Um-hum. You're still reading this. Very awesome of you.
I guess it's time to build up the romantic tension, right?
I actually really don't feel like building up romance right now. But I will. Because I'm pretty sure I should have started earlier. Oh well.
A quick reminder: Felicity is about as old as, maybe a bit older than, Clover. PLEASE remember that. It's pretty important. I'm not going to say more than that. Probably already gave everything away anyway. I'm going to go and hit myself now... alright, I'm back. Time for the chapter :)
Bonjour. Marathon Inc. is French, non?
And that's who TS belongs to. Mon dieu. C'est vraiment terrible.
Okay. That's all...
He couldn't sleep. Again.
Frustrated, he paced along the room, running a hand through his dark hair. He held on to a strand and frowned. When had he last cut this? He chuckled grimly. Probably around the same time he'd last been able to sleep through the night.
For what seemed like the millionth time, he glanced at the right screen. He couldn't even control it any more. Paranoia? No, that wasn't it. He knew she wouldn't try to run yet. His dark thoughts were disturbed by the sound of the door opening. His head snapped up. Then he sighed.
"Arnston. What is it?" he asked, annoyed.
The man looked terrified.
"Sir. I- I mean, we- we found something."
"Something," he repeated slowly. These people were the worst. Always so VAGUE. But, then again, they were also the best, the best at what they did. And he needed the best.
"Yes," Arnston confirmed, more calmly now. "We may have found a... way in."
The excitement flooded his mind in a matter of seconds. Could this be true? He would finally be more than just someone who watched. He would be as much of a participant as she was. Maybe even more. Maybe even the player who decided the game. Game on, Clover, he thought, smirking.
"When will you be ready?" he asked, without looking at Arnston.
"A few days," the man mumbled. "Maybe sooner. We're really working together now. It's a challenge," he continued, apparently growing more confident. He seemed to be talking almost to himself. "It's been a long time for all of us since we've had a challenge. It's not just the fear any more. I suppose we are all a bit obsessed with getting this done now." The man laughed quietly, now seemingly self conscious.
"Sir?" Arnston asked now. He ignored it. Something had hinged onto his mind, something Arnston had said. He stayed very still, rigid almost, while Arnston excused himself and shut the door behind him.
In the silence that remained, he stood in the middle of the room. His eyes were wide with realization.
It had not been paranoia.
Obsession, he thought.
And roared in frustration.
She was everywhere.
Clover was sitting on her cot, knees under her chin. The cell was cold, and the lights had been switched off in the holding facility about ten minutes ago. From the other side of the room, her cellmate watched her with narrowed eyes.
"God, Clove, can't you just go to sleep? You're keeping me awake," Felicity sighed.
"It's Clover," she mumbled absent-mindedly.
"I know," came the answer from the shadows, "but a new... profession... requires a new name, don't you think?"
"Fine," Clover answered, too exhausted to argue. "But I don't want to be called Clove. That sounds stupid. Think of something better."
From the silence that followed, she took it that Felicity was either upset or asleep. Slowly, Clover lifted the covers and slipped into bed. She was already a mess - she didn't need rings under her eyes, too.
She slept shallowly, just beneath the surface of consciousness. Sometime in the middle of the night, Clover's eyelids fluttered open as she heard heavy footsteps crossing the cell, angling towards Felicity's cot.
Not daring to take a breath, she tried to squint at the figure that was leaning over her cellmate's resting body, but couldn't make out any details; all that was apparent to her was that a tall man was getting closer and closer to Felicity. With leaden limbs, Clover stayed tied down silently to her bed, watching, unable to lift even a finger. Who was this? Some kind of pervert? Someone like... the agent that had tried to molest her? Clover flinched as she remembered the way his hands had run over her body-
Suddenly, Felicity sat up with a jerking movement, wrapped her arms around the stranger's neck and pulled him towards her. Their lips met briefly, before she shifted, making place for him in the tiny bed. Clover listened breathlessly to quiet kisses and whispered words of passion. Not a pervert, then, she thought sheepishly.
What seemed like hours - days - later, she cleared her throat awkwardly. Silence ensued, until Felicity's voice broke through the darkness.
"Clover," she asked hesitantly, "... are you awake?"
"Kind of," came the hushed reply. Clover was sure her embarassment showed in her voice.
"Oh." They all lay there, unmoving, not sure how to go on from here.
Finally, chuckling, the male figure pushed himself up off the cot and dusted himself off. Without a word, he walked over to the door of the cell and knocked a rhythmic combination. The door slid open and closed behind him. Footsteps echoed down the hallway.
