning off the main airway and into one of the commercial districts Genevieve rarely visits. “But it sounds brilliant.”

 

“It's just math,” Genevieve jokes, hugging her arms around Danneel's waist. Danneel's never had a speeding ticket last past her smile at one of the Citadel traffic officers, and she makes full use of it as she whizzes down the amber-lit corridors of the Red District.

 

“Here we are.”

 

The Pearl Diver is a vision in white, sparkling against the trademark red lights of the area. Danneel pulls her bike into one of the parking spaces down the block and dismounts from her seat with a graceful flip of her hair. Genevieve scoots down in micro-inches, glaring at Danneel. She's pretty sure at least half of her ass is sticking out.

 

“Now remember, you're gonna hit on the first girl who catches your eye.” Danneel turns to smile at her before they enter the club. “You look amazing, Gen.”

 

“Thanks.” Genevieve draws up to her full height, which is still about four inches below Danneel's because Genevieve had drawn the line at wearing high heels. She could only sacrifice so much for Danneel's one-woman campaign to get her laid.

 

“Alright, let's do this.”

 

There's an Asari working the door, which is hardly surprising. Genevieve wonders if the human species might be better off if it only had women like the Asari. It certainly made them more flexible with their sexual identity.

 

Asari pop music blares from the speakers, the tinny voice of the singer set to a fast beat. It's a little loud for Genevieve's taste but she had to admit, it's impressive what can be done with four sets of vocal cords.

 

There's a crowd but the place isn't packed. Most of the women continue dancing or leaning against the bar as Genevieve and Danneel walk in, but a lot of them turn to stare. Danneel takes to it like royalty greeting her people, smiling graciously and waiting for Genevieve to follow.

 

Genevieve isn't used to having a third this many eyes on her. She tugs her skirt down nervously as she descends the stairs. She smiles back at two human girls who give her appreciative nods, their arms slung around each other's waists.

 

“Uh-uh,” Danneel smiles politely and hooks her arm through Genevieve's. “You are not playing third wheel tonight.”

 

“That's how you met Jared and Jensen,” Genevieve shoots back, stumbling after her friend as she watches the two girls ostentatiously kiss.

 

“I know, honey, but that's … different.” Danneel leads her along the outskirts of the dance floor. “I don't think those two are looking for anything serious.”

 

Genevieve turns back and blinks as she sees the bare, pale blue skin of an Asari sandwiched between them.

 

“I hate how right you are all the time.”

 

“You sound like my boyfriends.” Danneel rolls her eyes and scans the room. “Why don't we get a drink at the bar?”

 

“Please.” Genevieve follows Danneel with relief. It's not like Genevieve thinks she looks like a Krogan or anything, but she could use some liquid courage as they weave through the crowd of women and “female-identified others.” Most of them are staring at Danneel, of course, but Genevieve gets her fair share of looks as Danneel leads her to the bar. She can feel her skirt hiking up as she walks up the few steps to the bar and decides it can just stay that way.

 

“Sandy!” Danneel's voice rings out over the music. She waves her arm over her head, her bangle bracelets clinking together. Genevieve fiddles with the small bangle around her own wrist as she waves at Sandy.

 

Sandy McCoy is one of the rising stars of the Citadel admiralty class. She's so pretty and adorable and all-around perfect that Genevieve wants to hate her on principle. She's also one of the nicest people Genevieve has ever met.

 

“Danny!” Sandy breaks off from her group of friends and rushes over to give Danneel a big hug. “And Gen!” Genevieve gets a hug of her own. “How's your little AI project going, what was it? Tera?”

 

“Ptero,” Genevieve answers, surprised that Sandy even remembers. “Things are going really well, we're looking to introduce him to a therapeutic environment within the year.”

 

“That's great!” Sandra smiles, and even though Genevieve knows that's just how her face looks she can't help but wonder if she practices in front of a mirror. She looks like someone's about to send her image to a campaign screen.

 

“You have to meet my friends!” Everything Sandy says seems to be followed by an exclamation mark. She charters her way through the crowd with a chorus of “excuse me” and “thank you”, her smile never faltering. Danneel turns to look knowingly at Genevieve. Despite her earth-mother healer thing, Danneel is just as human as Genevieve and there is no way she isn't thinking the same things about Sandy.

 

“This is Misha,” Sandy yells over the music, throwing her arm over the shoulders of a pretty Asari. Her eyes are even more blue than the usual Asari azure, so bright they seem to glow under the dim lights of the bar. She's wearing the traditional high-necked dress of her people, covering most of her skin but tailored so well Genevieve can see every curve of her figure.

 

“Misha just got here from Sector Nine,” Sandy explains. “And this is her friend, what did you say your name was?”

 

“I'm Adrianne.”

 

Genevieve rarely laments her height, or rather, lack thereof. But sometimes it has its distinct disadvantages, like now when she's sandwiched at boob-height between Danneel and Misha. She can't even see the other girl, or Sandy for that matter. Genevieve enjoys a silent moment of schadenfreude that Super Sandy actually forgot someone's name before she elbows Danneel aside.

 

“I'll get us some … oh.”

 

Genevieve grew up on a relatively diverse satellite. Whether it's the traditional Krogan presentation of a dead tree-octopus or the Salerian nest-building ritual, she's seen some pretty interesting expressions of romantic interest. So she's fairly confident that absolutely none of them involve standing with her mouth hanging open while the prettiest girl she's ever seen looks at her like she's sub-sentient.

 

“Uh, hi.” She's blonde and about a thousand feet tall, and her nose scrunches up as she smiles at Genevieve. Rather than making her look plain, her simple black officer's jumpsuit hugs every curve of her body. A million jokes about those legs going all the way up and possibly wrapping around Genevieve's ears run through her head.

 

“Yes,” Genevieve answers immediately, despite the distinct lack of any question. “Oh, Gods, I mean, right, hi, I'm Genevieve.” Genevieve tries to hide her wince behind a beaming smile as she takes a deep breath. “Can I start over again?”

 

Adrianne laughs, which makes her look even prettier if that's possible. “Sure.” She straightens up and clears her throat, looking at Genevieve expectantly. Genevieve smoothes her hair back and draws herself up to her full height as she hears Danneel laughing behind her.

 

“Hi, I'm Genevieve,” she says, reaching out to shake Adrianne's hand. “Nice to meet you.”

 

“I'm Adrianne.” Her hand feels warm and she has a good, firm grip. “And I think you did fine the first time.” She smiles and twirls a finger through one of her curls. Her hair hangs in loose ringlets around her shoulders, and Genevieve wonders how soft it would be.

