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When Porcines Fly

By Quillblade and Jadestar

 

Fyber-Optix came back from snatching a late afternoon bite to eat from the larder, to find an intruder in his room. "Hey!" he yelped, dumping his two-minute-noodles on the nearest bench and snatching the bladed object out of young Zero Cool's hands. "Don't touch that, kid! Don't touch anythin' in here! I didn't spend hours makin' this stuff fer it ta get dropped an' broken by you."

"But I were bein' fery careful..."

Fyber frowned. "'Careful' ain't good enough. Look. But. Don't. Touch." The boy blinked hard, his large blue eyes going very round and his lip wobbling. "Oh, Drake, don't look at me like that, kid."

The hurt expression didn't go, and Fyber felt a bit of a heel. "Hey, hey... I'm sorry fer shoutin', Zee. But that thing's sharp and I don' wanna have Xenon waxin' wrath 'cos ya cut yerself in here. Okay? I'm sorry." The apology came rather rough; he wasn't used to saying 'sorry'. But, even so, ZC brightened considerably. Also strangely cheered, Fybe reached back for his pot of noodles but his hand bumped against something else on the table, a small box of lenses and one-way glass mirrors. He picked out one of the dime-sized mirrors, and flipped it in his hand a couple of times.

All Zero Cool could see was a flash when the light caught it briefly. "What wath that?" the boy asked.

He closed his fist. "What was what?"

"That flash!"

Fyber opened his hands with a disarming smile. They were empty. He even halfway turned them round to show there was nothing hidden behind.

ZC looked hard at him. "You had thomething in your handth before, Fybe."

"Might've done," he replied. "Can ya guess where it is?"

"I theed this twick before!" Zero Cool grinned. "In my ear."

He snapped his fingers twice at each side of the boy's head, and then shrugged. "Nope, can't find it there. Must be somewhere else, eh?"

"I gueth..." Zero frowned. "You know where it ith, don't you."

"Who, me? Would I keep something so serious under my hat?" He promptly lifted off ZC's cap, turned it upside-down and showed him the little mirror sitting inside.

The boy gaped. "How'd it get in there?"

He winked. "If I said it was magic, would ya believe me?"

"No," said Zero, who thought himself too old to believe in 'magic tricks' and vanishing things. Occasionally, however, he did wonder.

Fyber grinned, and spread his arms. "Then if I told ya, it'd take all the fun out if it." His grin widened as ZC's face fell in disappointment. "Tell ya what, come back tomorrow an' I'll teach it ta ya."

"You would?! Wow! Thankth, Fybe!"

He was hugged before he could even blink. Surprised, and a little awkward, he patted the boy on the head and slipped the cap back on. "Yeah, uh, no prob, Zee. Jus' don't go mentionin' it ta anyone else, okay? I got an image ta keep up, an' all."

ZC looked at him curiously. "Why don't you act thith nithe all the time? Then the otherth would like you more."

"Eh, well... I just don't. Too late ta change, anyway."

"It'th nefer too late."

Fyber gave him a gentle but meaningful push toward the door. "Jus' run along now, Zee, 'kay? I got some stuff to work on fer Her Majesty..."

*****

Xenon tapped the end of a biro against her beak, chewing absently on a lock of her dark blonde hair, and then spun about in her seat as the door slid open. Fyber sauntered into the room and deposited a small paper bag on her table. "Here's the parts ya wan'ed, sweet thing... ya can pay me later, any way ya like."

His grin was suggestive. Xenon gave him a look of pure disgust. "That will be, oh, never in a million years." She picked up the bag and rifled through it, making sure there were no little 'surprises'. Everything seemed in order. "Good job... thanks," she said, most unenthusiastically, as she turned away. Fyber just grinned even more broadly.

"Oh, what a magic moment, Xenon actually thanked me!" He leaned his hands on the arms of the young woman's chair, smirking into her face. "Babe, are ya sure ya don't wanna make this a late evenin'?"

Biting off a more vicious comment, she rolled her eyes and rather firmly pushed him away. "Okay, I'll rephrase my words so your poor little mind can understand them better." Whirling around she stabbed a finger at his face. "I'd date you if, and only if, you cleaned up your act, were polite, and helpful, and generally a nice guy. But you won't, aren't, and will never be. So my answer is never."

