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>>reanimation — chapter three: black::

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Disclaimer: Don't own, don't sue.



Peppy sighed, sinking into his cup of coffee and looking at the news that was schooling across his PDA, which sat sedately on the table, little writing arm scratching a joint when needed. Voice-keyed typing was getting strange, that was for sure. He almost would have preferred an actual printed paper, but they could never convince the Corneria City Sun to deliver to their docking slip.

"Next page." He said, rubbing the base of one of his ears. It was going to be a strange day, he knew that already. About half the group had never gone to bed, and the others had locked themselves in their respective rooms, apparently not planning to ever come out again under their own willpower. Teenagers.

"Morning." Fara wandered in, blowing a strand of gel-stiff hair out of her eyes as she poured herself a cup of coffee, looking tired but content. "You always the first up?"

"Tend to be." He replied, looking at her sideways. "Your hair is… gold and purple."

"I'm aware of that." She smiled at him over her mug. "It's temporary. Vic did it last night while we watched Army of Darkness."

"Who's choice in movies?"

"Krystal's. She went home a few hours ago."

"You stayed, hmm?"

"Slept on the couch. Dozed off halfway through the Thing. You think that's bad, Vic's still asleep curled up in the beanbag chair." She laughed softly. "I like her. I wish I knew why she was here though. She wouldn't tell me."

"She's got to have good reason…"

Both trailed off abruptly when Leon wandered in shirtless, poured a cup of coffee, made a wordless noise of acknowledgement toward them, and wandered back out. Fara, now wide awake, set down her cup of coffee and looked at Peppy, who blinked back.

"That was the same Leon who was complaining last night about being plain, right?" She asked, rubbing her eyes to get the image of the scar-damaged wings out of her mind.

"Yes indeed. He's spent a fortune on those." He took another drink. "He's obviously got a pretty distorted image of himself. Of course, if I had his job, I doubt my psyche would be in good shape either."

She snorted. "Falco cares for him a lot."

"It's a nice change."

"I need to apologize to him, I think…" Fara said this slowly, uneasily.

"Tell him later. I don't think he even understands English right now."

Vic opened her eyes and stretched slowly, rolling onto her back and staring with some mild surprise at the metal ceiling. So she had done it. She had finally actually gotten the guts up to do it, to leave home. She smiled. Praise gods. Leaving, of course, decisions about what to do now. She'll have to sneak home eventually and get some more clothing, and start going to school again. Maybe she could get Falco or one of his friends to drop her off in the morning. But what was the point of school? She didn't have money for college.

The door opened, and she leaned her head back, looking at Slippy upside down and managing a half-smile. Slippy squeaked, sputtered something, and bolted. Seconds later there was several loud noises, including a crash, some shouting, and more thumping feet.

Eventually Leon appeared in the door, bare waist-up, coffee dripping down his stomach and dumped all over his sweat shorts. "What the hell did you do to him?" Leon asked, shaking his hands in front of himself.

"I smiled at him."

"… Ah. Well, he ran into me and made me break my coffee mug."

"Nice tattoos."

"…" He looked down at himself. "Thanks. I need to get the ones on my back fixed, though."

Remembering Falco's movements of last night, she blinked, then lifted an eyebrow. "Pardon me for asking, but are you my brother's boyfriend? He nearly went into cardiac arrest last night when I asked him, but…"

"Good god girl! You asked him that?!" He shook his head. "No wonder he's apparently locked himself in his room. And no, I'm not. I'd love to be, but I'm not. He's… a bit insecure about it. How long have you known?"

"Ages. I've had my suspicions since he was ten, and mom confirmed it to me before the war. I don't believe this. He is such an idiot." She rubbed her eyes, clambering to her feet. "God, I need coffee."

"I need coffee for a second time. I didn't get to drink much of my last mug."

They sidled by the little cleaning robot, which was entertaining itself by reassembling the cup, and walked to the galley, Leon stopping by the room he was using to grab dry clothing. He was still reeling from how blunt Vic was, though in a way he was relieved that someone had confirmed what he believed. Now it was just convincing Falco of it.

Slippy was sitting in the galley talking to Peppy when they walked in, but he blushed and started paying more attention to his toast when he saw them. "Sorry, Leon."

"No real harm done." Leon poured a mug of coffee, handed it to Vic, and poured himself one. "Anyone else awake yet?"

"Not yet." Peppy took a sip of coffee. "Fara's gone to work, dyed hair and all. We're sure to hear interesting stories about it."

"ROB says that Falco is moving around, but his door is locked down." Slippy said, swallowing, looking anywhere but at Vic. "Fox is still zonked out."

