Even in a building filled with angels, heaven on Earth was hard to find.
There were, however, small areas of bliss.
Magnolia sighed happily against the stomach – there was no softer place in the world than on top of the purple-headed tech. The girl’s belly accommodated her easily, and rose and fell gently as Screen breathed.
‘You’re tense,’ Screen said.
‘Hm,’ she said, and felt the tech running her fingers through her hair. ‘Been awake too long.’
‘I’m not on shift,’ Screen said, ‘you can just stay there if you want, I’ve got reading to do.’
Magnolia shook her head, and crawled up the tech a little more, white hair brushing against purple as she settled, her head now between the tech’s breasts. ‘Can’t,’ she said, ‘I’ve got another report to finish, then training to do with Taylor, I’m off-shift at four, and I might actually get eight hours for once.’
‘Oooh,’ the tech said, sounding unimpressed, ‘a whole eight hours, that’s nearly out of control for you.’
She kissed the side of the closest breast, then pressed her face into the soft flesh. ‘It’s about the one time my fae side does come in handy.’
‘Well, that and squawking when you come, I never get sick of that.’
‘I don’t do that for everyone,’ she lifted her head and smirked. ‘Didn’t do it for O’Connor this morning.’
Screen’s eyebrows raised. ‘You fucked Captain Snarkpants?’
Magnolia pressed her face into Screen’s other breast. ‘Mm-hm.’
Screen gently pulled on one of her braids. ‘Come on, boink and tell.’
She let the tech pull her up by her braid, and moved to lie beside her on the wide bed. ‘He was there,’ she said simply. ‘I was stressed.’
‘What happened, Mags? Ok, we lost a couple of people last night, but no one has made an apocalyptic wish, so we have to call that a win, right?’
She regraded the tech quietly for a moment – there was no advantage to letting a version of the truth slide out here. O’Connor was a tactical target for information release – he was ex-Solstice, he was already the outsider, someone who could cause discord if he wanted.
If Ryan hadn’t killed him or wiped his memory – but even that would serve a purpose, it would give a marker as to how far Ryan would go with this insanity.
Screen on the other hand would be fascinated by the project, and would probably welcome the abomination with open arms.
‘It’s political,’ she said at last. ‘There’s a lot of stuff going on above our heads,’ she considered where she was for a moment, ‘well, downstairs, technically. It’s disruptive and it’s not something we need right now.’
Or ever.
‘Taylor’s freaking out?’
She pursed her lips for a moment. Taylor didn’t freak out. Taylor was completely in control. Taylor was infallible. Taylor had very little chance of stopping this. ‘It’s not an ideal situation,’ she said. ‘That’s all I can say.’
Screen leaned forward and kissed her. ‘Is there anything you can do about it?’
‘Not right now.’
‘Then stop thinking about it.’
Magnolia smiled. ‘Make me.’
Screen folded her arms. ‘Challenge accepted.’
The tech slid down the bed. ‘I was in Joxy last week, saw these Tabitha silk gloves, but they were stupidly expensive, so I found a pair online, but they’re on back order, and should be here next week.’
Magnolia groaned happily at the thought as the tech kissed a path down her stomach and across her thighs.
Screen lightly brushed her fingers across the triangle of white hair, and began to move her fingers. The rhythm was sedate, soothing – it wasn’t a tease, and it wasn’t building. Magnolia managed to mumble a query, fighting against the soothing touch.
‘You wanted to relax,’ Screen said, ‘so I’m relaxing you. An old girlfriend of mine used to do this, and I’d just fall asleep with her fingering me.’
Magnolia forced her eyes open. ‘Don’t let me fall asleep.’
‘Do you think I want to risk getting thrown off the rotation? Don’t worry ma’am, I won’t disappoint you.’
Magnolia leaned back on the large pillows, spread her legs wider, allowing the tech easier access to every part of her, closed her eyes, and listened to her breathing, and to the small, wet sounds of the tech’s fingers moving around.
The weight on the bed shifted, and a tongue replaced the fingers. She groaned, and hooked her legs over Screen’s shoulders, imploring her to go deeper. Screen, for her part, didn’t disappoint. There was one special spot that only Screen seemed to be able to get at. Targets for tongues, just as fingers, were obvious – to sink in deep, or to press the button until something happened.
Screen, however, had found a spot just left of her clit that almost seemed to vibrate under the tech’s attentions.
The relaxing rhythm of the fingering was gone, this was a tease, this was a build-up, if only a slow one.
Screen sat up a little, pulling her ass off the bed. The attention stayed where it had bee, but this was a silent ask for permission – and she gave her permission by sliding her legs from the tech’s shoulders and sliding onto her stomach once again.