He put his hands over his heart. "I'm injured, Xena! I can be a nice guy!"

Xenon smirked. "When porcines fly."

Fyber-Optix folded his arms, mildly irritated. "Well then, guess they're growin' wings. I'll take ya up on that bet."

"What?" She stared at him.

"Said I'll take ya up, babe. If I'm my total opposite fer a given period a' time, then ya'd consent to a night?"

Her stare became a glare. "I'd consent to a date, and nothing more." Like he could keep it up for any longer than a few minutes. "Right. I'll be fair on poor little you... a week. You have a week."

"A week? Deal."

She smiled at him. "Good. Now, run along, Fybe... and be nice."

He left the room wondering what on Puckworld had possessed him to bet that. No chance of backin' outta it now, though, else I'll get laughed in my face. He paused on the staircase, and sat down on the top step. One week. I can do one week. One week ain' all that bad. Jus' have ta do a bit a' revertin'...

Fyber grimaced. There was a reason he always acted such an asshole; he hadn't always been like that. Sighing, he stared moodily down at the ground floor. I s'pose I can give ol' Vince another shot. It is only fer a week.

*****

Early the next morning, Griffon struggled with the soda machine. It was a very old model, a little rusty around the circuits, but it was the only one they had. Each week an anonymous supply of cans was dropped off to them; they'd set up the detour ages ago and made the truck's automated driver think it had been paid. In fact, it had been Griffon's idea, and he'd been the one to set it up. So far, no one had noticed that a crate or two of cans mysteriously vanished from the load at a regular time weekly, and even if they did, they'd have been 'paid for'.

The machine whined at him. Looking around to make sure no one was watching to witness a little fall from his no-hurting-machines beliefs, he gave it a heavy kick. It gave another whine, and a light flickered off. "Blast you, I want a drink."

"Do you need some help there, Griff?"

The voice was barely familiar. It wasn't its usual thick Keltor accent. He turned around - Fyber-Optix was standing at the foot of the stairs wearing a amiable smile and, instead of his usual combination of weird outfits, wore a plain shirt and jeans that made him seem uncharacteristically - well, friendly.

Griffon was immediately suspicious. Whenever Fyber started looking friendly, he was usually at his most troublesome. "I... well, yah, I could do with a bit of assistance," he admitted warily. "She is being very stubborn."

Fyber came over and checked behind the machine. "And no wonder. The wires have been chewed out. Hang on a moment, I'll just grab some things..." He vanished into his room.

A few minutes later he was back out, and as quickly as possible replaced the frayed wiring with new cords. "Sorry that took so long," he said, moving it back against the wall. Then he took out a fake dollar and dropped it into the slot. "What's your poison, man? Original, lime or cherry?"

"Original, my thanks." A can was deposited in his hand; Fybe tipped an imaginary hat and started walking away without so much as a call for repayment. Griffon scratched his chin. "Are you all right, Fyber?"

The man glanced back. "Quite well, thanks."

That clinched it. "What are you up to now?"

"Nothing that I can think of. Why do you ask?"

The man's expression was so earnest that Griffon found himself believing him. Still... it was so out of character... oh well. Perhaps he'd turned over a new leaf? Ah, that they should be so lucky. "I... um, never mind."

"Alright. Ciao!" The helpful spirit that appeared to have usurped Fyber-Optix's body vanished back into his workshop. Still puzzled, Griffon returned to his own room, sat down in his chair with soda in hand, and stared thoughtfully at the screen of his laptop. "Diary, please, Daisy," he said into the microphone.

. . . c o m p u t i n g . . .

His diary came up with a new entry all ready for him. He sat in silence for a while, then shrugged, and typed:

Today I witnessed a miracle. Fyber-Optix did something helpful without being asked, and with no ulterior motive apparent. This is a day for the record books.

*****

"You."

Fyber turned and stared down the barrels of a rifle. Instead of jumping out of his feathers and yelling blue murder at the man who held the weapon, he calmly pushed it out of his face. "Sorry, the bank's on the other street, Cereal. Can I help you?"