"Great. Thanks," Felicity hissed sarcastically. Clover couldn't believe it. Did no one have any decency around here? Blaming HER for this?
She pulled the covers over her ears and shut her eyes tightly, unable to delete the previous scene from her mind.
Was this what prison was like?
Breakfast was in the large cantine. Felicity hadn't spoken a word to her all morning. Now, she stalked off towards a table filled with SU members. In the bright light from the superluminescent LED-lamps, the prisoners looked slightly ridiculous in their orange uniforms.
Clover sighed and took her yoghurt and cup of orange juice to an empty table next to the litter bins. It's not like I want to sit with anyone anyway, she told herself, only half-convinced. They're CRIMINALS, for God's sake. I don't want to belong to their little clique. She had almost finished her food when she heard someone sliding into the chair opposite her and looked up.
"So, last night was sort of awkward, huh?" Kyle Katz asked, grinning. Clover stared at him.
"That was YOU?" she asked incredulously, almost choking on a sip of juice. She set down the cup and rubbed two fingers over her right temple.
"Yeah. Honestly, I'm glad we cleared that up. Now you won't have to be scared the next time I visit Felicity," he said, smiling, then grabbed her drink and downed it in one gulp.
"Wait, what?" Clover snorted, choosing to ignore the fact that he had just finished half of her breakfast. "You aren't seriously considering REPEATING last night's events, right?" Kyle looked taken aback, then smirked.
"Well," he answered, leaning forward, "since you're the one who interrupted us, don't you think it's a little selfish of you to expect us to stop seeing each other?"
"Oh my God!" Clover screeched. "Katz! You are impossible!"
"Thanks," he said, smiling. "And it's okay for you to call me Kyle, you know, since we're friends now."
Wordlessly, Clover got up, throwing her plastic cup and empty yoghurt into the trash. Friends? It was obvious that this was all just a ploy to make fun of her, make her feel insecure, make her break. Again.
The blood was in her cheeks as she walked from the cantine, trying hard not to run. She could feel all of them watching her, eyes like darts boring into her back. Just like back at school. She hadn't imagined them to be so alike - the cliques, the mean girls, the hazing, the teasing -
Don't cry, Clover, don't cry.
Maybe she was starting to become one of them, desensitized.
Maybe that wasn't such a bad thing.
"Hey, you," Felicity said, sitting down on the bed next to Clover and patting her shoulder awkwardly. "Why'd you leave so fast this morning?"
She had come into the cell about twenty minutes before, and promptly spent a questionable amount of time in the tiny adjacent bathroom that had no shower, touching up her hair and make-up. Walking out, she had taken off her orange jumpsuit, revealing a bombshell figure clad only in pink, lacy underwear. Clover had barely noticed her lack of clothing, curled up on her cot, when Felicity had walked across the room towards her.
"Don't see why you'd care," Clover mumbled, feeling like a petty little kid.
"You mean because of last night? Oh, come on, hun. It's water under the bridge."
"Oh. Okay," Clover murmured. Things seemed to move a lot faster in here than they did in the normal world.
There was a brief silence, until Clover sniffed dramatically.
"So, what's the deal with you two, anyway?" she asked.
"Kyle? Oh, he's just such a darling!" Felicity exclaimed. Clover wasn't sure whether she was being sarcastic or not.
"No." Felicity grinned. "He's an obviously emotionally damaged cheater who treats women like they're dirt. But he keeps me on my feet; I get bored easily. Not to mention, he's EXTREMELY good in bed." Clover winced. So that had been what they were heading towards last night. Sex. While she was in the room. Fabulous.
"So that's all? You're just... friends with benefits, just like that?" she asked. Surely it couldn't be that simple...?
"Okay, so, maybe the benefits include more than just a fun time..." Felicity continued, wringing her hands. "He's very charismatic, you know? Very passionate. He has the SU wrapped around his finger."
"Power," Clover said, "of course. So, you're using him, then?"
"Don't look so appalled," Felicity snapped, mistaking simple surprise for deprecation. "It's not like he's so innocent! A lot of things go with hooking up with me, like my MONEY, for example."
"Ah," Clover said knowingly, although the concept was somewhat foreign to her, "money, for power, for sex, and vice versa. I get it."
Felicity nodded curtly and got up, just as there was a knock on the door. It was, of course, Kyle Katz himself who jogged in, then came to a stop in the middle of the cell, hands on his knees, breathless.
"Got out of group analysis," he said, straightening up. "We have ten minutes," he continued, taking a few large strides towards Felicity, who jumped up into his arms, wrapping her naked legs around his waist and her hands in his golden-brown hair. They proceeded to make out passionately for what seemed like hours to Clover, who was trying desperately to look anywhere else, biting her lip.