She shivered all the way up from her toes as the tech licked her way up, then squawked as the tech made contact with her asshole.
The squawk was completely voluntary – it had started out as involuntary, but she’d quickly mastered it so that masturbation could be achieved without people hearing from two rooms away and asking if she had the hiccups.
It was also a mark of appreciation – the tech wound her up like few could manage.
The tongue pressed in, and her eyes rolled back into her head.
After a moment of that being a solo sensation, one of Screen’s hands moved back, zeroed in on the little spot left of centre, and quickly brought her, screaming and squawking.
She readily collapsed when the tech released her – the wet spot beneath her on the bed was uncomfortable, but survivable, given how she seemed to have temporarily lost control of her limbs.
Screen kissed her way up her spine, sucked on her neck for a moment, then lay beside her, a very satisfied look on her face. ‘Challenge succeeded?’
Magnolia managed a small affirmative noise, wrapped her arms around the tech, and lay happily in the afterglow until something began to buzz.
‘I thought I turned that off after the first time,’ Screen said, rolling over to reach towards the discarded pile of toys.
‘It’s my phone,’ Magnolia said. ‘Alarm.’
‘You take the shower first then,’ Screen said, disentangling her limbs, and moving to sit up against the pillows.
Magnolia gave a smile of thanks, laid a kiss on the tech’s stomach, then moved into the bathroom.
The water was hot and perfect as soon as she turned on the taps. Sweat and lube and oil washed off with equal ease, the evidence of a very enjoyable hour running down the drain and into the complex and half-magical mystery that was the Agency plumbing.
She stepped out a few minutes later, toweled off her body, and required her hair tidy. Another requirement had covered her body with a new dress. Lace on the bodice, gingham accents, and as usual, weapons, poisons and gems sewn into the lining in case of an emergency.
She crawled back onto the bed, kissed the tech deeply, then left with a quick wave over her shoulder.
People were predictable, that was a fact of life. Even with an Agency life, where emergencies could spring up at any moment, and shifts could run double at the slightest provocation, people found their little ways to be predictable, their own little schedules, their daily rituals.
It was rather simple to get to learn these patterns – and from there, very little effort to exploit them.
If O’Connor wasn’t dead, he’d be in the library.
She walked past several small groups of techs – a few staring at the screens on the walls, a couple trading reports, other trading cards. She drew a lot of looks – this wasn’t unusual, and she appreciated that a lot of them were reverent, or even fearful.
The attack from the left was also entirely anticipated.
She barely saw Merlin as he leapt through a solid wall – something that had to be discouraged, no matter how impressive it was, and hung from her shoulders, his shoes dragging on the floor.
‘Hiii,’ he said after catching his feet enough to stand and give her a hug.
She covered a smile with a stern look. ‘What’s the rule about walls?’
‘No one was looking!’
She did a quick count of the recruits she’d walked past. ‘There’s ten people-‘
‘No one was looking,’ he said again.
‘Mer, you can’t-‘
‘I made them not look, so that doesn’t break the hugging rule either,’ he said, then rubbed his nose on a far-too-long sleeve.
This was nearly tactical thinking, though the method was less than appreciated. ‘Mer,’ she said as he looped his arms around her right one, ‘you can’t do that either, you do that too much and people will pay attention.’
‘But I’ll make them-‘
‘You know the rules.’
‘You don’t even like mummy’s rules.’
She stopped walking and looked down at the boy. He was fourteen, so far as anyone could figure out, but he was still thin – not the emaciated skeleton they’d pulled from a basement, but still like food refused to stick to him, with the hunch, it made him seem a lot shorter than he was, and his attitude shaved at least five years from him. He wasn’t anything like she’d been at fourteen.
He’d very ceremoniously named her big sister, protector of the realm, and future queen, if she wanted to be. He was impossible to refuse, even if he did have sibling irritation down to a fine art.
‘Jones tries to keep you safe, and if you aren’t safe, then-‘
Then one of her first missions would have been for nothing. Then she’d only come to the tech floor for sex or reports. Then she’d have one less person who genuinely liked her.
He was suddenly eye level with her, and she quickly looked down, hoping that he wasn’t inexplicably floating again, but relaxed when she saw a step ladder.
He braced his hands on her shoulder, and blew against her forehead. The stressed leaked from her body, even if the tiredness didn’t. She tried to scowl, but couldn’t – he’d fucked with her head, but the net result was a gain.
‘You shouldn’t do that without asking,’ she said, managing a slight frown.
‘I only don’t ask when your head is all asplodey, and it was very splodey.’