Cereal Killer gave him a strange look from behind his sunglasses, and pulled the gun back, handing it to him butt-first. "There's something stopped the trigger from moving, it's blocked. Fix it. While you're at it, give it a clean, an oil, and a polish."

An' d'ya want fries wit' that? "Of course. If you don't mind waiting around, this shouldn't take too long." He whipped out a screwdriver and began taking the gun apart. Although he couldn't see without looking around, Fyber could nearly feel the astonished stare CK was aiming at him. He'd never so readily agreed to fixing anything for the guy before.

But this time he paused only to find the cloth and oil. There was a thick wad of mixed and hardened greasedust stuck in the triggering system, which he got out again in a jiffy. Then he gave it a thorough clean and oiling, finding a couple more of the greaseballs wedged inside. "What did you use on this thing last?" he asked.

Cereal shrugged from his position, leaning in the doorway.

"That's helpful. Whatever it was, don't use it again, else the gun might go off in your hands and blow you to Pe Lei King." He gave the barrals a polishing flick of the cloth, then handed it back. CK took the rifle just a little hesitantly, as if worried Fyber had somehow set it to go off in his hands.

"Hey, Fybe, you thaid you'd teach me that twick with the mirror."

Fyber-Optix peered out and down the stairs to see Zero Cool at the bottom, looking determined with his arms folded over his chest. He had to chuckle. "So I did. Just you let me finish with CK and I'll be there in a flash."

Regarding him with something between suspicion and amusement, Cereal folded his arms. "Trick with a mirror?"

"Sleight-of-hand, really," Fyber explained. "I used to be pretty good at it. I could never get the hang of sawing people in half, though... no one I knew would volunteer to be practiced on, so I couldn't use trial and error."

"Your luck won't be any better here, let me assure you."

Fyber grinned at him. "I know. You're all very sensible people. See you 'round."

As Cereal went back upstairs (naturally not saying thank you, but hey, he wasn't the one supposed to be polite), Fyber ducked into his room to grab a lens, then headed down to the kids' room. Zero Cool was sitting patiently on his bed; Cassie was lying down in hers, but she wasn't asleep, just laying there. They looked up as he came in.

"Hey, Fybe."

"Ya came, awethfome!"

"Do I lie?" he asked.

"Weeell..."

"Don't answer that, then." He seated himself on Cool's bed, and the kid crawled over to sit next to him.

Cassie peered over her blankets at them. "Whatcha doing?"

"He's thfhowing me how to do a twick with mirrorth!" Zero beamed.

"Neaties! Can you show me too, please please please please please?"

Fyber patted the bed on his other side. "Sure, hop over here and we'll see if I can't teach you this." Once Cassie had bounded over and made herself comfortable, he produced the little one-way glass mirror with a flourish. "Okay, now, I want the both of you to look at this. What's it look like?"

"A mirror," they said.

"A little round one," Zero added.

"Close..." He flipped it over. "See? Now it's just glass. It's a one-way mirror, like the stuff used in interrogation rooms, which coppers sit behind and watch you when you think you're not being watched."

"Like in the mofieth."

"Yeah, just like in the movies. Anyway, watch..." Fyber flicked the mirror like a coin - the silvered side caught the light and flashed, but the see-through side made it seem invisible. "That catches your attention, right? Then you hide it in your hand." His fist closed. Then opened again; the mirror had vanished.

"Where'd it go?" Cassie demanded.

Fyber held his hand out palm-down, showing that he held the mirror loosely between two fingers. "When you open your hands, with a quick movement of the thumb you can slip it between those fingers, so that when you hold them up," he demonstrated as he spoke, "and turn them slightly to the side... quickly, mind you, because the glass doesn't make it totally invisible... anyone looking at you doesn't see a thing. Of course, you have to make sure you've got the glass-side facing out toward your pinkie, otherwise when you turn your hand they see the mirror." Fyber closed his fist again, dropping the mirror into his palm as he did so.

"Then what happenth? How d'ya do the hat bit?"

Zee's hat was promptly whisked off his head, and the mirror appeared inside. "That bit's simple. The mirror has never been in your hat 'til it comes off your hair. All you have to do is let the thing slip inside mirror-side up, and there you have it."

"Coolsome! Can I have a try, Fybe, pleathfe?"

