Challenge: Guava #24 - Just Be Yourself; Papaya #26 - When You Least Expect It
Extras: Wafer Cookie
Word Count: 727
Summary: Opulence doesn't suit Paradigm, Kse's dancing doesn't suit Maxim (or anyone else, really) and there's always someone at these things that you don't want to see...
Notes: This flat-out refused to post last night... I just had to retype all of it into Notepad. And there's a sketch to go with it,
The drinks were warm and the expensive foods were cold and silently Paradigm watched couples dance strange steps he didn't think he could follow in a million years. And the chairs were too hard. Was it a sign that money couldn't buy taste, he wondered as he cringed at the bitter taste of the tepid water, or did they only have the money because they didn't bother wasting it on anything comfortable? Either way, he'd long since relinquished his seat to a pretty blonde who sank gratefully into it - she must have a softer backside than he - and was leaning against a wall, munching on a chewy canapé when Maxim ambled toward him, cheeks flushed.
"Any women taken a shine to your handsome looks yet?"
"What do you think?" Paradigm muttered througha dry mouthful. "Worn out your body already?"
"My body, no. My feet, yes."
Paradigm tried to raise his eyebrows; the mask got in the way. "After everything, you made a fault body?"
For a minute he didn't know if Maxim was going to choke or laugh. He settled on a rueful version of the latter. "It's not my body that's faulty. You try dancing with someone who tries to kick you every time you move."
How to explain it... Paradigm took a deep breath. "I don't think she's trying to kick you. I think she really just can't dance." And judging from the widening of those green eyes behind his mask, he didn't think it was something that had occurred to Maxim.
"I thought that she- She always said she'd-" He laughed again, loud enough to cause some of the passing guests to throw strange looks his way. "I didn't believe her. I thought she was getting revenge."
"I think," Paradigm said evenly, biting on the canapé again and wishing he hadn't, "if she wanted revenge it'd be a bit more... blunt." And up front, he added to himself, but judging from the AI's expression it was a mutual thought.
"In that case," Maxim stared over his shoulder, "I better get back. Someone else asked to dance with her and I don't want them to suffer any more than necessary." When he turned back, it was with the same broad smirk Paradigm had often imagined when the AI was nothing more than a voice at the end of a line. "Just be yourself, there's bound to be someone who doesn't mind a criminal with no sense of humour."
Before he could retaliate, Maxim vanished back into the swirl. He raised one gloved hand in an offensive gesture at his back, then abandoned the water-filled wine glass and canapé on a table. He was attracting attention, that was for sure, but they were curious looks directed when no one thought he was looking and aimed solely at his one-eyed mask. They were assuming it was a pretension, he thought with a brief flash of bitterness.
But the crowd was something stunning to see, he had to admit despite himself. The couples moved in blurs of colour, faces indistinguishable but clothing wildly varied - a field of flowers caught in the wind. And at the back, a solid shape in the blur, something soft and satiny blue... He frowned, tried to follow the line upwards despite the distractions moving so elegantly before him, and froze.
Cold eyes, almost a solid blue, no white to be seen, met his own across the huge room. It hurt to swallow, his heart felt like it was trying to climb into his throat. Long hair, almost the same blue as the dress, laying across both shoulders. Pretty face, impassive. He'd forgotten, for a short time, the world of pain being himself could get him into.
The crowd let out mutters and growls as he elbowed his way through them, too polite to raise their voice to reprimand the stranger. Maxim almost leapt out his skin as Paradigm gripped his shoulder. "What the hell?"
"We have to leave, now." The words fell over each other in their haste to be heard.
Kse's glare promised death; she'd been promising it for two months now. "Why?"
His chest hurt. Someone else had come closer to delivering it. "Android."
Wordlessly she gripped Maxim's wrist and Paradigm's sleeve and pulled them toward the exit.
The crowd didn't dare stand in her way.