"What do you guys DO when you aren't working anyway?" Vic asked, leaning back comfortably in the chair, legs crossed at the knee and swinging the lifted foot.

"Work." Peppy said, smiling a bit. "Or at least some of us do."

"I do." Slippy said, huffing. "I have to be at Arspace in an hour, but it's not like I have a demanding work schedule."

"Excuse me for asking, but shouldn't you be at school?" Leon asked, using one of his claws to stir sugar into his coffee absently, looking at Vic.

"I should be." She admitted, shrugging. "I'll probably go back tomorrow."

"That makes you truant right now, doesn't it?" Slippy asked.

"Better that, then dealing with my father." Seeing their blank looks, she sighed. "Falco never told you?"

"We know nothing about Falco before he came here. Fox knows a bit, and he won't tell us." Peppy shook his head. "We know he's had some trouble with the law, and that he was in a gang. That's it. We had no idea you even existed, Vic."

"I'm not sure I should be the one to tell you then."

There was a very long silence, then Leon said very softly, "Alcoholic?"

She jumped, looking at him. He didn't return the gaze, just stared into his coffee, as if he was disconnected from the world. "Did he tell you?"

"No… not directly. I have a… source. I can read tarot cards."

"Well, hells, then you probably know all about it if you're any good." Vic put her mug down and rubbed her eyes, sighing. "I really shouldn't tell you guys anything. He should."

"He won't." Slippy said. "He might tell Fox, but that's about it. Last time I asked about a family, he said that he didn't have one."

"That's about correct." She looked at Leon. "Go talk to him. I'll give these two a bare-bones version."

He nodded and pushed away from the table, getting another cup of coffee and walking quietly down the hall, hearing Vic start explaining the situation in a strange, awkward voice. He pitied her, he really did. No one should have to go through what Falco and Vic lived, day to day

Falco jumped at the tap on his door, and sighed, standing. His room was an even bigger mess now, as he started sorting through things, putting away winter clothing for a few months. He had needed busywork to clear his mind, finally understanding why Slippy did it all the time. He opened the door partway, and looked down at Leon, shirtless and smelling off coffee. "Nice outfit."

"Oh, for the love of… here." Leon handed him the mug. "Can I come in?"

"It's an even bigger mess now… but I guess so." He stepped aside, watching Leon sit on his bed, folding his legs under himself and taking a drink from his own mug. "Why so early?"

"You had your door locked. We were wondering." He shrugged. "Your sister is talking to Peppy and Slippy."

"My sister could shoot the breeze with a president."

Falco sat down hard next to him, rubbing the back of his neck, trying to be comfortable and not really able to. His brain was still rabidly denying what his sister had told him the night before, and Leon being bare waist-up did nothing for his sanity. "What am I going to do with her?" He said this to himself, staring into his mug.

"Ask Fox if she can stay here. If you explain, I bet he will. Drop her off and pick her up from school. It'll work out." Leon smiled a bit. "She's convinced we're together, you know."

"Yes. I know. And I, and… it makes me feel sick. She slapped me in the face with it, and I don't even know if I am." He nearly broke down right then and there, not feeling any better when Leon pulled him close. "I'm not sure I can handle the idea, Leon."

"It's ok. Take it on as you can." He replied, smoothing the soft feathers on one of Falco's arms, sighing softly. "I have all the time in the world."

"Why have you let yourself become attached to a screw-up like me?" Falco asked, letting Leon shift and sprawl across his lap, thin chest lifting softly, making the tattoo that graced his stomach shift in the same rhythm. Even as he watched, his skin shifted color, a brighter tone, happier. To hell with public opinion, the petite reptilian was beautiful — not handsome, beautiful. And it soundly disturbed him when he caught himself thinking that.

"Because you're not such a screw up, really." Leon shrugged. "You've just got a lot of walls, and I've seen beyond them. I'm just waiting for them to come tumbling down."

He blinked. "What do you mean?"

Leon only smiled hazily, stretching, making the tattoo move more. Falco cleared his throat awkwardly, looking away. That damn tattoo on his stomach went below the belt, like a freaking target. Leon laughed at him. "You figure it out."



"Um, why did you insist on me driving you to school?" Slippy asked, trying very hard not to look at his passenger, who was wearing what looked to be a gypsy outfit, complete with low-riding full skirt. "I mean, you're late as it is…"

"I can still pick up my work and explain what's going on to my teachers." Vic replied. "Besides, my school is only like ten minutes from Arspace in all, so I figured you wouldn't mind the very short detour. Do you?"

"… Not really." He admitted somewhat awkwardly. "I'm just… not used to having girls in my car."

