Justin wrote something about Mia and Drey, and I felt compelled to respond ... with something completely different. ^_^; Mia is a great, big crybaby.

Keeping On

"I don't think I can do it anymore," she said quietly, head bent forward to keep the long waves of her violet hair from tumbling into the open control panel access of her back. She held her shirt huddled in front of her breasts, the rest of her synthetic skin open to the air, and stared vacantly at her knees. "I'm tired."

"That so?" he inquired in his indifferent voice -- her friend and ally, her mechanic, her father confessor. Her mouth quirked in a small smile at a vision of his grease-smeared form in the robes of a priest, grousing grimly as he tuned the joints on another of his mechanical wards.

"I think after this next job, Canis will retire. Or maybe just disappear." She almost lifted her head, remembering at the last moment she needed to keep her hair out of the way.

"Doubt that," he answered. "You enjoy it too much -- martyring yourself for the cause."

"No, I don't," she said.

"You do." His tone brooked no argument.

"I don't," she mouthed at her knees, and this time he didn't hear her.

"Afraid they'll catch you?" He tugged a particularly recalcitrant wire, and her foot gave an odd twitch. He glanced over her shoulder at it irritably.

"They stopped trying fifty years ago." She lifted her gaze as far as she could beyond the barrier of her knees, but the most she could see was her feet and the dirty floor beyond them. "It's too much," she murmured finally, lowering her eyes again. "I don't know what I was thinking."

"So it's good, old-fashioned despair, then."

She opened her mouth to form a retort but closed it without replying.

He twisted a connector perhaps harder than necessary, looking at the holographic readouts that monitored her condition, and snorted. "If that's what's eating you, then why not give it all up? And you might as well go out with a bang. Storm a compound, self-destruct in the generator room -- give them something to remember you by."

"Shut up," she whispered.

"What was that?"


They were silent for a few minutes more, him holding a couple of wires in place and watching the screen, her watching her now-faulty diagnostics flicker in and out. "And why bother with the repair job, as long as we're at it," he added. "I could use a free weekend."

"I can't," she said softly, and for a moment he didn't seem sure he'd heard her.

"Can't what?"

"I promised."

He stared at the back of her head for a moment, a wide range of emotions flashing across his pale features. "Stupid girl," he said finally. "Dead people can't hold you to a promise." Her shoulders twitched, and her head drooped even lower, fingers tightening in the fabric of her shirt. "They wanted so badly for me to live," she whispered. "I don't even know why. I thought if it was all I could do for them then I owed them at least that."

He didn't ask who "they" was -- chances were she wasn't even sure. Red Louis and his Railroad Dogs, Graff and the Shadow Liberators, Mother Cadence and her Hope Camps -- perhaps even the remnants of the Windriders. Her shoulders began to tremble.

"Hold still," he said shortly, and they stilled. He sighed irritably, making his last adjustments, then shut her access panel with a muffled clank and slapped her back. She sat up slowly, turning her head to look at him. If she had cried, there was no evidence of it.

"Now," he said, changing the subject entirely. "Why in the name of bloody blue hell did you let that damn farmer shoot your arm off?"

A thin smile curved her mouth, and she waggled the stump of her right arm, jagged with torn skin and loosely dangling wires. "I had to."

"There is no 'had to' involved here," he said shortly, and he slapped his palm against a nearby table, letting the crack ring through the room for a moment.

"He wouldn't leave."

"And that has what to do with it?"

You think this is going to set things right? Then give me back what they took! Let me take a trophy out of your hide, you robot bitch!

She shrugged.

"And where is it now?" he asked her, not having received a satisfactory answer the first time he asked.

"He took it with him."


She smiled, shrugging again.

"God damn it, Mia," he fumed, looking from her to the floor and back again. He appeared to be having difficulty choosing what to yell at her about. "You know how hard it is to get compatible parts without you damn well giving away whole limbs."

"Sorry," she said, not sounding terribly repentant.

"I should let you go armless," he snapped, then stalked away to the back, presumably to rifle through his parts for a suitable replacement.