Fyber-Optix handed the mirror over. "Sure thing, kid. Why don't you pop into the next room and have a practice with it, maybe you can show off to Xenon tomorrow?"

Delighted, Zero Cool vanished into the side-room. Cassie watched him go. "I'm thirsty, Fybe," she proclaimed suddenly. "Can you get me a milkshake? Pleeeeease?"

"Of course." All things considered, he couldn't have said no. Her set of lungs was pretty impressive and he didn't feel like having his ears blown out tonight. "I'll be back before you can say Bob Finch."

The little girl looked at him sceptically. "Bob Finch," she said. "And you haven't even gone."

"Literal-minded today, aren't we," said Fyber good-naturedly. He laughed. "All right, we'll make it a hundred Bob Finches. And we can start the clock now."

"Bob Finch, Bob Finch," she began steadily, watching him vanish up the stairs, "Bob Finch, Bob Finch, Bob Finch, Bob Finch, Bob Finch, Bob Finch..."

Another eight Bob Finches later, Zero Cool walked back in and sat next to her. "What are you doing?"

"Bob Finch, Fybe, Bob Finch, told, Bob Finch, me, Bob Finch, to, Bob Finch, say, Bob Finch, Bob, Bob Finch, Finch, Bob Finch, a hundred, Bob Finch, times, Bob Finch, done, Bob Finch, Bob Finch, twenny-nine..."

"Why?"

"...Finch, Bob Finch, he Bob Finch, said, Bob Finch, he'd, Bob Finch, be, Bob Finch, back, Bob Finch, Bob... oh, now look what you've made me do! I lost count! He said he'd be back before I cound say a hundred Bob Finches, and you've made me loose count!"

"Thirty-seven," Zee supplied.

"Thanks. BobFinchBobFinchBobFinchBobFinchBobFinchBobFinch Bob Finch, Bob Finch, Bob Finch..."

After a few more Bob Finches, Zero got in on the act too. "Bob Finch, Bob Finch, Bob Finch, Bob Finch, Bob Finch, Bob Finch, Bob Finch..." Their two voices solemnly chanted the name, until Fyber-Optix arrived back on the eighty-eighth one. Cassie looked pleased. "You did it! You got back before the hundredth!"

Fyber gave a bow, and handed her the milkshake. "Here you go, princess. I could have been quicker, but Cipher had temporarily confiscated the blender, so I had to beg him to let me use it."

Cassie smiled and sucked on the straw. Zero Cool pouted at him. "What about me?"

"I can make you one too, if you like."

The boy closed one eye and squinted at him with the other, as if trying to work out whether he was serious or not. "Nah, it'th okay. I'm not thirthfy." His expression changed suddenly. "You gunna read uth a thtory?"

"Uhh..." Sleight-of-hand, fine, milkshakes, no trouble, but he'd never read a kid bedtime stories before. "Well, you know, I wouldn't want to take Xenon's nightly job away from her..."

"You wouldn't be," said Xenon from the doorway. Fyber jumped, then turned around to face her. She was smiling at him: a smile with an edge of razorblades to it. "Go on, read them a story," she encouraged. "I'll have an early night tonight. Good night, Zee, Cassie."

"'Night Xen."

"Goodnight, Xenon."

Fybe offered her his own cheery, slightly cold smile as she left. "Yes, sweet dreams, Xena." The door closed behind her. Just a little reluctantly, he cross the room to the small bookcase and peered through the shelves. None of the titles there were even remotely familiar. "Hm... pick a book, kids, any book."

"Drake duCaine and the Sand Witch!"

"But we had that lathft night..."

"So? I wanna hear it again!"

"But I wanna hear Drake duCaine and the Rainbow Thftone..."

"Well I don't!"

"Thfo?"

Looking from one to the other, Fybe decided there'd be no peace if he chose either book, and he didn't know which of the other stories they both liked. So he settled for something different. "How about we make one up?"

They paused to stare at him. "Make one up?" Cassie repeated. "How?"

"Well, I do the telling, you two supply me with some ideas. My mom and I used to do that all the time." He hesitated for a moment. Thinking of his mom brought back other memories, good and bad.

"You had a mom?"

"Silly!" Cassie said. "Everyone has a mom."