"Hey, not every girl looks for corvettes and other run of the mill sports rides. This thing has to have a big six in it, and probably gets ten more miles to the gallon then any common sports car."

He glanced at her. "Yeah. Yeah it does. Though I've been working for an engine conversion for a while."

"Really? Electric?"

"G-diffuser, of sorts. Same kind of engine, but not meant for flight. If I can rig it right, I might be able to lower the friction between the ground and the car. It'll have to have new brakes of course, but I love challenges."

"Oh awesome! Can I help? I used to help my friend work on his GT…"

He glanced at her again, and smiled helplessly at the light in her eyes. How the hell had such grouchy guy like Falco ended up with such a bubbly sister? For a second, rage filled him that someone had tried to hurt this girl, and he tried to smash it down. It wasn't his fight. "Sure. Why not?"

"Cooool." There was a few minutes of silence, during which she played with his radio (and turned it off and on several times to watch the antenna go up and down), then she spoke again. "You kinda have a problem speaking to girls, don't you?"

"How'd you guess?" He mumbled, trying not to blush and failing. "I'm horrible around girls. No experience. I've always been ignored."

"That's because most girls are absolute meanies if a guy isn't tan and muscular." She rolled her eyes. "Believe me, Slip. You're better then most guys I know."

"Um. Thanks."

He pulled up in front of her school, smiling stupidly as she slid out of the car, grabbing her backpack and closing the door, then leaning back in the window. "When do you get off work?"

"I've got a break at three. Want me to pick you up? We can always use extra hands in engineering. It's good job training too."

"It's a date." She grinned and bounced off, leaving him to stare after her in amazement, then drive to work in a semi-daze.

Once inside the building, she sighed and leaned against the door, crossing her arms and thinking. She felt a lot safer now. Hopefully her father or mother wouldn't be trying to pick her up this afternoon, or things might get ugly, but other then that she felt safe. The loveable loonies that stayed on the Great Fox seemed to like her, and she'd willingly accept a new family, especially if that meant she could be closer to her loveably dumb brother. Poor guy didn't know a thing… Smiling when she remembered the look on his face, she started walking toward the office, boots clicking on the tile.

"It's alive." Fox smiled as Falco wandered into the galley in exercise clothing, leaning into the fridge and grabbing a sports drink. "I hope you aren't planning on lifting weights."

"I plan on using your treadmill actually. Where's Vic?"

"Slippy took her to school. She's going to have that poor boy wrapped around her finger by the end of the day."

"She'll have all of us that way in a week and not even mean it. Just some sort of innocent-little-me pheromone that makes everyone want to protect her." He closed the fridge. "Not that it's a bad thing, she needs it, and hell she isn't a bad person so I don't really care. Besides, Slippy needs someone to crush on or he's going to go insane."

"That's open of you."

"If he touches her I'll break his fingers, mind you."

Fox laughed. "Now, there's the Falco I know. She left you a note, by the way." He handed Falco a folded sheet of purple paper. "She said to call him because he's an old friend of yours and is looking for you."

"I'm surprised she didn't just give him my cell number." He opened the note, looking at the writing.

Falco: Call Joseph Warner. His number's below. I gave him your cell number, but you never leave the stupid thing on.

"Scratch that, she did. Joseph? Hm."

"Not ringing any bells?"

"Not yet. I'll have to think about it."

Seeing how vapid his friend was, Fox sighed. "What's up with you? You've been a bit disconnected lately."

"If I figure it out, I'll tell you." Leaving it at that, he left the galley, reading over the note a few more times. Joseph? Joey? That sounded weirdly familiar, but he couldn't find a face to fit the name. He let his mind wander over it, and gave up. He'd probably have to ask his sister about it.

Falco had the idea that his life was going to take an even more chaotic turn if Vic stuck around, but he wasn't going to refuse her. She had too much at stake, and if it all came down to it, he knew he could turn to her to explain his feelings. That was one thing they had always been able to do for each other.

"We're not supposed to be weight lifting you know." He remarked when he entered the gym, glancing at Leon then having to look away. The reptilian was sitting, weights in-hand, sweat dripping from his brow. 'I need to get off this ship.'

"It's just dumbbells. Only fifteen per. I'm not going to be loosing more muscle then I already lost." Leon frowned. "You are way too skinny."

"What, you don't like me skinny?" Falco snapped, then had to fend Leon off when he took it as an invitation to take a closer look. "It's not like I weighed that much before our little vacation you know."

"Lighten up, big boy. You know you like it." Leon grinned, turning back to his weights, laughing silently.

"That's what I'm afraid of."

"Take your time."