"Oh, and, Chloe," Kyle mumbled past Felicity's scarlet-painted lips, "the guard said to tell you that there are two girls waiting for you in the visitor's room."
Too relieved to correct him about the name, Clover got up quickly and walked out of the cell.
"Finally," murmured the black-clad guard, who seemed to have been waiting to escort her for quite a while. "Ready?"
"As ready as I'm going to get," she answered, sighing, and followed him into the maze of corridors. The light that came from each door that brought her closer to the outside seemed so bright that Clover almost had to shield her eyes. She felt exposed, an alien in the blinding light of the real world - a world she had never thought would become this unfamiliar to her.
They were already there, waiting, jittering, behind the clear pane of glass. Alex saw Clover first and nudged Sam, who looked over and frowned. What does SHE have to frown about? I'm the one who should be frowning! Clover thought. And then, suddenly, her best friends in the whole world were crying like there was no tomorrow, and all the angry thoughts left her mind for good.
"Clo- Clo-" Alex choked, shoulders quivering. Sam, next to her, stared at Clover wordlessly, silent tears rolling down both cheeks, leaving black trails of mascara zig-zagging across her face. Clover herself was the only one not sobbing.
Was it possible that only one day in prison had transformed her from a drama-queen into... into what? Clover had no idea who she was supposed to be. At least, when she had had to hide her shame and mourning after her father's death behind a make-up-mask, she had known what image to project... But now? Nothing. Maybe that was why the girls sitting as close as they could to the glass, just to soak in the sight of her, seemed miles away. Much further away than, say, Felicity. These were frightenig thoughts. Frighteningly honest, and frighteningly real.
Sam had stopped crying.
"You're not saying anything."
"What?" Clover asked absentmindedly, still half in thought.
Alex, wiping at her eyes with a tissue, studied her friend's face.
"Sammie's right," she said after a short while, sticking the tissue in the trash can that was conveniently placed next to her seat and staring at Clover, wide eyed. "You always talk."
"Excessively so," Sam murmured, and Clover found to her surprise that her friend's teasing didn't upset her in the slightest. She shrugged, looking away.
"Yeah, well, it's weird here. I'm pretty sure it's changing me."
Serious again, Sam narrowed her eyes.
"Changing you? Clover, nothing... happened, right?"
Like what? Like wanting to curl up and 'just die already' after a telephone conversation with my mother? Like almost getting raped by a WOOHP agent? Like becoming part of a secret organisation of villains? Like possibly becoming a mature person? In that case, yes. Shit's gone down here.
"Nope, not really," she answered, smiling vapidly. "So, what's up with my girls?" she asked, knowing that this was what her friends had been waiting for. As much as they might be feeling bad for her, they weren't the ones in jail.
While Sam launched straight into a detailed account of the latest schoolwork and missions, Alex smiled, blushing, and shrugged. Clover raised an eyebrow.
"Alex. What are you not telling us?"
Sam stopped mid-sentence to stare at Clover, then at Alex.
"Wait, what?" she asked disbelievingly. "Seriously? How did I not notice this?"
Alex giggled at her friends' surprise and mumbled something towards the floor. Clover had to strain her ears to hear her friend through the glass.
"I met him at a WOOHP brunch a few weeks ago, and we exchanged numbers... then he called me on Wednesday."
All the life-altering prison experiences in the world couldn't stop Clover's first reaction from being a shriek of delight.
"Oh my God, Alex! Tell me EVERYTHING!" she screeched. Sam rolled her eyes, but moved to squeeze her friend's shoulder in excitement all the same.
While Alex became more and more confident, speaking louder now, Clover leaned in closer and tried to ignore the nagging thoughts that were distracting her from Alex's juicy story.
"Why are you listening to this?" the voices inquired impatiently. "You know it's not what's really important. You've moved on. It's time to leave these futile little friendships behind for good."
NOOOOOOO! I don't want the girls to stop being friends. Cut it out with the voices, Clover!
And, as you can see, WOOHP criminals are very... discrete... people :D Uhum.
And who is 'he'? A-HA! Plot twist, keepin' it interestiiiiiiing.
Again, Felicity is, like, around 20. Comprende?
I hope you liked it, please read and review. While we're on that topic: to Cribellate and Lavenderskiez - THANKS so much for the reviews; made me happy to know SOMEONE'S reading the story and liking it. I hope you keep enjoying my writing, the plot, blablabla, you get the gist :)
And, to all:
Yours (unless you screw it up - although I don't really see how one would go about doing that),
TheLastPrototype. (Yes. That's still me.)