Title: By the Hour
Rating: PG - Gen - Alec & Cindy
Spoilers: General (for all aired episodes)
Disclaimers: DA & characters are owned by their various creators.
Summary: It’s only fun to bitch out loud if someone else is listening.
Dinner time was always a magical hour of the day.
A quiet period to reflect. Intimate conversation shared over good food. Rest and perspective. If you spent your evening hours downtown it also included spraying mace in a pushy pimp's face.
“Ya like that?” Cindy happily emptied the canister as the guy took off into oncoming traffic. “Yeah that’s right! You better keep runnin!”
“Job well done,” Alec grumbled from behind her. “But can we hurry this up? "
Shoving her bicycle up against a bolted down postbox, she activated the minuscule security system ratcheted under the seat. The electric current the device sent into the crotch wasn't fatal but it was enough to successfully keep her bike around for more than three weeks in a row. After replacing her stolen property for a third time Alec had demanded on providing a better means of protection other than a measly chain lock.
"I'm starving!" The transgenic was anxiously waiting in the rain just outside the diner. "Let's go!"
Leaving her ride to fend for itself, she ran towards the welcoming warm lights of the restaurant on the corner. Stepping through the door and shaking out her wet hair, she tried not to sigh in relief at the feel of working space heaters. The joint also smelled like a subtle combination of a litter box and day old fish, but dry was dry.
“Today has been nothin' but bullshit,” she declared for the third time. “I knew it when my alarm clock broke. I knew it when I saw my flat tires!”
Sliding into the nearest booth, Alec responded absently with a shrug.
Catching a few minutes between Jam Pony deliveries wasn't so hard but finding a place to accomplish the feat cheaply was a totally different matter. One couldn't hang out in a store wearing muddy gear and the storm clouds made the covered bus stops too crowded to nap in for long. That left the other option of actually getting some eating done during a food break.
“So what else to you think befell me today?” she asked.
Alec either didn't know or he had nothing to offer on the subject.
“Half the morning crew called in!” she tossed up her hands. “So Normal shoved a few triple shifts my way for kicks. And the real fun part is that nobody's even really sick!”
“Those fools all got into the same batch of bad acid last night that was working 'round Crash. By the way, quality of product has really declined in that place since you started dealin' uptown.”
“You forgot what?”
Cindy studied his distracted eyes gazing blankly out the window for a few moments before deciding to move on.
“This morning I said to myself, girl, you got nothin' but woe comin’ today,” she tried to relax on the stiff vinyl. “And you better believe that's all this girl is gettin’.”
“Hm,” the transgenic was flipping his wallet open and closed over and over like a butterfly knife. “That's cool.”
“Right when I thought my shit couldn't get any more unfortunate?” she said gravely. “My day went and proved all the odds wrong.”
“You don't say.”
“Oh, I'm sayin' it!”
They quickly ordered from the pissed off waitress with a dirty apron and a hang over.
Extremely uncomfortable chairs aside, Cindy thought it sure did feel heavenly to park her ass on something without wheels. Good thing she had perfected the art of finding the most economical items on the menu and making them last for 30-minute stretches of quality bitch time. The trouble was she'd been talking non-stop since they ran into each other at the sector check and Alec hadn't granted her one righteous 'amen' nor a single 'hallelujah'.
“I didn't even tell you about my first run yet,” she continued hopefully. “I had to pedal all over town before I got a signature! Sector 10 and then to the ass crack of 22. Can you seriously believe it?”
Cindy watched in mounting frustration as Alec dutifully nodded. The boy pulled this particular trick on her more times than she could count. He'd look right at her and nod to every word but he wasn't actually there. Not really. Green eyes would focus at a point right below her chin and tune out. It made her cross eyed every time with the bonus of a headache.
“Hey!” she demanded. “ You in there?!”
“I am totally listening,” he weakly insisted. “Flat tires. Triple shifts. The white man is the oppressor.” Alec sorted through the French fries that landed on the table with their drinks. “Bad acid. Life sucks.”
Cindy narrowed her eyes. There was also the annoying fact that his picture perfect memory could do some impressive recall on demand. Even if the boy wasn't listening to a single word that was coming out of her mouth.
