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The Good Old Days

By Jadestar

 

Devaki Quillandi tried to ignore the cheers and cat calls coming from the car as he stood outside the house.

"You da drake, Dev!"

A loud, laughing voice that he recognised as one of his cousins, Laban. "Do us all proud, Devi-boy!"

This is stupid. But he went in.

*****

He looked around nervously at the room. From the outside, the house looked normal, but on the inside what should have been the lounge room looked like some kind of waiting room, with some rather nasty posters and photos stuck around.

"May I help you, sir?" The lady at the desk was cheery, and she stood up.

"I guess."

She heard the honking car out the window, and smiled. "Family tradition, right? You look Taliano."

"Yeah."

"Happy birthday. What would you like?"

He turned slowly to look at her. She had a book, and a pen, and was waiting for him to tell her what he wanted. He wanted to get as far away as possible. "Please be more specific."

She looked doubtful for a moment. "We can start right at the top if you want. Male or female?"

It was his turn to be surprised. "I'm male."

"Yes, but do you want a male or a female?"

He raised an eyebrow. "Female."

She marked that down, and followed a list of questions. "Clothes on or off?"

This time he did blush. "On."

"Well, sir, we have just the girl. If you have the money..." He did. "Right this way."

He let himself get shown into a bedroom, and inwardly sighed as the door clicked shut behind him. "Hello?"

"Hi..." came a purring sort of voice from the bed. It was too dark for him to see properly, so he found the light switch and flicked it on.

The girl looked to be about three years his younger, and he was 19 that day. She was lying on her side, in what seemed to be a standard pose around this place. He walked closer, and stopped. "I said clothes on."

She winked at him. "You do have your clothes on. Don't think I didn't notice."

He turned around. "Get dressed."

He could feel her slight confusion and amusement. "Well, it's your hour that you're wasting with petty details," she said, and shifted around. "Okay baby, I'm done."

Devaki turned around and studied her. Long blond hair, big blue eyes and soft light feathers. He hadn't known she was going to be beautiful. He sat on the edge of the bed, and stiffened when she casually stretched her way over to sit on his lap. "What's your name?"

"Whatever you want it to be." The purring voice was back. He liked the other one better.

"I want it to be your real one."

She pushed him onto his back and sat over him. "Keely." When she started to continue, he pushed her off.

"I just want to talk."

Keely sat back. "Fair enough. I can talk." Purring voice back on. "Baby, I wanna..."

This girl was suited to her profession, as much as Devaki hated to admit it. "Stop. How about a normal conversation. How old are you?"

She pulled back in disgust. "Copper, you aren't getting anything from me."

That idea made him laugh, something he wasn't used to. "I'm from the other end, actually."

A disbelieving look was Keely's answer to that, but then she smiled a real smile, not a fake one. "Yeah, you look a little too strong and silent for one of them." She moved to the head of the bed and sat against it. "But you're the first gangster I've met who's not interested in sowing wild oats, as it were. Anyway, what's your name?"

"Devaki."

*****

The knock on the door startled them both. Keely was in the middle of a long and earnest story about how she hacked into a bank, and she sighed. "Well, that's the end. Hope your horn-tooting buddies out the front don't mind that you wasted their money."

"I won't tell them. If they want details, I'll just tell them all the things you 'wanted to do'."

She rolled her eyes. "Don't get me started. I hate this job."

The knock came again. "Sir?"

Devaki glanced behind him. "Just a minute!" he yelled, then turned back to her. "Come with me."

She blinked. "What?"

He stood up. "I can get you away from this. I can get you a computer, and whatever else you need."

Keely studied him. "You're serious, aren't you." Statement.

"Yes." He waited.

She looked around. "They won't let me go like this."

Devaki brought out a gun. "They will."

He earned a new respect in her eyes. "Honey, you are every bit as dangerous as you look."

"Are you coming?"

She jumped up. "You bet I am!"

*****

She was 19 herself now, and he was 22. Keely lazily played with his hair while the sun came up. He hadn't moved, but she knew he was awake. "Why'd you rescue me?"