Before they could start to get argumentative again, Fyber picked up little Zero and flopped down into the old sagging easy chair and placed the boy on one arm of the chair. Cassie, not one to be left out, bounced over and sat on the other side. "So, let's see," said Fyber, "how do all stories begin?"

"With 'onthfe upon a time'."

"Okay. Once upon a time in a far off land, a little boy by the name of Drake duCaine was told by his mean big sister that he had to stay indoors and clean every floor in the house five times over, because she was having guests that night..."

"I didn't know Drake had a sister."

"He does in this one. Anyway, Drake was naturally upset at this, he wanted to go play hockey with his friends, and then make a snowduck in the fields near the dark forest. Now, this forest, it's a very special forest. It's full of little woodsprites, do you know what they are? No? They're tiny, tiny little ducks, with very small wings, and they glow, all different colors like Snow Festival lights. Well, in this forest, people were often lost, because the woodsprites that live there do nothing but have fun all day, and this is very tempting to those who do long hours for little pay. The wood was out of bounds to children because of this, and the roads through it were clearly marked so no one would go off into the forest and get lost. Well, our little hero decided to run away and go to live with the woodsprites, since it would be far more fun than staying and doing all those chores, so off he went: out the door, along the path, over the bridge, around the curve and into the enchanted forest..."

*****

Almost an hour later, and the young Drake duCaine had somehow managed to get himself lost in the enchanted forest, picked up by gypsies, sailed down a river in a leaky boat, and was currently finding himself in a strange dark land of swamp and stone.

"...and what did he see in front of him, but a.. what did he see?"

"Ogre."

"Wolve."

"An ogre's pet wolvehound, with a grinning mouth full of teeth and two tiny little red eyes that blinked when Drake walked toward it."

Making it all up proved easier than he'd first thought it would be; Zee and Cassie, his attentive audience, would happily supply ideas whenever he ran out. Looking at the scene from a detached point of view, it was actually rather cute.

Normally Fyber didn't do 'cute'.

"Aaand... the wolvehound said, uh... 'Traveller, beware, for I am the shadow of the night which stalks and hunts children who wander into my master's domain. All who try to pass me I devour.' And Drake saw the bones stacked high behind this massive creature. But he wasn't scared... why wasn't he scared?"

Cassie murmured sleepily, "'Cos 'e's jus' an 'lusion."

"Right. So Drake walked right up to the beast and grabbed it by the nose. 'Listen here, wolvehound, I'm not frightened of you, or your big sharp teeth, or your little red eyes, you're just a shadow, and a shadow can't hurt anyone.' And do you know what happened? The wolvehound disappeared. The bones disappeared. The path came back, and Drake walked on..."

Fyber paused there, and looked down at the two kids. Somehow during the course of the story they'd slid off the arms of the chair and were now snuggled up on each side of him, both apparently asleep. "'Ey, kids?" he said softly.

"'M not athleep," Zee muttered. "'m wide 'wake, wide 'wake. You thayin' 'bout Dwake 'n' a big wolve.." The last few words were a mumble so faint he could barely make them out, as Zee fell into a doze.

Whew. All that chatter I was spoutin' was makin' my tongue ache. Fyber smiled at the two kids, almost fondly, then picked them up and deposited them in each of their separate beds. Cassie grumbled as he tucked her in, but neither woke up as he turned out the light and headed out of the dark basement room.

He nearly walked straight into Xenon, who regarded him with a frosty look. "'All who try to pass me I devour', huh?"

"Well, yes, Miss Wolvehound," he replied lightly, "and might I be able to get past you to the stairs without being chomped up?"

"And spat out." Her gaze grew colder. "Okay, Fybe, drop the act. I'm not going to date you whether you're pretending to be a nice guy or not. I know what you're really like. I also know what you're after, and you will never, ever get it."

"Look, sweetie," he replied, his 'normal' accent returning, "don't forget it was you who bet me. Now, I'm keepin' up my bit, I'm bein' nice, I'm bein' polite, I'm bein' helpful, I'm bein' what ya said I should be. It's a little unfair that I go ta all this trouble ta have ya back out on the deal."

"I only do fair when it suits me."

"That, I've noticed."