 

“I'm not usually such an awkward starfish, I swear.” Genevieve rolls her eyes and moves a little closer, bumping into Danneel. She doesn't acknowledge Danneel's unsubtle eyebrow raise.

 

“This just isn't really my scene, you know.” Genevieve sweeps a hand out to the gyrating crowd.

 

“Me neither,” Adrianne admits, leaning down until her lips are close to Genevieve's ear. “My friend dragged me here.” She arches an eyebrow at Misha, who's looking far too conspiratorial as she passes Danneel a drink.

 

“I think Misha's made it her mission to find me a girlfriend. We don't, uh, really have bars like this where I'm from.” Adrianne looks out at the crowd and sighs.

 

“I thought Sector Nine was a big party town.” Genevieve had never been, but she'd heard stories about Sector Nine. The few parts that weren't academic facilities housed most of the recreational sports teams. The only sober beings on the planet were the ones who hadn't recovered from their previous hangovers yet.

 

“Oh, I just went to school there. That's how I met Misha.” She looks at her friend and makes a face that Genevieve instantly recognizes – the stop making suggestive eyebrow movements face. Well, eye-ridges technically, but both Misha and Danneel are sporting approving facial features as Genevieve turns to look. She glares at Danneel before turning back to Adrianne.

 

“I grew up on Chasca, I'm sure you've never heard of it.” Adrianne nods knowingly at Genevieve's blank look. “Lots of fields, lots of cows. It's in the Atrochian satellite.”

 

“Aww, I like cows,” Genevieve says. “I mean, I've never seen one, of course, I grew up on Terth and then came here so, you know, not too big on the agriponics. But they're cute.”

 

“Yeah, they are,” Adrianne smiles, looking a little surprised. “That's actually one of the reasons I'm here. I'm doing the specialized program in non-sentient medical technology. I'm focusing on companion-creature medicine.”

 

“No way!” Genevieve rocks up on her feet like she always does when she's excited. “I'm in AI, and my lab works with your program sometimes. I designed-”

 

“You need a drink!” Danneel's arm slips in between them, a glowing glass of Batarian vintage in her hand. She plunks it down on the bar in front of Genevieve and smiles at Adrianne.

 

“Misha wants to dance, so Sandy and I are gonna go put her Asari ass-shaking to shame.” She nudges Genevieve and grins as Misha hands Adrianne a matching drink.

 

“You ladies look like you can entertain yourselves,” Misha says, winking at Adrianne before spinning off to the dance floor with Danneel and Sandy in tow.

 

“Oh, Gods,” Adrianne hides her face behind her hand. “I love her but Misha can be a little … pushy.”

 

“Oh, I totally understand.” Genevieve picks her drink up. “Toast to pushy best friends?”

 

“Skul,” Adrianne toasts, clinking their glasses together and taking a sip.

 

“So what did you design?”

 

Genevieve describes Ptero in detail, answering Adrianne's thoughtful questions about his user interface and potential therapeutic use for sentients. This leads to Adrianne talking about her work with companion creatures and answering Genevieve's million questions about her medical studies, which sends them on another conversation about artificial versus creature intelligence and the newly-updated sentience-threshold laws. The two glasses their friends had left on the bar quickly multiply into six as they make good-hearted fun of Sandy's perpetual cheerfulness and lament the draw-backs of having total sex-pots for best friends.

 

The crowd thins out as the night wears on but Genevieve barely notices. Adrianne is smart and she's surprisingly pithy for someone from the outer satellites. Genevieve could listen to her laugh for hours, especially the little snort she gives where her nose sort of crinkles up and shows her teeth.

 

“I'd love to meet Ptero sometime,” Adrianne says, pushing her hair back behind her ear. “Maybe I could stop by your lab, you know, if you're not too busy.”

 

“I would never be too busy to see you.” Genevieve slides off her barstool and looks up at Adrianne. They're both a little tipsy, but the flush on her face isn't just from the Batarian. Genevieve screws her courage to the sticking place and angles herself in a little closer, letting her fingers brush over Adrianne's knee.

 

“You know, it's just me and Ptero back at my place,” she says, arching an eyebrow to match Adrianne's. “If you wanted to come back, I've got two bottles of questionable Salerian hooch and half a box of Quorn Qrisps.”

 

“You really know how to sweet-talk a girl, huh?” Adrianne leans in closer, biting her lower lip between her teeth. Her eyes slant up at the sides and Genevieve can see her chest rise and fall with each breath she takes.

 

“I'm good with my mouth.” Genevieve can't believe she just said that, any more than she can believe that she's sliding her hand up Adrianne's thigh and leaning in to kiss her. The smooth kryon blend of Adrianne's jumpsuit trails under her fingers as Genevieve closes her eyes and presses her lips to Adrianne's. She flexes her fingers and spreads them out, pressing down on Adrianne's leg as she parts her lips.

 

Genevieve jumps as she feels something tug her wrist down. She looks down in surprise, pulling back from their kiss awkwardly. She's not sure what to expect, but it certainly isn't Danneel's trendy bracelet stuck to Adrianne's leg.

 

“What the-” Genevieve stares back and forth between Adrianne's equally-confused face and her own wrist. She reaches her other hand out to tug on the bracelet, finding that it won't budge.

 

“That's the strangest thing, Danneel just gave this to me, it's some kind of therapy magnet thing, I can't-”

 

“Shit, shit,” Adrianne mutters under her breath, squeezing her eyes closed. She looks panicked when they open. Her eyes dart around the room as she stands up abruptly, taking Genevieve with her.

 

“Hey, it's no big deal, I'll just slide it off.” Genevieve pulls herself free and waves both hands in front of Adrianne. “See?”

 

Adrianne is still staring out across the room, running her hand through her hair and looking like she's on the verge of tears.

 

“It must be something on your suit, is there a zipper or something?” Genevieve reaches down towards the bracelet, pulling her hand back immediately as Adrianne flinches. “OK, I'll get Danneel, I'm sure she can explain-”

 

“I have to go.” Adrianne gives the bracelet one last tug, gritting her teeth and wrenching it free with an audible heave. “I just, oh Gods, I'm so sorry, I have to go, OK? I'm sorry, Gen.”

 

The bracelet clatters onto the bar as Adrianne pushes her way through the crowd. Genevieve stands, stunned and staring uselessly at the bracelet.

 

“What just happened?” Misha appears beside her, flushed to the tips of her scalp crests from dancing. “Did Adrianne just leave?”

 

“Yeah, I don't know what happened!” Genevieve throws her hands up as Danneel rushes over. “That magnet thing you gave me got stuck to her pants and she just flipped.”

