the spare

Dec. 16th, 2015 08:28 pm
sideways: [orphan black] helena looking to the side (â–ºanother telepathic rendezvous)
[personal profile] sideways
Title: The Spare
Rating: PG
Series: Fallout New Vegas ('courier faction' original characters)
Wordcount: 1128
Remarks: This was mostly an exercise in getting a handle on a new character (back in '14), for which I borrowed Wyn and Bryn from other members of the writing group. First impressions are so important.

He’s just one more figure wrapped up in drab army fatigues, sheltered in the shade of the barracks with his back to the centre strip, and Wyn wouldn’t give him a second glance if it weren’t for the slow stream of smoke that clouds the air as he turns his head. Next to her, Bryn may as well be twitching her fingers and scenting the breeze; it’s been three days since anyone’s seen a cigarette in her hands, some ill turn of luck leaving both the twins and Reggie at an unwilling stalemate borne of a complete lack of supplies. It tickles Wyn’s fancy to undermine the ongoing feud even further, so she pulls up short and jabs an elbow lightly at her companion.

“Looks like they’ve got stock,” she says.

Bryn’s gaze follows her gesture and promptly locks onto the evidence with such predatory focus it’s a fair surprise the man doesn’t feel the force of it against his back. The stare doesn’t shift as she says, “Do they sell to outsiders?”

“Not cheaply,” she admits. Some of the others have a knack for wringing discounts out of the miserly quartermasters, and she’s happy enough to leave it to them. There’s more than one way to slip the tunic off a trooper after all, and Wyn slings an arm around the smaller woman’s shoulder, drawing her in confidingly close. “Hard to get cheaper than a charitable turn, though.”

The hungry gaze breaks to meet Wyn’s eyes, but the moment Bryn reads the intention in them she baulks, face twisting. “I can at least first see what kind of bread they’re asking for at the desk, Wyn.”

Her discomfort is so genuine that Wyn doesn’t even try to tease, just gives the shoulder a gentle squeeze of reassurance and a hint of apology. It’s easy to forget, sometimes, that each threat is measured against a different scale, and just because Bryn will pause with bullets whistling an inch from her ear to coo over a pair of heels does not mean she’s at ease with this particular game.

It’s still too good an opportunity to let slide altogether; the hissed protest that follows her when she moves forward in Bryn’s stead is enough to make her throw a wide smile back over her shoulder. Despite the narrowed eyes the other courier makes no move to grab at her, and given that Bryn is well capable of tossing her to the ground if she has a mind to, Wyn takes it as something sufficiently close to permission.

The trooper doesn’t seem to have noticed the hushed discussion going on behind him, his head downturned as he continues to smoke quietly. There isn’t much to see of him from this angle but the plain back of his jacket and breeches and the dark curl of hair, but as she draws closer she notes that he’s taller than he seems at a glance—his posture would make even Larkin wince.

Wyn hooks her fingers into the wire-mesh fence and lifts her voice. “Hey, Stretch!”

The troopers at the Outpost run towards the bored and the dutiful; she expects quick interest or suspicious disdain. She doesn’t expect the man to jump violently, careening off the wall to his left and sending a nearby crow fleeing skyward in a flurry of feathers and indignant croaks. There’s a spat curse and then he swings to face her, one hand clutching at his soon-to-bruise arm, and stares with bewildered aggravation.

Fuck,” he says again, and she can’t tell if his voice is naturally hoarse or if it’s been newly roughened because he’s gone and outright swallowed his suddenly absent cigarette. “What?”

Wyn can’t help it. She grins, broad and shameless. “Got a spare?”

One eye squints slightly, and he jerks his head a little to the side as if searching for help or maybe the ringleader of this strange prank. He looks decidedly more unkempt from the front, with a scruffy muzzle of facial hair, and a nose that is a touch too strong for his thin face makes him appear a distant cousin to the vanished crow.

When he confirms the other troopers in the vicinity aren’t sparing them more than passing disinterested glances, he gaze drifts back uncertainly to Wyn, who fights to keep her eyebrows from inching up her forehead. Trust her luck to pick what might be one of the less conversational soldiers on base.

“A spare?”

“Yeah,” she says, and takes a long, exaggerated drag on the imaginary cigarette between her fingers. “Figured you might be of a mind to help out a couple of-”

The words that bite off her own are viciously sharp, and it’s enough to see her lapse into surprised silence. “Do I look like the fucking supply depot to you?”

“Got enough room on your back for the signage,” she says.

“Fuck off,” the trooper snaps. He takes a half-step back, letting his arm go to gesture at the ground. “No, you know what, if you can find the spare you just cost me, you’re welcome to it. Go ahead, suck it straight off the ground, probably gives it that Nipton feel you’re looking for-”

His voice is raising high enough to draw a few more sidelong looks and Wyn’s tongue is only stymied by her struggle to decide whether she’s amused or very much not so, but then his glare strays over her shoulder and he makes a sudden twitching movement, almost a flinch. She twists to look behind as well, and her fingers curl a little harder against the fence when she sees Bryn staring at the ground with a stony expression, hands balled into tight fists at her side.

It’s enough to leave no trace of a smile on her face when she turns back, only to find the trooper has swung around again and moved further into the yard, presenting his back to them once more. Already fishing around in one pocket too. Wyn snorts her contempt through the barrier between them.

“Try looking up your ass, it might have gotten caught on the sharp end of the stick there,” she says, but though his shoulders hitch higher, he doesn’t turn around.

As conclusions go it’s about as dissatisfying as it gets, but the professional in her knows there’s a job to be done and stupid spats aren’t always worth the results—she has the scars to prove it. “Guess they don’t bother much with psych screening,” she says, and Bryn gives her a stiff nod that almost makes her rethink it, almost makes her spin the courier around towards the gate and whisper go for the balls and memorise the result for story-time with the faction later. She doesn’t.
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