Xenon seemed about to shout a reply, but hesitated; she looked around at the sleeping kids, then caught him by the arm and dragged him out of the room. "Give up, Fyber-Optix, you're not going to win this bet."

"Who says?"

"Me."

Fyber-Optix shook his head slowly, pulled his arm free and headed for the stairs. About halfway up he stopped and turned around. "Yer wrong, by the way. That ain't really what I want." He smiled sarcastically, and went through the motions of tipping his invisible hat. "Good evening to you, Xena, and good night."

*****

The door to Cereal Killer's room was flung open and crashed against the opposite wall. The man about-faced, and raised an eyebrow at a furious-looking Xenon who entered - she slammed the door shut again; the whole house shuddered. "If you really want this place wrecked so badly, it's less strain to phone up the local demolition group."

"Cut the sarcasm. I have a problem."

The other eyebrow raised. "Of what kind?"

"His name is Fyber-Optix."

"Oh. The normal." He hesitated for a while. "He's been acting very.. strange, lately."

"That's the problem, it is an act." Xenon made herself comfortable - jumping into the nearest chair and putting her feet up on the desk. She sighed. "I'll give you the run-down. A couple of nights back he tried to hit on me..."

Cereal's face became stonier than usual.

"...not like that's anything new. I told him that I'd date him if and only if he was a nice guy, but that it would never happen. He said he'd take me up on the bet - I swear I didn't think he could do it, so I just gave him a week. That week's going to be over the day after tomorrow. I do not want to date him, so..."

"Are you saying I can finally kill him?"

Xenon paused. "No," she said after bandying about with the idea. "No, I don't want any violence, at least no more than necessary. Just try to get him to break his side of the bet, okay? That's all you need to do."

CK smiled a savage little smile. "Your wish is my command."

*****

Cereal Killer was pleased about one thing: Xenon hadn't specified how much violence was necessary and how much wasn't. He looked around Fyber-Optix's room, picked up and casually dropped an expensive looking piece of machinery.

Crash .

He paused, then found a glass who-knew-what.

Tinkle .

Three glass objects and countless other items later, Cereal was just starting to enjoy himself. He even wouldn't have minded much if Fyber hadn't finally come to see what the noise was about. Well, it's been a while since I killed someone. I'm stressed.

Fyber just stared. "What. Are. Ya. Doin'?"

"Nothing." CK casually swept a table-top of what seemed junk to the floor with his arm; he'd been looking forward to that. "Oops."

Fyber raced forward, to get in between Cereal and his stuff. "Have ya gone insane?!" Cereal just stood there, waiting. Fybe opened his mouth to let loose a torrent of abuse when he realized what this was all about. He got himself back under control quickly. "You'd better go tell Miss Xenon that I won't be much use to her until I get new equipment."

"It's your problem. You tell her."

Fyber counted to ten. ...Eight... nine... ten... "No, Cereal, it's everyone's problem. I can't do my job without all the things you've just 'accidentally' broken. So shoo while I clear up and see if I can't fix some of them." He started ushering the older duck out.

*****

"It was not a great success, no."

Xenon glared daggers at him. "What do you think I keep you around here for? Can't you even intimidate a little weed like Optix? Why don't you ever do anything right?!"

CK kept standing there, expressionless. Sometimes he wondered why he put up with this. It was his connections, not hers, that had gotten them off the ground. He was the one who'd rescued her, he was the one who'd kept them safe and fed during the Invasion, he was the one who made sure she did the right thing by the group at least sometimes. Why was he bothering to stay when his efforts were just rewarded with abuse? He knew the answer, of course, but she was making it so hard... she hadn't always been so hard...

She stamped her foot in frustration. "And stop smiling!"

He hadn't realized he had been, and certainly didn't want to. "He's angry. He's close to breaking."

Xenon turned her back to him. "The week ends with tomorrow. If he hasn't flipped yet, he's not going to." Her voice was cutting. "Nice work, 'Killer'."

Two floors below them, Fyber sat quietly in his room, having stopped clearing up when the argument began somewhere above his quarters. If Coco Pops wasn't such a stiff, I might actually feel sorry for him.

