dedication: to sonya, for encouraging me when i shouldn't be encouraged.
notes: look i just have some feelings about these nerds being nerds at each other ok; this is mostly pre-relationshippy nonsense.
title: with bricks in hand
summary: This day could not get any worse. — Daine/Rikash; AU.
Daine combed her hair back with her fingers, staring down at the cold spill of coffee across the desk.
This day could not get any worse.
Until it did, of course, but that was not the point of contention, here—today was a terrible day, and Veralidaine Sarrasri was just not having it. She was having absolutely none of it. There were only so many ways a day could go off the rails, and today had been all of them plus spilled cold coffee all over her favourite professor's shined mahogany desk.
Daine stared down at it, unable to formulate words. She had none left.
"Okay," she said, drawing a deep, calming breath. It wasn't working as well as she'd been hoping that it would, but she was going with it. "Okay. Sorry, Professor Trebond, I just—I'm so sorry."
Professor Alanna Cooper-Trebond was a hurricane. She was a diminutive woman built on stocky lines, and she had copper hair and unreal purple eyes. Daine would have said they were contacts, but she'd seen the woman wearing glasses before, and who would ever wear glasses over contacts except hipsters with too much money to know what to do with? Certainly not Daine's sarcastic medieval history prof, who probably had much better things on which to spend her time and limited income.
"Bad day?" Prof. Trebond said, the corner of her lip curling up into a smirk.
"You have no idea," Daine grumbled beneath her breath, and tried not to slouch angrily in her seat.
"Chin up, kid, it could be worse," Prof. Trebond said, wry.
"How?!" and Daine couldn't help the savagery in her voice, nor the sudden urge to vomit words up all over the floor. "I've had to—it's been the worst—!"
"Let me give you some advice, Daine. Bad days happen. You could be married. You could be married with three children all under the age of five. You could have Alex breathing down your neck to get him that stupid Black City source paper, even though he's already got three others to go on. You could have Roger as a colleague."
"Alex? Roger?" asked Daine, bewildered.
Prof. Trebond grimaced. "Professor Tirragen and Professor Conté, respectively."
"Oh, wow," Daine said, shuddering. Prof. Tirragen was not hard to look at, but sometimes she felt like he spent most of his time setting his students up with pointless essays meant only to further his own research? And as for Prof. Conté… well, she had her suspicions there, too, and none of them were good.
(He was a creep, okay. He was a creep.)
"Yeah, I know, I'm not paid enough for this shit. Uh, that wasn't my point, though—my point was that sometimes you just have to sit back and laugh about it, because dropping a cup of coffee isn't a big thing," Prof. Trebond tipped her head back, stared at the ceiling. "Sometimes you just gotta take the sucker punch, and then go home and go to bed, because if a cup of coffee is what kills you, that's what kills you. And that's hilarious."
"It was cold, too," Daine said, weakly.
"And it's just coffee," Prof. Trebond said, and kindly began to wipe up the mess.
"Just coffee," Daine echoed. She sat in her chair, still too shell-shocked to begin processing this conversation. Sunlight filtered in through the window to settle in her hair, all buttery golden afternoon, and Prof. Trebond binned the caffeine-soaked tissues.
It was the calmest she'd felt all day, the jittering anxiety that had been bubbling just beneath the surface of her skin since she'd woken up curtailing itself in the face of Prof. Trebond's bluntness.
"C'mon," said Prof. Trebond. "I want a cookie, and you're coming with me. My treat."
See, Daine knew there was a reason the woman was her favourite.
(Sugar always helped. Daine should have thought of this before.)
A macadamia nut white chocolate chip cookie and a cup of sweet peppermint tea later, Daine was feeling a little better about life. Not great, still; but better, and probably as good as she was going to be, at least until she went home and crashed in her bed to cry the day out.
Prof. Trebond raised an eyebrow at her. "Okay?"
"Thanks, Professor Trebond."
"It's Alanna," the woman said mildly.
"Thanks, Alanna," Daine said, almost shy.
(Which, what even, Veralidaine Sarrasri did not do shy. Gross, Daine, gross.)
"Good," Alanna said, grinning like a sharp thing. "Now go home and get some sleep. That's an order."
And Daine was planning on it. She really was. She was planning to go home and put on Netflix and fall asleep to Matt Murdoch carrying small children to safety from the Russian mob. That was what she wanted to do, that was what she was hoping to do, going to sleep through the whole night for once if it killed her.
All she needed was one good night's sleep. That was it.
And she was not going to be getting it.
She was not going to be getting it at all.
Because Rikash Moonsword showed up.
Rikash Moonsword was Veralidaine Sarrasri's worst best friend. They'd known each other since they were thirteen and his parents had moved in across the street, and Daine had been tasked with bringing over a loaf of her Bubbee's banana bread as a welcome gift and ended up kicking the boy who answered the door in the shin.
Daine had had some anger, as a child.
"What," she said, "what are you doing here? How did you get into my building? Were you waiting outside until someone came in, again? You know that's creepy, right, and why are you doing this, I hate you."