 

Misha frowns as she picks up the bracelet. “What did she say to you?”

 

“She just, like, said she had to leave all of a sudden and ran out.” Genevieve points at the bracelet and looks at Danneel. “What is that thing anyway?”

 

“The guy at the Quorian health store said it was polarized Atrochian something or other, I don't know.” Danneel shrugs and adds weakly, “It's supposed to balance your chakras.”

 

“Oh fuck,” Misha mutters, turning the bracelet over in her slim blue fingers.

 

Genevieve barely hears her, though. She's already running through possible explanations for why polarized Atrochian “something or other” would stick to Adrianne's leg. The only thing that should attract an alloy like that is another polarized Atrochian alloy, and why would Adrianne have that on her pants?

 

“Her leg,” Genevieve mumbles as it dawns on her. There's no reason Adrianne would have a polarized alloy on her pants. But Genevieve can think of a very good reason she'd have it on her leg.

 

“Adrianne's a mech.”

 

Misha grabs her arm and squeezes, shooting Genevieve a menacing look as she presses a finger to her lips.

 

“It's not exactly something she advertises,” Misha whispers, rolling her eyes as Danneel leans in.

 

“She's a mech? No way.”

 

“I think that's Adrianne's business.” Misha crosses her arms over her chest, the blue of her eyes shining fiercely.

 

“But I don't understand, why wouldn't she just tell me?” Genevieve takes her bracelet and looks down at it, tracing her finger over the decorative inlay.

 

Misha narrows her eyes suspiciously. “So you could crack jokes about the Biophage taking over her brain and telling her to blow up nine planets?”

 

Genevieve's mouth falls open for the second time tonight. Only the most ignorant asshats would make jokes about the Mech Aggression. It wasn't even like every mech in the galaxy had been affected, just the ones with neural work from the GeoLabs. But the prejudice still lingered twenty years later, and Genevieve feels a surge of anger as she imagines anyone teasing Adrianne.

 

“Excuse me?” Danneel stands right in front of Misha, an inch or two shorter but no less threatening. “I don't know what you're used to on sector nine, but no one I call a friend would ever say something so hateful.”

 

“I don't care if she's half-Krogan!” Genevieve yells, slumping back onto her bar stool. “I could give a space-hamster's ass that she's a mech. I asked her to come back to my place and she just bolted and I thought I'd done something wrong.”

 

“You asked her back to your room?” Danneel and Misha ask in unison, Danneel with a wickedly amused grin on her face and Misha with a vaguely impressed smirk.

 

“Yes,” Genevieve sighs, resting an elbow on the bar and slumping her face against her hand. “Whole lot of good it did. I didn't even get her port number.”

 

Misha considers for a moment, handing the bracelet back to Genevieve. “Look, let me talk to her. I can promise you, it wasn't you. She's just … had some really bad experiences before.”

 

“Hey guys, what'd I miss?” Sandy bubbles up next to them, a necklace of synthetic pearls hanging around her neck. Her smile sort makes Genevieve want to punch something so she turns away and drains the rest of her Batarian.

 

“Nothing, Sandy.” Danneel hefts her bag over her shoulder and takes Genevieve's hand. “We were just gonna head back. It was great to see you.”

 

“Great to see you too!” Sandy hugs both of them and spins around to twirl onto the dance floor, hands above her head. Genevieve tries to think nice thoughts and turns to Misha.

 

“Please tell her I'm sorry if I embarrassed her. I feel awful.” Genevieve clocks her port number into Misha's screen. “If she wants to find me, she can.”

 

“I'll see what I can do.” Misha smiles and leans in. “You're totally her type, you know.”

 

Danneel pats a hand on her shoulder and leads her out the door. Genevieve barely notices the ride home, half-listening to Danneel's chatter about fish in the sea and pearls before swine.

 

Danneel drops her off with a promise to call her tomorrow and a consolation hug. Ptero is waiting at the door for her, bowling over on its hindlegs as it scrambles towards her.

 

“At least I've got you, right little buddy?” Genevieve scoops Ptero up and scratches it behind the ear, one of the feedback spots designed to reward good behavior. It purrs and flutters his eyelashes, while one of its whiskers tickles her forearm.

 

“Hope you're in the mood for some sad-ass Asari love-ballads, Ptero.” Genevieve perches Ptero on her shoulder as she pulls out a pair of baggy pants and an old bottle of Salerian. She doubles back to the micro-kitchen of her suite and adds a half-eaten Cocoa bar to her stash. If Genevieve's going to have a night of feeling sorry for herself, she's going to do it right.

 

 

*

 

Genevieve sleep-walks her way through lecture next morning. Dr. Morgan gives her a sympathetic look after class but Genevieve avoids him as she exits the hall. He's a great guy to talk to about interfacing and lab procedures, but she's not about to lament her hangover and bad luck in love to him.

 

She spends the late morning working in the lab, doing data input and half-heartedly working on her latest research proposal. Somehow the day drags on in spite of her bad mood. One of the benefits of working in a tech-based lab is being left to her own devices if she feels like it, so Genevieve holes up at her console and plugs data into her algorithm. She tries not to check her port screen too often. It's not like it's going to make Adrianne message her any faster.

 

The blip of a new message makes Genevieve pause mid-data-point. She has fire-moths in her stomach as she taps the screen on, sliding her index finger through the air to open the display. She sighs as she sees Danneel's smiling face.

 

“Meet me in 15 at the Palms.” Danneel winks and the screen goes back to Genevieve's background image of Ptero flying through the air.

 

Another message pops up, Danneel again. “And don't act like you have something better to do.”

 

Figuring that misery loves company almost as much as it loves junk food, Genevieve finishes the last section of her data and shuts her station down. She walks to the small cafe section, bypassing the main causeway to walk through the Gentian Arbor. The small trees and colorful flower beds always lift her mood, and she feels slightly more human as she exits and heads to the food court.

 

The Palms is encircled by rows of fan-leafed trees, with colorful striations on their leaves that filter the light of the suns into a rainbow of blues and greens. The small carts of food vendors hawking specialties from all over the galaxy cluster together on one side, the scents of spices and sweets mingling together. Even Genevieve's bad mood can't win against her appetite and she smiles in spite of herself as she smells the sweet scent of Quorian spice cakes.

 

The small seating area consists of a few tables and some mismatched chairs. Genevieve scans for Danneel's chestnut waves but only sees a trio of Asari giggling together and two Taurian girls breathing in the steam of what used to be dumplings. She sighs and swipes her port screen on, checking the time and going to grab one of the empty seats. She's halfway through messaging Danneel when she walks face-first into a hunter green uniform.