*****

Xenon was not happy, and she wasn't bothering with trying to look otherwise: she glowered and scowled, kept her arms folded and herself planted firmly in her chair. It looked as though it would take a forklift to make her move and nothing else; certainly not a mere man, many of whom were eyeing her appreciatively.

They were at the local disco nightclub. Fyber-Optix had failed to break his word, and so Xenon was doomed to the night she'd bet with. And she wore a dress; she never wore dresses, but Fybe had turned up with a box and basically said, "Wear this." As if he'd known he was going to win all along.

It was pale purple, almost lavender in hue, down to her ankles with a split to midway up her thigh. She also wore white shoes, stockings, and white evening gloves that reached her elbows, as well as a slender necklace. She looked very pretty indeed, but wasn't in the mood to notice - others were, however. CK, for example, had nearly died. The annoying thing was that Fyber had got her sizes exactly right. Having never told him, she didn't like to wonder how he might have known.

Reminded of him, she cast a dark look in the direction of her 'date'. He wasn't wearing a tux, like many of the other people around, but he was in surprisingly formal black and white clothing, and his hair was out of those damn dreadlocks, held back in a loose packertail. He looked, she admitted grudgingly, much better than usual. In fact, he's almost... She stopped her train of thought before the phrase good-looking could enter it. Fyber caught her gaze, and came back from the disco floor.

"This is fun, innit?"

She rolled her eyes. "Yes, I'm having an absolutely wonderful time."

"Well, all yer doin' is sittin' there lookin' daggers at anyone as comes near ya," he commented dryly. "Sure can't be too int'restin', I'd say. Ya don' wanna come up an' dance or somethin'?"

"No," she said, her voice cold. "I don't do dancing. Not with you."

Fybe sighed, and sat down opposite her. "Had somethin' ta eat yet?"

"No."

"Drink?"

"No."

He looked slightly annoyed. "Well fer cryin' out loud, whatcha plannin' ta do, sit here all night?"

"Yes."

"You are one very stubborn gal, Xena. I'm keepin' outta yer way as much as possible so ya don't feel like yer stuck wit' me, I'm tryin' ta see ya at least have a bit of fun here, an' all you're doin' is stoppin' yerself havin' a good time."

"How very considerate of you," she snapped. "Didn't it occur to you that maybe I don't want to be here at all??"

He shrugged. "Well, heck, ya can go any time ya like, sweetheart. I'm not stoppin' ya."

Xenon looked hard at him. "Are you saying that I've been sitting here for the last hour, bored out of my head, watching everyone else around me dance on the disco floor, and I could have left any time I wanted?" The man nodded. "Fybe, I really could kill you."

"Don't, CK's lookin' forward ta doin' that himself one day."

She stood up immediately and headed to the bar, ordered something heavy. She wasn't surprised when just a few moments later Fyber appeared and hopped up onto the stool beside her. "What happened to leaving me alone?"

"What happened to you wantin' ta go?"

"I'm thirsty."

"Me too, so sue me."

"Careful," she muttered, "I might just do so."

He grinned suddenly, giving her a slightly sly look. "Didn't we meet like this?"

"Yeah," she said acidly. "The one day I really regret not staying in bed right through." Her drink arrived, and she took a large sip. Fyber hadn't ordered yet, and she doubted he was thirsty at all. "I'm leaving after I've finished this drink," she said suddenly.

"Okay." He shrugged again. "Like I said, I'm not stoppin' ya."

Xenon turned around in the chair and fixed him with a frown. "Look, Fybe, if you've got anything planned, spit it out. I don't like how you're still acting all nice, and I sure don't trust you while you're doing it."

Raising his hands off the benchtop, Fyber feigned hurt. At least, she supposed it was feigned. "Sheesh, girl, I'm not hidin' anythin'. I haven't got nothin' up my sleeves or anythin' like that, an' in any case I can't see the point of doin' so. If ya wanna go, then just go, and quit spoilin' the mood of this place. It's a food an' drink an' dance venue, nothin' more than that, an' people come here ta have fun. Ya wanna be Miss Sourpuss, fine by me, but be her somewhere else."

She stared in mild shock, then anger, but he just turned away and ordered a juice. Xenon almost spluttered, trying to find something to say that was coherant and not silly. Then she spun back, downed the rest of her drink in a few gulps, and stood up. "Miss Sourpuss? Moi?" She offered him a pleasant smile, and headed to the dance floor.