"Aww, can't I come see my favourite person in the world?" Rikash pointedly ignored Daine's exhausted murder-face, plucked her keys from her fingers, and went about unlocking her apartment. It wasn't a big place, Daine's apartment, but it served its purpose: she had a place to sleep and a place to make macaroni and a place to brush her teeth. It also served as a place to escape, first and foremost.
And right then and there, Rikash was destroying that sacred tradition.
She was going to throttle him.
"Rikash," Daine said, very sweetly, "there are not enough words in the English language to explain how much I really do not give a fuck, right now. I want to sleep."
"So sleep," he said, shrugging one sharp shoulder, blond hair brushing along his collar bone. "I'm gonna make food, tho'."
"You didn't even pay for that, asshole! I'm poor, too, I can't afford to feed you, I've seen how much you eat!"
He grinned horribly at her, all teeth, and Daine's fists ached to make contact with his cheekbone. That was the thing about Rikash—he was attractive, but he just had one of those faces that needed to be punched. And yeah, okay, maybe that was Daine being biased as all hell because once upon a time she'd almost won a pony and instead she'd ended up with nothing because Rikash had pushed her in the pool.
And now her dumb cat was curling around Rikash's ankles, because Kitten was a traitor.
"Kitten," Daine said, "Kitten, no."
Rikash swooped down and scooped the grey feline up, making cooing noises. "See, Sky, you know who loves you, don't you, yes, you're a good girl—"
Daine was going to kill someone.
(He'd named her goddamn cat, for god's sake, who came up with Skysong for a cat? What was wrong with him? Why was he like this? Why couldn't he be normal for like five seconds?!)
"Put Kit down, Rikash," she said, scrubbing at her face. There were tears sloshing behind her eyes, and all she wanted was to put her hair up, curl up in bed, and sleep for a week. It wasn't too much to ask, but nooooooo. Noooooooo.
"Hey," he said, setting Kitten down. "You okay?"
"No," Daine said. "I'm tired and I'm sad and I spilled coffee all over Professor Trebond's desk and I want to sleep but you're here and you won't go away and I hate you so much, Rikash—"
"Woah," Rikash said, and caught Daine as she crumpled forwards.
"Numair broke up with me," she said into his chest, miserable, stubborn chin trembling. "I really thought—"
"Ho-ly shit," he said, scrabbling at her, "you are crying, are you okay, um, okay, sit down, I'm gonna—do you want a hot beverage? I can do hot beverages, gimme a minute—"
And he set her down on the couch, just like that, wrapped her in a blanket, and went about trying to figure her kettle out. Daine gaped at him unattractively.
"Who are you?" she said, at last.
Rikash turned around to blink at her.
For the weirdest moment in her life, Daine had double vision: that was the only way to describe it. She saw thirteen-year-old Rikash superimposed over twenty-three year old Rikash, a ten-year difference that she'd not really noticed before. He was still bony and brown-skinned and blond as a summer's day, but there was a height and breadth to him that she hadn't realized. Glasses, too, and a bunch of silver feather pendants around his neck all higgledy-piggledy. His family had always been a bunch of hippies—what did she expect, with a last name like Moonsword—but he didn't know how to wear clothes without holes in them, now, avoided propriety like the plague. He was older but not wiser, and her heart twisted, just a little.
"I'm your best friend," he tried the grin again, but it fell a little flat.
They just looked at each other, for a moment.
"Shut up, Moonsword," Daine chuckled, sniffling. She swiped at the tear tracks on her cheeks, rubbed at them until it was like they hadn't been there in the first place. "You gonna make me coffee, or what?"
"You have coffee?!" and he whipped around to examine her cupboards.
"It's instant, above the stove."
Rikash froze, and turned around like a robot.
"Daine," he said. "Daine, no."
"Rikash," she parroted, "Rikash, no."
"No," he said again. "Absolutely not. You're going to get tea, and you're going to like it. I am going to throw that shit out, you have an espresso maker right here, what's wrong with you, instant, god—"
The kettle started to whistle.
Daine had never seen someone angrily make tea, before, but Rikash managed to do it. It wasn't that he slammed cupboard doors or yanked drawers open; it wasn't real anger, exasperation, maybe. It reminded her of her mother scolding her grandfather in the kitchen when he fed the birds through the window, the same playful edge to the annoyance.
It made her smile, even though it was only a little.
And that was when Daine knew that she was never going to be able to thank him, for this. She was going to owe him forever—at least until some girl broke his heart and she had to sit him down and drink bitter burning alcohol, vodka quiet and brilliant in the flare of the night.
He handed her a steaming mug of tea.
"Thanks," Daine said, quietly, into the rim.
Rikash slumped down onto the couch next to her. There was a flash of white at his ear—bone earrings, she'd bought those for him for his last birthday and he'd said they were ugly—and then his arm is curling around her shoulders and dragging her into his side. There was a shaking in her soul that she couldn't quite name, an emotion like gratitude but a little too low for that. Numair and his dark hair and his soft mouth felt very far away, the way he'd sorry, the way she'd already known when he wouldn't look at her.
"Shut up," Rikash said, arm tightening around her. "It was nothing."
Daine leaned into him, and didn't argue.