 

“Oh, I'm so – oh.” Genevieve blinks as she looks up. Adrianne's eyes look even bluer in the sun's light, set off by the blush creeping across her cheeks.

 

“Oh, Gen, hi.” Adrianne looks around the room and sighs. “Sorry, I was supposed to meet Misha here, I wasn't even watching where I was going.”

 

“I'm supposed to meet Danneel,” Genevieve arches an eyebrow and looks pointedly around the room.

 

“I see.” Adrianne smiles and tucks a lock of hair behind her ear. “I think we've been set up.”

 

“I should have known.” Genevieve rolls her eyes as Adrianne grins shyly. “Danneel only eats things that have a lot of 'prana', although I'm still not sure what that means exactly.”

 

“I think it means things that don't taste good,” Adrianne jokes, smiling and fiddling with one of the belt loops on her uniform.

 

“Look, I'm sorry if I made you uncomfortable last night,” Genevieve blurts out. She's bad at small talk under the best of circumstances, and she's had all morning to rehearse apologies in her head. “I hope you know that I would never, ever think any differently of you just because you're, you know, different.”

 

“No, it was my fault, I shouldn't have just run out on you.” Adrianne takes a deep breath. “Can I buy you a spice cake?” She smiles and tucks her hair back again, like she's nervous which just makes Genevieve feel dizzy. She's like some kind of old-Earth amazon goddess and she's nervous about buying Genevieve a piece of fried dough.

 

“Those are my favorite!” Genevieve enthuses. She bites her lip and smiles up at Adrianne. “And I'll let you buy me one, but only if I can get you a Volan pop tea.”

 

“I've never tried one of those,” Adrianne admits, looking out at all the carts. “OK, it's a deal.”

 

The spice cakes are delicious, crispy and sweet with a soft center. Adrianne likes the pop tea as much as Genevieve, chewing on the starchy pop balls and wrinkling her nose in amusement at the strange texture.

 

“This is really good,” Adrianne says around a mouthful of purple goo. “Even if it's kinda weird.”

 

“I like weird,” Genevieve nods, pursing her lips to suck one of her bright blue pop balls through her straw. “Weird is way better than normal, you know?”

 

Adrianne puts her cup down, sighing and crossing her legs.

 

“Misha told me what you said last night. About, you know, not caring that I'm … weird.” She rolls her eyes and takes a deep breath. “That I'm a mech.”

 

Genevieve sets her own drink down and leans across the table.

 

“I don't care if you're made of old transporter parts and duct tape.” She looks down at the table, inching her fingers closer to Adrianne's hand. “I just like you.”

 

“I'm lucky, I guess. It's easy for me to hide it, it's just my legs. If it were on my face or my hands...” Adrianne widens her eyes. “I've heard some pretty cruel things said to other mechs, especially since I got here.”

 

Genevieve frowns sympathetically, thinking of Mark and the unfortunate repair man. “I have, too. I think it's worse on the Citadel than other places. A lot of people still remember the Aggression, not that's than an excuse.”

 

“I guess I'm so used to keeping it a secret I just … sort of freaked when your bracelet got stuck to me. That's never happened before.” Adrianne tilts her head. “Where did you even get that thing?”

 

Genevieve smiles and rolls her eyes. “Danneel. She's always hawking some snake-oil health trend. One night, she came over with a tub of Salerian nest mud for 'beauty night.'”

 

Adrianne laughs, throwing her head back and crinkling her eyes. It's so pretty Genevieve places her hand over Adrianne's without thinking, letting her fingers trail over the inside of Adrianne's wrist.

 

“She bought these stupid bracelets at some Quorian health store.” Genevieve pauses and tries to calm the fire moths in her stomach as Adrianne turns her hand, tracing one of her fingers over the ridges of Genevieve's knuckles. “I'm sort of surprised that it attached to you. I didn't think biomech enhancements used Atrochs silver.”

 

Adrianne stills under her hand and Genevieve instantly regrets mentioning it.

 

“It's none of my business, of course, I totally understand if you don't want to talk about it.”

 

“No, no, it's alright.” Adrianne presses Genevieve's hand against the tabletop, laying her palm over it. “And you're right, it is unusual.” She shrugs a shoulder and grins crookedly. “I guess I'm unusual, even for a mech.”

 

She takes a deep breath and tucks her hair behind her ear, looking at the tables around them. The groups of Asari have departed, leaving the two Taurian girls a few tables away. Adrianne turns back to Genevieve, apparently satisfied that they have enough privacy.

 

“I was in an accident, back home on Chasca. My father raised cows, that's how I came to love sub-sentients so much. I was taking care of all of them by the time I was 13. One of them, Best was her name, got stuck on a divider fence. Happened all the time, they're not the smartest things.” She grins to herself, her eyes unfocused as she continues.

 

“Cows eat a ton, I mean a literal space-metric ton of grain. There's constant field-tilling and replanting to be done, just to keep them fed. The fences kept the cows separate from the fields while they were lying fallow or being tilled. Do you know what a tiller looks like?”

 

Genevieve shakes her head. She's heard the word but that's about it.

 

Adrianne grimaces. “It's basically a big rotor with teeth. It gouges the soil and aerates it as it rolls over the fields. We had one of the old ones, without any of the fancy AI tech.” She sighs and splays her hand over Genevieve's. “One of Best's forearm must have been broken, and when I went to pull it free she kicked me. I rolled right in front of the tiller and...” She trails off, looking down at her lap.

 

“That must have been terrifying,” Genevieve gasps, clapping a hand over her heart.

 

Adrianne shrugs. “I don't remember much of it. I woke up in the medical facility on our neighboring planet.” She smiles softly at Genevieve. “The first thing I asked my father was if Best was alright.”

 

She shakes her head as Genevieve hums sympathetically.

 

“My father made the decision to let them graft my legs. He said he couldn't bear the thought of me never walking again. They had to do it immediately, and I don't think he cared that it would make my life hard in other ways.”

 

“I'm sure he wasn't thinking about that.” Genevieve slides her hand out from under Adrianne's and laces their fingers together. “And it's good that they did it so soon. I mean, good for the neural integration and growth.”

 

Genevieve bites her lip as she feels Adrianne's booted foot brush against hers.

 

“Yeah, they're just as sensitive as the rest of me.” She slides the toe of her boot against the laces of Genevieve's lab boots.

 

“I've always wondered what it feels like,” Genevieve admits, leaning in a little closer. “I spend so much time working on the feedback algorithms for my work, programming the sensitivity thresholds and all that. I spend a lot of time imagining what synthetic neurons would feel like.”