Xenon could dance very well when she had a mind to, and if she thought of it competitively. Sourpuss. Sourpuss! Hah! Well, he'll be the mistaken one by the end of the night. Let the dance begin.

She twirled through the loose crowd, drifting from one male partner to another before the songs even ended - not quite flirting, but definitely getting the other girls' hackles up. Sometimes, between songs, she would flounce back to the bar, give Fybe (who hadn't yet joined everyone else the floor) a triumphant smirk, and either order a small, light drink or finish off her previous one. After almost an hour, she was beginning to feel quite on a high.

As the time came round to ten o'clock, the floor was starting to move of its own accord. The music underwent a change from light bouncy rock'n'roll to slower, one-beat-per-three-seconds songs. Xenon found herself standing by herself in the centre of a dance floor full of slowly waltzing couples. She sighed, and walked back to the bar, sitting down next to Fybe again. Her glass was empty again, and she raised a hand to buy another.

Fyber-Optix caught her arm. "'Eh, I think as yas had enough, Xena."

"Aww... I could probably manage another couple." She spun her glass around on its edge, watching the colors of the disco reflect off the facetted sides. "Pretty," she murmured. Then she spun it too hard - it flew off the bar and shattered on the floor. "Oops."

"Oh, man," Fyber groaned. He quickly pulled her away from the bar before anyone noticed, and headed back to their table. "Gal, you are drunk."

She grinned widely at him. "Pro'ly."

He was actually a little concerned, but tried to hide it. Concern for others just wasn't him. "Ya know, CK's gonna slice'n'dice me if I don't bring ya back exactly as ya were," he muttered. "C'mon, I think we'd better go."

"But I was just starting to enjoy myself!" Xenon complained as he led her out the doors and into the nippy air of the street. She pretended to trip on the stairs and fell against him, her hands slipping under his jacket.

Fyber smirked slightly, and removed her hands. "Yeah, well, I hope ya enjoy headaches, too," he said, ignoring her obvious advances, "'cos yer gonna have a mighty one on the morrow. An' serves ya right."

It took them almost half an hour to get home, because Xenon insisted on taking 'short-cuts' that more often than not took them away from Drake Drive rather than to it. And, once there, he more or less had to carry her up the stairs since she couldn't make it up them herself. For someone so small and slight, she sure seemed to weigh a lot; probably all the alcohol in her.

When they made it to her room, she invited him to stay for the night.

"I take back what I said, gal. You ain't drunk... you are smashed."

"Yeah, so?" Her grin was slightly lopsided. "Yes or no? Take advantage of a drunk lady tonight?"

He considered it. The very fact that he did proved he himself had probably consumed a bit too much alcohol as well, and that brief thought was enough to make his mind up. "Sorry, sweetie," he said finally. "I'm a bastard, but I'm not a suicidal bastard. An' suicide is what it'd be, 'cos CK would spit an' roast my feathered hide. Night, Xena."

"Yeah. Night." Her expression was of disappointment.

"Trust me," he smirked. "Ya'd wake up an' hate yerself tomorrow. Not like you ain't gonna anyway... Ciao."

Fyber-Optix almost snickered as he headed back downstairs, filing the night away in his mental cabinet for future jibes. So what if it hadn't exactly turned out as he'd thought; then again, he hadn't actually given much thought to how it might have, so that wasn't so bad...

"For a moment I was worried that I'd have to go up there and wring your neck."

He froze. Cereal Killer who stood in his doorway with his usual granite expression. Fyber managed a twisted sort of grin. "Hey, I'm not all bad. 'Sides," he added, "more than likely you'd have nothin' ta spit an' roast once Xena had finished tearin' me ta shreds the next mornin'."

"Probably not." CK gave him an unreadable look. "I'm almost... almost... disappointed that you didn't give me any more reasons to kill you."

"Always happy ta disoblige, Fruit Loops," said Fyber lightly, and ducked down the stairs before Cereal could find something lethal to hurl at him. As he stepped back into his workshop and looked around at the familiar mess, he took a deep breath and smiled. It felt good to be back to normal.

 

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