‘I don’t know if your mum said anything but-‘
‘I know about Agent Squishy,’ Merlin said as he fell into step beside her.
There were advantages to having a reader be in complete adoration of you – getting the feel of a situation, despite how tight agents kept their feelings locked up. She let her mind open a little, and felt him find the question. ‘And?’ she prompted.
‘You’re asplodey, Taylor is sadasplodey, mum’s worried and Ryan has a time-space anomaly in his head.’
This made her stop walking. ‘What?’
‘How old is Agent Squishy?’
‘Why are you calling her that?’
He gave her one of his blank, and slightly creepy stares. ‘She’s squishy on the inside.’
‘She’s-‘ She silently chided herself for not perusing the file more carefully. ‘Fifteen, I think? Her tits haven’t come in yet, so she could be younger, I guess.’
‘Ryan’s keeps thinking about her, but he thinks about little her.’
‘I already asked if she’s his kid-‘
Merlin shrugged, and pulled an apple from the air – hopefully, it had been required, hopefully. ‘I only know what they’re thinking.’
‘Think we can convince your mum this was a bad joke and stop it?’
Merlin shook his head, then walked through the next wall.
She stopped, sighed, then walked through the door to the recruit library. There was a weird sensation as she walked through the door – not quite like a shift, but not as subtle as the experience as walking through the door to the infirmary.
The library was impossibly big – sometimes recruits tried to cross from one side to the other, but they generally gave up after a couple of hours. Doors led to every main Agency, and most of the outposts. It could hold thousands of recruits at once, and still it was respectably quiet.
Unless you were after a specific area, recruits tended to use the facilities closest to their own Agency doors – and to that end, there were a few dozen study rooms and small group rooms assigned to each region – though if these were full, there was nothing to stop a recruit from using another area’s rooms, or the ones that weren’t labelled with any area heraldry or map sections.
The study rooms had glass doors, split into three sections – the top and bottom areas were clear, the large middle section was frosted – allowing both privacy, and he tactical advantage to see if someone was loitering outside your room.
It was simply a matter of standing on tiptoes to be able to see into each room.
The first room held Hewitt and his boyfriend, pouring over architectural drawings. The second held a sleeping recruit she vaguely recognised from one of the outposts, the third held a recruit in a green-vested uniform from one of the European Agencies. The fourth held O’Connor.
She didn’t bother to knock.
He whipped around to look at her, his feet coming down off the table, his gun in his hand. He looked at her, and visibly deflated. ‘Hey Mags.’ The TV behind him was playing Ollit’s Life, courtesy of the library’s Fairyland TV reception. The gun disappeared from his hand, and he grabbed the remote to shut it off.
The room was the size of a tiny office – a bench on one side held the TV, and some books left by a previous user, two chairs and a table. She closed the door and sat on the other side of the round table. ‘You’re a bit on edge.’
‘You…You have no fucking idea,’ he said with a mirthless laugh. ‘You wanted something?’
‘What’s Ryan tell you?’
‘Well, you’re not beating around the bush.’
‘You already did that this morning,’ she said with a smirk.
This didn’t even raise a smile. ‘Poorly constructed bullshit, then something close to the truth, he left out the details though.’ He ran his hands through his hair, then leant his elbows on the table. ‘He told me Stef’s going to be an agent. How, I assume Agent Jones will take care of that. Why-‘
‘Yeah, this is the sticking point,’ she said. ‘What did he tell you?’
‘He said she died. He didn’t go into detail.’
Curt leaned back in his chair. ‘Do I look like a complete fucking idiot?’ he asked, his brown eyes intense. ‘He didn’t give me detail, so I didn’t ask for it, I think I’m lucky he didn’t make me eat my own gun. I’m not going to push my luck.’
She stared at him for a moment. ‘O’Connor-‘
‘Do I need to repeat my question? I’m not a fucking idiot.’ He dropped his hands to the table. ‘I’m not an idiot. A lack of official information doesn’t stop theories from forming.’ His jaw clenched. ‘I don’t want to know officially. I’ve got several damn good theories. Don’t tell me, because he didn’t tell me, which means I’m not allowed to know. I’m on probation, and I have to stay on probation, because if-‘ he went silent. ‘I’m too young and pretty for a body bag, Mags.’
She studied his face for a moment. He wasn’t an idiot, that was the confusing thing about him – Solstice usually seemed like the kind of people who’d been given the bargain bin brains, the murderous extrapolation of the people who wrote angry letters to newspapers and spat on gay kids.
He knew, but he was too scared to say anything – this made him a variable that would need to be taken into account.