 

“It feels … different.” Adrianne drags a fingernail over Genevieve's wrist, just hard enough to make her shiver. “Like that, that feels good on my skin. I mean, my regular skin.”

 

Genevieve can feel the flush creeping up her neck, goosebumps prickling up under the sleeves of her jumpsuit. Adrianne's smile is slow and wicked as she pulls Genevieve's hand up.

 

“Other things, like temperature, or water, those feel good on my other parts. Like this.” Adrianne brushes her lips against Genevieve's wrist, exhaling slowly against Genevieve's skin. Her breath is warm and humid, leaving Genevieve's skin barely damp.

 

“Or this,” Adrianne says softly, pursing her lips to blow over the same area. The air feels cold in contrast, leaving Genevieve dizzy and tempted to stamp her foot with pleasure the way she'd programmed Ptero.

 

“You know,” Genevieve says weakly, her voice shaky as Adrianne presses a soft kiss to the sensitive skin, “my offer to, uh, come meet Ptero still stands.”

 

“Gods, yes, let's get out of here.” Adrianne releases her hold on Genevieve's hand with another kiss and shoots her a big grin. “You're close, right?”

 

“We can walk fast.” Genevieve nods eagerly and jumps out of her seat, coming to stand next to Adrianne and offering her an elbow. Adrianne links her arm with Genevieve's and lets her lead the way back to Genevieve's quarters.

 

Normally, Genevieve would stroll back through the arbor. It's beautiful and sort of romantic, and on another day she'll take Adrianne there to sit under the trees and talk.

 

Today, she heads straight for the overbridge that links this district of the Citadel with the student housing quarters. It's crowded with every imaginable Citadel denizen, each hustling on their way to work, school, or Alliance business.

 

Genevieve giggles as she and Adrianne rush through the crowd. They hold hands as they quickly walk across the bridge. The sunslight shines down at a low angle, both of them beginning to set as it gets closer to late afternoon. They dash through a crowd of Drell boys playing kick sack on the exit ramp. Adrianne narrowly misses getting beaned by the small ball, kicking it back to the boys just in time.

 

Genevieve passes one of her lab mates as they careen down the left side of the ramp. She waves but doesn't stop to talk, knowing that Felicia will keep her there for the next half hour if she does. The redhead just raises an eyebrow at her as she and Adrianne pass by.

 

They reach Genevieve's door slightly out of breath and pink on their cheeks. Genevieve fumbles with her door code the first few tries, too distracted by the press of Adrianne against her back to remember an eight digit number she uses every day. The third try finally releases the air lock with a soft snick, just in time for Genevieve to let out a surprised gasp as Adrianne bends down to kiss her neck.

 

They stumble into Genevieve's room together, tripping a little as Genevieve turns around in Adrianne's arms. Adrianne has to bend down to kiss her, but Genevieve doesn't mind standing on her tip-toes if it gets her closer to Adrianne's mouth. She narrowly avoids a stack of micro-boards, kicking them out of the way with the heel of her lab boot as she fits her arm around the trim curve of Adrianne's waist.

 

Genevieve likes to kiss with her eyes closed, especially with the way Adrianne runs her fingers through Genevieve's hair in time with each press of her tongue. It makes Genevieve's skin tingle under her uniform, a palpable reminder that neither one of them should be wearing any clothes right now. Emboldened by the firm grip Adrianne has on her ass, Genevieve snakes a hand in between them to blindly reach for the zip-pull of Adrianne's uniform. Not kissing Adrianne seems like a horrible idea, so Genevieve keeps moving backwards in a vaguely bedwards direction as she sucks Adrianne's lower lip in between her teeth.

 

She closes her fingers over the burnished metal of Adrianne's zip-pull just as she backs up against what could either be a stack of dirty laundry or a pile of clean uniforms. Her arm around Adrianne's waist might have saved her balance if she hadn't already been teetering on the balls of her feet. Adrianne lets out a huff of surprise as Genevieve loses her footing and lands butt-first on what is fortunately a stack of clean lab coats.

 

“You bit me,” Adrianne says, her voice a soft growl as she follows Genevieve down to the floor. Genevieve's fall also tugged Adrianne's zip-pull down a good four inches, and it takes Genevieve a few minutes to find her words.

 

“Oh Gods, I'm sorry.” Genevieve tears herself away from the sight of Adrianne's spectacular cleavage and cringes.

 

“Didn't say I minded it, did I?” Adrianne arches an eyebrow and clutches the toggle of her zip-pull, slowly drawing it down until it rests just below her navel. She grins at Genevieve, sliding one leg over Genevieve's hip to straddle her.

 

“I do feel a little underdressed, though,” she remarks, tilting her head at Genevieve like she's solving an equation. “Come here.”

 

Adrianne's delicate fingers make quick work of the snaps that fasten the front panel of Genevieve's lab uniform. She's just about to reach for the zip-pull at the front of Genevieve's top when she lets out a shriek that's decidedly unsexy.

 

“What the nine moons is that?” Adrianne bats at her shoulder as Genevieve sits up, their legs tangling together.

 

“Oh, Gods, Ptero!” Genevieve groans as she looks over Adrianne's shoulder. Perched on Adrianne's back and looking entirely too pleased with itself for something lacking an intellect is Ptero, its whiskers twitching as it chitters.

 

“Ptero, down!” Genevieve admonishes, pointing at the floor. “You little troublemaker.”

 

“It scared the crap out of me,” Adrianne laughs, shaking her head and smiling as Ptero minces across her shoulders and takes off with a flying leap.

 

“I must have left it on.” Genevieve rubs a hand over her eyes and laughs. “It responds to voice commands. Like come here.”

 

Ptero darts up at the phrase and barrels towards Genevieve, landing at her side with a slight tumble and a twitch of its whiskers.

 

“Oh Gods, it's fucking adorable!” Adrianne coos, beaming at Genevieve before she delicately scratches at the tiny tip of Ptero's nose. It chirps contentedly and leans into Adrianne's hand.

 

“I think it knows.” Genevieve rolls her eyes as Ptero rolls onto its back, exposing its belly and splaying its arms out. Adrianne makes a ridiculously cute serious of squealing noises as she tickles Ptero's belly with her fingertips.

 

“Gen, this is amazing. Seriously, you're really talented. I can't even imagine how much work this took.”

 

Genevieve has never been great at taking compliments, especially when they're coming from an insanely hot girl, so she just blushes and shrugs.

