By Gale Dumont

The two lay twined on the floor, a blanket their only concession to the flesh-breaking cold that's swept over the city, even in the sewers. It wouldn't be terribly surprising to find ice hanging from the pods tomorrow.

Lonnie has been tracing little patterns on her skin for a while now; long enough that she's drowsing now, mostly-asleep in the gloom and reek. In the reflected neon light from Above, her eyes aren't so much brown-black as they are indigo. They're shining with something new, something Ava can't identify.

She's scared, but doesn't say anything about it. That would be a sign of weakness, and Lonnie hates weakness. Better to show nothing at all, then.

"Wait'll it happens." Lonnie's voice is bright in a way it hasn't been in a very long time. For months now she's been sullen and strict, not so much as cracking a smile even when Rath commits some random act of violence.

Come to think of it, Rath hasn't been himself lately either -- or, more to the point, he's been too much himself, grinning so much she wonders how his head hasn't fallen off yet. Like a livewire, ready to break free and do something very nasty very soon.

Zan isn't different at all. She doesn't even know if he's noticed the changes in the others. She doubts it.

But no, Lonnie is talking again. She drags her attention forward, makes herself listen.

"It's gonna be so good, baby," Lonnie whispers, stroking the smaller girl's pink-for-now hair. She just talking to hear herself talk, Ava knows; it doesn't particularly matter who is there. Could be her, could be Rath -- hell, it could be Zan, though it would never be Zan. That'd be too much like showing weakness. You don't stay alpha if you roll over and bare your belly.

"Tell me again," Ava says, though she doesn't need to hear. Lonnie's told her the story a thousand times by now, maybe more. But it makes Lonnie happy to tell her, and when Lonnie's happy, Lonnie doesn't hurt. Few things in the world are as good as that.

"I really shouldn't," Lonnie says, faking reluctance. "I mean, I keep tellin' you, you'll never remember on your own --"

"Please?" Ava makes her eyes wide and round, as close to innocent as she can.

And, as always, it works. Lonnie lets her snuggle close, resting spiky pink bangs under the curve of the taller girl's chin, wrapping thin arms around her. She trails her fingers down Ava's spine and back up it, finally settling in a more comfortable motion against the back of her head.

"It's so far away," Lonnie murmurs. Her voice is as close to unfocused as it ever gets. "Hundreds, maybe thousands of years, but when we call 'em, they're gonna come. They're gonna come and take us home." She smiles. "An' everybody's gonna be so happy to see us, Princess," she says, and Ava accepts the name; somehow, Lonnie seems more regal, more deserving of power than she ever will. "There're people waitin' for us. People waitin' for me..."

She trails off then, staring through the top of the sewer and the street above them, probably past the sky. Lonnie's doing that a lot more lately, too. Ava thinks Rath might be, too, but if he is she doesn't see him.

"And then what?" she prods, bumping Lonnie's thigh with her knee.

Lonnie looks down at her, and for a heartbeat, Ava's throat seizes. She doesn't move. In the gloom, Lonnie's eyes glint like knives.

Then the moment passes and Lonnie smiles again, and strokes Ava's hair. "It's gonna be soon, baby," she whispers, pressing a very gentle kiss to the top of Ava's head. "Real soon."

Ava relaxes against her and lets her eyes slip closed, nuzzling the other girl's throat, trying to get comfortable. "And we're all gonna go, right?" she asks sleepily, not entirely sure why she's asking. It just seems like the right thing to do.

There's a pause, so slight as to hardly be noticed. Lonnie's hand stills on her hair. She doesn't say anything.

And then the moment passes again and Lonnie resumes stroking her hair, her touch the faintest bit gentler than it was before. "Yeah, baby," she says softly, kissing the top of Ava's head again. "We're gonna go home."


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