She returned her attention to her knees and the legs below them, stretching said limbs out in front of her for a moment before letting them drop and swing limply back and forth above the floor. Briefly, she was distracted from the movement by the sight of her helmet, the face mask, vaguely wolf-shaped, gleaming dully in the flickering light of the garage.

"I guess Canis wouldn't retire anyway," she said softly.

"So, not only did Canis not retire, he's a double agent now." He leaned back, shoulders slumped and eyes out of focus. After a moment, he fumbled in his pocket for cigarettes and a lighter, promptly setting one alight and catching it between his lips.

"Canis was always a double agent." She reached out to take the cigarette from him, dropping it to the floor and mashing it out with her heel.

He scowled at her. "For chrissakes, Mia, my lungs aren't even real." He put the offending articles away, however. "And you know what I mean."

"Yeah," she said, mouth twitching in a smile.

"So you really found them, then?"

She nodded.

"And you're sure? They're the real deal?"

"As real as they can be," she said, smile becoming wan.

"But it's not like the others," he insisted, gaze fixed on her piercingly. "It's viable -- it could really make a difference in the end."

"I don't know." She looked at her companion, unconscious again on a nearby cot. She wrapped her arms around herself, unable to stop a shiver. "I don't know, Patch," she said again, turning her gaze back to the cyborg, who froze with his hand halfway into his pocket. She pretended not to notice.

"I guess I got my hopes up too high," she murmured. "But when I got there …" Her voice trailed off, and she spread her hands helplessly, unable to put her reaction into words. "There are so few of them, Patch, so few of them," she said finally, lifting her hands to scrub at her cheeks for a moment. "I don't know why I thought -- but --"

He watched her silently. "Hoping for the old heroes again?" He lit another cigarette, and this time she made no move to stop him. "They got some balls calling themselves Maverick Hunters, though."

"They're well-organized," she offered, trying briefly for optimism. "Their commander isn't much more than a figurehead, but his staff is competent …"

"You're talking like you haven't joined them at all."

She let her arms drop to her sides, hands dangling limply. "I'm afraid," she said. "I'm afraid it will happen again. I feel like --"

"You're not a bad luck charm, Mia," he said disgustedly, taking a long pull and breathing out a wreath of smoke.

"I spent eighty years as Canis -- I did everything I could --" She slumped against an examining table, fingers curling around the cold metal of its edge. "I know I can't do it by myself, but I --"

"Don't be such a damn coward, Mia."

She flinched, as though his level tone held the harshest remonstration.

"I'm going outside. Get some food for your buddy."

She looked up, blank gaze meeting his back as he turned to leave the room. "Okay," she said, looking over at the cot again. A jolt ran through her when she saw his gaze looking back at her.

"Oh hey, you're awake." She mustered a weak smile, trying not to wonder how much of the conversation he'd heard, and trotted over to the cot, kneeling carefully by the edge. "You feeling any better?"

He didn't answer, then gave a slow, careful nod. "A little."

She reached out to touch the bandage that swathed his chest, relief climbing unnoticed onto her face. "Good," she said weakly, and he gave her a wary look, as though he feared she might dissolve in tears again.

She didn't, instead getting up to fetch the aforementioned food. "Patch says you ought to eat," she explained, though he'd likely heard that already. "Can you sit up?" She bent to assist him anyway, ignoring what might have been a flash of annoyance on his face. The food, however, she set in his lap, letting him tend to that issue on his own.

After he had begun to eat, slowly and carefully, she sank to the floor beside the cot, pulling her knees up to her chest.

"I'm so sorry," she murmured after a moment.

He stopped working at his food and turned his head to look at her with a peculiarly unreadable expression.

"I knew it was a trap, and I still.." She tangled her fingers in her hair for a moment, then drew them through it, staring vacantly into space. "You shouldn't have followed me," she said, ignoring the evidence that his motives were less than charitable.

"It was my fault," he told her shortly. "I made the choice to follow you." And the choice to jump into the middle of her fight, for that matter.

She looked at the floor.

"All the same," she said.

He returned his attention to his food, apparently having no desire to continue the conversation.

After another moment, however, she spoke again.

"Thank you."