 

“It wasn't that hard, and it was fun. I like to tinker with things.” Genevieve bites her lip and feels her cheeks heat up as she glances at Adrianne through her eyelashes.

 

“I have another thing that I made, if you wanted to see it. It's, uh, a little less family-friendly than Ptero.”

 

“Really?” Adrianne gives Ptero one last scratch before turning to Genevieve. Her hair falls over her shoulder in a blonde wall as her eyes glint. “I'd love to, on one condition.”

 

“What's that?” Genevieve asks, shivering at the way her lips just miss brushing against Adrianne's when she speaks.

 

“That I can see it while I fuck you.”

 

Genevieve has never been famous for her grace, but she likes to think that she makes up for it with her enthusiasm. The crab-legged scramble she makes as she gets up is possibly her best showing yet. She barely remembers to mumble “Sleep” in Ptero's direction as she staggers to her feet, pulling Adrianne along with her.

 

“I like your conditions.” Genevieve goes to kiss the first thing in front of her as she tugs Adrianne backwards, which happens to be Adrianne's collarbone. She sighs against Adrianne's skin as she feels her hands roaming up her chest to grasp her zip-pull.

 

Adrianne makes short work of her uniform, tugging it open with a soft whir and urging one of Genevieve's arms free before they tumble onto the bed. Adrianne lands on her knees with a bounce and laughs as she tugs her own sleeves off before pulling Genevieve in for a long kiss. Her fingers slide up Genevieve's free shoulder, scratching lightly at her skin and trailing over Genevieve's chest. She slides Genevieve's other sleeve off and presses her lips to Genevieve's neck, kissing up Genevieve's throat as she leans her head back.

 

Adrianne's arms wrap around her waist, pressing their bodies together until Genevieve can feel Adrianne's nipples gliding against her own. Her skin is warm and soft and she smells fucking amazing. Adrianne's hand slides down to cup over Genevieve's ass while the other one tangles into Genevieve's hair, catching at the soft waves and tugging gently as she licks her way up Genevieve's neck and into her mouth.

 

Genevieve slides a hand between them and cups one of Adrianne's breasts, squeezing hard enough to make Adrianne sigh. She leans forward, straddling her legs as Adrianne lays down beneath her. Genevieve playfully nips at Adrianne's lip before rearing back, panting for breath as she looks down at Adrianne.

 

“God, you're fucking gorgeous.” Genevieve swoops down to suck one of Adrianne's nipples into her mouth, tracing her tongue over the softly ridged skin before flicking at the hard bud. Adrianne arches up into it, running her hand back into Genevieve's hair and moaning.

 

Genevieve rolls to her side, leaving one of her legs pressed between Adrianne's as she sucks at Adrianne's breast. Their hips grind together, rolling in tight circles that press the crease of their thighs into the other's crotch. Genevieve groans as she feels the seam of her uniform press against her pussy, muffled enough to drive her more crazy than satisfied.

 

She pulls her mouth off Adrianne's nipple, dazed for a moment by the spit-wet pink of it before she slides up Adrianne's body to kiss her. She lets her hand roam down Adrianne's stomach, splaying her palm over her belly before cupping it over the mound of Adrianne's pussy and squeezing through her uniform.

 

“Please tell me I can take your pants off.”

 

Adrianne tenses beneath her, her body going still from the arching writhe it had just been performing.

 

“Hey, you OK? Too fast?” Genevieve pulls her hand back and reaches up to brush her fingers across Adrianne's cheek. “We can stop.”

 

“No, it's not … I really don't want to stop.” Adrianne squeezes her eyes shut before looking bashfully up at Genevieve. “It's just, no one's seen me naked for, like, a really long time. I'm just nervous.”

 

Genevieve stops herself before she blurts out what could you possibly be nervous about? before she remembers.

 

“I want to see you,” Genevieve says softly, biting her lip as she smiles at Adrianne. “I want to see every inch of you, whether it's skin, or silver,” she licks her lips, “whether it's soft, or it's hard,” she slides her hand down Adrianne's side, pressing her leg back against Adrianne's pussy, “or it's wet.”

 

“Gods, yes,” Adrianne groans, rubbing herself against Genevieve's leg. She reaches down to grab her zip-pull, opening the zipper another inch before Genevieve places her hand over Adrianne's.

 

“Let me.” Genevieve smiles as Adrianne nods and pulls her hand back. Genevieve slides the zipper down slowly, keeping her eyes on Adrianne's as she pulls it down to its endpoint above Adrianne's right knee. Not breaking Adrianne's gaze, Genevieve kisses her just below her belly button, hooking both hands into the sides of Adrianne's uniform. Adrianne raises her hips to help as Genevieve pulls her uniform down, exposing inches of creamy skin bit by bit. Genevieve keeps kissing her way down, bypassing the well-trimmed patch of curls above Adrianne's pussy to mouth her way down the juncture of Adrianne's hip.

 

Genevieve can feel the change as her fingers slide past Adrianne's thighs. The metal of her legs feels smooth and cooler to the touch, slick whereas Adrianne's skin had caught warm against her. Genevieve doesn't look until she's gotten the legs of Adrianne's uniform past her knees. Adrianne kicks the rest off her calves and rests her legs against the bed.

 

Genevieve presses a soft kiss to Adrianne's hip before she looks down. The alloy of Adrianne's bionic legs has a burnished shine that makes Genevieve think of the glass-sand beaches she'd visited as a child. The alloy stretches from the tip of her toes, up past her knees. The natural flesh of her upper thighs melds seamlessly with the metal, rising higher on one leg than the other. Without thinking, Genevieve ducks down to trace her lips over the smooth juncture, kissing her way from Adrianne's human flesh to her metal skin.

 

“Gen, Gods,” Adrianne gasps, one of her knees shooting up to graze against Genevieve's ear. Her back arches as her hips curve up, and Gods is that a view as Genevieve looks up. She turns her head to drag her open mouth over Adrianne's flexed leg, hooking a hand behind her knee to press up. Genevieve rears up onto her knees and hooks Adrianne's leg over her shoulder until her delicate silver toes point up towards the ceiling.

 

Remembering Adrianne's hands-on demonstration of what feels good on bionic flesh, Genevieve presses her nose into the small of Adrianne's knee and licks softly at the smooth metal. Adrianne's whimper only gets louder as Genevieve lets her lips fall open, breathing out hot and steamy against the taut stretch of metal. She marvels at the seamless flow as Adrianne's leg moves, with all the flexibility but none of the wrinkling of human skin.

 

“You are so fucking hot,” Genevieve murmurs as she slides her cheek against Adrianne's thigh. Adrianne looks up at her, a high flush on her cheeks that just makes her eyes look even prettier.