“SO then,” she stabbed her fork into a soggy pickle garnishing her plate. “I told the guy in Sector 22 that his package was smashed flat because the plane it came in went and crashed. I could have told 'im it was because I dropped that shit in front of a bus but--”
The waitress interrupted the unparalleled tale of suffering.
“Are you people gonna order anything 'sides that and the soda?”
Alec broke out of his daze long enough to appear completely innocent of Cindy's distasteful loitering. Cindy glanced out at the cold rain pounding the sidewalks and sat up a little straighter. All the caffeine and grease were making her dizzy but it was worth staying warm for a while.
“Uh, we're still looking at the specials,” she tapped the unopened menu. “Everything looks so good it's hard to pick.”
“Uh huh,” the waitress yawned. “You got another five minutes and then you and yer little friend are outta here.”
Alec helped Cindy glare at the woman as she waddled over to the only other occupied table in the place. If the tiny diner was hoping for a good tipping crowd they were out of luck. The small pack of junkies taking a break from the nearby dance clubs weren't spending much on anything besides black coffee. Streaked eye makeup looked like bruises under their eyes as they dozed and passed around a shared cigarette.
The sight of their sweaty clothes and the sound of slurred voices made Cindy jealous.
“I'm sick of being broke,” she murmured. “I wanna day off. I wanna go out.”
“Broke. Day off. Wants to go out.”
“Okay honey, now yer just bein' creepy.”
“Sorry,” Alec squirted more neon red ketchup onto his plate. “I kinda have something on my mind.”
“I fucked this girl last night and she gave me something weird.”
An old lady who had wandered in for some soup and tea made a loud noise of disgust at the table behind them.
“That's it,” Cindy wiped her mouth and threw down the napkin. “I'll be seein' you later--” Her hasty exit was interrupted when Alec hooked a foot around Cindy’s ankle and dropped her right back into her seat.
“You were done talking right?” he pushed the table up to her stomach to prevent any more escape attempts. “Is it my turn yet?”
She would have been annoyed if he hadn't sounded so honestly patient. Cindy raised a doubtful eyebrow. “If this is some kinda rash you can keep that business all to yourself.”
“Not like that,” he waved a hand. “It’s sorta like a present.”
“So what the hell was it?”
“Is this... I'm not sure if...” Alec shifted in his seat and flipped open his wallet again. “Well, have you ever gotten one of these?”
Cindy was momentarily awestruck by the tantalizing amount of cash the transgenic had stuffed in there. Counting the twenty-dollar bills, it took a few seconds before she finally noticed what he was trying to show her. There was a clean and shiny five-pointed star stuck to his grungy sector pass. She fondly recognized it as one of those coin sized stickers placed on the excellent exams and essays of scholastic youth. The thing was oddly pretty in a lame sparkly kind of way.
“Lemme get this straight,” she cleared her throat. “You woke up, took off, and found a sticker stuck in your wallet?”
Alec nodded in bewilderment. “W-Well, I didn't find it in my wallet,” he confessed. “She licked it right onto my--”
“And what did this girl do for a living exactly?”
“Professional educator,” he quickly accessed that memory of his. “She said she taught at some institution downtown. Grades 1 through 3 and sometimes summer courses so she can pay for graduate school and then--”
“What?” Alec grimaced around another gulp of diet Mountain Dew. “What do you see?”
Cindy had to hand it to the guy. He always found the exceptionally strange in a herd of the already bizarre.
“This here star is what you get when you've made a uh... good effort.”
“Good?” he frowned. “Good is average. Good gets you by. Good is bad.”
Cindy handed back the wallet and looked in unease at the last three French fries on the plate. Lounge time was growing dangerously short.
“I guess I'll just have to try harder next time,” Alec looked thoughtfully at his pretty yet substandard silver star.
“The gold,” he gulped down another lethal dose of artificial sweeter. “Gotta go for the gold.”
“There's always room for improvement, sugar.”
“Exactly my point-- wait what was that now?”
“Your bike,” Alec pointed out the window. “It's gone.”
Cindy slumped down into her seat and eyed the forbidden menu. Fancy pancakes with real life blueberries and real life scrambled eggs were expensive. She raised a hand and caught the waitress's attention away from the news broadcast behind the register.
“She's comin' straight for us,” Alec sat up in alarm. “What the hell are you doing?!”
“It's okay, baby,” Cindy assured him. “Yer buyin'.”
cross posted to jam_pony_fic