Devaki rolled over. He liked it when she got reflective; it was the one mood where he had the upper hand. "What do you mean?"

"From the streets. Well," she amended, "The rooms, then."

He pulled her over so her head was resting on his chest, and they were both facing the window. That way he could watch her face without her knowing, and she couldn't be watching his without making it obvious. "You didn't belong there. Beauty without brains could have stayed, but you've got both." He paused. "And you know it."

She shrugged matter of factly. "Mmm... But I still like to hear you say it."

They stayed like that for a long time; watching the sun come up was a ritual for them. After a while, Devaki posed the question that he'd been wondering about ever since he'd met her. "How did someone like you end up somewhere like that?"

She didn't stiffen, but he knew that he'd struck a nerve by the way she took an extra breath. "Bad choices and bad luck. I suppose you want to know more."

He smiled fondly. "I wouldn't mind."

Keely sighed. "Fell pregnant at 14, got kicked out. Gave the baby up, couldn't find work. The only mainstream thing I could do was computers, but without a degree that gets you nowhere. And the only other talent I had was batting my eyelashes, soo..." She watched a cloud float by the window. "I tried working the streets... That was awful..." He felt her shudder. "And they asked me to work for them, and I said yes. I was 15 then, and you know I was 16 when you came." She smiled at him. "My angel in black."

He looked amused. "Angel?"

"Well, perhaps demon is more accurate, but that's not the point." She looked far off. "He was such a beautiful baby... I know all babies are, but he was adorable... He had my eyes and my feathers..." She suddenly turned bitter. "Hope his life is good enough to justify wrecking mine."

"Kia."

"You're right, I don't mean that." She suddenly turned and buried her face in the sheets for a moment. "Wasn't even his fault."

"Where's the father?"

She made a noise of disgust, at herself. "I don't even know who the father is."

Devaki looked at the small body curled up beside him, and loved her even more, for finally letting him see that she just might need him. He gathered her up in his arms, and she cried.

When she'd calmed down, she wiped her eyes angrily. "I don't need to worry about who the father is. I don't even have to worry about catching something every hour anymore."

"You believed me when I said I had all my shots?"

Keely grinned, and looked up. "Did you just make a joke?"

"I might have."

"You did! You did! Devi cracked a funny!"

"You make it sound like such an achievement."

"Well, it is, for you." She said 'you' like it made all the difference.

Devaki smiled, and decided that this was definitely a memory he wanted.

*****

He needed those memories, later. Keely and himself weren't so bad off at the start of the Invasion- he knew enough places to keep them hidden and fed. It was just when Keely decided that a few changes were in order. Starting with one of the two other hackers she'd collected for a group she was starting up. The brown one.

Oh, Cutter never lied to her. No, he never lied. She just thought that he loved her, and that he was here to stay. She didn't think to ask him, and she didn't think that he'd go back to the Brotherhood, though it was obvious that he liked it and that they wouldn't let him go even if he wanted to. And Devaki couldn't even be very hurt that she'd left him for Cutter, because every bit of pain she felt when he left, he felt too.

"From now on, you're Cereal Killer, and I'm Xenon. None of this Devaki and Keely crap."

"But I like Keely."

"Well, I DON'T!"

She'd screamed that at him, stormed up the steps, slammed the door, and sobbed for hours. And after that she wasn't Keely anymore, true to her word. She never cried, she was so sarcastic, she was hard, she was bossy, and she never let anyone walk away from her... And it was hurting both of them, and he didn't know how to reach her, he never had. He knew it went deeper than Cutter, probably to her family kicking her out, but didn't she see that he wasn't going to do that to her?

*****

Cereal had his hands tucked behind his head, staring up at the ceiling. Xenon was getting Cassie and ZC ready for bed. Xenon was the only person Cassie deemed fit to see her naked - female thing probably. And ZC seemed to be just very attached to the leader. Of course, it worked both ways, and Cereal had his suspicions there...

She was laughing. The kids were about the only thing that made her really laugh, these days. Once upon a time she'd laughed at everything...

He missed his Kia.

 

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