 

“And you are too fucking dressed,” Adrianne smirks, looking down where Genevieve's uniform has bunched around her hips. Genevieve hadn't even noticed.

 

“Gonna do something about it?” Genevieve challenges, gasping in surprise as Adrianne's leg wraps around her back. Their stomachs press together as Adrianne rolls them over, smiling wickedly as Genevieve lands on her back. A pillow flies off the bed as Genevieve pushes her hips up, happy to help as Adrianne tugs her legs free.

 

Adrianne's hovers over her, leaning in for a kiss that makes Genevieve's whole body arch up, desperate for more contact. Adrianne clucks her tongue teasingly and shakes her head, trailing her index finger down the dip of Genevieve's collar bone.

 

“I thought you had something to show me.” Adrianne arches an eyebrow and bites her lip, running her finger across the swell of Genevieve's breast and circling it around her nipple.

 

“Show you?” Genevieve echoes, her eyes half-shut as Adrianne runs her tongue in the wake of her finger. Genevieve's skin prickles and that is just not a fair way to expect her to remember anything.

 

“Uh-huh.” Adrianne kisses her way up Genevieve's chest and nuzzles beneath her ear. “I can't even imagine what your less-than-family-friendly tinkering involves.”

 

“Oh,” Genevieve grins, opening her eyes and licking her lips. “That.”

 

Adrianne watches as she rolls to her side, fishing around in the inset drawer by the bed. She tosses two tubes of hand cream and a pair of headphones on the floor before she seizes on the small square and its accompanying electrode. She holds them up triumphantly and raises an eyebrow at Adrianne.

 

“This,” she says, rolling out from under Adrianne until they're both up on their knees, “is my new baby.” She holds the electrode between her fingertips as she sweeps Adrianne's hair over her shoulder.

 

“This part,” she explains, delicately laying the electrode at the base of Adrianne's neck, “reads your brain waves and runs some simple analytics which it feeds to this.” Genevieve presses the small square between Adrianne's breasts.

 

“How does it, oh,” Adrianne starts with surprise as the square changes shape, spreading out across her skin in a liquid motion. She smiles at Genevieve, her eyes wide.

 

“It cycles through a series of sensations to ascertain your response,” Genevieve says in her most clinical voice, making Adrianne giggle as the toy creeps down her stomach.

 

“I don't know how I, huh, how I feel about being experimented on,” Adrianne jokes, her breath getting shakier as the toy slides past her navel.

 

“You'll be duly compensated for your time, madam, I assure you,” Genevieve says with a grave expression on her face. “It's for science, after all.”

 

“I like science,” Adrianne quips as she allows Genevieve to push her back on the bed. Genevieve crawls over her, straddling her hips as she runs a hand into Adrianne's hair and kisses her. Adrianne gasps into her mouth and bucks her hips up, her legs pressed against Genevieve's.

 

“I think you like things that vibrate, too,” Genevieve says archly as she looks down between them. The toy is nestled in an elliptical spread over Adrianne's clit, moving fast enough that Genevieve can barely discern the way it's shaking back and forth.

 

“You're a fucking genius,” Adrianne gasps, clutching at Genevieve's bicep and smiling wildly. Her hips roll in a steady rhythm between them, each thrust into the air accompanied by a soft moan that makes Genevieve's pussy ache in sympathy.

 

Adrianne's still grasping her arm as she pulls Genevieve down, crushing their mouths together and rolling them over again. Genevieve doesn't mind getting pushed around, not when Adrianne spreads her legs open with her knees and stares at her pussy like that.

 

“You're so fucking adorable,” Adrianne says, shaking her head as she plants a trail of kisses down Genevieve's belly. “Even your pussy's cute, for fuck's sake.”

 

Genevieve doesn't get a chance to come up with a witty retort, not that she's feeling particularly clever at the moment. Adrianne's hair tickles at her thighs while she licks teasingly around the hood of Genevieve's clit. Genevieve tries to keep her grabby-hands to herself and succeeds for a full five seconds, until Adrianne finally flicks her tongue over the aching swell of Genevieve's clit and she's really not responsible for where her hands wind up.

 

The loud moan Adrianne lets out as Genevieve's fingers twine through her hair wipes away any lingering shyness Genevieve possesses. Genevieve spreads her legs wider, grinding herself against Adrianne's mouth and groaning because Gods above Adrianne knows what she's doing. She's noisy as fuck, too, sighing and sucking and making slick noises with her lips that should be outlawed on every major planet. She pulls off Genevieve's pussy suddenly, looking up with what has to be sexiest face in the known galaxies.

 

“Oh Gods, Gen, I'm, fuck,” Adrianne trails off, digging her fingers into Genevieve's hip and biting her lip. It takes Genevieve a long second to realize that Adrianne's coming, and it makes Genevieve a million times hotter to think that Adrianne hit her climax with her head between Genevieve's legs.

 

Adrianne whines high in her throat as she comes, clenching her hand down on Genevieve's hip and fuck does that feel good, the dig of her nails finally letting off just as she closes her mouth over Genevieve's clit and sucks, hard. Genevieve's so close to the edge it doesn't take long, a few flicks of Adrianne's tongue and the scratch of her nails down Genevieve's thigh all it takes to finish her.

 

Genevieve lets herself growl as she comes, not caring if the entire Applied Sciences wing knows that she's getting laid. Everyone should know because this is the best thing ever, the way Adrianne doesn't stop until Genevieve's panting for breath and blinking to clear her double vision. Adrianne crawls up Genevieve's body in skin-scorching inches, the jut of her hipbone grazing against Genevieve's still-throbbing clit as they kiss. Genevieve can taste herself as she licks into Adrianne's mouth, open and wet and warm while the cooler flesh of Adrianne's lower legs tangles with her own.

 

Adrianne is gorgeous after sex, her skin pink dewy with sweat. Her lips are swollen and shiny, and the tangles in her hair just make her look like more of a goddess. She also snores like a Krogan with the red flu. Somehow this is the most endearing thing Genevieve can imagine. She curls against Adrianne's back and carefully peels the electrode off Adrianne's neck, tossing it on her bedside table. The toy has settled below Adrianne's navel like a fond hand, so Genevieve presses her own to the empty space once it falls off.

 

Adrianne sighs and cuddles back against her, laying her hand over Genevieve's and resuming her percussive snoring. Genevieve smiles and lets her nose rest against the warm scent of Adrianne's hair until they're both asleep.

 

*

 

“So then Jensen was like, do my spots look green to you?” Jared laughs as Jensen glares at him.

 

“You're so cute when you're pissed.” Danneel leans over from her perch on Jared's lap to nuzzle her nose against Jensen's speckles. They're flushed pink despite the pout on Jensen's face, belying his good mood.

 

“Oh my Gods, are they always like this?” Adrianne leans in to whisper in Genevieve's ear. Genevieve squeezes her hand under the table and laughs.

 

“I think they're toning it down for you,” Genevieve admits, brushing her thumb across the base of Adrianne's palm. “Seriously, they're like a trifecta of domestic bliss. It's gross.”

 

“You know I have enhanced hearing, right Gen?” Jensen arches an eyebrow as Danneel crunches a stick of daikon between her teeth.

 

“Oooh, did she say something dirty?”

 

“I actually hate you,” Genevieve teases, picking up a mini Quorn dog and pointing it menacingly at her friend. All in all, Danneel had been on excellent behavior during Adrianne's first lunch with all of them. The dirty jokes had been kept to a minimum, and Danneel kept her mouth shut when Adrianne had enthused over the deep-fried glory of mini Quorn dogs. Jared and Jensen had been their usual charming selves. Jared had told one of his excessively hand-gestured stories about Jensen rebuffing a particularly smitten Asari programmer, and Adrianne had laughed so hard her Caff had almost come out of her nose.

 

“Speaking of hate,” Jared mutters under his breath, glaring over Genevieve's shoulder. Genevieve turns to look and quickly whips her head back around as she sees Lauren, entourage in tow.

 

“Whatever.” Danneel rolls her eyes and pushes her kelp around on her plate. “Just ignore them, Jay.”

 

While no one had brought it up, everyone at their table knows that Adrianne's a mech. Danneel had been miffed when Genevieve wouldn't give her graphic details (“I want sound effects, Gen!”) but she knew the basic anatomy, and had told Jared and Jensen with Genevieve's permission.

 

Adrianne turns to follow Jared's glare, her face reddening as she ducks her head.

 

“Oh, shit,” she curses, squeezing her eyes shut and pressing a hand to her forehead.

 

“What's wrong?” Genevieve asks softly, narrowing her eyes as Mark and Katie whisper together. Nothing good ever seems to come from those two conspiring.

 

“I, uh, I knew Mark back on Sector Nine.” Adrianne frowns and lets out a long sigh, looking across the table at Danneel and the boys. “He knows about, you know.” She looks down at her lap, her blush deepening.

 

Genevieve places her arm across Adrianne's back and sits up straighter. When she turns to look back, Katie is talking into Lauren's ear. Lauren's eyes widen as she looks over at their table, her lips curling into a disdainful sneer that makes Genevieve wonder how she ever found Lauren so attractive.

 

“I should go,” Adrianne says suddenly, her voice strained. She pushes her tray back, just to have it stopped by one of Danneel's fingers.

 

“No way,” Danneel says firmly, shaking her head and letting her hair fall around her shoulders. “No one gets to kick people out of my lunch table except me.”

 

“You're going to run into him eventually,” Jensen points out sensibly, smiling kindly. “And I still haven't heard about your work, Genevieve won't stop raving about it. I'd love it if you stayed.”

 

“I guess...” Adrianne lets out a deep breath and darts a look over her shoulder. “Oh Gods, they're coming over.”

 

Genevieve draws her arm a little tighter across Adrianne's shoulders.

 

“Well, isn't this funny.” Katie crosses her arms over her chest and smiles. “Let me guess, Danny, Jensen got sick of you and decided to upgrade to a robot girlfriend?”

 

Danneel glares at her with a look that would melt the skin off of a lesser being.

 

“Hey there, Ade,” Mark drawls, his breath clicking through his face plate. “Long time, no see. How're you settling into the Citadel? You finding your legs ok?”

 

“Yeah, you landing on your feet?” Katie snickers, flipping her hair over her shoulder. The spots on her neck are a deep violet, flaring into dark blue as she laughs.

 

Lauren steps forward, a magnanimous look on her face. “We just thought you'd like to know that your new friend,” she bites off the last word, a mirthless smile curling on her lips, “is a mech.”

 

“And?” Genevieve snaps her head around, mustering her bitchiest face. “She's also not a narrow-minded asshat who doesn't know her goddamn history. So I think I'm ok with my choice in friends.”

 

Lauren's mouth opens and closes in shock, and Genevieve can feel her stomach doing backflips. No one talks to Lauren like that, and Genevieve has never talked to anyone like that before. It feels kind of amazing.

 

“You little bitch,” Katie starts, her button nose wrinkling back in an ugly sneer. “We're trying to help you, way to be grateful.”

 

“Nevermind, Katie.” Lauren rolls her eyes. “Some people just don't know what's good for them.” She turns on her heel and storms off.

 

“It'll be your own fault when she kills you in your sleep,” Mark hisses, giving Adrianne a curt nod before following Lauren and Katie.

 

Genevieve lets out a huff of disbelief as Mark trails after his friends. Jared makes a rude noise and flips Mark off.

 

“I can't fucking believe them.” Genevieve strokes her fingers across Adrianne's arm. “Gods, Adrianne, I'm so sorry.”

 

“You sort of get used to it,” she shrugs, tucking her hair behind her ear and smiling at Genevieve. “But it's cool to have someone stand up for me.” She arches an eyebrow and slides her hand over Genevieve's knee. “It's kinda hot, too.”

 

Before Genevieve can respond, Danneel clears her throat.

 

“Hey, before we lose you two to another three-day stint in bed,” Danneel holds up her hands, and Genevieve can't really deny it – she and Adrianne had spent three days in bed after their first night together, plus another couple where Genevieve had shown Adrianne all her favorite places on the Citadel. “You are not leaving until you promise to make me and these lucky assholes three of those AI vibrator things.”

 

The way Adrianne immediately blushes scarlet is probably the best advertisement Genevieve could ask for.

 

“Gen made an AI vibrator?” Jared leans his elbows on the table and rests his chin on his hands. “I always said you could do great things with that huge brain of yours, Gen.”

 

Genevieve laughs, lacing her fingers into Adrianne's. She looks over at her friends, sighing fondly at Danneel's unabashedly excited face. She really does have good taste in friends.

 

“Well,” Genevieve leans forward, grinning wickedly as Jensen and Jared mirror her movement, “I've been doing some extensive testing, and I should have a few ready to try within a week.”

 

Adrianne leans in closer to her, giggling at Genevieve's extensive testing comment. Adrianne is the most delightful test subject Genevieve has ever worked with.

 

“I think I'm going to call it The Pearl.”

 

The End!